The Block Island Times

The Roaring Twenties on Block Island

This week in Block Island’s history, April 14, 1923
By Robert M. Downie | Apr 13, 2013
Courtesy of: Robert M. Downie In 1923 Millard Mitchell — in the front row, second from left — was an expert in dancing the then-popular Louisiana Shuffle. In this photo he poses at Sandy Point with other Block Island fishermen.

This week in history: 90 years ago, on April 14, 1923, Block Islanders celebrated spring with a special event, crowding into what is now the Mohegan Cafe on Water Street. The men who performed in the show, according to the woman reporter for the Newport Mercury newspaper, were almost as good as the women. Her story is reprinted below, written in the breezy style of the 1920s, so aptly nicknamed “the Roaring Twenties.”

Keep in mind that the 1920s also happened to be the era of Prohibition, during which liquor was banned from being consumed anywhere in the United States — there was, though, a “Rum Row” a few miles off Block Island, and from those ships bootleggers would smuggle alcohol to anyone, anywhere, who might desire it:

“Three hundred and forty-seven people packed, jammed or wedged themselves into Mohegan Hall last Monday evening and witnessed what is said to have been one of the funniest and most enjoyable shows ever pulled off behind the Mohegan footlights.

“The opening chorus started promptly at 8 p.m., but as early as 6:45 p.m. seven rows of seats were completely filled and at 7:20 nearly every seat in the house was taken and an auto truck was immediately pressed into service and extra chairs and benches from the church brought in. At 7:45 over 75 people, many of whom arrived in automobiles from distant parts of the town were turned from the door, as there was not even standing room available. At this time nearly 50 men were packed in the narrow aisle behind the rear curtain of the stage ...

“Lee Cass, in a limber-limb loose-jointed demonstration of King Tut’s twin bed glide, made a hit with the audience and was compelled to repeat with several encores ... and Millard Mitchell exhibited the Louisiana Shuffle ...

“During this number the audience went wild and amid a tumultuous uproar demanded four encores, which finally brought the three dancers together into one specialty dance for a finale.

“The success of the show was due to the loyalty of each and every member of the cast. They had the pep and knew their lines and songs and they individually and collectively ‘put ‘em over’ with a crash. The musical numbers, solos and choruses, were the very best every heard in the hall by a male ensemble.”

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