Almost all of the entertainment was “home grown” in Lafayette’s younger days. Baseball teams fought in fierce rivalry, dancing was possibly the most popular pastime, while community holiday celebrations and church and school functions were important in the social life of the farming village.
A turn-of-the-century ball team proudly posed in their uniforms. Not every event met with the same success as the local sports scene. A Lafayette wife wrote to her husband on January 29, 1880: “The Literary Society was to have commenced last Saturday evening, but owing to the storm but few went and they did not open the school house.”
A tradition that lasted through the 1930’s and early ’40s, and which has recently been revived as part of Lafayette’s Horse and Carriage Days, is the annual local horse show. The early arena was on the Hamlin Ranch near the intersection of St. Mary’s Road and Solana Drive. Here members of the Lafayette Horsemen’s Association staged some of the major horse shows in the county. Since housing developments have engulfed the old arena, the group has held its yearly event at Briones Park.
Fancy dress and dignified attire were the order of the day when Lafayette oldtimers went dancing. This photo taken in 1903 shows a group of young people at a dancing party in Thistle Hall, located in Happy Valley.
Venerable old Town Hall, today a home for the Dramateurs, has been serving as a social and entertainment hall since it was built in 1914. In its earliest days it was the scene of many dances – affairs that were so popular crowds drove out from Berkeley and Oakland or rode the Sacramento-Northern special train which returned in the early morning hours.
Land for the hall plus $200 towards expenses were donated by Frank and Rose Ghiglione, while construction of the building was financed by citizens who held dinners and dances to raise funds. The effort was spearheaded by the Lafayette Improvement Club which was organized in 1913 for the initial purpose of erecting the community hall. The brown-shingled landmark was equipped with a special spring floor which one early resident described as “a joy to dance on.” In later years the building, shown here with a couple of visitors from Oakland shortly after its opening in 1914, served as the library and in many other capacities, including a church and a nursery school. Since 1958 the Dramateurs have leased the building which has been renovated to meet modern building codes.