The opening decades of twentieth century saw several episodic trends in recreational activities for the masses. Billiards, roller skating, cinema and dance halls burst onto the scene with amazing vitality and each was catered for in the construction of appropriate halls. In September 1931 J G Callander approached Falkirk Council on behalf of a client asking for what terms and conditions it would accept to feu the piece of ground at north-east corner of Weir Street and Vicar Street for the proposed erection of a dancing academy which would embrace a dance hall and private dwelling house. The Council was unwilling to release the site as it might be needed for future road improvements. In any case, as soon as the local residents found out they objected to having such a public building in their midst.
The Council was, however, happy to release a site near to the new bus station on a side road that they were creating from Callendar Riggs to Belmont Road. The client, John Doak, evidently considered the location convenient and so the dance hall was constructed there. It is curious that although the Council had removed a great depth of sand from the area of the bus station and was also in the process of doing so along the south side of what became Meadow Street – which led to the discovery of the Falkirk Hoard – the hill of sand at the dance hall was left and consequently there was a considerable slope down from south to north. This resulted in a two-storey facade onto Meadow Street but a single storey rear. This had the advantage of providing an emergency door from the first-floor hall to the outside. The new ballroom was opened on 22 September 1933 by Provost Logan. J G Callander presented him with a toilet set from himself and the contractors.
At an estimated £3,400 it is evident that there was little money to spare on exterior decoration and the building is relatively plain. The windows were relatively small, but plentiful and the front angles had them on each side. Leaded glass provided some relief. The walls were of brick with a cement finish and the slated roof had a piended front. The central section of the façade of five bays was set under a short parapet wall and its end bays were advanced. The western advanced bay contained the broad entrance covered by a cast iron canopy made by Carron Company.
Illus: The Dance Hall looking east down Meadow Street.
The main investment went into the interior which was dominated by the first-floor dance hall whose maple floor covered over 5000 square feet – ample room for 200 couples. The curved ceiling was set fairly low to provide a feeling of cosiness. The local newspaper reported that it was
“Beautifully panelled with golden tinted oak in the lower regions, the walls have been treated with the latest vogue in decoration chamatex in a sunshine colour, which lend it a magnificent effect. This is accentuated by the splendid lighting system introducing a rainbow colour. Huge lights, six in number, can illuminate the hall in varying hues, while there are also a number of panelled shades around the walls. Everything tends to lend a brilliant and gorgeous effect.”
Illus: The Dance Hall looking towards the Entrance from the Stairway.
Three-quarters of the way across the hall pillars were set in the floor and the space beyond these was for a lounge with tables for between 300 and 400 hundred people. These could be booked in advance by parties. At the far end of the hall a moveable platform was intended for Mr Doak’s regular band. The lights could be dimmed during performances and dancing. The hall was initially opened for dancing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Adjoining the lounge buffet was a small room which was used by the committees or organisers of dances held in the hall. A glass partition divided the rubber-covered stairway from the dancing floor.
The main entrance doors off Meadow Street gave access to a spacious assembly hall and from this various other rooms branched off. First, there was the Lesser Dancing Hall where private tuition was given and small parties held. Then there were the ladies’ and gentlemen’s cloakrooms. The ticket office was also off the assembly hall. A stair led from here to the ballroom.
Illus 66: Jessie Doak at the back of the Dance Hall.
Contractors – Brick work – Alex Fleming; Joiner work – J & A Main; Slater work – Drummond & Crowe; Plumber work – George Summers & Sons; Plaster work – James K Millar; Lath work – William Harley; Glazier work – Daniel O’May Ltd; Electrical work – Thomas J Irvine; Steel work – Redpath, Brown & Co Ltd, Edinburgh; Heating and Ventilating – Mckenzie & Moncur Ltd, Edinburgh; Tile work – Galbraith & Winton Ltd, Glasgow; Painter work – James Marshall; Maple work – A M McDougall & Sons, Glasgow; Rubber Flooring – Icoco Rubber and Waterproofing Co Ltd, Glasgow; Canopy – Carron Company; Electrical fittings – Osler & Faraday Ltd, Glasgow.
Doak’s Dance Hall SMR 2196 NS 8910 7989