The Golden Slipper
To the Editor,
At any given time in the early ‘50s, Al Perron ran a taxi business in conjunction with owning probably one of the more famous dance halls in the county: The Golden Slipper. Together with a small orchestra, they played all the favourite songs and tunes of the time, from the big bands, from the popular juke-box favourites to country-western music. Virtually everyone attended: not just the locals but also the tourists from the lodges, the young folk and the old. Countless couples met, danced and romanced here for the first time, beginning whole dynasties. Together with the 11-year-old hat check girl, there were countless band members over the time but the core members as I remember were Al Perron, Harold Brodhagen, Al Blanchard and Fred Clements. All of them could not only sing but play a variety of musical instruments and could have come out of vaudeville from an earlier era. Freddie as I remember not only tuned pianos, he could play the trombone and saxophone quite impressively, he also gave piano lessons and tutored many among the youth in town. Often he arranged lessons around meal times at some student’s residence where he’d extol the musical virtues to the parents of his pupil. It was through Freddie, I believe, that the Slipper acquired its 11-year-old girl to check coats and hats. Freddie and the gang also played at weddings; including mine.
One often heard of the upcoming dances from Al himself while he was driving fares to various locations all over the county. He had installed a set of loudspeakers mounted on the roof of his cabs and as he drove around prior to a dance on Fridays, Saturdays or holidays (not necessarily only in the summer) you could hear his pronouncements: “Come to the Golden Slipper one and all, for a wonderful time. Bring your wives and sweethearts to enjoy an evening of fine music and dancing!”
This was usually predicated in Haliburton not only with my father keeping our restaurant open for “the Slipper crowd” until 2 a.m. but by increased liquor runs to Minden. Haliburton was dry at the time and there were many workers at the various lumber-yards with liquor orders. I know because I often found a smuggled bottle or two in the shed behind my dad’s restaurant on Main Street. The four taxi services in Haliburton were busy at these times. Bootleggers flourished, often with the going rate of a bottle hiked by about four times the original price.
Haliburton of the early ‘50s was in transition, tourism was replacing timber as the mainstay of the economy. The times were changing, as was the clientele of the Slipper, from the rough and tumble lumbermen to the more sober and sedate tourists from the cities. Every lodge, at any time of year, every small hamlet, some churches throughout Haliburton County advertised a dance or two; dances were where people met, where many a man or woman met a life partner. The Golden Slipper seemed to be the most popular dancing establishment probably because it had become an institution and was better advertised.
Nowadays the Golden Slipper has long “gone with the wind” but that hat check girl, remember her? Well,20 years later, we got married.