The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 4, 2013

Dancing at the Modernistic

A lot of people loved to dance years ago. And so, we take you back again in time to WWI.

George Dulany was here in Clinton from the very beginning of the new Coliseum, in 1914. He had just moved to town with Eclipse Lumber Company from Minneapolis, and was a very flamboyant yet civic-minded person, who got the Clinton Commercial Club interested in building the fantastic Civic Center known as the Coliseum. He was involved in numerous local activities, none better-remembered than his own personal “club” for people with the first name of George. The national press got hold of his club’s name and spread news of it everywhere, giving Dulany and his “Society for the Prevention of Calling Sleeping Car Porters George,” a lot of great, free publicity! I must explain for the younger audience. -- Pullman or “sleeping cars” were very popular on long train rides in the first half of the 19th Century. The men working on these train cars were “negroes,” who were often named “George,” perhaps after our first president or, more likely, just because it was a common and popular name then. As time went by, ALL the porters came to be referred to and were, often rudely, addressed by the same name, “George”… much to chagrin of some genteel people like George Dulany. Thus he started a club, to which you might belong if you were his friend and happened to have the first name George. People often did some strange things back then, but they had a lot of fun doing them!

Let’s return to the fabulous “Modernistic Ballroom,” built as an afterthought, but it made The Coliseum even more famous. The dance floor had a beautiful oak parquet floor, which was perfect for “tripping the light fantastic!” The perimeter had an area for tables and a large attractive bar, all separated from the dance floor by a piped, fence-like affair that “jitter buggers” could hurdle in a one-handed flip, just as they did with their dance partners! Most of the patrons were dressed to the hilt, and almost all of the men work suits and the girls had to be in a dress. One would see an occasional “Zoot Suit” -- with the big shoulder pads and long key chains -- a dandy would show up in one, and he would have his greasy-haired slicked back.

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