More Barn Dance Stories
By Jean Brooks Nixon
Thanks to Pat Krueger Brady for the article about the country barn dances. At a time when plumbing and bathing rooms were sometimes more of a novelty the the norm, the early Saturday night dances meant that you clean up a little more than usual and try to beat your brothers and sisters to the better clothing.
Just before and after World War I there was a dance hall whose spirit may have helped others off to a good start. The very first Brooks Hill School (at the site of present Skyline School) was replaced with a newer building, so the Brooks family bought the old one and moved it to their farm, just east of the school site. A great place to store dried beans, smoked smelt, or salted salmon!
But the youngest Brooks son thought it could be put to even better use. A place to dance on Saturday night! The musician came from Portland - usually a fiddler because accordions and such were hard to pack up the hill on one's back. Shelves with little sideboards were nailed to the walls inside so that babies and small children could sleep, the drying beans were pushed into a comer and thus was born the "Rough Neck Dance Hall".
Women brought sandwiches and cakes and since this was pre-beer can and bottle times, a potion was sometimes round in little brown jugs hidden under a bush or under the radiator of that new contraption Henry Ford was marketing. Beverages were homemade of course, hard apple cider or rot gut whiskey.
My grandfather Krueger had qualms about letting his teenagers attend such a raucous event, so one Saturday night he slipped into the hall to check for himself. There was much food and music. He had such a good time that the Krueger kids after that had no trouble attending. In fact my mother (a Krueger) ended up marrying the dance hall entrepreneur. Many a romance flowered or faded at a country dance.
At the end of the evening, the musician made his bed in the comer on the pile of drying beans, little jugs were probably empty, and the shuffling and stomping was over for another week. The "Rough Neck" was not long lived, being interrupted by a war, a few people who didn't like the brown jugs, and more Model-Ts able to take people to bigger festivities at Helvetia or Dixie Mountain. For people on the hill the "Rough Neck" was an important part of their history - long gone, as are most of the people who remembered it so fondly.