I’ll bet many of you have driven through the town of Hye, Texas, and not even realized you were passing by a 100-year-old dance hall. I know I’ve made that journey between Stonewall and Johnson City countless times, and only had eyes for the old Post Office perched on the southeast corner of the town’s lone intersection.
But while I was doing research on preserving Texas dance halls several years ago, I came across a mention of the Hye Dance Hall. Sure enough, when you looked directly across US 290, you could just make out a classic old hall, overgrown by shrubs and hidden by old cars.
Drive by today and you will see a phoenix that has arisen from the “almost ashes,” thanks to the work of Oliver Deike. Although he gives credit to his wife, Mary Alice.
“The reason we started getting it repaired and fixed up was because of my wife,” Deike admitted. “She said with all of that trash, shrubs and leaves, if anything catches fire, it’s going to burn up.”
So Deike “got the fever.” He contacted the contractor who built his house and they started on the dance hall.
After extensive exterior cleanup and interior cleanout, they were able to assess the building. They found it in remarkably good condition for its age, which is uncertain.
Deike has heard stories of different dates of construction, either 1906 or 1916. But he did know that it hosted its last dance in the early 1950s. After that, it served as an antique store, and later a storage shed for old equipment.
Still, the structure seemed solid. The original tin roof was sound. They only needed to replace a few rusted sheets at the front that had buckled from trucks backing up to it.
The major issues were that the floor was 16 inches off level and drainage. To fix drainage, they dug a trench along the front and added a low rock wall to divert water.
The oak floor beams were still solid, but multiple piers were replaced. While the original dance floor was also oak, Deike laid a new floor of hard pine over that.
Plumbing was nonexistent. Hey, this was the era when the men’s restroom was a field and a fence out back!
Work on bringing the hall back into service went surprisingly quickly. They started in January and already have planned the first event for June. Deike said the intent is to hold dances on a regular basis.
Ironically Deike, who still enjoys dancing (“we go to Albert at least twice a month”) never danced in Hye Hall.
“I wasn’t old enough,” he explained. “The only thing I remember is running like hell and sliding during band breaks. You couldn’t dance as a kid, because people took dancing seriously. Kids had pallets under the benches.”
The project is very personal for Oliver Deike.
“Everyone here in Hye was a Deike,” he said. “I think there were 28 Deikes in Hye then. Now there are two.”
So what does he think about the sudden “hipness” of Hye, as it becomes a mecca for city dwellers looking to claim their own piece of the Hill Country? Deike notes there are now more than a dozen wineries, distilleries, and restaurants within a four-mile radius of town.
“The only thing I can tell you for sure is I don’t want it to be stagnant,” he said. “You can go up, or you can go down, but don’t be stagnant.”
The good news is that thanks to Oliver and Mary Alice Deike, Texas now boasts one more active dance hall.
“Restoring the dance hall is my gift to the community,” he said. “I want to try to make it as accessible as possible for the people of Hye.
Phil Houseal is a writer and owner of Full House PR, FullHousePR.com.
Contact him at phil fullhouseproductions.net.