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.  It imitates sexual contact."  - Tim Shepherd, Evangelist

"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 better. 

Dance Hall Shakes up Town
that made Dancing a Crime 

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 moral character."

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 floor. 

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 feel better.

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
Associated Press

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."


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 healthy activity. 

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 Pound, Virginia. 

Although there are all kinds of things I could poke fun at,
I don't think I will open my big mouth this time.  However I wouldn't be content without adding at least one smart-ass comment, so here's a joke for you:

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 Choir Director.

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!!"

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