WWI veterans danced free at jitney street dance in their honor

July 16, 2015

 A street carnival, featuring a jitney dance, was planned in Hannibal on May 23, 1919, located on North Fifth Street, between Broadway and Center Street.

 

All returning World War I service were invited to dance free of charge. The event was sponsored by the Hannibal Trades and Labor Assembly and the music was to be furnished by the Temple orchestra composed of seven pieces.

 

So, what is a jitney dance?

 

I checked several web sites which offered fairly insulting definitions for the term, such as "cheap."

 

The web site "Exp 123" defines it in terms more appropriate for this situation:

 

"This was the practice of paying for each dance, in advance. It was customary for most dance halls like the Stork Club, in the 20s & 30s to charge admission to the dance hall (15 cents). Once inside the building, couples were escorted to a roped off area (promenade), where they purchased tickets for 5 cents per dance. There were a prescribed number of dances: 16 per hour. Between numbers, rope boys cleared the dance floor & collected the money for the next number."

 

So Hannibal had a street dance to help repay the soldiers who had come home from the war. They were allowed to dance for free, but others were asked to pay a small token - perhaps a nickel - to join in on the fun.

 

ALSO OF INTEREST: If you're interested in music and dancing from the World War II era, you might also be interesting in reading about Albert Haug, Hannibal music legend. Click here to read the full story.

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