"Dancing Carnival" Was a Famous Beach Landmark

(1921 -- 1929)

Interior of Dance Carnival By John M. Holman
Contributing Writer

The "DANCE CARNIVAL LTD." was a familiar landmark on Rocky Bend at Hampton Beach from 1921 until it burned in 1929. It was a place where one could go on Saturday night and dance to the music of well-known bands of the day. On the ground floor there were concessions with the spacious and glamourous dance hall on the second floor above.

A few years ago, this writer received a very interesting letter together with a dance ticket from the days of the Dance Carnival. On the ticket was printed the following message: "DANCE CARNIVAL -- Hampton Beach -- Good For One Dance - Seven (7) cents. The Management reserves the right to refuse admission to the floor of any objectionable person."

Included in the letter was the following reminiscence from the days of the Dance Hall from Elizabeth M. Horton of 663 Main Street, Haverhill, MA. who had this to say regarding her remembrance of the Big Band Days:

"I remember that dance hall as a place of pure glamor! We girls of towns 10 or 15 miles away seemed to make it every night during the summer. In my crowd, someone had a car. The dance floor was so beautiful, the fellows (we called the best and most attractive ones 'cageys'), so handsome in their wide bottom gray flannels-plus fours (or even plus eights) worn with colored argyle type golf hose and suck-like apparel. (No ragged jeans in those days!) The girls wore short dresses, short hair but curly, and rolled silk stockings (not yet nylon) and fancy garters to keep them up. When the nights were hot, the management opened the windows on the ocean side and delicious breezes wafted over the dance floor. Murphy's Orchestra was very good always, but the greatest attraction was Mal Hallet on a Saturday night. We all thrilled to the music of Mal Hallet and when he went into his feature, the band would demonstrate such pieces as "Horses, Horses, Horses" accompanied by the members standing up and riding hobby horses (which now seems more corny than it was). Also, they played and acted out 'Collegiate, Collegiate, Yes, We Are Collegiate ....'. This called for a freshman cap and a crazy outfit. Others, too, but I forget. One piece I remember particularly, was called 'After The Storm'. Then the music would roar, the lights would go out and all was dark until the make-believe storm was upon us and the 'lightning' would flash while the lights would go on and off and the roar of the music was really something! But not even then as loud as the music the grandchildren are accustomed to today. We were the innocent ones. (And WE were called the 'roaring twenties'!) Anyway, sometimes, I realize we danced all evening without taking any money except just enough to get in and maybe some of us had a few dimes or a quarter or two in our pocket. Often not, that I'm sure. We would just breeze in and would get a partner immediately. Sometimes, he would be someone we knew and sometimes he would be new. From then on, we seemed to have every dance. Now and then, somebody went 'beaching', for a little while."

And so it was at the Dancing Carnival back in the "Roaring Twenties" at Hampton Beach on Rocky Bend.

Peter E. Randall's "HAMPTON: A Century of Town and Beach, 1888 - 1988" had this to say regarding the Dance Carnival: "....... On the site of the Winnicumet House, Thomas Leavitt's sons, Thomas and Joseph Leavitt built a large hotel that opened in 1872 and remained for 49 years until torn down to make way for the construction of the DANCE CARNIVAL (in 1921). Known as the Hampton Beach Hotel, but usually called Leavitt's, this building was four stories high with a three-story ell and a 10-foot wide veranda. It was advertised as having ocean views from every room and its construction had a ripple effect as the nearby Boar's Head Hotel was enlarged and refurbished to remain competitive."