LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)—They’re a huge part of Acadiana’s “Joie De Vivre”, but dance halls in Acadiana are disappearing.
Dance halls throughout Louisiana are seen with fading signs or marquees hanging on to the past, landscape with overgrowth that was at one time neatly manicured, now taking over what were all once the place to be on a Saturday night.
Now two men are making sure these iconic pieces of our culture are not lost forever. “I’ve always had a thing about old building and history”, said Herman Fuselier, a local Zydeco and Creole historian.
“I thought it was an amazing idea”, said photographer Phiilp Gould.
And from that idea, local columnist and author Herman Fuselier and Photographer Philip Gould have captured hundreds of Louisiana dance halls in their newly released book, “Ghosts of Good Times”, Louisiana Dance Halls Past and Present.
In it, a five-year journey to collect incredible pictures and accounts of places where good time were had by all and equally impressive, the music greats who graced local stages.
Fuselier said, “Bradford White Eagle in Opleousas saw the likes of Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Bobby Blue Bland, Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, all right there in Opelousas and the building is still standing, but it’s been closed for over 30 years now.”
There are many like the Bradford, all empty buildings like time capsules filled with memories of days gone by.
“The search has been done finding 1600 dance halls just in this little corner of Louisiana and now you’re down to maybe a handful and they’re closing every day”, said Fuselier.
The two were quick to also quick to point out another place that time forgot.
Fuselier said, “The French Club”, close to Leonville on HWY 31, only stayed open a few years in the late 50’s early 60’s. We’ve gone in 50 years later and there’s still unopened casesof beer in the storeroom. You could just dust off the furniture and you could have a dance. It’s frozen in time, but you can’t even see the place from the highway. We had to hack our way through overgrowth and bushes.”
Gould adds, “I felt like I was an explorer like Desoto. I felt like I was coming upon something that had been untouched all that time and just surprised to see all the chairs and tables were like they were left. We even saw liquor licenses from 1958 sitting there like it was just yesterday. There’s something eerie about it and something heartfelt as well.”
But much like the music continues, both men agree, there are still plenty of dance halls and people who love them.
“It does my heart good to see a place like Whiskey River which has been here for a while. It has the energy and the spirit that a lot of these places had before, it’s just sweet to see”, said Gould.
And Fuselier ends on this note, “There’s still enough around for them to stay in business, but I think that’s what people have to remember, these are businesses. It’s all about tradition and heritage and culture. But if these places don’t’ make money, they can’t star around. That’s why it’s important for people to support them. But once they’re gone.”
Want to see more of their work? You can join the two at their next book signing from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., Friday, November 25, 2016, at Barnes and Noble on Johnston Street.
The book was published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.