Popular culture and modernity: dancing in New Zealand society 1920-1945

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Author: John Griffiths
Date: Spring 2008
From: Journal of Social History(Vol. 41, Issue 3)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 10,089 words
Lexile Measure: 1760L

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  What are we here for anyway? To be a slave to pleasure? No, we are
  here to build character and citizenship.
  Letter signed "Eyewitness" in The New Zealand Listener 'Acts of
  Dancing', 29 December 1944.

In recent years the issue of modernity and its appearance in the twentieth century has captivated the interest of historians. (1) Indeed, the topic has been approached from a number of directions. Arriving shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, a range of new products, changing social attitudes, fashions and methods of travel can all be seen as contributing to a sense of "being modern" after 1918. In the context of New Zealand the issue of modernity has been implicitly located in the work of James Belich who has depicted the decades from the 1890s to the 1960s as a "Great Tightening" of moral values, forces pitched by the inter war decades against the arrival of the modern. More recently, Caroline Daley in her essay "Puritans and Pleasure Seekers" goes some way to challenging Belich's view of the inter-war decades by focusing attention on the acceptance of modern values, whereby New Zealand pleasure seekers celebrated the sexual body through nudist camps, pornography and erotic stage shows. (2)

Given the current climate of interest in modernity, it seems apposite at this juncture to examine further aspects of the Dominion's popular culture in a little more depth, in order to explore popular reactions to modernity. The specific aim of what follows is to explore the moral panic which escalated in relation to a changing dance culture in the Dominion after the First World War. Firstly, why dancing? The place of the dance within popular culture is certainly important, as it represented the leisure time activity alongside cinema, between 1919 and 1939 and beyond. Dancing was clearly an important means of meeting the opposite sex and, as this article will argue, was intrinsically bound up with the process of modernity as it appeared in the 1920s. (3) A study of dancers and dancing also begins to unravel key concerns about modernity and increasing urbanization and the erosion of what by the 1920s could be called 'traditional' society. The arrival of mass culture from overseas was another aspect of the modern which encouraged a rejection of hitherto dominant values.

In her influential study of the "new" journalism of the later Victorian era entitled City of Dreadful Delight, Judith Walkowitz highlighted the ways in which narratives of sexual danger were played out in the London popular press during 1880s. (4) Using new reporting techniques, journalists working on papers such as The Pall Mall Gazette and the Illustrated Police News created lurid headlines which used the modern city as a backdrop to the Ripper Murders of 1888. Indeed, a key feature of the new journalism was the use of narratives constructed around melodrama as a means of selling papers. Walkowitz's work opens up exciting new paths for the social historian and her approach can be usefully employed in the context of transnational diffusion of popular culture in the twentieth century. Indeed, by the early twentieth century New Zealand had its own "expose" journalism in the shape of The New Zealand Truth, a publication which first appeared in 1905 and which has been extensively drawn on for the narrative that follows. What does a close study of this new journalism, which focused more explicitly on popular culture than any other journal or paper, tell the historian about the changing nature of one particular leisure activity in New Zealand's inter-war society?

Dancing in Traditional New Zealand Society c.1860s-1918.

Public dancing had proved a popular activity well before 1914 in a farmer-dominated society. As Dewson has noted, the popularity of both balls and dances held at public venues was a feature of the colonial era, where the predominant dance styles were waltzes and square dances, the latter of which included dances such as the Lancers, the Schottisches and Velettas. (5) One account summarizes the country-hall, the most typical venue for dancing in rural areas before 1914 thus:

  Every country district had its own hall, usually built by communal
  labour after community fund raising on a piece of conveniently
  situated farmland. The upkeep was carried out in the same
  way--community effort. Halls were the focal point of the district's
  social and community life. Used in the evenings for dances probably
  every three months or so, these served to welcome or farewell
  settlers, for kitchen evenings, to celebrate impending marriages, or
  for after-wedding dances. (6)

The purpose of a dance held at such a venue was, as Dewson notes, to provide entertainment (especially for farming communities) and create what the she describes as "bonds of mutuality". As the Wellington's Evening Post observed, "By nature of his occupation the farmer is more isolated from his fellows than is the townsman ... there are fewer opportunities for the contact of mind with mind." (7) Dancing was also popular in the growing townships and, as a recent overview of leisure in Dunedin in the early decades of the twentieth century notes, "most voluntary organizations held at least an annual dance often a ball." (8) Whilst a popular pastime, dancing did not escape the censure of puritans who often regarded dancing in the same way that they regarded liquor, that is to say, as a social evil. As early as the 1860s, censure of the dance was witnessed from Auckland's clergy who objected to the, "vice which has emanated from these singing and dancing assemblies ... which cannot fail, if they are allowed to be continued, to have the most pernicious effect upon the moral character of many inhabitants of this city." (9) During the 1880s dancing girls were prohibited from hotels under the terms of the 1881 Licensing Act and the publican was also forbidden to stage dancing within the premises; legislation typical of the early stages of the "Great Tightening." (10) Whilst the Church of England and the Catholic Church saw dances as innocent enjoyment, the Presbyterians and the Methodists showed concern as to its possibly corrupting effects on the young. (11) The Presbyterians for example, showed consistent hostility to the dance until after the Second World War, and in some instances went as far as constructing sloping floors in church halls in an effort to curtail the dance. (12) Methodists meanwhile retained a distinct hostility to the dance until the end of World War II.

Dancing was also viewed with suspicion by voluntary organizations such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Young Women's Christian Association. Here the issue of drink was linked to dancing. Some members of the WCTU condemned the dance as "a danger to purity", and argued that the dance, when combined with the consumption of alcohol, led to "the downfall of Christian girls." (13) The Young Women's Christian Association particularly objected to body-contact dancing. (14) In this way such social purity groups complemented the work of the New Zealand State in both its national and local guises in its attack on drink, restricting pub licenses, giving the option to voters at local elections to create "dry" districts and the abolishment of barmaids under the terms of the 1910 Licensing Act. (15) The conduct and manners of dancers, particularly women, were also shaped by etiquette handbooks and as Dewson stresses, "The sexuality of young women continued to cause anxiety throughout the period and encouraged control over behavior at dances." (16) A 60 year old, interviewed by the New Zealand Listener in 1944 recalled that everybody worried about dances in the very early years of the twentieth century. Was dancing thought to be sinful the publication asked of him, "Perhaps not generally but widely" was his reply. (17)

After the Great War dances were staged in a variety of halls; they continued in the country halls in smaller townships and were complemented by ballrooms, dance-halls or more luxurious cabaret clubs in the larger urban centers. (18) Dances staged in the rural districts continued to function as rituals which tended to promote community. Many rural dances would be attended by farming families who lived in the surrounding areas. The farmer, as a result of living in comparative isolation, according to Wellington's Evening Post, was "more conservative than the townsman." (19) "Between the country dance and the city dance" the paper concluded, "there is a world of difference." (20) Comments such as these, which emanated from city-based newspapers obviously need to be treated with special care. There was always tendency to adopt a rather superior tone in their commentaries on rural affairs. Cities after all, had to justify themselves in a farmer-dominated society between the wars. Indeed, during the first half of the twentieth century a popular hostility toward cities existed, fuelled by the myth of a rural arcadia. In this view the city, "trapped and sustained the unfortunate, the degenerate, the weak and the idle." (21) That the urban press used its commentaries to negate this criticism is no surprise. What is conveyed in the commentaries however, is a clear sense that modernity initially appeared in the urban and was subsequently adopted after a time in the country. It is also evident that two rather different dance cultures had formed by the 1920s. Dances in rural areas retained "traditional" qualities and older styles of dance were largely favored. In this context courtship was still largely between siblings of families who had knowledge of one another, and who perhaps belonged to the same church. The Evening Post added in its commentary of the rural dance that, "Whatever the latest dance in the city, the country still retains the dances which were wont to gladden the hearts of our fathers in the good old days." (22)

The Auckland Weekly News noted that in terms of dancing in what it rather patronizingly called the "back blocks", it found the music provided by the orchestra consisted of simply a piano, played by a Maori youth. "He scorned the modern pieces, giving what seemed an endless repetition of Doddle De Doo, and Show me the Way to Go Home ... Jazz did not enter into it." (23) The paper also noted that waltzes, valetas, schottisches and one steps were the main dances performed. The lack of jazz in country districts was also noted by Phyllis Bates member of the Imperial Society of Teachers who noted in 1929 that "Modern dancing (Foxtrot, Charleston, and quick step) is now in its twelfth season in New Zealand, but in the country districts modern dances are not yet universal--to the exclusion of the old time." (24) That the country dance could be a rather stilted and conservative ritual was reflected in the description provided by the liberal progressive H.C.D. Somerset in his study of community life in Littledene, (a pseudonym for Oxford, Canterbury) in the 1930s when he noted that,

  A successful dance in the town hall will bring in 300 people, nearly
  half the dancing population of an area 200 square miles. Dances are
  not the vivacious meeting one might imagine them to be; the sexes do
  not mingle easily or naturally. No one leaves the hall; that is
  frowned on by the older people who are always on the watch lest any of
  the evils associated with city dances should invade the country.
  Littledene is perniciously moral; dancing appears to be a serious
  business, and one notices much inhibition that is missing in the
  larger communities. (25)

A contemporary provided a similar description thus:

  The first dance I remember was about 1938. A closely settled district
  of large families who went en masse to the hall ... a local lady
  Gladys Alderman originally from England, played the piano for us all
  to dance to for many years. Palais Glide, Gay Gordons, Foxtrot, Excuse
  Me Foxtrot, Maxina, Hokey Tokey, Polka, Modern Waltz, First Waltz,
  Supper Waltz, Last Waltz and Monte Carlo waltz. With everyone knowing
  one another and no alcohol in public places in those days, it was
  etiquette to accept the first person to ask for permission for each
  dance. For those shy ones who missed out, the chain waltz or "excuse
  me" dance was their chance. The chain waltz would begin with a brief
  waltz then, as the music changed to a marching beat, girls formed an
  inner circle and walked one way boys the opposite--when the music
  stopped the boy you were opposite would be your next partner. The
  older teenagers paired off to a degree by saving First Supper and Last
  Waltzes. Courting was carried out under the benign gaze of the adults
  of the community. (26)

Comparing the two descriptions of dancing here it is interesting to note that both stress an awkwardness that surrounded the meeting of the sexes, perhaps reflecting the fact that men formed closest bonds with their mates and that men and women entered into relationships with one another much as strangers doing a deal. (27) The stilted atmosphere was created by a comparative lack of alcohol identified as absent at country dances by Somerset. Leaving the hall was something that families discouraged in an effort to protect the reputation of daughters. (28) The second interesting feature of the country dance alluded to in these descriptions was the continued use of the chaperoning system or, as the Auckland Weekly News described them, "admiring matrons", a system which contemporary comment suggests was declining in the urban context after the First World War. (29) At rural-country dances men and women tended to play out conventional gendered roles and there was evidently limited scope for moving outside of the accepted boundaries. Men made the lonely journey across the hall to meet either acceptance or rejection. Thus far therefore, evidence suggests that dancing could sit comfortably within the depiction of society presented by Belich, whereby dancing was successfully shaped in the image of the small town puritan, to the detriment of a more boisterous pleasure seeking culture. However, whilst the most common urban settlement in New Zealand was, as Fairburn notes, of the "Littledene model" in the early twentieth century, this did not mean the culture could ignore the arrival of modernity. (30) It was clearly a shock to such communities when modernity appeared in the context of the larger urban centers in the 1920s, and it is to the reception of this modernity to which the article now turns.

Modernity and the Dance 1918-39

As Modris Eksteins has convincingly demonstrated, the war unleashed forces which have been categorized as decidedly "modern". (31) Such modernity clearly challenged pre-war values, even in a society which had pioneered the welfare state and was the first to award women the vote in the 1890s. To be modern by the end of the war was most obviously reflected in technological advancements such as road construction, electric lighting, and motorized transport, all facilitating the ability to travel to and from a dance. (32) Modernity as one commentator has noted, "meant flux and ceaseless movement." (33) The phenomena was most visible in the context of the larger urban centers, where dancing became as much about "pleasure seeking" and liberation through the meeting of strangers as it was about the affirmation of community. Here, in the shape of dance, the "traditional" and the "modern" clashed. As the work of Victor Turner and more recently Richard Schechner have demonstrated, a period of "liminality" may be visible in any society by which restrictive codes are cast off. (34) Thus music and dance were a means of challenging traditional values in New Zealand between the wars.

In the 1920s and 1930s the dance-hall existed alongside improved and newly built theaters and cinemas in the larger cities and the 1920s witnessed new interactions between these leisure venues. Modernity in all its forms was facilitated by the emergence of a distinct shift from the rural to the urban as Table 1 illustrates. As well as modern public venues, new home entertainment in the form of the gramophone was also responsible for starting dance crazes like the Yale Blues, which arrived in New Zealand from the United States in 1928 and could be practiced at home before venturing to a dance hall to perform. Indeed, HMV opened a gramophone pressing plant at Erskinville, Sydney in 1926 to cater for demand, while Columbia opened a recording studio at Homebush. (35)

In urban contexts an important difference between the pre-war and post- war dance scene was the way in which modernity provoked the relative decline of the chaperoning system. The absence of an overseer gave women greater liberties regarding their conduct at a dance, and an unattached woman attending a dance was no longer perceived as a taboo. Such freedom directly challenged the notion that a woman was the bedrock of the inter-war suburban family. (36) Greater freedom was also facilitated by new employment opportunities for women, opening up between the First and Second World Wars in factories and offices, creating new bonds between working women. (37) Increasing female freedom was noted on the pages of the Auckland Weekly News by Katherine Carr, who observed that, "the standards of conduct in the ballroom have been completely revolutionized during the past few years is undeniable and the date of the change probably synchronizes with the passing of the chaperone." (38) She added that, "The War obliterated them completely. Out of the war came jazz and, cheated of four years of our youth we whirled into it." (39)

The popularity of dancing in the 1920s and 1930s to some extent mirrored trends in both the USA and Britain, where dance halls burgeoned in response to customer demand, although the rampant commercialization associated with larger populations was not so apparent in the context of New Zealand. (40) The popularity of the dance after the Great War was, as one study has noted, at the expense of previously popular pre-war leisure-time activities such as choral societies, operatic societies and literary and debating societies. (41) In New Zealand the growth of sporting clubs was an important factor in the demand for a Saturday dance. It was in response to such demand that dance hall entrepreneurs appeared. For the more affluent in the mid 1920s in cities such as Auckland and Wellington cabaret clubs opened where patrons who regarded themselves as part of the fashionable modern set could make for. They were charged a higher entrance fee for such exclusivity.

Being modern in the 1920s and 1930s was intrinsically linked to the new influences emanating from the U.S.A.--influences felt in both Europe and Australasia in the inter-war period. (42) A reading of the inter- war press shows an increasing fascination with the possibility of travel to the United States, the arrival of Hollywood cinema, the learning of new dance steps, jazz and arrival of consumer goods ranging from automobiles to chewing gum. (43) The New Zealand Listener's Gordon Mirams, had noted this process in the 1940s realizing that, "If there is any such thing as a 'New Zealand culture' it is to a large extent the creation of Hollywood." (44) He added that "If ever a national postmortem is performed on us. I think they will find there are three words written on a New Zealander's heart--ANZAC, Hollywood and Home." (45) New Zealand, like Britain and Australia experienced the influence of Hollywood in the inter-war period. As The Times noted in 1932, "the United States film industry has done more to Americanize the world than ever Julius Caesar and his legions to Romanize it." (46) Before the arrival of film however, more liberated American dancing was seen in both Britain and New Zealand.

Dancing in the 1920s was increasingly described as a "craze" or "mania", with suggestions of irrationality linked to dancers. (47) One indication of being modern in the 1920s and 1930s was the type of dances being performed. The one step, introduced in 1910, had offered a simpler style for the inexperienced dancer and this was adapted to form new dances such as the Foxtrot which appeared in 1916, and the "Judy Walk", the "Bunny Hug" or the "Turkey Trot" in the 1920s. They were styles of dance which were criticized by contemporary commentators, who thought them ugly and watered-down forms of what had been more sophisticated steps. (48) Jazz dancing was seen at the Auckland venues such as Dixieland Cabaret, Point Chavalier, which opened in 1922, The Click Clack Cabaret Newmarket (1926) and the Peter Pan Cabaret (1930). Other popular venues were the Ritz Club Devonport, and the Felix Dance Club which based itself at the Orange Dance Hall. Other dance venues recollected by dance patrons included Nixon's Cabaret, the Wintergardens, the Druids Hall and the Manchester Unity Hall. The Crystal Palace, Mount Eden and was opened in 1928 in the basement of a picture theatre and became home to Epi Shalfoon's Melody Boys. "Rhythm and blues, powerhouse Jazz, Dixie or whatever you like to call it, it was the music of the day and he was enough of a professional to know what the people wanted and gave it to them." (49)

A survey of the columns devoted to dances in the Wellington newspapers also demonstrates that by the later 1920s, dance goers had plenty of choice as far as venues were concerned. Among the venues advertised in April 1928 for example, were the Gaiety Palais De Dance, with music provided by Harry Avery's Jazz Five, the Adelphi Cabaret, the "last word in elegance and beauty," dancing at the Wellington Town Hall to farewell the New Zealand Olympic team, Jazz at the Empire Hall, Cuba Street, a Fancy Dress Ball at the De Luxe Assembly, Adelaide Road, the Melrose Football Club staged jazz dancing at St. Thomas's Hall, Newtown, whilst the Realm offered the "finest dance in town" at the Hatatai Hall with Mr. Southern Colledge and Miss Roma Laffan demonstrating "new dances such as the Yale Blues and Quick Steps." All these venues charged around 2 shillings entry fee. In their interior decoration dance-halls encouraged escapism. The halls were decorated to enhance a romantic atmosphere or perhaps to simply suggest fun. One report of dancing at the Dixieland noted that the hall had been decorated with Chinese lanterns and gay decorations which "made a pleasing background for the dancing." (50) Country halls were also prepared, albeit in a more makeshift manner. A dance-goer recollected that "sometimes the halls would be decorated with nikau palms, pampas heads or streamers ... Floors were buffed up by either grating candle wax over the floor or otherwise sprinkled with borasic acid and then getting children to sit on sacks, while a male or two dragged them round the floor." (51)

The Auckland Weekly News, Wellington's Evening Post and the New Zealand Herald ran columns devoted to the dance scene by the later 1920s, which provided details of forthcoming functions. At the cabaret night clubs specializing in Jazz such as the Click Clack Cabaret, the Black Bottom was performed, involving the slapping of the buttocks, an act which was considered provocative by critics of the dance. Wellington's Evening Post wrote with disdain of the dance's vulgarity suggesting that it was "too close to the antics of the jungle." (52) According to this commentary, the dance had been banned, but nevertheless, "flourishes rather like a dark flower in a hot country." (53)

A further aspect of what it meant to be modern in the inter-war period was fashion. At the dance held at the Symondsville Studio Auckland, in October 1928, "Mrs. Spencer wore a beige crepe de chine Frock and Mrs. Marshall, a bella donna pink and silver tissue and Miss Spencer cornflower blue taffeta and gold lace and floral tissue wrap." (54) Press coverage was increasingly captivated by the appearance of female dance patrons, with fashion veering towards the lighter looser dresses and the wearing of shorter hair. Moreover, by the later 1920s, fashions were transmitted on the pages of the New Zealand Sporting and Dramatic Review, which featured Hollywood movie stars who endorsed the latest styles. Hollywood actresses also offered tips on subjects such as personal health and beauty, and endorsed products such as soap and detergents. Modernity even began to be felt in the smaller towns, where access to modernity and glamour were more limited. Merle Attrill copied fashions she had spotted in a Wellington shop front as she noted in her recollections of the dance-scene in the 1930s:

  One outfit deserves special write up. Two great friends were in
  Wellington with their pianist (me) when we stopped to gaze at a single
  model frock in James Smith's. (A model meant there was only one made).
  It was mine! But as usual I couldn't afford same. My friend Meg
  suggested we might be able to buy the material etc. This we were able
  to do ... My mother loved a challenge and in no time, back came my
  model frock. Slight embarrassment ensued when a beautiful lady arrived
  at the dance wearing the original version. I didn't feel like a
  country girl that night. (55)

This situation had evidently changed somewhat by the end of the Second World War when, as Gordon Mirams noted, "Every New Zealand town of any size has at least one 'Hollywood Frock Shop' selling dresses which will allegedly turn those who wear them into almost exact replicas of currently-popular stars." (56)

The Truth about Modern Dancing in the 1920s and 1930s.

During the 1920s and 1930s concern was increasingly voiced about modern influences such as jazz dancing, women's changing behavior in relation to dances, drinking at dances and the effects of such modernity on the family. Moral panics have been defined in by Stanley Cohen as:

  A condition, episode, person or group emerges to become defined as a
  threat to societal values and interests; the moral barricades are
  manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right thinking
  people; Sometimes the object of the panic is quite novel and at other
  times it is something which has been in existence long enough, hut
  suddenly in the limelight. (57)

Modernity triggered a moral panic, particularly orchestrated in the context of New Zealand by the sensationalist newspaper New Zealand Truth a version of an Australian publication the Sydney Truth. The major figure behind the publication was John Norton, a contradictory figure, who embraced both tolerance and intolerance in equal measure. (58) The paper was, as Belich notes, the nearest that New Zealand came to a national newspaper. In its early years The New Zealand Truth was a conservative working man's bible and would have been found in "frontier camps, shearers' sheds and homes of working men." (59) The circulation of the paper widened by after the First World War reaching a peak of 97,600 copies per week in a population of 1.5 million and finding good sales in the provincial towns in the absence of any more interesting publication. The publication presented itself as a socialist paper for the people and a defender of the morals of the nation. For the historian New Zealand Truth represents an interesting publication largely because in its desire to instill "respectability" it orchestrated a reaction to modernity in its many forms and devoted far more coverage to popular dancing than any other publication of the period. It is evident however, that the paper's stance on social issues changed significantly during the Great War. Before it, the paper in its early years had reflected the hard drinking male culture described by Jock Phillips in his book A Man's Country centering on a colonial frontier dominated by the rough male. (60)

After the war however, as society stabilized and gender ratios leveled out, support for the hard drinking kiwi bloke was increasingly withdrawn, in favor of the image of the more stable family man. Conversely, the female role in the inter war period was defined by the paper as one which should be limited to the home and family. (61) A stable society now felt threatened by any phenomena that would act to destabilize it. Indeed, as Richard Joblin has noted in his study of the paper, "If viewed through the Truth's stories on contemporary social behavior, many New Zealanders apparently became deeply unsettled in the years following the Great War. At the center of much of this concern was a fear of falling standards of sexual behavior." (62) The paper therefore became concerned "with social conformity; its stories had social control as a primary goal. The myths they created sought to identify those who threatened moderation and the social order through deviant society." (63) It was a publication which also had a fascination with the darker side of the growing cities, for as Bronwyn Dalley had noted, "As growing numbers of young women and men moved from rural areas into towns and cities in search of employment and pleasure, commentators pointed to the incipient dangers lurking in urban locales." (64) The paper had been launched in the midst of a drift to the North Island evident from the later nineteenth century onwards. Within the North Island the cities were a favored destination. Given New Zealand Truth's conservatism, modern dancing in an urban context was inevitably to become a focus for the publication's attention. Jazz, cabarets and sexual encounters after dances were all the subject of lurid headlines during the inter-war period. As Joblin notes, cabarets too were portrayed as the resort of the "idle, debauched and immoral" by a paper professing to represent the working class. (65)

As a commercial undertaking however, New Zealand Truth's stance on social issues was necessarily ambiguous. Indeed, it is this ambiguity which complicates a straightforward narrative of a "conventional" moral panic. Without lurid tales generated by modernity the paper's existence might be jeopardized, and this consideration generated double standards. Thus an aspect of this ambiguity was the fact that New Zealand Truth ran a section which promoted ballroom dance steps in the womens' section, but simultaneously condemned dance halls, jazz, sexual transgression after the dance and the rise of the flapper in other sections of the paper. (66) Regimented ballroom steps were not a problem, but illicit sex between unmarried couples after a dance was. Modern dancing and the role of the carefree woman was a both consistent irritant and revenue generator for the working man's paper. Among New Zealand Truth's headlines were, "Said Husband preferred flappers," "She Went to Cabaret at Thirteen" and "Unblushing Confessions of Fifteen Year Old Flappers." (67) These stories focused on concern regarding tabooed sexual activity and corrupt morals surrounding the modern dance. No other paper devoted so much space to incidents which occurred at and especially after, dances. That New Zealand Truth was reporting distinct trends emerging in the dance scene of the 1920s is corroborated by reference to the comments of Katherine Carr, who noted in the Auckland Weekly News that, "Emancipated from chaperones and gloves and long skirts they, (women) dart unescorted across the floor, sit with their knees crossed, touch up their lips and noses, dance the whole evening with one partner if they choose to do so and get away with it." (68) Such female liberation was one aspect of modernity which taunted the conservative aspect of the paper and the prevailing voice of New Zealand Truth was undoubtedly preoccupied with dissuading women from such roles. Thus the "new" women, in the form of the "flapper" was demonized as a threat to the established order. Underpinning the anxiety about dancing was the implicit assumption that it would "unleash female desires at odds with standards of feminine modesty and passivity." (69) Among the headlines New Zealand Truth generated in its exploration of lurid tales from the dance-hall were; "Youth and Intoxicated Girl: Carried Her Out of the Dance Hall," "She Met Him at a Dance: Young Farm Hand Denies Paternity" and "Butcher Denies Paternity Claim, Sitting Out at Dances Insufficient Evidence." (70)

In the majority of stories which the New Zealand Truth ran the dance-hall was seen as a site of deviancy for a number of reasons. It was the site, particularly in the larger cities of modern, liberated womanhood. The halls also reflected the new influences of American culture, especially jazz music and fashion and gave rise to the breaking of sexual taboos and transgression of acceptable codes of conduct. Jazz "encouraged inter-racial association and led to wild drinking and loose morals." (71) As Pat Lawlor, a journalist on The New Zealand Truth recalled in Confessions of a Journalist, the paper responded to complaints about noisy Jazz club patrons by running alliterative censorial columns such as "Householder Hot Over Highborn Hullaballoo: Mirth, Motors and Maledictions." (72) Moreover, in a report of April 1928 New Zealand Truth reported a raid on Rowena Mansions Melbourne discovered which "Empty glasses, half dressed girls, an atmosphere poisonous with cigarette smoke and fumes of liquor and lounging about the flat six niggers." (73)

New Zealand Truth might fruitfully be perceived as the perception of a largely rural or semi-rural working class who were at best curious and at worst feared the new urban culture gathering strength in the 1920s, based as it was on relative affluence. The paper's stance as the people's paper gave it a socialist orientation, in which the rich and their institutions were held in disdain. Reflections of affluence such as dress or cabarets for the elite were therefore targets of the papers' derision. Criticisms of the high life led by some New Zealand citizens by the paper tended to evaporate however, as the slump of the 1930s evidently curtailed the ability of the middle class to continue their conspicuous consumption. Fashions of the 1930s were more conservative in comparison with the 1920s and the reduction of disposal income led in some instances to the closure of the luxurious cabaret. (74) Concern shifted in the 1930s to younger dance goers, and the corrupting influences that, according to the paper could be found within the halls, most notably drink and in some instances drugs. (75)

Cars, Drink, Dance and Sex

In the inter-war period the car's role in society was questioned. As motor car ownership increased the stability of communities was threatened. Moreover, the criticisms of dancing increasingly featured the role played by the car in facilitating challenges to what was considered decent behavior. Cars were criticized for the noise they made when patrons left the dance hall and, perhaps more seriously were increasingly identified as a possible site for illicit drinking and sexual activity. Amongst the notable examples of "municipal puritanism" was the action of the Christchurch Labour Council, which introduced laws in the later 1920s enforcing the ending of Saturday dances at 11.30 pm. (76) The council's bylaw committee also withdrew licenses from dance-halls whose patrons disturbed the peace. Such a fate befell the Dorothy Dance-Hall, Cashel Street, in 1931. (77) Other city councils introduced by-laws in the 1930s using powers conferred under the Municipal Corporations act of 1920, which forbade the carrying of liquor into a dance hall. These laws were initially discussed at a municipal conference in 1930. Dunedin City Council introduced by-laws to this effect in 1931, whilst Wellington City Council instigated a similar law in 1936. (78) Patrons therefore left the halls to consume alcohol in nearby cars. Patrons leaving the hall to consume alcohol was a problem for councils throughout the country. Wellington City Council noted in the mid 1930s that "There appears to be little or no restriction on the movements of the patrons of these Halls, so that persons having motor cars parked in the vicinity can have easy access to liquor, which they may have concealed in the cars." (79) A contributing problem was evidently the lack of toilet facilities within the halls, which gave patrons an excuse to leave the premises. (80) Some contemporary comment also casts doubt on how far the police were willing to enforce the great tightening, suggesting that the law was not policed to the extent desired by residents who lived near the halls. (81) Concern regarding "modernity" was also raised in parliament during the 1930s regarding the role motor cars played at rural dances. The main anxiety was the use of cars by city based dance-goers to stash liquor at the country venue and the freedom dance goers had to visit their cars whilst dances were in progress. An associated concern was that young women would be lured to cars during or after the dance. This issue was extensively discussed in a parliamentary session of 1939. As a National M.P for Stratford noted, "Motor cars are the chief trouble. Young fellows take their girls out and give them liquor." (82) In order to curb this behavior the Statute Amendment Act of 1939 imposed ten pound fines for patrons drinking in or around a dance hall and twenty pounds for those managing the hall. (83) In certain locations, where patrons leaving the dance hall were seen as particularly prevalent, the suggestion was made that pass- out checks be installed, in order that patrons could not go out of the halls to drink in their cars before returning to the hall. (84)

Another aspect of the halls that evidently caused some concern during the inter-war period, was the capability of the Master of Ceremonies to police the halls in the face of an increase in liquor consumption. The Reverend John Raine corresponded with Wellington City Council in the mid 1930s for example, outlining his proposal for better organization of the MC's. Raine, a cleric from Tarankai, put forward the idea that a Master of Ceremonies Association should be introduced, in order that "we would secure the right type of M.C. to control the public dances at local halls. At present anyone is called upon at a moments notice to M.C. an important dance. He has no proper control over the dance, because he has no authority to back him up and the rules of the halls are practically negligible." (85) Raine added that if a universal standard of behavior were introduced, "no one would sit in a car all night even though there was plenty of 'free beer' to drown the sorrow of non- admission to the hall." (86) He concluded that the MCA needed to impose restrictions upon hall committees, to prevent them supplying spirituous liquor for public functions "either for friends or for sale." (87) Such failure to control dances should alert the historian to the care needed in the use of "tightening" as a meaningful tool. Indeed, when we turn to the patrons themselves this need for care becomes even more evident.

Dancing and American Arrival in the Second World War.

The years 1939-1945 yield further evidence that dance-halls challenged the great tightening of society, witnessing as they did an important phase in the Americanization of New Zealand society. Even before U.S. servicemen's arrival however, papers were observing that "a dance without liquor offers no enticement to the patrons of today." (88) In one report of a prosecution for allowing liquor to be taken into Cargill's Castle cabaret in Dunedin, defence lawyers for the manager of the club said that it "was almost impossible to keep liquor out of a dance hall, as patrons refused to allow themselves to be searched." (89) Whilst the pleasure of dancing and drinking was undoubtedly one reason for flouting the law, another was the trepidation some male patrons felt as they asked women to dance. Rejection was always a possibility. Indeed, in such a context drink was used to overcome inhibitions and was smuggled into the dance in some instances. (90) Smuggling liquor into a hall was achieved by hiding bottles up womens' skirts, suggesting alcohol in this context was used to simply enliven the dance. Patrons were evidently willing to flout local bylaws in search of a good night out, and the recollections of patrons demonstrate examples of rule breaking and role paying within the halls. One dance-goer recalled taking liquor into a dance-hall having stashed bottles near the hall. (91) Indeed, statistics for convictions for the misdemeanour of "having liquor in or near a dance hall" recorded after World War II are testament to the fact that the law was frequently flouted. (see Chart 1).

American soldiers were physically stationed in parts of the North Island between 1942 and 1944. Their presence was felt in the dance-halls, as they spent time-off socializing with New Zealand women at these venues. One of most notable ways American culture changed the dance-scene was the adoption of new dance styles which changed fashion once more in the later 1930s. The Jitterbug emerged as one of the popular of the new dances of the swing era after 1938, and was adapted from its predecessor the Boogie Woogie. (92) The Jitterbug continued a trend in dancing to move away from stilted dance steps to a freer form. Characteristics of this kind of dance were somersaults, splits and acrobatics. As one historian has noted:

  The sedate check to cheek foxtrots of the ballroom made way for the
  razzle-dazzle gee-whiz jitterbugging. This hyped up style of unbridled
  dancing, which the young women took to like born again chorus girls,
  was a further indication of the smashing down of some of the old
  taboos. On the wall at the Peter Pan cabaret was a sign that read 'No
  full skirts when jitterbugging'. (93)

The Jitterbug was so named as it had sexual and drug related connotations. The dance was dismissed by New Zealand intellectuals such as A.R.D. Fairburn as "Music for Morons." He noted that "Swing music provides to some extent a means of vicarious sexual experience, at the same helping to keep the victim attuned to the unnatural and machine ridden world in which he lives." (94)

Challenges to the puritanical society were posed by extra-marital affairs which often began through a chance meeting at a hall, and the arrival of American soldiers evidently captivated some women's imagination. New Zealand Truth's interest in behavior in and around the dance halls continued during the war years. In its characteristically hypocritical manner the paper praised American action in the theatres of war, whilst criticising the behaviour of American soldiers temporarily stationed in New Zealand. Indeed, the idea of woman meeting a stranger especially an American at a dance was questioned by The New Zealand Truth as it implied in the headline "Woman Ought to Know When she is Exposing Herself To Danger," a headline published by the paper in November 1944, concerning an attack on a woman by a man she had met at a dance. Liasons between New Zealand women and American servicemen were the subject of regular headlines such as "Married Woman's Liason with American," a headline from August 1944 and "War Veteran Took Law in His Own Hands," a headline from February 1944, which focused on the actions of stevedore John Walter Tinsely, who had "smacked his wife in the eye and broke her glasses, when he caught her arm in arm with a U.S. serviceman."

Whether New Zealand Truth's journalism was based in any sense "on reality" can in some measure be confirmed by cross referencing the accounts with the transcripts of the oral history interviews conducted by Gaylene Preston in the mid 1990s. Preston's Women in World War II project contains useful insights as to the role dance-halls played in wartime New Zealand. (95) Margaret Shirley, one of the women interviewed recalled that "We had not danced to the Jitterbug until the Americans came to New Zealand and that you made it up and you went along." (96) The music was of the big band style, and orchestras copied the music of American bands such as Glen Miller, Benny Goodman and Arty Shaw and his Big Time Band. Shirley attended dancing competitions at the Wellington American Red Cross Club, held in the Centennial Exhibition Building. Whilst some women remained loyal to their absent husbands, Shirley felt no guilt about mixing with American servicemen, which she judged to be, "smarter and more articulate than their New Zealand counterparts." (97)

In another significant interview for the social historian of the dance-hall and dance culture, Tui Preston reflected on the temporary release the halls provided from an unhappy marriage. (98) Tui was born in 1916 and had attended dances as a teenager. She described her naivety in thinking she might be pregnant after kissing at a dance and attributed this naivety to the repression of sexuality by the church. She attended public dances, where there was no need for a partner, since the men picked women at a "first up". She met her future husband Ed Preston at a dance. She wore a new frock to each event. At the outbreak of war Ed Preston enlisted, and Tui Preston discovered she was pregnant. The relationship had become a troubled one immediately before the war, and Tui was subjected to physical abuse. Between 1940 and 1945 Preston did not see her husband. In the second year of her husband's absence, Tui went out dancing with her brothers, family and friends. She was partnered by other men. She met a man with whom she had been friends before the war and together they frequented milk bars. He was a good dancer and owned his own car. The relationship became a sexual one during the war. It was described by Tui as a "satisfying relationship." Tui nevertheless realised that the relationship would have to end when her husband returned. She had learnt of his capture and imprisonment in a POW camp during the war. Tui Preston felt society would have treated her as an outcast if she had refused to take her husband back. "Older people would have looked down their noses at me." (99) Thus New Zealand communities were evidently still rather conservative in the 1940s and inflicted a kind of moral policing on women (alongside The New Zealand Truth) whom they perceived to be betraying an absent husband. Other women interviewed by Preston noted the impact American soldiers had in New Zealand during the war.

A popular venue for American servicemen during the war was the El Rey in the southern Auckland suburb of Hillsborough. One band member recalled that, "Hillsborough was (and still is) a dry area but that didn't matter to the El Rey Patrons. There used to be loads of sly grog there and it was very blatant. The customers used to shout us, but we had our own grog planted out in the wash house, among all the laundry and the mangles." (100) American servicemen frequented the Majestic cabaret in Wellington which was managed by Freddie Carr. Carr allowed the club to be used on Sundays and let out for private hire. Here again liquor was openly consumed and only after the war was the "subterfuges of hiding liquor in the women's furs or up the pseudo-stone fireplace chimneys of the cabaret ... resorted to. (101) However, Carr's benevolence toward the American soldiers caused the wrath of the city council. In 1944 a council memoranda noted that Carr had broken a city by-law, by organising private parties for American servicemen. The memorandum noted that there was sickness on "foyer floor from Cabaret doors to lavatory." (102) It was also noted that "On five occasions during February 1944 a council inspector noted bad behavior at the Majestic," one dance being described as simply a "drunken brawl." (103) It was also a common sight at the Majestic Cabaret to see "very young girls staggering across the Theatre entrance in a drunken and hilarious state." (104) Similarly bad behavior was noted at the Mayfair Cabaret, Cuba Street, with liquor consumed on the premises and the Brougham Street Dance Hall where complaints were received regarding drinking in the streets and objectionable behavior. (105) In the 1940s the police were given greater power to close places of entertainment. The powers targeted dance-halls and other venues if they were being used "to possess alcoholic liquor, or drunkenness, disorderly conduct or any entertainment of a demoralising character to take place." (106) In the city of located on the lower North Island, the Army and Navy Ballroom was popular with American servicemen. The hall, which had formerly been used as a picture theatre and ice rink, before becoming a dance venue in the early 1930s, was requisitioned during the war by the armed services. Minutes of the ANA ballroom reveal that whilst the house rules forbade intoxicating liquor to be brought into the hall, on a Saturday night the floor "swam in booze". (107) Moreover, conflict between Americans and locals led to a suggestion contained in the ballroom committee minutes that the military police provide suitable pickets to assist in keeping order at the ballroom on Saturday nights. (108)

Where does this investigation of dancing between 1918 and 1945 take us in a satisfactory portrayal of twentieth century New Zealand society? The reaction by a variety of interest groups ranging from the populist New Zealand Truth, to the clergy and city councils undoubtedly constituted one of the most notable moral panics in the history of New Zealand, which constituted a transitional phase in the country's history. The comparative lateness of urbanization in this country meant that it was during the 1920s and 1930s that a narrative of sexual danger grew in connection with modernization and urbanization. As authorities struggled to keep alcohol out of the venues, it is evident that pleasure seekers readily embraced modern culture in the face of a Great Tightening. Indeed, if publications like New Zealand Truth tell us anything, it is that there were plenty of people who wanted a good time in the first half of the twentieth century. The paper projected the conservative face of the New Zealand working class in these decades and it headlines reflected the concern of some interest groups in the country. However, The New Zealand Truth had an ambiguous stance towards modern society, explicitly condemning and implicitly revelling in lurid tales from the inner city; indeed the pleasure seeking culture made for good press. Indeed, as we have seen, modern fashions which were initially seen in the context of the larger cities did not take too long to reach more isolated districts. Modernity in the shape of new found sexual freedoms and the challenge to tight-knit communities that the urban environment posed gave rise to the fear that society was changing for the worse, but, despite censure, by 1939 New Zealanders, like their British and American cousins, had irredeemably entered the modern world. To sum up, perhaps we should rather view inter-war New Zealand society not as a tightly constrained society against which pleasure seekers battled to break out, but as a modern pleasure seeking society which some conservative forces sought to restrain. The most striking aspect of New Zealand's popular culture as viewed through the medium of the dance hall, is not that is was so constrained by the great tightening, but that it was so liberated from it. It is undeniable for example, that Eyewitness's criticism which began this article was, by the outbreak of World War II, largely the view of a minority.

School of History, Philosophy and Classics

PN 242

Private Bag 11 222

Palmerston North

New Zealand


I would like to thank my colleagues Basil Poff and Geoff Troughton for their comments and advice in the writing of this article. Thanks are also due to Georgina White and Jennifer Shennan for sharing their insights regarding the dance.

1. A prominent example being Moderis Ekstein's captivating study, The Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (New York, 1989).

2. James Belich, Paradise Reforged, A History of New Zealanders From the 1880s to the Year 2000 (Auckland, 2001); Caroline Daley, "Puritans Versus Pleasure Seekers" in Alison Kirkham and Pat Moloney (eds.) Sexuality Down Under (Dunedin, 2005).

3. The importance of the dance for the meeting of the sexes was noted by a youth worker interviewed in the New Zealand Listener 1 December 1944.

4. Judith Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late Victorian London (Chicago, 1992).

5. Emma Dewson, "Off to the Dance: Romance in Rural New Zealand Communities 1880s 1920s," History Australia Vol. 2:1 (2004). References to the 1920s dance craze are also made in Steven Eldred-Grigg, A New History of Canterbury (Dunedin, 1982).

6. Recollections of country dance-halls sent in letter to author, L. Flay, February, 2005.

7. Evening Post 24 April 1928.

8. B. Brookes, E. Olssen and E. Beer, "Spare Time? Leisure, Gender and Modernity" in B. Brookes, A. Cooper, R. Law, eds. Sites of Gender: Women, Men & Modernity in Southern Dunedin 1890-1939 (Auckland, 2003).

9. Daily Southern Cross, 21 May 1868, cited in The New Zealand Listener, 1 December 1944.

10. See The Statues of New Zealand (Wellington, 1881), Licensing Act 1881, 154.

11. See for example, The Press, 15 May 1922, and 21 November 1924.

12. For a fuller investigation of Presbyterian attitudes to dancing see Maureen N. Garing, "Against the Tide: Social Moral and Political Questions in the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand 1840-1970" (PhD Diss., Victoria University of Wellington 1989), 314-334. An example of a sloping floor was found at the Burns Hall in Dunedin, belonging to the First Church.

13. The White Ribbon, Vol. 15: No 170. August 1909, and Vol. 15. No 171 September 1909.

14. Sandra Coney, Ever Girl: A Social History of the YWCA in Auckland (Auckland, 1986), 54.

15. Belich notes that "Between 1880 and 1920, the prohibition movement chalked up about 50 Laws controlling liquor consumption, beginning with the Licensing Act of 1881." Paradise Reforged, 171.

16. Dewson, "Off to the Dance," 5.

17. New Zealand Listener, 1 December 1944.

18. For a description of the country halls of New Zealand see Sara Newman, "The Late Great Country Halls," New Zealand Memories, 61 August/September 2006, 18-22. In the country context H.C.D Somerset differentiated between balls, dances, socials and social evenings. See H.C.D. Somerset, Littledene: Patterns of Change (Wellington, 1974), 56.

19. Auckland Weekly News 5 January 1928.

20. Ibid.

21. Miles Fairburn, "The Rural Myth and the New Urban Frontier: An Approach to New Zealand Social History" in New Zealand Social History, Vol. 9:1 (April, 1975), 4.

22. Evening Post, 24 April 1928.

23. Auckland Weekly News, 5 January 1928.

24. The New Zealand Truth, 22 August 1929.

25. H.C.D. Somerset, Littledene: Patterns of Change, 56.

26. L. Flay in letter to author.

27. Descriptions which fit the images of New Zealand society provided by Jock Phillips in his book A Man's Country: Images of the Pakeha Male (Auckland, 1996).

28. See Eve Ebbett, Victoria's Daughters: New Zealand Women of the Thirties (Wellington, 1981), 96.

29. Auckland Weekly News, 5 January 1928.

30. Miles Fairburn, The Ideal Society and its Enemies: The Foundations of Modern New Zealand Society (Auckland, 1989), 252.

31. Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring.

32. In Auckland for example, the 1920s saw the emergence of modernity in the construction of new roads and more extensive electricity, the linking of Auckland and Wellington by plane, the coming of the telephone and the radio, together with new female fashion. See Richard Wolfe, Auckland: A Pictorial History (Auckland, 2002), 26-7. Graham Bush, Decently and In Order (Auckland, 1971) 226; 263-4.

33. Jill Julius Matthews, Dance Hall and Picture Palace: Sydney's Romance With Modernity (Sydney, 2005), 14.

34. See Richard Schechner, The Future of Ritual (London, 1993); Victor Turner, The Ritual Process (London, 1969).

35. Information gleaned from Brian Salkeld, "The Dancing Decade 1920-1930" in Stout Center Review (August, 1992), 7.

36. For more on this image see Jock Phillips, A Man's Country 224-225.

37. For increasingly female employment in the 1920s and 1930s see for example Eve Ebbett, Victoria's Daughters, 64-7.

38. Auckland Weekly News 5 September, 1928.

39. Ibid.

40. For the rise of dance-halls in Britain and the United States see James Nott, Music for the People: Popular Music and Dance in Inter-War Britain (Oxford, 2002) and Randy McBee, Dance Hall Days: Intimacy and Leisure Among Working Class Immigrants in the United States (New York, 2000). For the derivative nature of New Zealand society see Miles Fairburn, "Is There a Good Case for New Zealand Exceptionalism?" in Tony Ballantyne and Brian Moloughney, eds., Disputed Histories: Imagining New Zealand's Past (Dunedin, 2006).

41. Palmerston North Ian Matheson City Council Archives Research File A175/61/1, Brief History of Recreation and Leisure in Palmerston North.

42. In Belich's Paradise Reforged, "The Great Tightening" was taking place simultaneously with the process identified as "Better Britain at Bay", that is to say the arrival of American culture. It is evident that the two phenomena were in many respects at odds with one another.

43. Relevant comments are made in Jock Phillips, A Man's Country, 230. It is noted by the author that the adoption of Hollywood style by males was perceived by some section of society as effeminate.

44. Gordon Mirams, Speaking Candidly: Films and People in New Zealand (Wellington, 1945), 5.

45. Ibid., 125.

46. Cited in Brad Beaven, Leisure, Citizenship and Working Class Men in Britain, 1850-1945 (Manchester, 2005), 189.

47. See for example "The Dancing Craze" in The Christchurch Press 21 November 1924 and "Mania for Dancing Leads to Young Man's Downfall" in Evening Post, 28 November 1923.

48. See the comments made in Evening Post, "Prettier Dancing--Belated Search for Grace," 14 April 1928.

49. Rio Sheirtcliff, "Dancing in the Dark: A Memoir of Epi Shalfoon," Music in New Zealand (Spring, 1990), 41.

50. New Zealand Herald 6 February 1928.

51. Recollected by N. M. Worthington in letter to author, February 2005.

52. Evening Post, April, 1928.

53. Ibid.

54. New Zealand Herald, 8 October 1928.

55. "Merle Attrill and the Local Dances," in A. Robinson, ed., Women and Children First: Central Taranaki Women, their Reminiscences, Stories and Recipes (Stratford, 1993), 40.

56. Gordon Mirams, Speaking Candidly, 31.

57. Stanley Cohen, Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of Mods and Rockers (Oxford, 1972), 9.

58. Richard S. L. Joblin, "The Breath of Scandal: New Zealand Truth and Inter-War Society 1918-39" (MA, Diss., University of Canterbury, 1990), 18.

59. Joblin, Breath of Scandal, 18.

60. Jock Phillips A Man's Country,

61. For a useful analysis of the cult of domesticity advocated by New Zealand Truth see Rebecca Lancashire, "Prudery and Prurience: Images of Women In The New Zealand Truth 1935" (BA Hons Diss, Massey University, 1986).

62. Joblin, Breath of Scandal, 110.

63. Ibid.

64. Bronwyn Dalley, "The Cultural Remains of Elsie Walker" in Bronwyn Dalley and Bronwyn Labrum, eds., Fragments: New Zealand Social and Cultural History (Auckland, 2000), 140-162.

65. Joblin, Breath of Scandal, 135.

66. See for example the series of articles by Phyllis Bates, published in 1929-30 typical of which was the article "On with the Dance--What the World is Doing with its Toes," The New Zealand Truth 24 April 1930.

67. See The New Zealand Truth 7 June 1928, 26 July 1923, 5 July 1928. For similar concerns in Australia in the 1920s see Matthews, Dance Hall and Picture Palace, 63-99. Also Lancashire, Prudery and Prurience,.

68. Auckland Weekly News 6 September 1928.

69. Susan C. Cook, "Passionless Dancing and Passionate Reform: Respectability, Modernism, and the Social Dancing of Irene and Vernon Castle," in William Washburgh, The Passion of Music and Dance: Body Gender and Sexuality (Oxford, 1998).

70. See The New Zealand Truth, 6 November 1930, 14 August 1930 and 24 July 1930.

71. Ibid., 134-135.

72. Pat Lawlor, Confessions of a Journalist, (Auckland, 1935), 88.

73. The New Zealand Truth, 26 April 1928.

74. Women's fashions were subject to change and by 1930 skirt lengths had lengthened. See The New Zealand Freelance 15 January 1930. The Silver Slipper Cabaret in Napier was opened for only three years 1936-9 and effectively priced itself out of reach of most of its possible patrons. See Robert McGregor, The New Napier: The Art Deco City in the 1930s (Napier, 2003), 12.

75. In the mid 1930s New Zealand Truth ran a story which suggested that doped sweets were available in a New Plymouth dance hall. The story was subsequently refuted in Wellington's Evening Post. See New Zealand Truth, 25 November 1936 and Wellington City Library Evening Post Clippings File "Dance Halls", 20 November 1936.

76. For complaints about motor car noise see The Christchurch Star 16 September 1927. See The Press, 2 October 1929. Also James Watson, "Crisis and Change: Economic and Technological Change Between the World Wars With Special Reference to Christchurch" (Ph.D. Diss., University of Canterbury, 1984), 257.

77. See The Press, 8 December 1931.

78. Wellington City Council Archives (WCCA) Wellington City Consolidated By Law Amendment No. 9 1936.

79. Wellington City Archives (WCC) File 00001:1918:60/1039 "Conditions in the Immediate Vicinity of Dance Halls Within the City," Memorandum dated 28 October 1936.

80. WCC File 0000:1918:60/1039 "Consumption of Intoxicating Liquors in Cabarets an Dance Halls," Memorandum dated 30 June 1930.

81. WCC 0000:1918:60/1039 "Conditions in the Immediate Vicinity of Dance Halls Within the City," Memo from Town Clerk Dated 28 October 1936.

82. New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, (NZPD) 1 September to 7 October, 1939 (Wellington, 1940), 462.

83. The Statutes of the Dominion of New Zealand (Wellington, 1939), 561. The first prosecutions under the Act are recorded in Police versus St. Johnston New Zealand Journal Magistrates Court Decisions, (1939-1940), 344-349; Archer versus Petersen, New Zealand Law Review (1942) 37-42; Bale versus Graham Gazette Law Reports (December, 1941), 647-648.

84. See Wellington City Library Evening Post Clippings Dance Hall File 14 June 1938 and undated clipping "Liquor at Dances: Morals of Young." Petitions from women's groups such as the Women's Social Progress Movement were concerned as to the role drinking and dancing played in unwanted pregnancy and lobbied Wellington City Council on this matter especially the issue of pass out checks.

85. WCC File 0000:1918:60/1039 "Consumption of Intoxicating Liquors in Cabarets an Dance Halls," Letter dated 9 September, 1936.

86. Ibid.

87. Ibid.

88. The New Zealand Truth, 19 February, 1941.

89. Ibid.

90. Recollections of P. Stuart in letter to author February 2005.

91. Letter from J. Baker to author February 2005.

92. See A. H. Franks, Social Dance: A Short History (London, 1963), 189.

93. Harry Bioletti, The Yanks are Coming, The American Invasion of New Zealand 1942-1944 (Auckland, 2nd edition, 1989), 64.

94. A. R. D. Fairburn, "Music for Morons" in Music in New Zealand: A Reader From the 1940s in A. Thomas, Music in New Zealand: A Reader from the 1940s (Canterbury, 2000), 170-171.

95. The tapes and the transcripts of these interviews are held in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Reference, OHColl-0060. Accounts of the American soldiers in New Zealand are provided by Harry Bioletti, and Eve Ebbett, While the Boys were Away, New Zealand Women in World War II (Wellington, 1984).

96. Margaret Shirley, Women in World War II Oral History.

97. Ibid.

98. Tui Preston, born 1916. Interviewed as part of the Women in World War II Project.

99. Ibid.

100. Bioletti, The Yanks Are Coming, 65.

101. Ibid., 70.

102. Wellington City Council archives, Public Hall Licence File Majestic Theatre/Cabaret, Willis Street, 00009:74: 6-134-3. Memorandum dated 22 October 1944.

103. Ibid., Memorandum dated 29 February 1944.

104. Majestic Cabaret, Willis Street Memorandum dated 4 February 1944, held in Wellington City Council Archives.

105. There were also complaints relating to the conduct of patrons attending Rio Grande Hobart Street, which drew attention to obscene language, broken bottles, and gates lifted off hinges at nearby houses, Wellington City Council, 25/1721, 1946.

106. "Night Life, Greater Control, Premises May be Closed," in Evening Post Clippings, Dance Hall File, Wellington City Library, 12 May 1944.

107. Manawatu Evening Standard 19 May 1984.

108. Palmerston City Council Archives, ANA Committee Minutes Box 11/12/1 Box 4 10 May 1943. New Zealand Truth reported an incident during 1944 in which a member of a Maori Battalion attacked a US serviceman because he objected to the inebriated soldier's disturbance during the playing of the national anthem. New Zealand Truth, 7 June 1944. In some instances, interest groups appear to have promoted Americanism over British culture. During the war New Zealand Truth reported the withdrawal of the British War film Colonel Blimp in favor of the American musical Glamor Girls. New Zealand Truth, 7 February 1944.

By John Griffiths

Massey University

Table 1 Urbanizing New Zealand: Census Results 1880s-1930s

Census Year  Rural Population %  Urban Population %

1881         62.34               37.66
1886         60.47               39.53
1896         61.95               38.05
1906         57.96               42.04
1916         54.18               45.82
1921         51.23               48.77
1926         48.38               51.62

Source: The New Zealand Official Yearbook 1934 (Wellington, 1933), 65

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A178085530