As a warm breeze blew off of Lake Erie, the cars made their way to the small town of Port Stanley. One by one the occupants of the cars emerged and entered the dance hall. The young men were dressed in suits and ties; the young women wore elegant evening gowns, their hair freshly set. The Johnny Downs Orchestra, a Canadian band from London, Ontario, warmed up and the couples took to the dance floor. They glided around the 24,000 square foot floor, some say the biggest in North America, under the light of the Chinese lanterns.
Couples danced to the strains of "Sophisticated Swing" and "Begin the Beguine". Later they picked up the tempo with the "Bunny Hop". My Dad met Johnny Downs in the 1950's and wrote a theme song for the band called "John's On". They also played the following compositions written by my Dad: "Blue Water Bay", Will She Make It?" and "Bette" (dedicated to my Mom).
The steady rhythm of the band kept the dancers in sync. As the moon rose, strains from the orchestra drifted across the lake. Scents from the fishing boats wafted from the harbour. The bright lights of the dance hall illuminated the town. Port Stanley came alive!
*Here is a list of American orchestras that performed at the Stork Club, which operated from 1926 to 1978:
1. The Official Glenn Miller Orchestra
2. Stan Kenton Orchestra
3. Artie Shaw Orchestra
4. Gene Krupa Orchestra
5. Woody Herman Orchestra
6. Harry James Orchestra
7. Dorsey Brothers Orchestra
8. Elgart Brothers Orchestra
9. Ray Anthony Orchestra
10. Benny Goodman Orchestra
11. Les Brown Orchestra
12. Guy Lombardo Orchestra**
13. Count Basie Orchestra
14. Duke Ellington Orchestra
15. Louis Armstrong Orchestra
*List of bands courtesy my Dad, Norm Tufts.
**Guy Lombardo, a Canadian, came from nearby London, Ontario.
Photo courtesy www.musicandmemories.org