Lovers revive Valentine's tradition

Margaret and Graham Shelley recall fond memories of dances in the Freestone Hall, which was established in the early 1900s.
Margaret and Graham Shelley recall fond memories of dances in the Freestone Hall, which was established in the early 1900s. Jayden Brown

AS YOUNG couples fuss over flowers and chocolate, Graham and Margaret Shelley are looking forward to celebrating Valentines Day the old fashioned way.

They may not be as hip and nimble as once upon a time, but after 57 years of marriage Mr and Mrs Shelley are looking forward to bringing romance back to the old hall where their courting took place.

This Saturday, Freestone Hall will be brimming with love once again, as people gather to revive a tradition that residents recall with fondness.

Former Freestone Hall Committee president and fourth generation Freestone resident Mr Shelley remembers dances in the old hall as the highlight of his youth, dating back to the days before there was even electricity to light the place up.

"They were the greatest nights out you could ever have," Mr Shelley said.

"Before we even had power in the hall we would have dances with gas lights and you would boil the billy for tea outside on the camp fire."

Mr Shelley recalls long nights swaying along to old time dances and waltzing competitions in the Freestone Hall, and the amazing musical talents that would set the soundtrack for the festivities.

"You couldn't get on the dance floor it would be so full!"

And of course there was always a feast fit for a king.

"People of today don't realise what wonderful entertainment us old people had to our disposal. You could go to your dance and have your supper, with ham sandwiches, cream cakes, tarts... as much you could eat," Mr Shelley said.

In fact, Mr Shelley first met his wife of 57 years on a blind date at a 'movie dance' at St Mary's Hall in Warwick.

"A cousin of Graham's arranged for us to be partners at the movie ball we all went to in Warwick, and it was a blind date because I had never met him before," Mrs Shelley said.

"Move balls were a great tradition where you got a group of men and women together and went dressed up as a movie character.

"One year we went as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, another year we went as South Pacific."

Mr Shelley said couples these could take a lesson in love from the old books.

"People just loved to get out and had a dance and have body contact with someone," he said.

"Not like today where your partner is over five yards away and you're there stomping your feet, that's not dancing! Dancing is holding a girl in your arms."

Mr and Mrs Shelley will be the first through the doors at 6:30pm when the Freestone Hall opens up to revive the old tradition on Saturday February 17 with a Valentine's Day Dance.

"We might only be wall flowers but we will be there," Mr Shelley said.

"I'm glad to see dances coming back to the hall, it's just a pity the young people wouldn't come out and experience what it was like to have that sort of a dance rather than go to the hotel or the floor shows.

"I hope they will all come along."

Tickets are $15 at the door and all funds will go towards the upkeep of the Freestone Hall and installing an accessible toilet in the hall.

Musical entertainment will be provided by Diane Mead and DJ Vince and the dance floor will be a hive of activity from fox trot to quick step.

Topics:  freestone freestone hall love old love southern downs valentine's day valentine's day dance warwick

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