Joan Bittner Fry

In the early 1950s, there was a dance hall/restaurant in Sabillasville. My parents, Harold and Helen Bittner, owned it.  Previously, it had been a salvage yard owned by Buck Wierman and is now a church. Do you recall hearing about it?

The deed was transferred from Leroy A. Wierman to Harold A. Bittner on August 23, 1949. The restaurant and dance hall operated from 1950 to 1953. I believe milkshakes and sandwiches were 50 cents, soda was 5 cents, and soup was a quarter.

The Bend (so named because it was within the Western Maryland RR’s Horseshoe Bend in Sabillasville) was opened to give the young people of the community a place to gather. On Friday nights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight, dances were held with country bands such as The Carroll County Ramblers, Joe Phillips, the Young Brothers (Mehrle being one of the brothers), and The Sunnyside Ramblers. Some band members I can recall were Les Sanders (banjo), Glenn Wolfe (drums and spoons), Harland Benchoff, Larry Harbaugh (fiddle, and his memorable rendition of “The Orange Blossom Special”), Carroll Harbaugh (bass fiddle), and Jim and Jimmy Lynn (guitars). In the beginning, the band was paid $5.00; increasing to $15.00; then to $20.00, and then to $25.00. Those fellows sure didn’t play for three hours for the money!

For the Friday night dance, my late sister, Barbara, and I would make a supply of tickets each week. They were whatever we could dream up, and each had to have a punched hole with a string. Patrons were not to go outside during the evening. My mother was always on watch to be sure if you did go out, you had your own ticket when you returned. We would decorate with crepe paper streamers, which would sag as the evening warmed up. Sometimes, there was an abundance of dance wax on the hardwood floor.

I remember it well. This is where I learned to dance: Jitterbug, two-step, slow dance, Paul Jones—we did it all. Of course, I wasn’t even a teenager at the time, so I believe I was tolerated. There were some Filipino sailors stationed at Camp David at the time who could really dance. I loved it when I could dance with them. I wonder now what they thought. They seemed to enjoy our country shindigs because they were there often.

Some of the first recordings of attendance at the Friday night dances were 35, 29, 41, 62, 62, 67, 76, 78, 88, 83, 75, 94, 86, 73, 54, 80, 75, 108, 114, 84, 100, 126, 114, 118, 94, 105, 125, 122, 111, 94, 104, 84, and 119.

By the time the coin-operated amusement devices tax, the trader’s tax, the restaurant tax, the jukebox tax, and the cigarette tax were all taken care of, there was little to no profit; but as I said before, it was for the young people of the community. Soon, many of the local young men went into the service. This had an effect on the attendance at the dances and, in 1953, the business was closed. 

All I have left are memories and a table and a back bench from one of the booths. It was quite an era!

Photo by Blair Garrett

Tickets and cards from The Bend. 

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