And now, it’s time to step back in time and enjoy another Beaver County Memory courtesy of St. Barnabas. Tune in every day at this time for another Beaver County Memory right here on 1230 WBVP, 1460 WMBA and 99.3 F.M. For today’s segment, you might want to get out your poodle skirt, your chino pants and your penny loafers, because we are going dancing!
Beaver County has a rich dancing heritage with dozens of dances and records hops being scheduled throughout the county just a few decades ago. In the 1950’s and 60’s, popular rock and roll and rhythm and blues music began to take over the airwaves of the radio and soon thereafter, disc jockeys were playing the same music in various venues all over Beaver County. Sound equipment had also become higher in fidelity and more portable by that point in time, enabling the D.J.’s to load equipment and their record collections into the family station wagon and cart it off to the local dance hall. Soon, everybody was doing the stroll, or the mashed potatoes, or even the twist on a hardwood or tiled floor somewhere.
Many radio station announcers parlayed their on air fame and access to the station sound system and records into a second part time job hosting dances at night. In the early days of WBVP, Chuck Wilson and Joe Grazan, among others, held popular dances in the area. Wilson occasionally would team up with a high school kid from New Brighton named Ray Tannehill and spin records at McDanel Hall in New Brighton. It was Tannehill’s first exposure to the media world, and later on, he would do quite well for himself as a television news anchor. McDanel Hall was located in the upper floor of New Brighton Fire Company number three and was still in use for various gatherings up through the mid nineties. Often times, The New Brighton fire department would hold Halloween dances with people dressing in costume and dancing to the music played from the turntables of other local dance disc jockeys like Willy the Wizzard and even current station owner Mark Peterson, in his younger days, cued up 45’s and entertained crowds late into the night at such affairs. McDanel Hall even had an outdoor freight elevator to make hauling speakers, records and amplifiers up to the second floor hall easier.
The aforementioned Joe Grazan reportedly held dances out on the rooftop of the General Brodhead Hotel in Beaver Falls. Dancing under the stars on the top of the Brodhead was a common thing back when. There was even a bar out on the roof as well and live bands would also set up and play six stories up above seventh avenue in Beaver Falls. Joe Fucci works for Beaver County Housing Authority, the organization that owns and operates the Brodhead Hotel as an Apartment building these days. Fucci offered, in a recent tour of the Brodhead Hotel, that music that was played from the rooftop outdoor dance venue could be heard as far away as the Old New brighton hospital, now known as Penn Pavilion, on Penn Avenue in New Brighton. Fucci also recalled being told that occasionally a canon would be fired on the Brodhead Hotel roof top during a dance to celebrate milestones like new year’s eve. The loud boom from the canon could be heard for miles around. Joe Grazan would promote the dances that he was hosting at the Brodhead Hotel on the airwaves on WBVP beforehand, and on at least one occasion, according to fellow radio station staffer from the fifties, Bill Day, Grazan mixed up and transposed his words as he hastily announced the upcoming dance and invited everyone to join him at the “Bald head broad room”. The memorable on air gaff is still laughed about and remembered in a positive light to this day.
Perhaps the most famous dance disc jockey in Beaver County was another WBVP and WMBA announcer named Tom Renkenberger. Renkenberger became known as “Rinkydink”, and would play the song of the same name recorded by Dave “Baby” Cortez as his signature song at all the dances that he appeared at. Renkenberger, or “Rindydink”, provided the music and set the mood in the 1970’s and 80’s in legendary dance hall gatherings held at Woody’s near Brady’s Run Park, and also at the Rochester VFW club, among other places. Renkenberger’s record collection was so great, and he was so popular, that he eventually became the host of a popular weekly radio show for many years on 3WS in Pittsburgh called the Sunday Night Oldies Diner, where he went by the name “R.D. Summers”.
Other gathering places in Beaver County that hosted memorable dances and events included the Ambridge Eagles Club, Fender’s after hours club in Beaver Falls, Center Stage in Center Township, The Speak Easy on Junction stretch between Rochester and New Brighton, The St. Anthony Club in Midland, The Willows Inn in Industry, The American Serbian Club and the Ukrainian clubs in Aliquippa, among others. The fabled Rochester Legion Hall was home to many popular dances in the fifties and sixties, and to this day, the long rectangular hall sits pretty much the way it was left with a stage and small kitchen at one end, and wooden paneling covering the walls. These days, it’s the unused second floor of Freedom United Federal Credit Union on Adams Street in Rochester.
For now, we will dim the lights and announce last call, as this dance down memory lane is coming to a close. Come back tomorrow at this time for another Beaver County memory brought to you by St. Barnabas. Archived transcripts of this and other Beaver County Memories can be found at Beaver County Radio dot com.