Valley Dale, at 1590 Sunbury Road, may not look exciting from the outside but the memories it holds are pure gold. It has been through some rough times in its 90 year history but it remains open and creating even more happy memories
Most of the students who attended North High School went to Valley Dale. It was their unofficial party location and had even been called “North High School’s country club.” It was the place where we went for proms, fraternity and sorority dances, all night parties and reunions. Many other organizations that had Polar Bears as members, selected the Dale as the perfect spot for their activities. The connection to North is historic. Most of us smile when we think of evenings at Valley Dale.
The Dale itself has quite a unique history, with many ups and downs. In the 19th century the property on which the Dale sits, was a stagecoach stop and inn where farmers stopped for the night after selling their crops at Central Market. It was named Valley Dale and converted into not only an inn but also a dance hall in 1918. It quickly became a spot where Columbusites went to spend the evening dancing At 8 o’clock on New Years Eve 1923, the first misfortune fell upon the building when an overloaded wood burning furnace burst into flames and completely destroyed the structure. The new Dale, built by Jules Melacon and Harold Elford, was erected on the existing foundation. When it reopened in 1925, it not only had an inside ballroom but also a garden where you could dance under the stars.
During Prohibition days, it was known as a wholesome spot where young people could go for a fun filled evening of music, dancing and entertainment. In keeping with their clean image, although prohibition was repealed in 1933, they didn’t resume serving alcohol until 1941
In 1932, the Peppe family became involved with its operation when the Metro Amusement Company, who owned the Dale, hired Jim Peppe as the manager. In 1933 Jim and his brother Lou leased it and Lou became the manager from 1935 until 1941, when Frank Darby leased the building. But just one year later it was back in the hands of the Peppe family with Lou as the manager, a position which he held until 1951 when house band leader, Chuck Selby ’32, took over the management with the Peppe family still the owners. Mike Peppe .became the next manager and remained in that position until 1987.
The first house band was the Robert Royce Orchestra but all of the “Big Bands” played Valley Dale and business flourished. Both CBS and NBC did national broadcasts from the stage. The war years and gas rationing brought leaner days but after the war it became as successful as ever. The Chuck Selby house band played there during the 1950’s and 1960’s. The 1950’s also saw a weekly “Battle of the Bands” and the TV show “Jerry Razor’s Dance Party” broadcast from the Dale. In 1960 the very popular “Chuck Selby Dance Club was formed.
The next misfortune befell the building in 1959, when Alum Creek flooded and filled the hall with water up to the balcony. After a massive cleanup and repair, the building reopened. But the worst hurdle came on New Years Eve of 1980 when the city threatened to close it down due to the lack of sprinklers and inadequate emergency exits. The building was slated to be torn down until a Polar Bear, Mary Max Haverman Stants ’39, who had always loved dancing at the Dale and had done some volunteer office work, organized a major letter writing campaign, She even got the mayor to support her cause. She raised funds at the “Friends of the Dale Dance,” and influenced Mike Peppe to renovate and restore the building at the cost of more than $350,000. It reopened in May 1981 with Mike as the general manager and Mary Max managing reservations, rentals and handling band contracts.
In 1982, due to the efforts of Mary Max, the building was put on the National Registry of Historic Places. In December 1987 a new era began. Although Mike Peppe still owns the building, Dana Finta is its manager. It boasts a new descriptive name, The Grand Valley Dale Ballroom.It has gone through additional renovation, which includes air conditioning. It features the original crystal ball, 19 chandeliers, two staircases, a circular art deco bar, a 2,060 square foot wood dance floor, plus the historic stage with burgundy velvet curtains. It is as beautiful as it was in its heydays.
A section of the balcony wall is called “The Cavalcade of Stars” and is dedicated to the musicians who played the Dale. Some of those bands were Benny Goodman with Gene Krupa, and Lionel Hampton, Guy Lombardo, Les Brown, Paul Whiteman, with Bing Crosby, Alvino Ray, Rudy Valley, Duke Ellington, Ted Weems with Perry Como, Sammy Kaye, Bob Crosby, Fred Warring, Tommy Dorcy with Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Kay Kyser, Artie Shaw with Billie Holliday, RussMorgan, Fats Wallor, and Harry James, The Mills Brothers began their careers on the stage of the Dale. In later years, Chubby Checker, Linda Ronstadt, 3 Dog Night, and even Alice Cooper appeared at the Dale..
Today it is primarily used for weddings, private parties, fund raisers and corporate parties. Every Saturday is booked through 2008. Who knows, with all of the interest in ballroom dancing today, you can’t tell what the future might bring.
We Remember The Dale
Sally Scott Yerina ’51 – She remembers going with a crowd of friends in the ‘50’s to hear the combined bands of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. But her favorite memory is of her mother, who played piano at the Dale many times, telling stories of snowy winter nights when someone would be sent to stop traffic on Sunbury Road so the Model T Fords could get a running start and make it up the hill into the parking lot.
Elsie Beck Albrecht ’33 –Going to Valley Dale was always special because of the beautiful music. Dates would give me a gardenia corsage. I learned to wear it on my right shoulder so it wouldn’t get crushed as we danced. The dance garden was wonderful. Sometimes the moon seemed so close that you could almost touch it. Thinking of it brings back such wonderful memories.
Ruth Thomas Schreiner ’42 – Every teen needs extra money. Ruth’s solution to this problem was working as a hat check girl at Valley Dale. .She loved it because it was so beautiful and she could hear all of the great music. In later years. she and her husband, Dave Schreiner ’35, danced at the Dale many times. The most memorable evening was an Aladdin Shrine Halloween party. Everyone went in costume. She still treasures a picture of their whole group of friends, many of them North High grads, that was taken that night.
Paul Rockhold '53 - My memories are mainly of Chuck Selby. the orchestra leader. and later the general manager. On special occasions, he wore a sweater which boasted his swimming letter He played great '40s music and I particularly liked Harlem Nocturn. He was usually available for passes so that we could impress our dates.
Susan Mackenson Peppe ’58 – I remember going to the Dale and dancing with Ray Pinkerton. I didn’t dream that after college I would meet and marry Jim Peppe, who is a member of the family that owned the Dale.
Electa Baldwin Pollitt ’33 – She remembers how much she enjoyed listening to the radio broadcasts from the Dale, but her most vivid memories occurred years later when she and her husband Bill, were very close friends of Mary Max Haverman ’39 and Bill Stants ’39. Even before Mary Max worked at the Dale, the two couples spent many evenings dancing at thr Dale. The Stants’ were so good, that the other couples would clear the floor just to watch them. On hot nights they would dance in the garden and would leave drenched from the humidity and dew that had accumulated on the furniture.
Leeann Faust ’58 – My father was a drummer, and in his youth, played at the Dale a number of times. My mother was attending dances there during those same years. They always wondered if there was a night that he was on the stage and she was on the dance floor. I went to so many dances at Valley Dale. They were all wonderful, but my most memorable was the night of June 10, 1958. We attended the all night party after graduation. I was dating Bruce Clapper, who was an OSU student. He didn’t have a car, so my parents dropped us off and picked us up at 4:30 the next morning. A lot of other great, but sleepy, moms and dads did the same thing. I’m sure it was memorable for them too. Our 25th class reunion was at the Dale. It was before the air conditioning was installed and it had the be the hottest night of the summer. We melted, but didn’t care as we danced to “Phil Dirt and the Dozers,” ate White Castles, pizza and strawberry pie.
Jim Lackey – I remember Chuck Selby’s Orchestra and it’s still, the best music ever.
Tom Smith ’48 – I do not recall going to Valle Dale during my high school days, but I always heard that it was a good place to go dancing. I do recall attending a concert there in 1953 or 1954 where Shirley Evans sang a solo with a full orchestra accompaniment
Anne Saenger Franklin ’61 - A red rhinestoned silk gown, a dress-up box favorite for us as kids, was a relic from our mother’s (Ruth Rose Saenger, ’31) Valley Dale dances. I interviewed her recently, at her home in First Community Village. She recalls that until their North graduation party at Valley Dale, it was considered off-limits by her parents due to tales they heard of drinking and necking in the parking lot. In those days and forward, it showcased local and national touring dance bands. My father and brother, Fritz Saenger ‘31 and Fritz ,Jr. ’55, played there. My sister Barbara’s ‘55 final effects included that dress.
Susan Selby Euchenhofer ‘57 – Since my dad was Chuck Selby, Valley Dale was like a second home for me, and my memories are endless with the countless special times spent there. One not-so-special memory is January of l959, when Alum Creek overflowed because of very heavy rain; everything around Alum Creek flooded, including the Dale, with the water rising up into the balcony. Many days were spent with the very massive clean-up after the water receded. Mud was everywhere, including on all of the hundreds of chairs. The outpouring of help from so many of Valley Dale's "fans” was amazing,.and the dancers were soon able to return to that wonderful