Updated: Apr 8, 2021
THE LEGENDARY PALM GROVE BALLROOM: Exciting, expensive, far, my personal adjectives for the Latin dancehall the Palm Grove Ballroom...a venue enjoyed in 1950s, 60s and 70s by generations of primarily Chicanos and Mexicanos. Mid-1960 memories guided my depiction on a life-size canvas I first shared in 1992 at another Sacramento favorite, Luna's Café.
For a teen living in Roseville, California, nearly 20 miles from the ballroom, it was a weekly task conjuring up how my girlfriends and I could get to Saturday's dance...the Greyhound, our friend's boyfriend, my dad. Later when I could drive, I'd have a chattering carful. Through high school, through college, heading into middle age, the ballroom beckoned.
Palm Grove Ballroom opened in the 1940s as the Terrific Trianon Ballroom. It was an expansive dance hall located above the Fox Theater on K Street. Its entertainers included such music greats as Count Basie and Harry James. It evolved as a Latin dance hall, the Palm Grove Ballroom, in the late 1950s. The premiere dance under the ownership of the Duran family took place on May 31, 1961 with a special appearance by "El Rey de la Música Ranchera" Vicente Fernandez.
In 1965, Sacramento’s K Street is not yet a mall. This is Sacramento’s cruising and entertainment strip! During this Vietnam War era, young men in uniform on leave seek a good time downtown. Women’s French twists and cascade curl hairdos are stylish. Three-piece men’s suits and Pendleton shirts are cool. Both teens and adults enjoy the evening's magic under that hypnotic mirrored globe. Mrs. Duran keeps a watchful eye on teens with her ever-present flashlight. Alcohol is being served at the bar and on a raised platform at tables for adults only. That flight-and-a-half of stairs sees many ticket buyers, and at the dance’s conclusion at least one stumbling patron will descend those stairs.
Frank Duran operated the Palm Grove Ballroom for nearly 20 years and showcased such entertainers as Perez Prado, Los Bookies, Ray Camacho and the Teardrops, Los Solitarios and Los Humildes. And popular local bands such as the “Unknowns” were featured. The Palm Grove’s most popular dance occurred annually on New Year’s Eve. The dance started at 6 p.m. and ended at 4 a.m. New Year's Day with a venue of three or more bands!
Together, the promoters, performers, and community made the Palm Grove Ballroom a Sacramento legend.
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