Turning Turn Verein
This summer, Turner Hall burned down. Last week, some people started to build it back up.
I dropped in on a “Rebuild Turner Hall Go Fund Me Roll-Out Party” at Western Edge Cellars, hosted by the Fredericksburg-Nimitz Rotary Club.
Feeling the commitment in the group, both from newcomers and lifelong residents, prompted me to look back at what I’ve written about the place over 10 years.
The first column was in 2006, when I had the pleasure of visiting with Frances Hartmann, then the treasurer, at her dining room table. She was helping me understand the glory days of dance halls.
“Saturdays and Sundays were for dancing and going to church,” she said. “The whole family went, Opa and Oma, parents, and the kids. They always took the kids along. They had to — the grandparents danced too, so we had no babysitters!”
They had something better — the strains of music and the soothing shuffle of feet.
“They had benches around the sides,” Hartmann recalled. “When I got a little sleepy, we had a quilt, and I would go to sleep under those benches. I can still close my eyes and see people’s feet dancing by.”
Formally, Turner Hall is the Fredericksburg Social Turn Verein. It is one of Fredericksburg’s oldest organizations, going back to March 1871. Turn Vereins originated in Germany to promote physical fitness and citizenship. Immigrants carried the idea to Fredericksburg. The building that burned had been built in 1909. It held a nine-pin bowling alley, dance hall, domino and card room, and bar.
Hartmann noted the card room was not busy on Sundays by that time, one of the first signs of the decline in the traditional use.
“You can’t play pinochle by yourself,” she observed.
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