The Catholic Worker Movement

Woman With Knife Chases Dance Hall Girl Through Streets After Cafe Clash

By Dorothy Day

The New Orleans Item Friday; February 8, 1924 (Pp. 1, 5)

“You can’t think what happened to me last night!”

This is the preface to many an amazing tale told in the dressing rooms of the Arcadia, Danceland or the Roseland free dance halls in which the writer was working for a week. Every night before the dancing begins, the girls who are employed in these halls sit around in the dressing rooms and chatter, and this chatter is most illuminating to the listener.

The speaker this time was a young woman whom the girls called Jimmie—a black-haired, black-eyed young woman who is so popular with the men who hang around the dance halls that she is correspondingly unpopular with the girls who are employed there to dance.

Has 2-Year-Old Baby

This youngster, who confesses to a brief married life of six months during her fifteenth year, and who has a two-year-old baby, and who is now nineteen years old, was formerly dancing at the Danceland, a rival hall to the other two. Upon meeting the manager of the Arcadia a Mr. Baring, she said that she was guaranteed five dollars a night by him, if she would change her place of employment. The generous manager stands to lose little by this however, for during all the nights the writer was dancing at the Arcadia and the Roseland, Jimmie had every dance, averaging more than the hundred a night which would bring her income up to five dollars.

“You see I got a steady bunch of customers,” she explained her success. “These fellahs come in every night and dance about ten dances each with me and they wouldn’t ever think of dancing with any other girl. When there are only ten of them this brings my dances up to [a] hundred, but usually there are more.

Scads of Dates

“Did you see that little one what was dancing with me? My Gawd, the way he dances. When he got through doing his stuff, every guy on the floor was rushing to dance with me.”

And dates! Every night Jimmie has scads of them. She accepts them all, and not keeping an engagement book, gets all mixed up, and every night there are near battles as to who will have the privilege of taking her out. It’s on these dates that things happen.

“What didn’t happen to me last night!” she chortled. “I went out with that big handsome fellah—his name is Oil”—she probably meant Earl—“and went cabareting. I can’t think of all the places we went to, because I’m getting a habit of drawing a blank when I’m drinking. And I never could stand that apricot brandy, and Oil always has a bottle of that in his pocket. Now Sallie here gets a crying jag on. Three drinks and she just opens her mouth and howls. She was on a wailing jag last night, and down on the corner of Iberville and Royal, she just doubled her legs up underneath her and refused to move another inch, and we couldn’t get a cab to save our lives. So we hailed a big truck, and piled her into it, and then we rode down to Canal street where we found a taxi.

Chased By Woman With Knife

“But anyway, what I started to tell you was this: I must have had a lucid moment or so, or I couldn’t remember it. Anyway, we were all going into some dump on Royal street, where they have the rottenest orchestra I ever heard. We only go there when it’s getting late and the liquor is running low, because they sell drinks there. It’s a regular dive where sailors and loose women hang around and I always forget myself and josh the sailors and make the guy I’m with sore. Gee, last night, I was so far gone that every time one of them would look at me I’d yell.

“And then when I was dancing I bumped into one of the dames and I said, ‘Get outa my way, you rough neck,’ and she said, ‘Who’s a rough neck, you little __________,’ and came after me. And Gawd, she had a knife strung around her neck on a string, and she started chasing me. Did I run? I’ll say I run. I forgot my hat and coat and guy and Sallie here and just beat it out the door and down the street with her after me. And after her came a couple of guys and I didn’t know whether they were trying to protect me or whether they were her friends. So I just kept on running. Sallie and the two guys we was with didn’t catch up to me until the next morning when they found me at home after looking for me in every cabaret in New Orleans. Some night, I’ll say, I’m offa apricot brandy for good!”

(Continued Tomorrow)