Haliburton in the 1950s – the music and the ice dancing

By Eddie Burke

The annual music festival took place every June in the Minden arena; it was a very big event in Haliburton in the 1950s. Whole school classes would practice all year to compete for the best choir singing renditions such as Blow the Man Down.

There were also competitions for the prizes for the best songs in solo duets trios and barbershop quartets. Some were as good as any voices heard in the juke boxes. There were some very good tenor voices – my cousin Bob always bested me into second place in my attempts at singing a tune. My wife’s sister Brenda (all of 13 years of age) was often invited to sing at the Golden Slipper; she sounded every bit as good as Loretta Lynn or Patsy Cline. Many of the singing voices were legendary and in demand such as Gerald Irish and Jacqueline Metcalf who were invited to sing a duet at the inaugural opening of the Minden Rotary I believe in 1947.

Winter of course was the time of the annual figure skating pageant a time when our own young talent could show their stuff. Sharon Parish and Minnie Isles were usually our star attractions but there were others including pairs (such as my twin sisters) and groups and dozens of others each of which required a unique skating costume.

After school many of us younger swains liked to go to the arena to watch the girls practise for an hour or so. The routines were remarkably similar certainly just as good as those one might see at today’s Olympics. All costumes had to be made from scratch and great effort was put into this work by every club in our community. Leagues of mothers such as the Eastern Star slaved at sewing and stitching and putting together one item of clothing or other in support of the event. Sometimes to my chagrin my mother wanted me to stay at home while she fitted me in various costumes. She found that some of my measurements were helpful when she made her creations. For instance my head size was exactly the same as Sheila (née Curry) Popple’s waist! When the big night came about probably around mid-March it was a very colourful experience.

On the big night the arena was packed it was standing room only. Folks came from over the area. The clatter of the loudspeakers making announcements and introductions the enchanting Straus Waltzes and other music the grace and beautifully rendered figure-skating and ice dancing routines the enthusiastic cheers of encouragement from the crowd left indelible memories. We didn’t have to leave the community to see talent in those days; we had it here in Haliburton!