Dancing Till Dawn

Apr 28, 2022 by Tempe Javitz
Dancing Until Dawn:

In the 1920’s rural farm and ranching areas, socializing
with your neighbors provided entertainment for everyone.  
School events, birthdays, anniversaries, picnics, roundups
and dances were eagerly awaited and attended.  My book about
my grandmother Jessamine’s life and photography will be published
later this year.  Read all about it at tempejavitz.com. 

Jessamine’s family was no different than their neighbors in 
their enthusiasm for a diversion from the daily hard work of 
ranching.  Her diaries are full of excitement when a dance has
been announced or an upcoming school event.  When she and the
children needed to bring supplies to the roundup—this created
an outing that included stops at neighbors along the way and 
picnics in the countryside.

   The Johnson kids loved cooking outdoors.

Jessamine was raised fairly strict as the granddaughter of a
Baptist minister.  However, she took to dancing the night away
when she and Will were ranching at the X4 during the 1920s and 30s.  
She confessed to a friend in a letter dated January 1931.  
“Will tells me, every once in a while, about how I made him quit
dancing (while they were courting), but I tell him that I didn’t 
know how much fun there was in it.  I very seldom sit out a dance
now.  Even my own sons ask me to dance always, which I am very
proud of.” 

Saturday, November 1, 1919: “We had a big party at the house.” 
(This would have been their house warming party at the X4 Ranch.)   
“We never went to bed until 4:30 a.m.  Got up at seven.”  Jessamine
wore a lovely yellow gown, crepe de chine, with a head dress of 
yellow silk and a bag with tassels representing corn stalks.   
Sorry no photo survives!  Her girls and friends were all dressed up too.

     Annabelle and her friends dressed for a dance.

New Year’s Eve, 1920:  The Johnson family rang in the new year with 
a large gathering of neighbors and family.  The Ferguson family brought
sandwiches and Jessamine made coffee.  “The ice cream was barely enough
and everyone raved about how good it was.  At midnight, we turned out 
the lights and the children beat on tins.  Everyone hollered so there 
was quite a din.  Everyone left between one and three-thirty a.m. this
morning, and we got to bed about four and got up at nine.”

          The X4 house all decorated.

July 24, 1920:  The family prepared all day for a party.  “I brought 
home two new records for the Edison.  One a three-step and the rest 
were waltzes.  Dr. Newman J. Neilk from Deaver, Wyoming was here, and
he played the piano for us to dance.  A Miss Rhinehart, his fiancée, 
was also with him.  He came to me this morning and said we had given
a tenderfoot a real treat.  He had heard of these affairs like we had
last night, but hardly believed they were true.  I asked him if he knew
Reverend Jones.  He said he did, and he would tell him he had been here.
I told him he’d better not tell him he was here to a dance, to call it

a party.”  

Jessa’s brothers, Phil and Junior and their wives, plus a 
car full of cowboys and the cook from the 40 Mile Ranch (her father’s
headquarters at Lodge Grass, MT) also attended.  “In all thirty-two of
them in six cars and they were here overnight!  There were about 100 
total last night and the dancing was crowded.  I had 42 for breakfast,
giving them coffee, cakes and cinnamon rolls.”  
This left me wondering
where all of these people found room to dance let alone sit down.  
Obviously, none of the group had any sleep that night.

There are four entries in Jessamine’s diaries regarding dances between
April 11 and April 26 in 1920 alone.  Where they all got the energy to
dance all night and then work the whole next day is beyond me.

                Annabelle took a nap at the corral.

Cowboy jargon--"Crick":  We could have quite an argument about this word
which means creek.  From my study in dictionaries and on the
internet, it’s universally used to mean ‘creek’ all over the US, but not
so often in the southern states.  On the ranch where I grew up we lived
up the crick from my great aunt and uncle.

    My photo of driving "up Corral crick" to my parents' home.