DANCE HALL SIN!
Written by Rick Archer
Here is a story that sounds suspiciously like a missing scene from
the movie Footloose.
It concerns a town of 1,000 people in
rural Virginia who are split down the middle over whether
"Dancing" should be allowed.
So where is Pound, Virginia?
Studying the green arrow on the map, we find that Pound
is located almost on the border of Kentucky out in the
westernmost parts of Virginia.
Located very close to West Virginia as well, this is
rural Appalachian country.
Here are a couple of quotes from the story below:
"Dancing is one of those things that entices.
imitates sexual contact." - Tim Shepherd,
"I think it's good for people to dance. I'm not too
good, but it makes me feel a whole lot better." -
Helen Bolling, who never danced in her life until her husband
died. Dancing, she said, was the only thing that made her feel
Dance Hall Shakes up Town
that made Dancing a
Houston Chronicle 04/22/01 (Section:A, Page:14)
By CHRIS KAHN Associated Press
POUND, Va. - It's Saturday night and Helen
Bolling is shimmying in a corner booth at the Golden Pine
restaurant. A usually quiet, sparrow of a woman, the
65-year-old cups her hands and screams over the loudspeakers
for the disc jockey to play ``Cotton-Eyed Joe.'' "I
love fast dances," says Bolling, who clomps her feet on
the floor to the music.
This is an especially daring act in Pound,
a conservative town of about 1,000 people in the Appalachian
coal mining country of Virginia's extreme western corner.
Public dancing is illegal without a permit and the Golden
Pine doesn't have one. Owner Bill Elam, who got a judge to
throw out an old anti-dance ordinance as unconstitutionally
broad, refuses to apply for one.
After his court victory, the Town Council enacted a new
ordinance just last year, writing it to pass constitutional
muster. The maximum penalty is a $500 fine.
The new law is applauded by local church
leaders, some of whom consider dancing a sin.
"I can never see a time when dancing can be
approved of, especially with people who are not married,"
said Tim Shepherd, an evangelist for the Church of Christ in
Pound. "Dancing is one of those things that entices. It
imitates sexual contact."
There are communities with similar bans in
Virginia and elsewhere, but unlike Pound's new ordinance
they're often in antiquated sections of legal code that have
been ignored for decades, said Kent Willis, director of the
Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"I've never heard of a town actually
trying to enforce something like this," Willis said.
So far, no one has been ticketed for
dancing, but town officials have been discussing what to do
about the Golden Pine.
"We're planning something, but I can't go into detail
right now," said Police Chief Jeff Rose. Elam probably
will get a court summons, said town attorney Gary Gilliam.
Elam, 48, has been a thorn in the town's side
ever since he bought the Golden Pine in
1996. "I won't be run off," he said.
His old building is shabby and its electrical system shorts out
from time to time, but it's a perfect place for a nightclub, Elam
said. It's close to a dry county in Kentucky and the only
competition is the Holiday Inn 20 miles away in Norton.
"I knew I could make a killing
here," Elam said. But when he arrived, an 18-year-old
ordinance denied dance permits "to anyone who is not a
proper person, nor to a person who is not a person of good
After he got the law struck down in
federal court, Elam hung a disco ball from the ceiling, tore
down a wall and laid tiles for a proper dance floor.
In spite of the new ordinance, enacted in February 2000,
hundreds of people gather on Saturday nights to boogie at
the Golden Pine.
As disc jockey David "Chickenman" Gent starts the
music, girls smoking cigarettes head to the dance
And now the regulars start to pour in.
Carl Addington drives up in a red Corvette
wearing a leather vest and jeans. Curtis Caldwell comes in from
the pool tables and talks to a pretty blond woman in a red top.
"This is just like a dream," Elam says as he watches.
In her corner booth, Helen Bolling has been waiting for the music.
Until a few months ago, Bolling had never
danced, not even at her wedding. But after her husband died
of cancer last year, it was the only thing that made her
When Gent finally plays "Cotton-Eyed Joe", Bolling gets up
and stomps her pumps on the floor. She joins her daughter,
then some younger women step in and soon there is no more
space on the floor.
"I think it's good for people to dance ," Bolling
says, smiling broadly like a teenager.
"I'm not too good, but
it makes me feel a whole lot better."
Virginia Town Gets Dancing Reprieve:
18 year Dancing Ban Called Unconstitutional
by Kia Shant'e Breaux
POUND, Va. (May 31) - Terry Boggs knows of no finer way to end the work week than to put on cowboy boots and dance to his favorite country tunes. Thanks to a court ruling that struck down this town's ban on dancing, Boggs and other boot-scooters can now boogie the night away.
"I'm not the greatest dancer in the world, but I like to unwind," Boggs, a 49-year-old trucker, said after dancing one warm July night at the Golden Pine Restaurant.
Not everyone in this town of about 1,000 in the southwestern Virginia mountains shares Boggs' sentiment. Church and town leaders see public dancing as something to be tightly restricted, lest it lead to cheatin' hearts and ruined marriages.
Dancing was effectively banned in Pound for 18 years - until June 29, when a federal judge struck down the dance ordinance as unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Glen Williams ruled that the case amounted to an unconstitutional restriction of free expression reminiscent of
Footloose, the 1984 movie about teens rebelling against a small town's ban on dancing.
Since the ruling, couples in cowboy hats and boots have turned out in droves to kick up their heels at the Golden Pine.
It was William Elam, owner of the Golden Pine, who took the Town Council to court over its dancing strictures. He grew weary of explaining to out-of-town patrons why they couldn't get down at his night spot.
"They would get mad and a lot of them would flat out refuse to sit down," Elam said.
Pound's ordinance banned dancing in any place open to the public that did not first obtain a dance hall permit from the Council.
Supporters of the ordinance said it was a way of cracking down on the bad behavior associated with dancing.
"There's bound to be trouble when you mix drinking, country music and dancing!" said Danny Stanley, the only member of the five-person Council who would consent to an interview.
Permit seekers has to apply in writing. The law forbade the Council from issuing a permit "to anyone who is not a proper person, nor to a person who is not a person of good moral character."
No one was ticketed for dancing - and no one ever received a permit. Until Elam and the Golden Pine came along, nobody had sought one, said town attorney Gary Gilliam.
Elam applied about a year ago, but withdrew the application out of fear that it would be rejected. More than 200 people showed up at a Council meeting to oppose Elam's application.
That's when Elam hired a lawyer.
"We got the court ruling on Wednesday, and we were dancing on Friday," he said.
Now the Council is rewriting it's ordinance more narrowly to pass constitutional muster. Town building inspectors also say the Golden Pine does not meet the state's fire code for dance halls, and could close him down because of it.
In the meantime, the other bars in town are watching closely. Pound is near a dry Kentucky county, and the nearest dance club is 20 miles away.
"We're taking a wait-and-see approach right now," said Genetta Boggs, owner of the Candlelight Restaurant, which serves alcohol. "If it turns out that dancing is legal, we'll have to do whatever it takes to compete."
RICK ARCHER'S NOTE:
Since many readers of this story are city slickers like
me, it is difficult to conceive of this much fuss over dancing.
After all, we know from experience that social dancing is a very
This story sounds more like something you might read about in
Afghanistan where the Taliban has made people's lives miserable
over things like dress, dancing, music, and many other things
Americans take for granted. Hard to believe
this story took place right here in the good old USA. I guess
there is intolerance wherever you go.
Sorry to say, even after the court ruling, the issue was still
not settled. The squabbling continued. A good place to
visit for more developments and the who-said-what details, I
recommend this article:
Pound, Virginia Bans Dancing?
I suppose we will wait to
see where the wind blows before opening our next SSQQ Franchise in
Although there are all kinds of things I could poke fun at,
I don't think I will open my big mouth
However I wouldn't be content without adding at least
comment, so here's a joke for
A Fundamentalist Baptist Minister in Alabama
found himself alone with the Choir Director one night after
practice. As he had long been sorely tempted
by the lush curves of this woman, in
the quiet of his own Church tonight the Devil got the better of
him. He broke down and finally propositioned the
To his surprise and joy, she readily accepted his offer. "Where should we do it, Reverend?" she enthusiastically replied.
"Right here on the floor!" he panted. He
could barely contain himself.
"Oh no, Reverend, that'd be too cold!
I couldn't enjoy it!" she whispered. "How about standing up?"
"Good Heavens, woman!!
Have you taken leave of you senses?" he shouted. "If anyone came in, they'd think we were dancing!!"