Yesterday's News

Tripping light fantastic brought music to a halt

By FRANK BOYETT, Gleaner staff writer
Sunday, July 30, 2006

The music came to an abrupt stop in Atkinson Park on this Sunday 100 years ago when two young ladies began dancing.

It's not like they were doing the shimmy, or even the boogie-woogie. The music was a military march. But dancing on Sunday was strictly forbidden in 1906 by both the band leader and the city Parks Commission.

It was quite the little scandal, and I mention it because dancing on Sunday seems a pretty tame impropriety Ñ if any at all Ñ by modern standards. I know some folks frown on dancing, much less dancing on a Sunday, but if one can pray to the Lord, one can also dance to the Lord. There are certainly Biblical precedents: Miriam's victory dance in Exodus or David's joyful dance before the Lord described in 2nd Samuel.

The dancing that took place in Atkinson Park in 1906, however, was of a more secular nature. And therein lay the problem.

"Considerable complaint has been heard from several quarters of the behavior at Atkinson Park last Sunday afternoon of three young girls," The Gleaner reported in its initial story. John Huhlein's band was playing an afternoon of music when the girls reportedly began dancing to a sacred hymn Ñ and would not cease and desist even after Huhlein asked them stop on three separate occasions.

"The police department has been notified of the occurrence and will take steps to see that a recurrence of the disgraceful affair does not take place."

That story's publication caused even more of a squawk, with some people apparently taking the side of the young women. A follow-up article started out with these words:

"The impression seems to prevail that the Gleaner ... did an injustice to the parties mentioned in the article. The article in question was secured from a gentleman whose reliability is unquestioned and whose word is beyond reproach. For obvious reasons his name is withheld."

The Gleaner checked again with its source and "he was firm that the article was correct as he had told it in all main particulars, except that concerning the sacred music."

The Gleaner then talked with Huhlein, who gave a slightly different account of the incident. Huhlein, who was leader of a popular band here for at least two decades, said his band was halfway through its penultimate number "when my attention was called to two young ladies who were dancing in the promenade in the pavilion.

"I immediately directed my musicians to quit playing and told the young ladies that it was against the principles of the band to play for dances on Sunday and the park commissioners would not allow it, and asking them to cease dancing.

"The music having stopped, they, of course, had they so desired, did not dance, and from fear that they would resume dancing I declined to play any more. The band, as stated, stopped in the midst of the march, and the last piece was not played.

"From the actions of the two young ladies it appeared that they did not think they were doing wrong in dancing, but I had a different opinion. The young ladies did not refuse to accede to my request."

Immediately after the concert, Huhlein hunted up two of the park commissioners, Dr. W.I. Thompson and H.F. Dade, and told them what had happened. "Both told me I did exactly right."

There are still some discrepancies between the first and second accounts in the newspaper Ñ such as the number of women dancing and how many times they were asked to stop Ñ but the second story said readers would just have to figure that out on their own.

"If the young ladies have been wronged, the Gleaner wishes to apologize, but as to whether or not it was mistaken, it remains for others to judge."

The young ladies were never named in the newspaper, although I suspect it was probably pretty common knowledge who they were.

75 years ago

A construction worker on the first of the twin bridges accused the general contractor of skimping on building the bridge piers, The Gleaner reported in 1931.

"I have a letter from a young man employed by the contractor stating that the contractor is withholding 120 barrels of cement each day," state Highway Commissioner J.K. Waller said.

The contractor and its architects termed the accusation ridiculous. "It is the most absurd thing I have ever heard of," said W.C. Gorman, resident engineer for the project.

50 years ago

In 1956 the city of Henderson paid $15,000 on its bonded indebtedness, some of which dated back to 1867 for a railroad that was never built, according to The Gleaner.

In April of 1867 the city floated $400,000 worth of bonds to help finance what was to be the Evansville, Henderson & Nashville Railroad Ñ but the project went belly-up.

The city continued to pay on the bonds, however, and in 1890 consolidated that debt with new debt. That probably accounts for why at one point the city's credit rating was of the highest possible order, on a par with the national governments of Great Britain, Switzerland and the United States.

25 years ago

An investigation into the beating of an Evansville woman by a jail matron showed "insufficient evidence" to prosecute, County Attorney Bill Markwell said in 1981, according to The Gleaner.

The incident on July 4, 1981, prompted a picket line to be set up in front of the Henderson County Detention Center on Main Street, and caused the matron to be dismissed as soon as the 275-page investigative report was released.


Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2006 HCH&GS