The History of Long and Brier Islands

Dance at Lloyd’s Tonight

by | Aug 20, 2021 | Brier Island, Freeport, legion, Long Island, Mail | 1 comment

I have done this blog as a tribute to Lloyd Blackford for all the entertainment he has provided to the people of Long & Brier Island. What would life of be like here on our Islands with out Lloyd’s theatre and dance hall. I am going to write about the dance hall and the history of it. I have included some of the songs that Lloyd would of played for the dances of the late 50’s and 60’s. I know Lloyd played a wide variety of music for all ages, these songs were sure to get the crowd up dancing. Just pick a song and continue reading.

My Special Angel

Young Love

Save The Last Dance For Me

The Old Lamplighter

I Want To Walk You Home

Crazy

When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano

Lloyd Blackford 1930- 31 Years Old

Some History about Lloyd’s Dance Hall

Living on the islands isn’t the same as living in the city. When it comes to entertainment our entertainment came on a Saturday night, it was then we would go to the theatre and if you were old enough, later you would go to the dance.

Lloyd’s Theatre and Dance Hall

Before we get to the movie and dance, first we will look at a little history of how we came about having this entertainment center on our Islands. Bradford Lloyd Blackford (everyone called him Lloyd) was born on June 28, 1899 in Tiverton, Digby County. Lloyd’s father was the mail and passenger carrier for the Islands, so Lloyd worked with his father and eventually took over from his father carrying mail and passengers back and forth through the island.

 He also built a garage in Tiverton in 1920, a place to repair cars and boats. Lloyd being an entrepreneur decided to build a movie theater across from his home in Freeport. This was quite an under taking as the Great Depression had been going on for over seven years. Anyone that had any money left was not spending on entertainment places. He was thirty seven years old then.

The land that was across from his home had once been a store and a shipyard owned by the Haines, where they built vessels to travel all parts of the world.

 Lloyd started building in January 1936 and had it completed and opened in May 1936. His Theatre became very successful. His next venture was to build a modern dance hall adjacent to his theatre.  This was completed and opened on July 9, 1938.

This is a description of Lloyd’s dance hall as I remembered it. Even back when Lloyd first built the dance hall, it was considered one of the most modern in the province, as was reported in the newspapers of the time.

The inside walls were made of expensive lattice-work as was the ceiling and painted white. There were booths with seats with drop down tables on either side, windows at the far end with the door in the centre, where you could go out on the balcony. The entrance to the dance room was to the right and big round stove that burnt wood that heated the large room in the winter months. Lloyd on the far left playing music. I was told many years ago there was a stage in that area where the bands or the orchestra would play in the early days. Later this is where Lloyd played his music on a record player and still later on a tape recorder.

Lloyd’s Nuera Theatre & Dance Hall

Right from the opening night so long ago the Island folks enjoy dancing at Lloyd’s Hall. It was reported on July 9th opening night, Lloyd had an orchestra from Digby playing while dozens of couples filled the floors. Then the following week July 16th a shower or reception for the newly wedded couple Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Teed. There has been a lot of receptions, birthday parties and dances held in this hall. I even had my reception with my first marriage at this hall in June 1966. The hall I remember was full. There was even two tap dancers, dancing, Carl Sullivan and Eldon Stanton. Every kind of dancing at Lloyd’s.

 The hall was open every Saturday night Summer through Winter. I am not sure when Lloyd started using records for the audiences but when I started attending the dances near the end of the 50’s, Lloyd was using a reel-to-reel tape record player along with records. I know he had an extensive collection of records (mostly 45’s), a little of all types of music (some for the older generation some for the younger generation). He collected the songs as soon as they were released, probably from the radio he would record these new releases.

If you went up to Lloyd and ask him to play a certain new song, he would look it up in one of his scribblers, to which tape and at what location on the tape, and have it ready for the next song. He would play his record player while getting the song ready.

He had some very powerful speakers mounting up over the ceiling, you could never see them, but you could hear them. Lloyd could control the lights in the dance room from where he sat.

 I remember my first time I met Lloyd Blackford in 1954. I had been going to Central Grove School where I walked 3 miles each way to get to school and back. Central Grove School was a one-room school that taught primary through grade 12 that you had to go to Digby to write your provincial exams.

What our parents were told at a meeting with the school board in 1954, that the school board was going to close all schools on Long Island and only to have one school to teach all grades.

Central Grove Students were to go to Tiverton for school. It would be 1961 before the plans were made for the new school that all students would go to. That was built in 1962 which was I.C.S.

Lloyd’s Bus

Now in the fall of 1954 the school board made arrangements with Lloyd to transport students from Central Grove to Tiverton. I remember getting on the bus the first time thinking I don’t have to walk 3 miles to and from school each day. The bus was always full when we got on, as there was a lot of people that traveled by this bus, going to Digby or beyond. Lloyd carried the mail from the Post Offices and any persons that wanted to travel to Digby or beyond on his bus. Most trips students would stand to make room for the passengers.

 He would let us out at the Tiverton School, and at three o’clock when school was out, we would go up to Lloyd garage and wait till the Digby Neck bus would arrive in East Ferry with the day’s mail and passengers returning. This was between five and 5:30, Lloyd would pick up the mail and passengers at the ferry and then take us home, this made for a long day.

Lloyd Blackford

Lloyd did not allow drinking in his dance hall, there was enough going on outside. If someone came in that had been drinking and started causing a problem, Lloyd would go up to them and asked them to leave, and if they didn’t, he would grab them by the collar and marched them outside. I’ve never seen anyone tried to fight back, he had a lot of respect and Lloyd was always in a good physical condition even though he was getting up in years. Another reason he was in great shape he worked out every day when he arrived at his garage in Tiverton. He had an exercise room where he had made all his exercise equipment.

Now did Lloyd make any money doing this service for the Islands? I can’t find out what he charged from the opening of the dance hall, but I can remember what I paid in the late 50’s.  Lloyd would take his bus and go up to Tiverton around five o’clock P. M. and pick up anyone wanting to go to the evening movie. He would charge $.25, then at the end of the movie he would bring you home for $.25. On the way back down the Island he would be picking up Islander’s going to the dance, he charge $.25, and for this dance he charged $.35. At midnight the dance hall was always shut down, he would take up-Islanders home, this was another $.25.

The Westporters that came over to the dance would have to leave before the dance was over. The reason being the ferry at that time was on a dawn to dusk schedule. The ferry men of that time would leave their home, bring the ferry boat itself across the passage and be at the ferry landing at 12 midnight. Every one knew to be there at that time or you would be left behind.

This went on until he stopped transporting mail on the islands. He retired when his wife (Helen Louise Churchill Blackford) died, August 16, 1964. Lloyd kept having dances till about 1968, when he would be go to Florida to spend the winters. The dance hall was sold to Keith Manzer our school principal in 1971. He was planning on using the building for live theater and dancing on Saturday nights. Keith never accomplished this so he decided to sell it to the Legion in 1974.

For the rest of the history on this dance hall go to my blog on this site, the blog is called “Legion”. It has been 83 years since this dance hall has been built, only a few years was there no activity in the dance hall. A lot of people has had a dance or as Islanders would say “a scuff” on Lloyd’s dance floor. A lot of memories. Will it still be here when it is a 100 years old? I hope so. I would like to say in closing “thank you Lloyd for giving me a lot of memorable memories”.

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Blackford

    Thank you Rodney for bringing my grandfather Lloyd Blackford’s Nuera Dance Hall experience to life in your article. It is very special and I really appreciate your efforts!

    Reply

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