Guess things were a little different in the 1950s. All kids didn’t have cars and there were strictly enforced curfews set by parents. But kids still wanted to get together in the evening for a little dancing, games, or plain old being with each other to talk, laugh and have a good time.
That place in Denison was called “The Hive,” and it was upstairs at 309-1/2 West Woodard. Once you climbed the steep stairway, you entered a world established specially for teenagers.
Tuesday nights were just for “hanging-out” when the youth center was open from 7 until 9 p.m. Then on Friday and Saturday nights the doors were open a little longer. Only students and their guest were admitted and each had to register upon arrival.
At one time Mrs. Stella Hollingsworth, later Morrison, was in charge and she ran a strict but friendly ship. Everyone loved Mrs. Hollingsworth.
I hadn’t thought about The Hive for a long time until last week when I had a phone call from Bob Onstot of Denison who was trying to located an old buddy of his, Harvey Patrick Malone. Both graduated from Denison High School in 1954.
Bob said that awhile back Pat contacted him, looking for information on The Hive. He couldn’t find what he remembered he had kept. But recently he ran across the full page feature in the Oct. 14, 1956, Denison Herald. He tried to contact Pat where he had been living in Cedar City, Tenn., but he could not find him. He said that the two and Arthur Melson were buddies in high school. Arthur passed away recently.
Bob, who has been in ill health in recent years, retired as a satellite engineer on one of the teams that installed the first Mercury Satellite Systems for NASA.
The feature page told about an open house planned at The Hive as a “typical Hive activities” night, according to David Jones, chairman of the board of directors, so that parents could see the youth center program in action.
Only change from the youth center routine was the serving of refreshments. On a regular night the snack bar was open but the teens had to purchase their snacks.
At that time the teenagers had been helping to spruce up the center by doing some of the work themselves. A series of murals made up of caricatures of popular musicians and singers had been painted on the east wall of the Hive ballroom. This is where the jukebox was located and where when they had a quarter (or maybe less, I don’t remember what it cost to play a record), they could dance if they had a dance partner.
Paintings there were a group effort by Mike Malone, Sonny Miller and Bobby Onstot.
Other wall decorations were scattered strategically around the large center. The students had painted the ballroom, snack bar and lounge room as well as the murals. They had sanded and varnished the dance floor and, according to the article, required a lot of elbow grease.
Materials for the job were purchased from special funds that had been accumulated from half the jukebox receipts that the Hive received. The modern jukebox was a pay-as-you-dance music box. It held 100 records and some new ones, mostly popular dance numbers and standards, had been installed to help assure the success of the open house.
Adult supervision at the Hive in 1956 was supplied by Gene Eubank, assisted by members of the Women’s Service League, who took turns helping out there, usually operating the snack bar. Eubank later became Denison’s Police Chief for a number of years until he retired. Parent-Teachers Association members also helped man the youth center sessions.
During the four years that I was a student at Denison High School, The Hive was a destination at least once a week, sometimes more. Saturday nights, with or without a date, meant at least a stopover at The Hive to see who was there and what was going on.
From there we frequently went to the midnight preview at the Rialto Theater. Without a date, my dad always received a call about 1 a.m. to pick up me and some of my girlfriends to take us home. He was so good to drag Main Street after he picked us up, then silently take my friends home before we headed home ourselves.
If I remember correctly, junior-senior proms in 1952 and 1953 were at The Hive. I remember a lot of elaborate decorating taking place before each one. Those stairs in formal prom dresses and high heels weren’t easy for conquer, but at that age, we didn’t worry about it.
Times have changed. The Hive is no longer operating and would be considered “boring” to most kids today. There are no midnight previews or even the Rialto Theater, but somehow teens today seem to find their own entertainment – hopefully clean, safe and wholesome.
Those of us who remember The Hive have fond memories, but it is doubtful that today it would be at the top of the list for teenagers to find entertainment.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.