Marie Rouse’s Description of the Dance

The outdoor dancehall started in the late 1920s and it was an oak dance floor.  It was quite large and it had, in some way it was designed with springs under the floor and it would open as soon as the summer months started and then, in the winter time, they covered it with a metal roof.  It wasn’t really like a roof, it was really close to the floor itself but it was fixed so that no water could accumulate there or anything, and it was down where the state park, the certain area now where they have the tent city, and it was very popular.  All the different organizations would sponsor dances and everybody from the Native Sons of the Golden West to the Columbia Improvement Club to the Highway Patrol, anyway they would bring in bands from out of town and they would always have a good ___, that was when all of the Highway Patrol men had their dance, that’s when I ____ still rode motorcycles.  There was no paving or anything there.  ___ dusk that evening where they would come in on their bikes.  Also they would have, the Native Daughters Organization would put on dinners at midnight.  There was always an intermission from 12 a.m. to 1 a.m. and at midnight you could go and have a ravioli dinner.  Outdoors there is a lot of great, huge rocks, if you are familiar with Columbia, and the tables were all arranged around through these rocks, white table cloths and all this wonderful food.  Then, out in the front as you came into the area, they had a hot dog stand where they sold soft drinks and things.  The only liquor was bootleg gin because it was during Prohibition.  Sometimes some of the fellows would disappear and you would know they were going to their outdoor bar, some mysterious ___ behind some big boulder.  The local band was called The Vagabonds and it was all local fellows but they were quite good and they played most of the time.  Then, the Highway Patrol, when they had their dance, they brought a band from Stockton called ____ Liberty.  The dances probably ended around 3 a.m. because I know, walking home, the stars would be so beautiful, all shining, and the town would be so quiet and everything after all the hoopla at the dance and all the noise and racket and everything.  These were always on Saturday nights.  All ages came, teenagers, if they knew how to dance, they were dancing.  It was pretty much ballroom dancing but when the Civilian Conservation Corps. came to Columbia, that’s where I met my husband.  Of course, we were all very young then and I wasn’t ready to marry anybody then, but later on I did.  Anyway, in Upper Tuolomne there was a camp of kids from New York and they danced like nobody ever saw dancing before, you know, they just were – well, I guess we were just coming into jitterbugging and all that kind of stuff and, oh boy, they were just a spectacle.  They found a girl that could follow really well and then everybody would back away and watch them dance.  A lot of older people came to the dances.  Many times if it was some special occasion the women even wore formal.  Everybody dressed up then, there was no casual.  Even the young guys wore suits and they were dressed very nicely.   In 1933 it was still going strong and I think around 1936, I don’t know whether it was the economy or what, but interest just kind of waned and it didn’t get the attendance.  It began in the middle 1920s.  It was really a great thing for Columbia.  Everybody all over the county, and from out of the county, had to come.  Lots of people from over in Calaveros came over for the dances.  They got a lot of publicity.  Once they came, they wanted to come because it was every Saturday night, it wasn’t just occasionally, it was every Saturday night, you could count on it.  You could hear the music all over Columbia, it was great. 

John McAmie
I don’t know the exact time but it had to be probably after 1850, John Grant located the quarry and my great grandfather, John McAmie, was a distant cousin and he was still in County Tyrone in County Dungannon in Ireland.  He contacted his cousin, my great grandfather, John McAmie, to come to Columbia because he was a stone cutter and made monuments for cemeteries and so forth.  So he came to Columbia.  He got there in 1862 and they settled at the quarry.  When they left Ireland my great grandmother was pregnant with my grandmother and they had to wait for a ship in New York so she was born in New York.  When she was 6 months old they left New York and they sailed around the Horn and it took 6 months to make that trip because when she got to Columbia she was one year old.  They must have stopped at every port of call along the South American coast.  Anyway, they settled at the quarry and they had a large family.  I took a writing class a couple of years ago at the College, mostly to record some of my ancestral history, and the McAmie’s are really very – it’s probably one of the most tragic stories you could ever hear, all of the things that happened to them, but anyway that’s for another time.  Anyway, the quarry then became quite an operation. All of the McAmie boys were there.  In the 1870s my grandfather came from Maine and he was a millwright.  He went to work at the quarry and then later on he married my grandmother who was the oldest daughter, the one who had been born in New York, and they had 12 children, all born at the quarry.  My grandmother, next to the last child, she had twins and my grandmother, next to the last child, had twins.  I always got teased was I going to try for twins and I said, no I don’t think I’m going to try 12 times for twins.

St. Anne's Catholic Church, Columbia, CA