Editor’s note: This is story two of a two-part series. You can read part one here.
As the local communities developed on the Key Peninsula, people wanted a place for meetings and social gatherings. Community halls were built to serve many functions.
Edward Yeazell built a dance hall decorated with Japanese lanterns on his proposed “City of Long Branch” property before 1895. Children shaved candles and skated around to make a good dancing surface, and locals rowed to the dances.
Red Hall, painted red, was built in 1906 near Weiser’s Cove in Longbranch. It soon became Library Hall with a collection of books to avoid paying taxes.
On dedication day, young girls raced across the new bridge at the facility.
Club meetings, dances, fairs, silent films, masquerade and holiday parties took place there. Visiting baseball teams and their families were entertained.
When Longbranch and Lakebay schools combined, the gym became “The Hall.”
Penrose Hall in the first Longbranch church, built in 1908, was also used as a community social place until the building began to slide.
The Wauna dance hall built near the hotel and store in the late 1890s became a place for fun and entertainment. Dances were hosted, of course, but during World War I, bandages were rolled there by neighborhood women. Plays, sing-alongs and box socials also took place there, perhaps some arranged by the Wauna Social Club that outlasted the hall by many years.
Bert Berntson was a member of Modern Woodmen who helped build the Lakebay Hall in 1922, on property donated by the Ernest Cooper family. It was to revert to the Cooper family if the use as a hall was discontinued.
The hall was the center of celebrations and various meetings.
Berntson’s daughter ,Virginia Seavy, said she learned to dance there. The musicians, a pianist and a fiddler, all came from Longbranch.
A woman was once kicked out for smoking at a time when even the men didn’t smoke inside public buildings.
When VFW Post No. 4990 of Lakebay was organized in 1946, the members took over management of the hall for a time. They later met in Home Hall, then moved to the KP Civic Center.
The Ladies Auxiliary and Lakebay Ladies Club held meetings in the hall.
After it was unused for many years, Harry and Juanita White converted it into a roller skating rink in the late 1940s.
Weyerhaeuser provided plywood flooring, with regular inspections to test the durability. The company also repaired any damage.
The building was torn down by the then current owners in 1970.
Doorknobs from this hall now grace the office door of the KP museum.
In the area settled by Montanans in the mid 1820s, a chicken house was converted into the Lewis Lake Community Hall, where various gatherings were held. Charles Flotten played violin and his wife, Ada, played piano for dances and other occasions.
The ladies’ sewing circle, local grange and community club of Victor managed to raise enough funds and donations in the depression days of 1932 to build a community hall in a matter of months.
They picked a date for the first dance to celebrate the opening and advertised, even in the Tacoma newspaper.
Completed a few days before the dance, only the floor needed finishing. The day before the special event, five coats of shellac were laid on the hardwood floor, topped with a layer of wax.
“It really shined,” said Emma Dahl. “It looked great. Unfortunately it never dried.”
People arrived for the dance and a big band played. The dancers’ feet stuck to the floor.
They threw down sacks of cornmeal so people could move, and a grand time was had by all.
The next day, they scraped up all the ground in cornmeal to re-sand the floor.
A kitchen and bandstand were added several years later.
The hall became popular, with people from all surrounding areas attending dances and other events.
It’s still there as the community center, holding an annual yard sale with hot dogs and “the best burgers around” every Saturday of Father’s Day weekend.
These halls, where a whole community could gather, including children who fell asleep on the benches during a dance or late program, were an essential part of our early Key Peninsula history when travel was slow and limited. Our current facilities –– the Key Peninsula Civic Center, Longbranch Improvement Club, McColley Hall and Victor Hall –– continue to fill some of the roles of our beloved early halls.