Friday, February 6, 2015

Cinderella Ballroom



How many people are still around that remember Long Beach’s landmark dance hall the Cinderella Ballroom? It was located on the Northwest corner of Hart Place and East Seaside Way. From 1923 to 1966 the building known for its laminated stressed wood arches and romance graced the Pike. It was here that many couples met for the first time, dancing the night away to the music from the big bands. Others simply enjoyed the music by tuning in on their radios Tuesday evenings from 9-10 p.m. on KFWB---live from the popular Cinderella Ballroom in Long Beach. 

Everyone going to the Cinderella had to be aware of the rules. If they weren’t they could end up with a six month jail sentence, a fine of $500 or both.  “Hanky panky” of any sort was not allowed in any dance hall in Long Beach. In the early 1920s certain dances, such as the shimmy and the bunny hug, and any cheek to cheek dancing was blacklisted. Men could not dance with their right hand upon any portion of their female dancing partner except her back between her shoulder line and waist, or with their left hand in any position except extended from the body and holding the right hand of their partner.  Females could not dance with their left hand upon any portion of the male partner except his right arm, or with their right hand in any position except extended from the body and holding the left hand of her dancing partner.  Minors under 18 had to be accompanied to public dances by chaperones, specifically parents or guardians, not one of their older siblings. Also forbidden was “spooners' corner,” darkened areas of the dance hall.  To alleviate this, a Long Beach ordinance required a 16 candlepower light for each 36 square feet of floor. This left no twilight zone for couples who “sat out” dances.  All dances ended at midnight, except for New Year’s Eve.                      

Originally called the Arcadia Dance Hall, then the Rosegarden Dance Pavilion, the name Cinderella Ballroom was the name that stuck, perhaps because many a “Cinderella” somehow managed to meet her “Prince Charming” on the dance floor, despite all the city regulations.  
     In the 1920s and 30s ballroom dancing competitions were the rage and people flocked to the Cinderella Ballroom for the chance to win not only money, but a coveted trophy. The evening of April
15, 1928, was one to make ballroom history---not for a dance competition but for an attempted robbery of $12,000 in cash. 
     Police had received a tip that an attempt was to be made to blow open the safe of the ballroom.  With revolvers ready, and their pockets filled with extra bullets, the officers waited, expecting that the robbers might resort to gun play. Shortly before dawn, long after the ballroom had closed, officers saw a trio of men rip the screen from a window. When told to halt, the intruders whipped out their revolvers and opened fire. For ten minutes the shots were exchanged, one robber fleeing leaving behind his two wounded companions, one of which, Earl C. Davis, died shortly after with eleven bullet holes in his body.

     Sadly the music stopped in April 1966 when the city purchased the landmark at 311 E. Seaside for $135,375.  It was to be torn down to give better access to the Long Beach Arena and the Municipal Auditorium.  Though that spelled progress for many,
loyal followers of the Cinderella were heartbroken and petitioned the city for a new Cinderella in the area.  In late July 1966, a new ballroom opened in the Veteran’s Memorial Clubhouse.  But things were never the same---people got older, ballroom dancing became passé and finally the Veteran’s building itself fell in the way of progress. 
     Today only memories remain. Ironically, ballroom dancing has once again become trendy.  Ah, if only the Cinderella was still with us.

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