The Early Years

It was a place of first dances, first kisses, first loves and first broken hearts.

Teenagers have always needed a place to hang out.  And, the teenagers of the late 1940s called their hangout, "The Shamrock Shanty."  

The Dublin and the Rose Theaters were the only picture shows in town.  No one had a television in their home.  Besides the movies, the only form of electronic entertainment came from the radio.  And, there was only one radio station, W.M.L.T.,  in town.  At night, teenagers and music lovers were  able to pick up the sometimes  powerful, but static filled, signals of radio stations across the eastern United States.

There was no real place around town for teenagers to gather besides schools and churches.  And, you couldn't dance and play music in church and schools, well schools, just were not the right place to have a really good time, at least inside.

Dublin's teenagers, who had come of age during the most horrific war man had ever known, were ready to kick back their heels, put on their dancing shoes and just have some good old-fashioned fun.

Just before Halloween in 1946, the kids of Dublin High School, along with the support of their parents, secured the use of the vacant second floor of R.L. and Louanna L. Stephens' two-story building at 208 West Jackson Street.  The space was perfect for a dance floor and had plenty of room for large events.  Interestingly the building had no front windows upstairs other than two glass brick windows along the street side of the building. The building today is occupied by the Bank of Dudley. 

With help from businesses, civic clubs and parents, along with many a fund-raising activity by the kids themselves, the Shanty opened, complete with a snack bar and a juke box along with plenty of tables, stools and chairs.  To quench their thirsts, the kids could go over to the Coke machine, drop in a nickel and pull out a cold refreshing drink. 

The teenagers were asked to select a name for their hangout.  "They chose 'The Shanty," recalled Frank Hodges.  The legal name of the organization was the Dublin Youth Center Organization.

Katherine Sawyer Willis, in recalling the early days of the Shanty, remembered that there were a lot of activities based on the comic strip "L'l Abner" and its spinoff "Sadie Hawkins Day," suggestive of a relationship between the popular hillbilly clan who lived in a shanty in Dogpatch, U.S.A..   The kids even carried their show on the road with performances for the convalescing sailors, soldiers and Marines at the VA Hospital. 

The main concern of the parents, not that they didn't trust their little angels, was that the teens have a place to have supervised (underline the word "supervised" fun. 

Of course, there were rules.  Obviously smoking, drinking, profanity, gambling and general foolishness were prohibited under the threat of permanent exclusion.  And, the students were expected to act like ladies and gentlemen at all times. As such, the members were to take care of the facility and keep it clean.  

Admission to the club house was by membership card only. Nonmember guests had to pay a cherished quarter to gain entrance to the club room.  Upon arrival, all members were required to register their time of arrival and time of departure.

Members were prohibited, unless properly excused, from leaving and returning to the Shanty on the same evening.  This would become a problem in the new Shanty when members would arrive with their parents early, leave the premises for other hot spots in town or even out of town, and then return in the nick of time to be picked up by their clueless parents.   Violation of any of the fifteen rules may have resulted in expulsion. 

Speaking of rules and parental chaperones, Gail Attaway Findlay once exclaimed, "I wish I could go to one event at the Shanty without my mother being there!" 

The students elected Nelson Carswell as the club's first president.  Joan Harper was chosen as the first vice-president.  Hazel Roberts served as the secretary  and Mickey Pope was selected as the club's first treasurer.   Other club officers were Nannette Claxton Woodard, Joan Larsen, Evelyn Alexander, Charles Fridge, Thomas Hicks and Frank Johnson. 

In 1947, Nelson Carswell returned as president.  Mickey Pope was chosen vice-president.  The meager financial assets of the new club were kept under the direction of treasurer, Frank Johnson.  Betty Anne Bedingfield, the only female officer, was chosen as Secretary of the Shanty. 

      Mickey Pope was elected as the second president of the Shanty for the 1948-49 year.  Gene Moxley was chosen as vice-president.  Betty Ann Drew Carswell served for the last full school year of the 1940s as the secretary.  Charles Hodges kept the books. 

Nothing could compare to live music, or at least music from a Wurlitzer jukebox.  And the kids had a very nice jukebox, filled with the best dance records of the day,  at the Shanty, compliments of the adults.  

In the late 40s, the most popular music came from the crooners of the Swing Era.  "Near You," sung by Frances Craig, was the most popular song in the nation from the start of school until Christmas holidays.   Vaughn Monroe's "Ballerina," Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy," Art Mooney's "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover," and Peggy Lee's "Manana" were the most popular dance songs during the Shanty's first school year.

There were Christmas dances and New Year's dances.  There was even a Christmas tree.  

And, to help the young girl's look their best, someone donated a gorgeous vanity and chair with a large mirror so the girls could get their hair just right for their favorite boy.

Betty Rose Cochran Joiner called the Shanty "innovative entertainment, a place where teenagers to go after ball games, weekends."  
"So much of our past has such virtue to it that seems to have phased away," said Mrs. Joiner, who gave a lot of credit for the Shanty to the parents.  

And, for the boys and some  talented girls, there was a cool  pool table in the back.  

The Shanty became the ideal place to hold the ceremonies for the crowning of Mr. and Mrs. Dublin High.  A handsomely decorated stage was placed in front of the glass brick windows.  In one of the first coronations, Fae Bidgood and Gene Moxley, were crowned Queen and King of the Green and White.  The couple went on to marry and live a long and happy life together.  

Mickey Pope completed his second year as the President of the Shanty in the 1949-1950 year.  He was aided by  vice-president Edison Harbin, Secretary Fae Bidgood Moxley and Treasurer Peggy Sutton.  

In the summer of 1950, the Shamrock Shanty moved to its final home at the western end of North Drive at the far northwestern corner of Stubbs Park.  By then, the Shamrock Shanty had become an integral part of the extra curricular activities of Dublin High School. 

      The new building was a Quonset hut, which was acquired by Andy Kingman.  Tradition holds that the military style structure came from Camp Wheeler on the eastern outskirts of Macon.  

       Ben Cochran remembered the big move. "The hardest part was carrying the pool table down the narrow stairway.  Foots Watson, a renowned mover, held one end while 6 or 8 boys held the other end.  Tunk Carswell remembered that day too.  He even took a meager paying job to make the new facility into  the club's new home.  

The two-story high school burned in 1951 and students temporarily went to the gym and the Shanty for some of their classes.  Shortly a new school, which served as a high school until 1970 and a as a junior high school until 2002, was built across the street from the Shanty.  Whether by design or coincidence, the principal could look out his window and see the front door of the Shanty.  But, he couldn't see the back door!

There were few shenanigans in the Shanty.  There was the time when Edison Harbin bought an old hearse, gutted it and used it as a pick up wagon.  One night he needed help to buy some gas, and five kids chipped in a nickel apiece to keep the funeral wagon going. 

The move put the Shanty across the street from the football field and right next door to the old wooden Hargrove Gym.  From the very beginning, the Shanty was the place to go after a football or basketball game, win or lose.  Of course, winning nights were especially wild.

As was the practice from the beginning, the Shanty was used for the coronation of the queens and kings of Dublin High School or as they were sometimes called, "Mr. and Mrs. Dublin High School."

The officers for the 1950-1 year were President Ben Cochran and Vice President Patsy Sutton.  Ben and Patsy would soon marry. Harriette and Pierce Barker were elected Secretary and Treasurer.  Warren Carswell took over the leadership of the Shanty for the 1951-2 school year.  He was assisted by vice president Ida Jane Hicks, secretary Kathryn Sawyer Willis and treasurer Billy Swilley. 

The most popular songs were "Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer," "If I Knew You Were Coming,  I Would Have Baked a Cake," "Mona Lisa," "Goodnight Irene," "Harbor Lights" and "The Tennessee Waltz."   It was also the year when 45 rpm records began to replace the unreplaceable 78  records which had been around for decades. 

In the early days, the Shanty had its own cadre of piano players.  Among the ladies who played for the kids were Nell Type, Bucky O'Neal's mom, and Ruth Fleming. 

There was a constant effort to keep improving the Shanty, also known as the "Dublin Teen Age Club."  A fund raiser was held just after Valentine's Day in 1951 with a band and choral concert, a social tea and a dance.   To encourage attendance, radio station WMLT staged a remote broadcast to bring in new people and hopefully a lot of donations.   The event was a success. After splitting the gate with the band and paying their expenses, the teens realized a nifty profit of $267.46 to drop the project's debt down to roughly $700.00 according to adult sponsor, Carl Cochran. 

After a few years, the Shamrock Shanty Club, as an organization closely allied with the school, ceased to exist.   For most of the remaining years, the Shanty was operated under the management of the Dublin Recreation Department. 

By 1955, the end of the pre rock and roll era, the teens were still dancing to the old standards like "Mr. Sandman," "Sincerely," "Yellow Rose of Texas," "Autumn Leaves," "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" and "Sixteen Tons."  Did they really dance to "Sixteen Tons?"

Then, in 1956 a hip-swinging, blues-singing, guitar-playing  rock and roller from Memphis, Tennessee turned the music world and the kids of the Shanty on their heads.  Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog" and "Love Me Tender" along with other rockers, Fats Domino, Bill Haley, and Jerry Lee Lewis  changed the sound of the dance records  in the country and at the Shanty forever.  

Keep reading for the conclusion of the Shanty, covering the rock and roll era in a future edition of the Courier Herald. 


Gentle Ben said…
Looking forward to the rest of the story Scott. Brings back so many OLD MEMORIES! I remember being forced to take dance lessons in some little building behind a home on Rosewood. I remember Jep Craig having to take lessons too around the age of 10. We finally had to put our lessons on display at the Shanty one night. If I recall, it was the worst night of my life and it may very well still be. Thanks for pulling together so many forgotten memories and sharing them with us.
MsBliz said…

As usual with your articles, I learned something new. This was fun to see so many parents of my contemporaries as students in the late 40s. I can't wait to read part two!

Samille Posey said…
Ben, don't you think you and Jep learned to dance at The Margaret Hill School of Dancing?