East Java, Madura, Traditional Dance
Madura’s was home of area’s
best dance floor
by Gayle Faulkner Kosalko
Today when you drive by Five Points in Robertsdale you see the Purple Steer Restaurant, a liquor store, an Amoco station and Lever Brothers. It’s hard to believe that this was once the hot spot in the area for entertainment, but it was.
The Indiana Gardens Skating Rink was where the Amoco station is today.
This skating rink, which was pre-World War I, had live organ music (“all skate!”) and was owned by entrepreneur Mike Madura. His daughter, Evelyn Madura Halik, said that she knows dancing was going on there, too, from time to time because her father made a rule that the “shimmy” was not allowed on the dance floor.
Indiana Gardens burned down one winter. Ironically enough, Madura’s biggest venture would eventually suffer the same fate some 40 years later.
Next, Madura had a concession called Mike Madura’s Ball Knob. According to Evelyn, you stood at a certain spot and if you hit the door knob with a ball, a girl actually came down with a box of candy as your prize.
His game was located in Boardwalk Park. Boardwalk Park, which opened in 1926, was an amusement park with a miniature railroad, water chute and the biggest roller coaster in the Midwest, “King Bee Coaster.” There was a merry-go-round and a Ferris wheel, too. People often confuse it with “White City,” which was on 63rd Street in Chicago.
Further out where today’s Hammond Marina lies, was a nightclub out in the water called Hammond Beach Inn. Evelyn said there also was a small, but beautiful, zoo between Calumet Avenue and Lake Avenue in Robertsdale, too. The location for all this entertainment was ideal because folks could step off the streetcar and be right there within a short walking distance.
Boardwalk Park sold all their land to Lever Brothers and it is said, left all their equipment there. One of the buildings at Boardwalk Park was Danceland, where many a dance marathon had been held. Madura, always a man with an interest in entertainment, approached the owners. Madura owned 150 feet of land right across the street on Calumet Avenue. He bought the ballroom and, according to his daughter-in-law, Henrietta Madura, had the entire dance hall pulled across the street by a team of horses. Evelyn says that it cost more to move the building than it cost her father to purchase it. Henrietta said that by the time the huge structure was put in place, all the lights and the toilets were broken, but the beautiful dance floor was intact.
It was 1929, Mike Madura put his name in front of the existing “Danceland” title and what would be a part of the romantic history of our community was born.
Even today when you talk to people who went to Madura’s Danceland, one of the first things they speak of was its beautiful and highly polished dance floor. Every night Mike and his son, Mike Jr., had a ritual for cleaning the floor. They made their own special floor cleaner by grinding dance wax and paraffin together in a huge meat grinder. Dance wax alone would leave the floor too slippery for the 2,000 customers each night.
And while there were ballrooms in Hammond and Cedar Lake, it was Madura’s that was the king. Some of the history of Madura’s is featured in Lou Galt’s book “Ballroom Echoes.” But much of the history of the romantic place is written down in local church wedding registries because an incredible amount of couples met there for the very first time. My in-laws are one of the many couples who met at Madura’s.
Of the four evenings that Madura’s was opened each week, Sunday was truly for romantic couples. This was waltz night, and the mood was set with beautiful colored lights that switched from hue to hue.
Gayle Faulkner Kosalko is the executive director of the Whiting Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce.