The October 2007 Bradford Dances Reunion

On October 20, 2007, more than 240 people gathered at the Webster Town Hall in Webster, NH for a Reunion Dance for those who attended the barn dances at Bradford Arena, Stark Mansion Hall and Fortune's Barn from 1939-1974 ( click here to see the flyer for the event ). Some came in wheel chairs and with walkers and sat and enjoyed Dancers the music as they watched the "younger people (in their 60's)" dance to the same square dances, waltz's, fox trots, and polkas that they had danced to 40 to 60 years ago. Some even brought their children and grandchildren as their families were curious about the dances that held such fond memories for their parents. Everyone claimed to have a wonderful time and many saw old friends they hadn't seen for decades. One of the attendees, Robert Messer from Bradford, is the surviving member of the original Colby's Orchestra that started playing at Bradford Arena in 1946. Walter Heath from Hillsborough, who played the piano for many years while Woody took a break, was also in attendance. Jean and Bill Nadon
The dance was in the exact format of the Barn Dances, a set of 3 round dance songs (waltz, fox trot or polka) followed by a set of square dances. There were only 5 or 6 sets of square dancers on the floor at any one time, as many couldn't handle the squares, but when the round dances were played, many more got up to waltz, polka or fox trot again. The amplifier set that was used at Bradford Arena was the sound system of the day. Local 4-H clubs operated a snack bar which sold hot dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, potato chips just as the snack bars did in Bradford and Dunbarton. The tonic flavors of yesteryear were sold, so attendees could have fruit bowl, birch beer, lemon and lime, and grape in glass bottles as they had long ago.

Dorothy Wood, age 94, was oldest person in attendance and had danced at all three dance halls as well as at succeeding dances held in Hopkinton until about 10 years ago. Traveling the longest distance to attend the Reunion Dance were David & Paula Carnes from Wellston, Oklahoma. Several people traveled from Massachusetts and all parts of New Hampshire.

Myrna Colby Toutant organized a memorabilia table with such items as Mike Colby's fiddles, George Rounds' banjo, Conversations records with call sheets made back in the 1950's, sheet music, posters, a noisemaker from a New Year's Eve celebration at Bradford Arena, and what old photos we have collected. John Boynton II, produced a slide show of old photos and pictures of the halls as they are now and some of the dancers who still square dance today. This show was projected on the wall of the town hall.

The music was furnished by Woody Roberts, age 87, on piano, who had joined Colby's Orchestra in 1956; Stewart Fortune on bass guitar, Frank Fortune's nephew; John Boynton on drums and Bob Boynton, Jr. calling the squares (Mike Colby's grandsons); Jack O'Connor on banjo, the young man who made that The Band recording of the dance 52 years ago; and Jim Pero, a friend of the Boynton family on fiddle and guitar.

When the band played Till We Meet Again, Now is the Hour, and May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You, which Woody sang, we all knew that the dance had ended. Many lingered for a bit longer just to chat with old friends.

This dance came about as a result of website hosted by Walter Lenk which documents the dances held at the Bradford Arena, Stark Mansion Hall and Fortune's Barn. Janice Colby Boynton spent the better part of the last year gathering information for the website. Check it out at Best of all, the site contains recordings obtained from Jack O'Connor of a dance held in 1955 at the Bradford Arena. It will soon be updated with pictures and information we received at the Reunion. The response was so great that many mentioned this reunion dance should become an annual event. We are thinking about it. If you have any memories you would like to share about these dances in Bradford from 1939-1974, please contact Janice Colby Boynton at 603-774-4412.

Written 2007 by Janice Colby Boynton