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April 18, 2017 > Irvington Social Life

Irvington Social Life

All pioneer towns had some kind of social life, but Irvington had something special. Charles Shinn wrote, ÒCircumstances made it the center of a great deal of social lifeÑit was for many years noted as one of the most sociable towns of its size in Alameda County, and the halls, suppers, dramatic entertainments, concerts and lectures of Irvington have always been highly successful.Ó

Parties were often held just to have fun. Neighbors gathered in large numbers at the home of Sam Brown in 1876 to enjoy each other, music, and dancing. Some 36 young people gathered in the Herman Crowell home in 1878 in honor of his sonÕs birthday to enjoy dancing and refreshments.

The ladies of Washington Corners held a fair and festival at TemplarÕs Hall in December 1880 where they sold fancy handmade articles. Special music was imported from San Francisco. Admission was 50 cents for gentlemen, but ladies were free.

A ball was always an occasion for celebration. Local residents resolved to have a great ball in 1875 to raise funds to furnish the new schoolhouse. Herman Crowell, William Y. Horner, G.A. Babb, A. Clark, A.O. Rix, and W.B. Lovett planned the event. An advertisement that read, ÒGrand BallÓ was placed in the local paper. Tickets were $2.50 including supper. Everyone who was able jammed the new school to enjoy the event and support the new school.

The young ladies decided that since 1880 was a leap year it would be a good idea to have a leap year ball. Their plans led to a pre-harvest ball at TemplarÕs Hall in June. The hall was decorated with evergreens, flowers, and roses and the chandelier was draped with vines, calla lilies, red roses, and a bit of mistletoe. ÒLeap Year, 1880Ó flanked the stage while strips of red, white and blue crossed the room diagonally. The back and sides of the stage were draped with lace curtains over crimson cloth covered with vines and flowers.

The young men were bewildered when their escorts paid the admission price. We are sure that the young people enjoyed the evening, but are not sure of the long-term results.

A serenade was another excuse for a party. The arrival of DitmarÕs Brass Band from Alameda threw the town into a frenzy; sweet melodies floated lightly on the autumn air. The local band climbed on a wagon and played as they rode toward Washington College. They stopped in Irvington to play a few melodies before they rambled on by moonlight toward Mission San Jose.

The Christmas season provided many memorable socials. Everyone in the area was invited to the town Christmas party in Crowell and RixÕs Hall in 1875. The evening included a Christmas tree, presents distributed by Santa Claus, music and dancing, and a special supper for $1.50. Proceeds went to the Grand TemplarÕs Orphans Home at Vallejo. This party was an annual community tradition. Some years the Washington Coronet Band provided the music.

Lectures were an important part of social life. Traveling lecturers came to Good TemplarÕs Hall to discuss the challenges and evils of the day. Many lectures and discussions were held at Washington College. Political meetings were occasionally a part of the social scene.

One editor wrote that next to a fire, nothing causes more excitement that a wedding. They were usually held in a church, home or garden accompanied with food, music, games, or dancing.

Even a rumor of a wedding could throw the whole town into chaos. Mr. Powell was seen dashing through the streets in his buggy with a dress and ladiesÕ hats beside him. People assumed that Powell must have been getting married, so they rounded up a band and preceded to his house to serenade him n a drizzling rain. Alas, it was only a rumor, but the people turned error into a party and had fun anyhow.

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