Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tretheway Pavilion...quite a history!

The Pavilion has always been a popular gathering site for weddings, dances, auctions, and other community events.”

So reads the City of Spearfish description of the Wilbur S. Tretheway Pavilion, located in the main city park in Spearfish, South Dakota. And while that short sentence suggests the array of social events that have taken place in the park building, there is much more to the story.

And it’s a story that will unfold Tuesday evening, January 5, 2010, when writer Paul Higbee presents a fresh perspective of the historic Tretheway Pavilion for the January program of the Spearfish Area Historical Society. His presentation begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Senior Citizens Center at 1306 Tenth Street in Spearfish.

Last year, the pavilion – named for one-time Mayor Wilbur Tretheway – was named to the South Dakota Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.

Built in the early 20th century, the pavilion was the site for big band dances, roller skating, boxing, scouting activities, weddings, bingo, and a wide variety of school functions.

“Lots of people know about the big dances that drew thousands of young people to Spearfish in the early 1960s,” says Higbee, “but not everyone knows how major the performers were: the Everly Brothers, the Crickets, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Ronettes, Seals and Croft, Chubby Checker, and before they went country-western, Conway Twitty and Waylon Jennings.”

By the 1980s, the pavilion was nearly torn down, but Mayor Wilbur Tretheway led a successful campaign to refurbish it. According to Higbee, Tretheway had been a big band era musician who had played there.

“I always thought that was an interesting twist,” says Higbee, who says he hopes his January presentation will help people understand just how central the pavilion has been in the life of the community for some 90 years.

A Spearfish writer whose work frequently appears in South Dakota Magazine, Higbee has written for several national magazines, too. In 2000, he published a book about Spearfish history, which he says spurred his interest in researching the pavilion. Most recently, Higbee teamed up with photographer Les Voorhis in publishing “Bear Butte – Sentinel of the Plains,” just released this month.