Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Brant Inn Memories - chapter excerpt

Brant Inn was swinging during the Dirty Thirties
The stock market crash of 1929 ushered in the "Dirty Thirties", hardly a decade conducive to making whoopee. Yet the Great Depression nurtured a yearning for something - anything - to ease the pain of hard times.

The Grand Theatre in Hamilton, for instance, offered an entertainment schedule that ranged from legitimate theatre and dance recitals, vaudeville and burlesque shows, to boxing, wrestling and dance marathons. Something for everyone.

The Brant Inn stuck mainly to Ontario dance bands in the early Thirties, often looking to London for orchestras led by Arch Cunningham, the Wright Brothers - Bill, Ernie, Don and Clark - from the University of Western Ontario, Ken Steele from the Hotel London, and the man with the fancy moniker, La'Pierre Muir, also from Western.

Then, in May, 1933, the Brant brought in McKinney's Cotton Pickers, the first American band to play the Burlington nightspot in almost four years. Though the Brant, like other area dance halls and movie theatres, had lowered admission prices for Depression patrons (50 cents per couple Wednesdays through Fridays and $1.10 on Saturdays), the tariff for the McKinney band was $2 for two tickets.

The next year - 1934 - saw Murray Anderson, restrauranteur Cec Roberts and Roberts' accountant, Clifford Kendall, team up to rent the Brant Inn from A.B. Coleman. The Swing Era was percolating......