As far as aesthetic preparations for a 100th birthday are concerned, the choice comes down to whether cosmetic surgery is enough or going down to the bones is required.
In the case of the century-old Round Hall in Bragg Creek, there really wasn’t much of a choice a couple of years ago – they had to go down to the bones.
And it has good bones.
The owners of the Round Hall across the river from one of the hamlet’s other historic buildings (the Bragg Creek Trading Post) took a long hard look a few years ago and discovered that sprucing up the surface of the log structure wasn’t going to cut it, so an intense restoration effort was launched.
Jonn Teghtmeyer took on the job in 2011. Refinishing the logs and repairing the roof wouldn’t address the looming foundation issues, and the restoration took on a much larger scope. Some rotted logs were replaced and the whole building was slid along beams onto a newly poured concrete base in 2012, complete with the restored original maple hardwood dance floor.
But then came the flood in 2013. After a two-year pause amid the hamlet’s recovery efforts, the restoration project resumed and was completely finished in 2015.
The building is now in ship-shape condition and ready for visitors to help celebrate the 100th anniversary and learn about the place where community dances were a highlight of the social lives of folks from Bragg Creek and surrounding area for decades.
Owner Barbara Teghtmeyer (Jonn’s mother) welcomed Grade 3 and 4 students from Banded Peak School last week, on a field trip into the past.
She said Banded Peak students have always been interested in the Trading Post and its history.
“I realized, oh my gosh, the hall is 100 years old this year, maybe I should invite them to come,” she said
Barbara Teghtmeyer’s mother, Mary Elsdon, came to Bragg Creek in 1938, where she met her husband Jack. Teghtmeyer met her husband Robb in Bragg Creek as well, in fact, at the Round Hall.
Teghtmeyer’s parents became the third owners of the hall in 1949.
“Almost as long as I can remember my mom ran Saturday night dances here, and of course I had to come, starting when I was about 12,” she said.
“To justify bringing her daughter to Saturday night dances, she made me work in the coffee shop.”
The coffee shop provided most of the refreshments needs of the adult crowds, but anyone looking for something a little stronger had to discreetly slip out to the parking lot for a nip. The parking lot ‘bar’ was scrutinized by police officers, who would promptly dump out any confiscated liquor.
Slipping out had another risk attached, if Teghtmeyer’s mother was in the line of sight.
“There was no drinking allowed and my mother ran a really tight ship,” she recalled.
When she brought that fact up at a reunion event where some community members were listening, Teghtmeyer said there was some laughter.
“’Yeah – she caught me,’ one of them said.”
The Round Hall’s dances were fuelled by live country music – the piano still sits against the wall – complete with fiddles, saxophones, drums, and sometimes a trumpet. A band called Freddie’s Orchestra became sort of the ‘house band’ as described in a poster still stuck on a wall.
The Banded Peak students visiting last week learned that Saturday night fever was alive and well in Bragg Creek for many years, minus the disco balls and John Travolta.
The dancers at the Round Hall did the polka and the fox trot. They two-stepped, square danced, waltzed, and jived when that became the rage. And box socials were popular.
A function with local variations across North America, the box social was the culinary equivalent of the blind date. Young women prepared the food, placed it in a decorated box, and young men bid in an auction to determine the identity of their dining partner.
The identity of those who prepared the box lunches was kept secret, except when the name attached to the lunch somehow slipped out, and the men could focus their attention on the date of their choice. It was not unknown for a young woman to surreptitiously drop hints to a favoured man by indicating which box is hers, as a way of rigging the results.
The quaint tradition of box socials fell by the wayside some time ago, but was very popular in its day.
Jake Fullerton built the hall in 1923. In the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, people often came to the dances on horseback, sometimes sleeping overnight in a nearby hayloft. The kerosene lamps of that bygone era are still in place however, dating back to before electric power came to Bragg Creek in 1957.
For decades, the Round Hall was the social hub of the community – school Christmas concerts, fundraisers, polling station during elections, birthday parties, and even a belly dancing class were all hosted there.
When Alberta liquor laws changed in the early 1970s, dictating that licenses would be required to run events where alcohol was served, Elsdon decided the dances would come to an end.
“She didn’t want to be a dining lounge, and she didn’t want to be a pub, she just wanted dancing. And to attract crowds, you had to have liquor, so it wasn’t feasible to do it anymore,” Teghtmeyer explained.
That’s when the hall fell into disrepair, as log structures are prone to do if left sitting vacant for 30 years.
But now that’s it’s back up to snuff, Teghtmeyer is working on hosting a live concert to mark the building’s centennial. She's hopeful it will be held in September, to provide a blast from the past for local residents.
Teghtmeyer is also is testing the waters to gauge interest in some kind of reunion. Anyone interested in celebrating the history and sharing memories of the Round Hall can contact her at 403-949-3737.