The Rock and Roll Dances at Hanson's
Harvey’s Lake and other ballroom venues in the Wyoming Valley were energetic magnets for evolving musical styles in the twentieth century. The Oneonta and Sunset Pavilions (at Sunset) belonged to the jazz age. Similar settings, especially Fernbrook Park in Dallas, saw the great dance bands of the 1930s and 40s.
Three decades after the “dance band” era had entranced the nation, a new musical craze, Rock and Roll, breathed new life into the Lake’s amusement centers. Local musical talents provided weekend retreats for teenage crowds, including Hanson’s Amusement Park. From the early 1960s to the early 1970s, dances featuring local and national talent were regularly held in the second-floor dance hall above the Hanson’s restaurant.
A weekend dance at Hanson’s could draw two thousand people to enjoy emerging national talent which included Chubby Checker, Bobby Goldsboro, and the McCoys. The dark hall, built to serve the musical dreams of a much earlier youth, jumped to a new, raucous beat. And a new, uncertain generation lost themselves to the wonderfully deafening music.
Many others milled along the outside of the dance floor searching for fun and sometimes a little trouble (in a pre-six pack era, beer usually came in a glass quart container). Hanson’s dances were able to draw considerable local talent from the Wyoming Valley; the most popular area attractions were Joe Nardone and the All Stars, and Eddie Day with both the Starfires and TNT.
Prior to the summer of ’62 Hanson’s Park hosted a variety of musical talent. In early 1962 the dean of area “Rock and Roll,” Joe Nardone and the All Stars, were at Hanson’s. Joe Nardone began his music career while still a student at Coughlin High School. His group was originally called the Four Stars and played at the CYC, Wilkes-Barre. Graduating from Coughlin in 1995 Nardone attended the Wyoming Seminary Business School. In 1957 the band was renamed the All Stars. The area’s earliest “rock and roll” band the All Stars began playing at the CYC, Wilkes-Barre, in 1957 and the city’s Granada Ballroom in 1960, but they were most identified with the Sans Souci Amusement Park and opened for concert tours by Danny and the Juniors, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and Neil Diamond in 1996.
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo