Vice Squad At Armory Dance

by Laurel | November 20th, 2011

20 November 1921

Howard Street, Springfield.  Armory is on the right, left is the YWCA.

Howard Street, Springfield. Armory is on the right, left is the YWCA.

Officers Apprehend Three Holyoke Girls Who Had Been Ordered to Keep Away

Officers of the Springfield vice squad “looked in” on the dance at the Howard Street armory in Springfield last night. They came late, in fact the strains of the last waltz had ceased when they entered. But they were early enough to apprehend three young women of questionable character, who, they say, were warned a week ago to keep away from the armory dances. No arrests were made but more because the officers preferred to give them another chance, than because they were not subject to arrest.

The appearance of the vice squad was the only untoward incident which occurred at the armory last night. Decorum was the watchword and about 800 young men and women appeared to be enjoying themselves. Three police officers supplied the impetus for part of the good behavior, it is claimed, and while some couples were noted dancing rather close together, it was no more than can be seen any night, in any dance hall in the city.

Stirred by Criticism

Reports a week ago anent alleged conditions at the Howard Street Armory during Saturday night dances, created comment among those connected with these affairs. Vigorous denials were made that anything really out of the way had occurred there since the dances reopened on October 1. The character of persons attending the dances also was upheld. But the vice squad did not concur with the opinions of those in charge of the dances.

The Howard Street Armory, Springfield, MA

The Howard Street Armory, Springfield, MA

In commenting last night on the dances, prior to the visit by the vice officers, Col. Paul J. Norton, commander of the 101th Regiment , and supervisor of events that transpire at the armory, stated that he was doing everything possible to see that the dances are properly conducted. n a recent conference with Mayor Edwin F. Leonard, Col. Norton stated that rather than allow evil conditions to exist at the Saturday night dances, he would close the armory to such affairs. Col. Norton explained that the dances were held Saturday nights because on all other nights of the week the armory is used for military purposes.

Single Out Young Women

The visit by the vice squad was rather unexpected. During the evening the police and floor manager kept the crowd in excellent order. But the visitors were not sent to the armory to see the dance, they came to single from the crowd persons with whom they had previously come in to contact. Officers John D. Clifford, Ralph J. Carleton and Thomas F. French comprised the party. After looking around in the corridors for young women who had been ordered to keep away from the armory, Officer Clifford entered the dance hall proper, and found the subjects of his search.

According to the officer the three girls, after having a recent dance at the armory, were found in unusual circumstances. They live in Holyoke and told the police that they had missed the last car to that city. They were not arrested but were told to steer clear of the armory. Last night they again said they had missed that last car. Again, so far as could be learned, the police gave them a chance.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican. By the way, there is a nice Flickr set showing the current condition of the Howard Street Armory — Preservation Massachusetts has this building listed among the Most Endangered Historic Resources.

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