The local dance halls were a rite of passage for many of our seniors. Many of their wedding receptions were held in places and fifty years later couples would return to the same places to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversaries. This was a social gathering place for showers, wedding receptions, golden anniversaries, a meeting place for club groups and Bingo tournaments. It certainly must be said that during an election campaign the temperature of the room felt very warm due to the politically heated discussions taking place there The hall was a spacious and comfortable place with benches and chairs around the room. In the 1950's and 1960's the cover charge for Saturday night was $1.00.
These halls represented a place where young people got together to socialize and to dance and many dressed up for the occasion. Young women would come to these evening dances dressed in crinoline dresses which the old timers labelled these outfits as (créolines). The crinoline was composed of a hoop or hoop-net petticoat of starched white netting where the object of the outfit was to raise the dress in the shape of a bell. High heeled shoes completed the outfit. The young men used to dress as carefully for the evening, each man trying to outshine his rivals dress. They proudly wore double-breasted suits, white shirts and cufflinks as well as a tic. The men were handsome and dressed more modestly than the women. The men were less flashy. Men who were more fashionable wore pants cuffed at the bottom of the pant legs (zoot suit), leather shoes and white socks. Fortunately, the dancers were more drawn to the appearance of the men and not to their dancing.
The music was a part of the evening attraction. We square danced, did the two-step, ball-room danced, the cha cha, polkas and the Paul Jones. The Paul Jones was a dance in which everyone participated, especially those men who were not a part of the "in" crowd. Everyone held hands and danced in a circle until the music stopped. The man would then dance with the woman in front of him. Of course, this did not always turn out to his advantage. Meanwhile, some of the snobbier women would skip this dance altogether so that they would not have to dance with these men. They would find an excuse to go to the ladies' room to freshen up their face with powder or to put on lipstick. The men would stand around checking out the women sitting around the hall. They would go and ask one of these women to dance when a dance was to their liking. A refusal was common and often imperceptible. The slow dance was really enjoyed and chairs were empty all around the hall. This dance gave the chance for the men to cuddle up to the women and whisper sweet nothings in their cars. If hockey were compared to the moves made on the dance floor to a slow waltz, many penalties would have been passed out for 'being too fast". Alcohol and raging hormones were not a good mixture and sometimes caused fights to break out putting an end to some steamy romances. The more daring Don Juan might have found his case taken care of in the parking lot, ending up with a bloody nose. Young arrogant American men would regularly attend the dances to test their fists against the Canadian men. Once the evening was over, the customs officers would have to admit the men back into the states. They knew they had been drinking but did not know how much alcohol had been consumed. It was not like today where we choose to use a designated driver or take turns with the driving. We will return to our review of the local dance halls.
"Salle Pariseau": (247 West Main Street)
The entrance to this hall was located on Gilmour St. and could accommodate 75 to 100 persons. Edmond Pariseau was the owner. It appears that according to references. Norbert Gosselin and his wife provided the music in this hall. Later, his Martial played the fiddle accompanied by his sister Raymonde on the piano along with two other persons: Henri Frechette and Normand Robidas, Gale Descoteaux was also associated with this group. The Gosselin family certainly had the stage at that time. It should also be noted that Ti-Blanc Richard and Levis Bouliane and their orchestras came to play at these dances and my father, Wilbrod Labbé, was the calier.
Salle «La grange à Cutting" :
This site according to my research, was located on Route 141 (Barnston Road) between the present civic numbers 624 and 678. After the construction the hay loft served as the dance floor. Martial Gosselin played here as well as other orchestras. This place was only available for about a year until Mr. Cutting purchased a herd of Holstein cattle who then needed the barn.
"Salle à Médé":
The owner was Mr. Conrad Therrien . This hall was located at 45 East Ste-Anne Street and was earlier known as a piggery. Conrad spent months and months working his heart out to put this building into a dance hall. By the way, do you know how the name Salle à Médé came to be known? The origin of this title came from the fact that Mr. Therrien would invite many of his friends to come and help out with the renovation of the building: he would tell them to -come and give me a hand "which in French means "V'nez m'aider"hence Salle" a Médé". So, that was how the business came to be known. The opening took place in 1970 and Mr. Therrien was owner until 1978. In 1978, Fleurette and André Binette bought the business and ran it until 1989. Many orchestras came to play in this dance hall over that time period including the Bégin Family, les Sons d'Or and Les Oiseaux Bleus. Everyone who came here knew they would have a good time. The byword for many years heard loud and strong in the area was to come to the Salle à Médé if you wanted to pass an enjoyable evening.
"Salle Archambault -L'Epervier":
This building is located at 80 South St. Jacques Street. Paul D'Avignon told us that during the mid-1940's there was a sash and door mill and wood preparation for the construction of silos. Workmen discovered a tunnel as well as a metal drainage shaft during the construction of the dance floor. On July 31, 1942, the garage owner Jean-Yves Martineau sold the hall to Anatole Guérin, J.M. Dassylva remembered that Mr. Guérin (father of fat) had a sloping area in back of the hall where there was a warehouse. This warehouse kept ice which was sold to the local stores and restaurants. (extract from the Land Registry Office). Denonville Archambault bought this building from the Caisse Populaire on June 13, 1955. Dances were held here every Saturday evening. The owner would light the box stove during the course of the evening to warm the hall. He would rent the hall to my mother Clara Labbé for wedding and anniversary banquets. In 1962, Normand Gosselin and Thérèse Bélanger became the new owners. On January 17, 1963 the name Salle L'Epervier came into use, the name by which we know the hall today. They were able to obtain their liquor license alter the fine which destroyed the Maurice Hotel in 1969. Dances were held Saturday and Sunday evenings. In 1979 a bar was added and in 1989 the kitchen was enlarged. The bar became a meeting place for sports fans as well as for bar patrons. Two other owners bought and sold the building until Clément Lavoie finally bought the place in 2008 and continues to be the owner.
Club Bonsoir & Reine des Érables
In 1963 the first hall was known as Club Bonsoir, and it belonged to René Grenier and his wife - Auréa. The capacity of the hall was for 250 persons. Above all it was known for their sugar house meals. The first "shower" was held in 1964. Several years later the hall was enlarged to hold 300 persons and the name of the hall was changed to "La Reine des Érables". The hall was rented for 65.00$ for showers. The renters of the hall would hire an orchestra and sold tickets which sometimes raised a $1,000.00, a nice gift for the future married couple. In 1964, the Centennial date of Coaticook, the organizers put together an old fashioned wedding theme with Mrs. Francoise Gaudet Smeth as the invited honoured guest.
The usual orchestra who played this hall were the following: The Mongeau Orchestra, Trio Laliberté, Lévis Bouliane, Marcel Martel, The Bégin Family Orchestra, and Ti-Blanc Richard.
Paul Guérin built this hall in the late 1950's and it was located at 77, Range 9. Today the hall has been replaced by a business, "Entreposage Coaticook". Ti Blanc Richard and his Orchestra played music and his daughter Michèle Richard sang in this hall in the early days. She was no more than 10 years old at that time. Apart from dancers, boxing matches were held on Sunday afternoons. The hall became the property of Renaud Vanasse in 1961.
The Salle Guérin was located at 56, Route 147 (Dixville Road). And Paul Guérin or Fat, as he was known, was the owner and he lived just behind the hall. Another business, the ASCO Company, Entreposage Commercial established in this hall and today the space is known as Cuisine Élégance. The Martial Gosselin Orchestra was often a favourite with Miss Suzanne Caron as the orchestra's regular singer. Mr Guérin kept his eyes on some of the younger patrons because they sometimes could be hard to handle. Fat was also the bouncer. The drinking age during the time that Mr. Guérin ran the hall was 21 years. Fire also destroyed this site.
This hall was built by Télesphore Lavoie in 1963 and was located on Route 147, Civic number 78-about a hundred feet south of the Guérin Hall. Many evenings of dancing took place here. Renée Martel sang and the Oiseaux Bleus Orchestra played music for all who wanted to dance. It should be noted that boxing matches took place at this location.
Adrien Maurice came to Coaticook in 1927. He bought the hotel known as the Coaticook House and it officially became known as the Maurice Hotel in 1944. This hotel was burned to the ground February 16, 1969. It should be mentioned that Roland Viau was the cook for the hotel from 1959-1967. He prepared the meals in the kitchen and then transferred the food to the large dining room just behind the kitchen. Some traces of this dining room are still visible and can be seen behind Centre d'Action Bénévole at 23 Cutting Street. Another hall known as La Petite salle Maurice could be found in the basement and could accommodate 70 persons. It was also in this small hall that Adrien Maurice, Lionel Fecteau (Ti -Gars) and other friends would meet to paint. Many of their artworks contributed to the décor of the hotel.
Salle "La Paloma":
During the mid-1950's this hall was traditionally the hall for English-speaking patrons but was later replaced by French-speaking patrons. The hall was situated on Route 147 on Bowers Road not far from the Milby Golf Club. Jean Gastonguay and his wife Monique were the first owners. Gerald Hazelton and his orchestra were the first band to play here. Sam Hopper was also a regular.
Salle " Burrough's Falls":
In 1955-1956, this hall which still exists today, was located at the intersection of Route 141 and 143. It will be remembered that this was a spacious hall with a large ball suspended from the ceiling. This ball was covered in small pieces of mirrors and with the glint of multicolored light on the mirrors, a spectacular reflection played across the walls which was romantic to the couples dancing the waltzes. The orchestra of Tom Wheeler and Dick Curless drew in bilingual crowds during this period.
Salle "Le Frisson":
Does this hall bring back happy memories? It once belonged to the Salvation Army and was located on West Main Street between Chagnon's Garage and the Bar Ailleurs. It was behind the store formerly known as the Thrift Store, the Aramis Club and Vrac Nature. Today the Christian movement hold their religious services. Weddings were celebrated here.
Salle "Nick's Barn Dance":
The property on which Nick's Barn Dance stood was located along Route 147 near Route 143 and during the 1940's belonged to Nicolas Dean. What you saw here was a barn with a French style roof. After the flood of 1943, Dean decided that he no longer wanted to keep cows and converted the first floor of the barn into a dance hall . On Sunday morning the Beaulieu children would be kept busy picking up the empty boules found here and there across the grounds. In 1960, Ti-Blanc(Adelbert Richard) bought the part of the property on which the dance hall stood . This hall was destroyed by fire between 1970-1975 and was not rebuilt.
Salle" Paroissiale de Coaticook Nord"
The Coaticook North Parish Hall was given and transferred to the site around the early 1920's by the manager of Penmans during the time of Mr. Cooney. This building was designated as a parish hall in which wedding and shower receptions were held as well as the church suppers. People were also able to rent the hall for family parties or get-togethers. These activities no longer take place at this hall today.
Salle " La Source"
The Source is located at 1150 Route 141 North, near the place where farmers once brought their horses for a refreshing drink at a naturally sourced spring. This is how the hall got the name. The hall was built by Léo Brodeur in 1977 having bought the property from Frank Thibault. Frank Thibault had acquired the property from Marcel Favreau. A cantina built on the premises was destroyed by fire. Well known groups such as le Groupe Corbeau, Marjo, Châtelaine, Nanette Workman, Paôlo Noël as well as hypnotists and many other artists played here.
Research: Mme Laurette Labbé Dupont Contributor: M.Jean -Maurice Dumonlin