119 years of partyin' and still going strong
Aug. 22, 2009 at 3:22 a.m.
By day, it's just another old country building this side of nowhere. Come Saturday night, however, the place is transformed.
The thumping beats of the live band pound against the wall. The bright lights inside creep out into the night like a beacon for all the cowboys in hats, scantily clad young girls and two-steppin' elderly couples who have traveled miles to get here.
The beer is flowing, the shots are downed and the dance floor is a blur of movement, laughter and singing.
This is Schroeder Dance Hall. Believed to be the second oldest dance hall in the state, it was built in 1890 on the outskirts of Goliad in Schroeder and since then has been attracting acts from Willie Nelson to Asleep at the Wheel.
The heart and soul of Schroeder Dance Hall comes from its owners Jack and Sharon Kleinecke. They love this place and it shows. After purchasing it in 2000, they undertook some major renovations to the place, bringing it up to code with the new century.
"It was a labor of love. When we first started the process, the contractor told us he was amazed that the place hadn't fallen down already," Jack said.
After raising the ceiling and the stage and completely redoing the small saloon beside the larger hall, among many other improvements, Schroeder has been bringing in revelers from Victoria and the surrounding counties, as well as from larger cities like San Antonio, regularly.
On more than one occasion, people have been turned away at the door simply because there was no more room in the spacious hall, Sharon said.
With big shows at least once a month on Saturdays and smaller, acoustic sets by bands in the newly renovated saloon and courtyard on Friday nights, Schroeder is, and has always been, about the music.
Roy Clark's first professional gig was here. George Jones has graced the stage, as well as the Bellamy Brothers, Ray Price, the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Marshall Tucker Band. The Randy Rogers Band always does their Christmas show and not only has Cross Canadian Ragweed performed here, but they are also regular guests at the Kleinecke's Thanksgiving dinner.
Schroeder is also about the people. Talk to anyone in the place on any given night and they have a story to tell.
Milton Dietzel has been coming to this place for darn near 70 years. As a child, he used to pick up beer bottles on the lawn at 5 cents a pop to make some money. Now, about to turn 80, he and his wife, Ruby, come simply to dance and enjoy the music.
"If there is good music, I go to where ever it is," he said. "This place has a good environment and I love it when they have good country-Western music, or Cajun or even some good fiddling."
After practically growing up in the Swiss Alp Dance Hall near Schulenburg, Bonnie Henneae, another Schroeder regular, said she comes here because it reminds her of her childhood.
"It has that old, country feeling and reminds me when I used to dance when I was little," she said sitting with her husband, Charles. "Dance halls like these are a bit of a dying breed but coming here brings back good memories."
Places like Schroeder are indeed a dying breed. Many Texas dance halls have been torn down or destroyed from neglect or the wrath of nature. But Schroeder has thus far been spared, and as long as the building is under the watchful eyes of the Kleineckes, it will remain so.
"A hall like this was the first thing that was built any time a new community was springing up. It was the heart of the town, where everyone went and everything happened," Sharon said. "This place has so much heritage. If these walls could talk, you know? It's hard to keep it open but it's worth it. Well worth it."