THIS DAY IN HIS­TORY: MAY 22, 1937

Vancouver Sun - - WESTCOAST NEWS - John Mackie, Van­cou­ver Sun

Seventy- six years ago, Hymie Singer opened “the most beau­ti­ful ball­room on the con­ti­nent” at Bur­rard and Al­berni.

The Palo­mar Ball­room boasted of be­ing “stream­lined in the vogue of the day ( and) com­pletely mod­ernistic in de­sign.” The in­te­rior was tiered, in the art deco fash­ion, with pa­trons sit­ting at ta­bles on a mez­za­nine two feet above the dance floor. The house band was on four tiers, so that each mu­si­cian could eas­ily be seen.

The dance floor was sprung, which means it bounced up and down along with the dancers. About 2,200 coloured lights were ar­ranged around the room to pro­vide a “gay yet rest­ful spec­ta­cle” as they were “blended, faded and changed in a spec­tac­u­lar panorama.” “It was strik­ing,” said Van­cou­ver’s big band le­gend Dal Richards. “It was dec­o­rated pretty much in white, in a sort of Greek Gothic-type thing.”

The open­ing- night en­ter­tain­ment was from the Palo­mar’s own big band, Sandy De San­tis and His Palo­mar Orches­tra, a 14- piece “fast- ac­tion swing band.” Booze wasn’t al­lowed in lo­cal ball­rooms when the Palo­mar opened, so Singer had a deluxe soda foun­tain in­stalled. He also had De San­tis broad­cast a live ra­dio show from the stage — a neon sign flashed “On The Air” when the band was broad­cast­ing.

Richards ac­tu­ally led the Palo­mar house band for a time. “I was a mem­ber of Sandy De San­tis’ orches­tra in 1938, and Hymie and Sandy had a fall­out, as those two were likely to do,” he re­lates. “I had been fea­tured on Ar­tie Shaw’s Be­gin The Be­guine on clar­inet, so Hymie came to me and said, ‘ Hey kid, can you lead a band?’ ” Peggy Mid­dle­ton also danced in the cho­rus line at the Palo­mar be­fore she moved to Hol­ly­wood, changed her name to Yvonne De Carlo and be­came Van­cou­ver’s first movie star.

Singer even­tu­ally sold the club to De San­tis, who later sold it to Joe Philliponi of the Pent­house. It was torn down in the late 1950s for a high­rise. Singer also owned the State Theatre on Hast­ings ( which was built as the Pan­tages). In 1946, he was sen­tenced to three months in jail for putting on a bur­lesque show there. He left Van­cou­ver in the 1950s for Al­berta, where he be­came a prop­erty de­vel­oper with his brother, Jack.

The Palo­mar Ball­room’s open­ing- night en­ter­tain­ment bill fea­tured Sandy De San­tis and his ‘ Sen­sa­tional 14- piece Palo­mar Orches­tra.’

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