Music Box memories
For more than 50 years, Houghton Lake resident Rev. Dr. Nancy French has been holding on to a piece of her teenage years. Since the late 1950s French has kept keepsakes from the many years she danced at the Music Box at Houghton Lake.
Some of her teenage treasures include tickets from the Music Box as well as postcards, photos and Christmas cards from Shirley and Leland “Lee” Kelly, owners of the dance hall.
French showed the Resorter 156 tickets she kept from the late 1950s to the 1960s. On several of the tickets, French had written words like “blast,” “swingin” or “fun, fun” to describe the time she had that night. She also wrote the date on each ticket to help her remember details of the night.
Each night the Music Box was open French said the person taking the tickets at the door would put a stamp on each patron’s hand. French would then blot that stamp on her ticket. Some of the images French transferred from her hand to the tickets were pictures of candlestick telephones or insurance company logos.
She said when she was going to the Music Box she never had plans of keeping all of her tickets.
French said when she was a teenager “everybody went there” and for whatever reason she held on to the tickets.
In addition to the tickets, French has two postcards of the Music Box from the late and early 1960s that depicts the building before and after is went through a renovation.
She also has what she thinks to be one of the only photos of Music Box owners, Shirley and Leland “Lee” Kelly together at a wedding in the 1960s. French also held onto Christmas cards featuring the Kelly’s St. Bernard the “Big Bopper” as well as several memories about the Music Box.
She said she remembers Shirley Kelly having three record players and as soon as one song would end another would begin right away.
French added the non-stop music was what drew people from near and far to the Music Box. She recalls a Saturday night over Labor Day weekend between 1963 and 1966 when the Music Box was packed. She said the people there were “shoulder to shoulder” and remembers there not being a lot of room to move.
Then in 2008 when there was a reunion, Lee told French that night there were 5,005 people in attendance. She said she knew the “Box” was packed that night and that it showed just how popular the Music Box was.
French also recalls going to the Music Box over Tip-up Town weekends and having a great time after spending time at the outdoor TUT events.
French called the Music Box a “safe and warm” place and said although the music played at the hall was primarily rock and roll, the Kellys took pride in making sure there was strict rules on dress and behavior.
“Nothing above the knee, nothing that was revealing,” French said of the dress code.
She added the patrons had to be respectful at all times as the owners would not allow out of line behavior. She said at times parents would confront their children about hearing stories of kids being drunk at the Music Box. French said stories like that were not true and would never happen because Shirley and Lee Kelly were committed to keeping a clean environment.
French also remembers each night the Music Box would play the same four songs to close out the night. The last song was always “Little Music Box” which French played for the Resorter.
French said looking at the tickets and reading the dates and listening to the music is “nostalgic” for her. She added having the items and being able to read what she wrote on the tickets at times takes her back to those times. She added she doesn’t plan on getting rid of the tickets any time soon.