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The Old Stone House of Crawford Park - Always a Party, Always a Smile

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It was chilly cold night in the dead of winter, a night of frost warnings and of sheer black ice covering the streets. The old stone house, near the corner of Lasalle Boulevard and Crawford Bridge Avenue, continued to sit in an almost eerie silence amongst a blanket of early-rising stars on a Saturday evening. With all four of its shuttered windows and its one main door closed, the Old Crawford Park Legion (No.202) stood as a lone dark silhouette along the riverfront side of the boulevard. Only as you neared its tiny covered entryway, would you start hearing any sounds or whispers from the earlybirds that had already arrived to decorate and setup. In the freezing cold night air, people throughout Crawford Park were carefully making their way by car or by foot to their favorite local “clubhouse”, warming its stones from within. Soon the place would be filled to capacity, with coats removed, greetings shared, and dinner served, the place was just about to get red hot!

The Old Stone house is divided into two levels, the floor level was the main dining and dancing area, while a U-shaped stairway would take you upstairs to the bar area. You could not help but notice the picture frames that were hung with pride across the inside of the A-framed roof, as you passed through the single aisle between the rows of long horizontal tables in the bar’s eating area. All the while, being helloed and greeted at almost each table from those you knew, as you waited in line for the bar. For some, this would be their favorite place for the night, preferring the buzz of excitement around the bar over the spin of the dance floor below.

As the lights were dimmed and the dance floor cleared, the old stone house took on a warm, cozy cabin-like feel, as we all excitedly awaited the first song to open the floor. Glen Miller’s “In The Mood” would usually kick off the night by getting everyone up on their feet, quickly followed by Sinatra’s “New York, New York” which kept them there. The music would then take the dancers on a journey from the swinging years of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, to The Andrews Sisters’ “Bugle Boy of Company-B”, with a dash of Scottish and Irish Rover tunes thrown in for good measure. The dance floor cleared and refilled between songs, as if people jumped aboard when hearing the first notes of their own personal favorites. The Fifties arrived with the American Graffiti sounds of “Rock Around the Clock”, “At the Hop” and of course Elvis’s “Hound Dog”. Even a polka made a splash, before an ABBA tune carried the floor into a line-dancing scene, ending with a group “Hokie-Pokie” that usually had people in stitches.

As the diversity of music drove the crowd, the different music types themselves provided an almost endless variety of accompanying dance styles. Then came the karaoke portion for those daring to take the microphone in hand, including a cameo from a well-loved regular singing and sipping his way through the words of “Tiny Bubbles”.

The music continued its tour into regimental songs, provoking the same pride yet tear-felt sadness from these men and women who had once fought our great wars together. Within the mist of their eyes, we could see their remembrances of those who had fallen beside them, and of the hope they represented…the hope of a country.

The Sixties arrived with the Motown sounds of Diana Ross, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Martha and the Vandellas “Heatwave”, as “The Locomotion” chugged people along through the Beatles, into the early seventies. Tony Orlando and Dawn, the Captain and Tenille, Sonny & Cher, and the sounds of Elton John would bring us back to the station, as the current day hits of Micheal Jackson punched their way into a smaller, younger crowd. That little old house soon became a furnace from the dance floor up. Finally, revellers would take the Chattanooga train home, while gesturing a train whistle’s pull-cord, singing “won’t you Choo-choo me home”, as they danced their way out the door.

Those parties were always the highlights of our times here in Crawford Park. Music filled the air, and dance became our common denominator, allowing us to share in our different ages, languages, and cultures together, all in the name of fun. As the conductor of some of these musical journeys, this writer can definitely say they were worth the trip.

The Old Stone House rests quietly along the shoreline at 7244 Lasalle Blvd., with no life within its walls for many years now. For those who remember the joys we shared and of how this place was once a part of us, we know that we will always be a part of its history, within its stones and mortar, long after we are gone. As there are still nights, when strolling past the old house, that we can almost hear the sounds of Glen Miller, the laughs of the crowds, and see a welcoming glow in the doorway…a glow now extinguished. During that wonderful time, we took comfort in knowing that we had a place where we could always be ourselves, where we were treated with equal respect, and where we were always greeted with a smile…places now rarely found within our Southwest Corners.