Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom - Act I: Introduction

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1899 - 1999

The Past Becomes the Future

Ask any 100 year old person what the secret to a long life is and they'll tell you to have fun, don't look back, keep your eyes on the future.

That same prescription could be applied to the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, which turns 100 years old on July 15. The Casino may be in fact the most vigorous 100 year old you've ever seen. If you look inside its doors, you'll see a place that's younger than ever, more energetic than it has been in years, and is in fact busier, with about 50 shows slated for the 1999 season, at 100 years of age than it ever was at twenty-five or fifty.

It's also hanging out, in the form of the acts that will be playing during this centennial season, with a crowd that's a healthy mixture of acts who are young, fresh and brimming with new musical ideas, as well as those trusty old friends that have never let you down in the past. This kind of combination leads to a healthy, full life with a bright future ahead.

Think of this one fact alone. The Hampton Beach Casino has played host to: Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra, which had a lovely girl singer by the name of Harriet; their son Rickie Nelson, who had a long career in rock and roll; and his sons the Nelson Twins, which is a pop act that's still active. Three generations, and they've all played the Casino. Now that's changing with the times.

The impact this 1,800-seat facility has had on the Hampton Beach area itself, and the Seacoast in general, has been immense.

Glen French

"The Casino forms the center of the beach," said Glen French, president of the Hampton Beach Chamber of Commerce. "Prior to the Casino, the beach did not have a sense of definition. The construction of this entertainment complex was what really started people focusing on what was around it." Or, as current owner Fred Schaake, Sr, said: "It is the mecca where almost everybody has gone."

[Photo right: Glen French,
President of the Hampton
Beach Chamber of Commerce.
{Photograph by Ralph Morang}]

History is the right word. The Casino Ballroom has played host to those acts which we still remember and revere, and to those that reflected the briefest of popular fads and trends. If you hear the names of Sammy Kaye, Frankie Lane, Bing Crosby, Fats Domino, Roy Orbison, the Righteous Brothers, the Kingston Trio, Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Bonnie Raitt, the Village People, Jethro Tull, Sam Kinison, Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, Meat Loaf, Sinead O'Connor, and the Monkees, you hear not only the names of the people that fleetingly caught our eyes and ears, but you also realize that the Casino remains part of a vital musical tradition of excellence that has an enormous impact on American culture and taste.

John M. Holman

John M. Holman, local historian
& Lane Library Volunteer

{Photograph by Ralph Morang}

John M. Holman, local historian and Library Volunteer, who helps keep the history of the Casino alive by entering new and old information onto the internet at the Lane Memorial Library, saw his first television set there in the late 1930s [1938, during the town's 300th Anniversary Tercentenary celebration], when he was about 10 years old.

Emile Dumont, who now owns the Purple Urchin and is a collector of all things Casino, relates that one of the earliest coast to coast radio broadcasts took place at the Casino in 1929 or 1930.

To help commemorate this occasion of 100 years at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, we're going to do a little looking back, but more importantly we're going to meet the people who are currently guiding this remarkable institution today. We'll meet everyone from its owners, the Schaake family, to the people who help get the word out about what's happening, such as Cindy Burke, to the bookers and promoters who fill the ballroom with the acts we've all seen there over the years, and to some of the people who are keeping the flame of the past still burning. So, take a moment and look behind the scenes of this remarkable place.

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