couples dancing cheek to cheek on a hard wood floor to music
that won't break the ear drums, with no alcohol or the bad
behavior that can go along with. A vision from days gone by?
Well yes and no. Lakeside Danceland had been around for along
time, so this sight harkens back to the good old days, but
it's happening every Saturday night.
About half an hour's drive north east of London sits the village
of Lakeside, Ontario. It has a natural spring-fed lake, rumored
to have been a stopping off place for area Indians as they
traveled to and from hunting grounds. Arrowheads have been
found on the lake's northeast corner.
Part of this popular cottage/camping spot since the early
1930's is the Lakeside Danceland. Arnold and Fran Pearson
have owned the property, which includes a campground and day-use
beach, since 1984, but sold it in the mid nineties and then
re-established ownership a few years later.
This couple, who are in there mid-sixties, offers just what
seniors want in a quality entertainment environment. The weekly
dances appeal to couple ranging in age from 40 to 75 plus.
Each Saturday night. 250 to 300 people gather to kick up their
heels from 8:00 to midnight- many of whom are regulars and
come very week. Why
do these devoted dancers trek in from London, Chatham, Sarnia
and the Niagara area? "They love our cushioned, hardwood
floor," says AR. "Those are getting hard to find."
These sentiments are echoed by many of the regulars, who come
every week unless they have a family obligation with the kids
or grandkids. Many of these folks have been coming to Lakeside
to dance since it had an open-air pavilion and jitney dances.
Jitney dancing was a popular phenomenon in the early part
of the last century. At Lakeside, according to Arn, a fellow
would buy tickets for a dime or quarter than take his best
gal for a twirl on the roped-off dance floor.
Three dances per ticket and the floor were emptied between
each set of dances.
Royalaires are an area brass band that offers big band-type
swing music now at Lakeside, but the majority of the southern
and southwestern Ontario talent that plays this venue is traditionally
Country Versatiles, the Beckett Family, the Pierce Family,
Bill Beattie Band and one of their most popular acts, the
Scott Woods Band, all offer the kind of country sound that
appeals to Danceland's demographic - easy to dance to, easy
on the ears.
According to Arnold, the dance enthusiasts that pack his establishment
each week are a health-conscious lot who look at this as an
opportunity to supplement their active lifestyle. Charley
and Betty Hutcheson, who are 77 and 76 respectively, hail
from Banner, Ontario are regulars. "We very seldom miss
a week. We love this hardwood floor. This is the type of music
that we like," says Betty.
Isabel and Roy Johnson of Woodstock echo these sentiments,
as do Frank and Nicki Bell both 75, from London. "This
old firefighter will be dancing her till I drop over,"
says Frank a retired platoon chief.
of dancing has played a big part in the Pearson's relationship.
They met in 1983 at a singles dance at the hall in the area
that's now defunct, called circle K.
year later they bought the Lakeside dance/beach/camping property
and have been dancing ever since!