Royal Order of Teenagers Club

Approximate Time Span1959-62
Address or LocationTop floor of the Lake Park Town Hall on Park Ave.

From Tom Preston:

Started by Robert Root from St. Ann’s School, and probably mostly young St. Ann’s kids went. It was like a high school sock hop of the times. I don’t remember if bands played or not – maybe just records, or both. Perhaps The Apollos played there because Dave Chiodo went to St. Ann’s.

From Al Carnahan:

In 1958, our area’s natural resources offered plenty of activities for northern Palm Beach County’s teenagers during the day. However, night time social opportunities were more limited – “cruising” SR 703, meeting at drive-in restaurants, or going to movies. There were no malls. Occasionally, young people could also attend a local dance held sporadically in Riviera Beach (a quonset hut for storing road equipment), West Palm Beach (Armory and Morrison Field), or Lake Worth (Casino). The dances were sometimes a lot of fun. Other times they were pretty rowdy and their images were not always positive.

A half-dozen St. Ann’s and Riviera Beach High School (now Cardinal Newman and Suncoast, respectively) students wanted an alternative that would be fun, organized, safe, and “cool”. The group approached one of their parents, Mr. C.B. Root, who was serving on the Lake Park Town Commission at that time. After a few discussions, Mr. Root agreed to approach the other town commissioners with the idea of a weekly record hop that would be held in the Mirror Ballroom located on the second floor of the town hall. Its smooth wood dance floor, pecky cypress ceiling, and rotating mirrored ball was (and is still) a perfect venue for a dance.

Mr. Root convinced his fellow commissioners, to their credit, to give the dance a chance. He even got a loan of $100 to cover initial expenses for the first few dances. He also agreed to serve as Head Chaperone and to assist in securing off-duty police supervision. He and his wife, Alice, chaperoned at hundreds of the dances over the ensuing years.

The town’s loan was used to rent an inexpensive sound system, rent a cooler for soft drinks, buy some Cokes in the small, blue-green bottles – the kind we rarely see any more – some bags of ice to chill the sodas, some decorations for the ballroom and some poster-making materials for publicity purposes. The original six high school students and some of their friends all loaned their own personal collections of 45 rpm records to provide the music for the first dance. Mr. Root’s son, Bob, became “DJ”. The group named the new club the Royal Order of Teenaged Citizens (ROTC). Pretty pretentious…and corny! By-laws and the election of officers soon followed. Some of the kids’ parents served as advisors, but the teenaged officers made the decisions and did the work to run the dances.

The first dance was held in February of 1959. About 70 people attended. It lasted from 8 to 11 p.m. on a Saturday. Admission was 15 cents per person. Cokes cost a dime. It was enough of a success that more dances were held on succeeding Saturday nights. Within a few weeks the $100 loan from the “town fathers” was re-paid and the ROTC began buying the latest 45 rpm records each week to keep up with the “rock explosion”.

The dances continued for nearly ten years. During that time, the ROTC dances were expanded in the summer months to include Wednesday nights. Occasionally the club took the event to Lido Pools in Palm Beach for pool party dances. Active, “working” club members went on occasional cruises on the Intracoastal Waterway aboard the Paddlewheel Queen or on night fishing trips on the Blue Heron drift fishing boats out of Riviera Beach. Mother’s Day dances for adults were
held on a few occasions as well as periodic pre-teen dances for younger kids between the ages of 8 and 12.

Eventually, admission price for the regular dances went up – from 15 cents per person to “15 cents stag, 25 cents drag”. The club sometimes booked live, local bands – like the R-Dells, the Rhythm Rockers, and the Valiants.

In later years, the club began booking big name acts: Conway Twitty (“It’s Only Make Believe” and other hits from his rocker years); Frankie Ford (“Sea Cruise”); The Angels (“My Boyfriend’s Back”); Paul and Paula (“Hey, Paula”); and Steve Alaimo and the Redcoats (“Where the Action Is” TV series). They all appeared live at the Lake Park ROTC dances. The admission for those acts was significantly raised – $1.00 per person. One summer, (1961?), the ROTC had its own 13-week TV dance party broadcast by WEAT (now WPEC) Channel 12 live from the Mirror Ballroom every Saturday afternoon. It was called “Countdown” and hosted by Paul Crabtree. Burt Reynolds appeared as a “special guest” one Saturday afternoon. He was appearing on the “Gunsmoke” TV series at the time.

By 1960, the average weekly dance attendance had grown to 250 or more. It continued to grown and soon 450 dancers were in regular attendance. At their peak of popularity, turnouts exceeded 800 kids for a record hop. At one point, the town had to reinforce the dance floor due to the “sagging” that occurred when 500+ people were all dancing simultaneously. This was the era of the “fast dance” – the “Slop”, the “Twist”, the “Stroll”, the “Hully Gully”, the “Cha Cha”, the “Peg”, and the “Continental”. Some of these were “line dances” – no partner – you were on your own, dancing in unison with everyone else. The place rocked!

The “special” dances held for Christmas, the club’s anniversary, and the Halloween “Monster Mash” were spectacular with drawings for nice prizes, dance contests, free refreshments, and souvenirs. Regardless of the occasion, the last dance was always “It’s Almost Tomorrow” by the Dreamweavers.

The normal dress code for guys called for tucked-in shirts with collars, long pants (no jeans) with belts, shoes and socks. Girls wore blouses and skirts, or dresses, with shoes. Other rules prohibited profanity, excessively close dancing, drugs, alcohol or intoxication, and smoking on the dance floor. Fair and consistent enforcement of these rules, always done in a polite but firm manner by chaperones and off-duty police officers, resulted in the long, successful run the dances enjoyed. Besides, the town jail was on the first floor.

Those club members who actively participated in operating the dances had a lot of fun! Better yet – they stayed busy and out of trouble. The officers of the club processed well over $100,000 during the life of the club. That was a lot of money in those days.

None of the young people who operated the dances received a dime of the money. Proceeds were all put back into the dances’ operations and donated to worthwhile civic and charitable causes such as the establishment of the Lake Park Town Library, provision of uniforms and insurance for the town’s Little League baseball league, charitable telethons, and ill or injured students from local high schools.

Interest in the dances began to wane in the mid-1960’s with the advent of “flower power” and “live” band venues like Music Casters in Riviera Beach. Attendance slowly dwindled and, after nearly ten years, the dances were ended. Those club members who took active roles in the dances’ operations learned a lot that helped them in later life – organizational skills, teamwork, how to work with authority figures and the media, parliamentary procedures, community spirit, and – how to dance.