By Submitted Article on May 20, 2020.
Between 1939 and 1945 Lethbridge was absorbed into the “home front” culture of the Second World War. The city transformed with the construction of an extensive prisoner of war camp and an influx of air training personnel from around the Commonwealth. Residents said goodbye to loved ones in the services, and were called on to make sacrifices through food rationing and other wartime controls.
Despite these disruptions, however, there were bright spots that helped maintain positive morale. Inspired by North American greats like Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Tommy Dorsey, local big-band groups played an energetic, swinging style of music that brought crowds to dance halls and joy to the community.
The Trianon Ballroom, which operated from 1931 to 1961, was the most popular place to be. It was centrally located on the corner of 5 Street and 1 Avenue South. Even in the winter, the Trianon promised an oasis, with cardboard palm trees and ceiling stars decorating its 3,500-square-foot space. In a 1997 interview, Alberta Ranch Boys member Lou Gonzy recalled, “The crowds [at the Trianon] were always big. I remember one New Year’s Eve we sold 1,000 tickets, with people coming and going all night.”
Buses also shuttled passengers from the public library to the Henderson Lake Pavilion, which operated from 1929 to 1969. On Tuesday and Saturday nights during the war, the pavilion hosted jitney dances – where patrons bought a separate ticket for each song – and its dance floor was said to be one of the finest in southern Alberta.
Both the Trianon and Henderson Lake Pavilion were popular among service personnel, which included Air Force trainees from all over the British Commonwealth. Meanwhile, guards from Camp 133 favoured the Rainbow Ballroom, located not far from the camp on 5 Avenue North.
You can learn more about the music of the home front at http://www.galtmuseum.com.
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