When the Hollands owned Canobie Lake Park, macadam roads connected the park with the state highways which were Routes 28, 111 and 97. The park had wide, dust-proof walks that linked the amusement village and the lake front. Thousands of perfect tree specimens, sweeping lawns and flower gardens created a landscape that had no equal. The park had first class bowling alleys, a roller-skating rink, a regulation diamond baseball park, a swimming pool and, of course, the big name dance bands at the ballroom.
Visitors could just walk through the park for free. The ballroom had check dancing which was replaced with an admission that was, depending on who was playing, anywhere from 25 cents to a little over two dollars. The ballroom and also, the roller-skating rink, which came into its own, were the places of social gatherings. There was a sense of community. Many people met their spouses at Canobie. Maurice met his wife Mary Sullivan at the park. Pictured above is the lake shore before the wall.
The moon glistening over the lake, the stately pines and graceful birches lining the shore, all made for the perfect backdrop for the beautiful music coming from the ballroom. Paul Whiteman and his orchestra would play "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Somebody Loves Me" with Jack Teagarden on vocals and trombone. Tommy Dorsey would play trombone with his orchestra and feature many young vocalists like Frank Sinatra singing "I'll Be Seeing You" and "I'll Never Smile Again" with the Pied Pipers. Les Brown would play the saxophone with his orchestra and Doris Day would sing "Sentimental Journey". Peggy Lee would sing "Why Don't You Do Right?" with Benny Goodman playing clarinet with his orchestra. The dancers loved Benny Goodman. Dick Haymes sang "I'll Get By", and Helen Forrest sang "But Not For Me" with Harry James playing trumpet with his band and Kitty Kallen sang "It's Been A Long Long Time".
A phenomenon happened during this period. Crowds of dancers stood enthralled in front of the bandstand and would scream and shout for Frank Sinatra and the other vocalists. These were the years before vocalists became solo artists. There was an ongoing debate among fans as to who was the better singer, Frank Sinatra or Dick Haymes. Everyone had their favorite. Tommy Dorsey often performed at Canobie and was known for featuring new vocalists. Some vocalists would return to the park singing with a different band. Frank Sinatra sang with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Helen Forrest sang with Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman.
The ballroom saw the greatest jazz and swing bands from Artie Shaw, to Harry James, to Woody Herman, to Duke Ellington, to Count Basie, to Paul Whiteman, to Stan Kenton and many more. Then there were the sweet bands from Kay Kyser, to Glenn Miller, to Sammy Kaye, to Glen Gray (Casa Loma), to Guy Lombardo, to Tommy Dorsey and many more.
The big bands had the most talented musicians. There were trombonists JackTeagarden and Tommy Dorsey. There were drummers Gene Kruper and Buddy Rich. There were trumpeters Roy Eldridge, Bunny Berigan, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Spivak. There were saxophonists Tex Beneke, Charlie Barnet, Vido Musso and many more.
Talented musicians often went on to lead their own bands. Gene Krupa played with Benny Goodman and then formed his own band. Tex Beneke played with Glenn Miller and then led his orchestra. Some would even sing like Tex Beneke and Jack Teagarden.
From 1939 to 1941, Maurice would broadcast over WHDH. It was a remote broadcast from the ballroom five nights a week, Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 to 9:00. Those at home would fiddle with the dial on the radio to hear Maurice's mellifluous voice announcing, "Good evening ladies and gentlemen from the ballroom on the shores of beautiful Canobie Lake in Salem, N.H. Tonight we are featuring that Sentimental Gentleman of Swing Tommy Dorsey, his trombone and his orchestra with Edythe Wright and Jack Leonard". While Maurice was speaking, "Getting Sentimental Over You" would be playing in the background. Maurice would also broadcast with Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Jimmy Dorsey and Bob Crosby.
To see Glenn Miller on Monday evening August 17, 1942, the charge was $1.25 including tax.
If a band was booked for the ballroom, no matter what happened, they were there. On Friday, July 6, 1945 when Benny Goodman's bus had a breakdown en route, he still made it to the ballroom. On Friday, June 9, 1950 Louie Prima made it to the ballroom but his instruments didn't.
From Irish minstrels to Polka Jamborees, there was something for everyone. The ballroom was a great place to be.