Did You Go Dancing at “The Music Box” in Houghton Lake?
The Music Box.....or sometimes called "The Box".....was a mecca for teens and anyone under 30 years old for decades. Many of us would either make Houghton Lake our destination, or we'd stop there for the weekend before heading further north.
It's life began in 1946 right after World War II, when Lee & Shirley Kelly opened it up for local teens to have a place to hang out, dance, and have fun.
By 1948 it was officially called "The Music Box" and admission was five cents, to help pay for records to stock the jukebox and for Shirley, who was the deejay.
According to the article "The Music Box" by Clark Harder, "In the beginning things were simple: a cement slab in the wooded setting, and the jukebox in a small building. Within three years a basic sound system replaced the jukebox and the cement dance slab was enlarged".
For seven years, The Box was only open on summer weekends, but its popularity was so great, that the demands to stay open through winter were finally met in 1953.
Shirley played all the records in the deejay booth and she did an awesome job keeping up with the times. From swing and big band in the 1940's, rock 'n roll and doo-wop in the 50's, to garage bands and harder rock in the 60's. She played 'em all.
Again, from Clark Harder's article, "On weekends and especially on holidays the teens came from many miles to join in the night of dancing, often camping or sharing a rental cottage for a weekend to get in two nights of dancing".
Renovations, improvements, and additions were continuous, making The Music Box's popularity, clientele, and legend even greater. In the early 1980's Lee shut down The Box, due to Shirley's declining health. After she passed away in the 90's, Lee was coaxed to re-open the venue, which stayed open from 1999 until Labor Day weekend, 2001. Lee tried to sell the land, but realtors convinced him to tear the Box down, saying the land would sell faster. Saddened, Lee did just that, and 2004, The Music Box was gone forever.
I spent some weekends at The Box myself and it was always PACKED. The open-air dance floor was the Box's standout and being up north next to a major lake (Houghton) added to it's atmosphere.
One of The Music Box's biggest admirers - and frequent customer - is Mark Barnhart, who has a room in his basement to resemble the interior of The Music Box with some of The Box's original fixtures. Mark was kind enough to give me permission to use his photos seen below. To read about Mark's Music Box recollections, CLICK HERE.
And, make sure you check out Clark Harder's awesome article on The Music Box by clicking the links provided above, or just CLICK HERE.