Beachcombers: Local Square Dance Club Still Going Strong
Started in 1953 by a group of couples longing for a new and exciting social activity, the Beachcombers are still dancing each month at the Beachcombers Cove on Nicholson Drive north of Port Orford. In 1953 Port Orford was quite remote compared to other areas and with the new plywood mill starting and logging and housing in full swing, the choices for young families and couples was limited. Square dancing was enjoying surging popularity nation wide and the south coast was no exception. Coos Bay, Coquille, Gold Beach and Brookings all had dance clubs starting about the same time.
In the late 50s a local businesswoman named Susie Nicholson was so impressed with the club’s efforts to include local teenagers and give them a healthy activity she donated a parcel of land on which the club would soon build the hall where they still dance today. This building ended a period of moving from location to location for their dances. Lessons began at the elementary school, dances were held at the American Legion Hall then at the Sixes Grange building and the Old Sixes School House on Sixes River Road. Finally the Beachcombers had found a home.
As the club members began the building process they sold capital investment certificates to members and interested townspeople for $25.00 each to raise the funds needed to supplement the volunteer labor and a lot of donated material from local businesses eager to help the hard working club. Several of the dancers worked at Western States Plywood Mill and had access to materials there. Harvey Meyers designed the ceiling/roof truss system and the unique floor. He even invented an apparatus to hold the strips of plywood while they were being glued together to form the outstanding 4 X 4 foot squares of flooring. The building was completed in the fall of 1958 and the first dance was held in January of 1959. The certificates were paid back as funds became available, with the last one being retired in 1981. Early in the 60s, Martha Dunn of Coquille painted giant murals inside the wooden window covers on the East and West walls of the building depicting Battle Rock Beach and Nellie’s Cove.
Well known all over the state for having one of the best dance floors and fantastic acoustics, the Beachcombers Cove is a popular stop for many dancers who travel to the Beachcombers’ two big weekend dances each year. Labor Day Weekend the club’s Battle Rock Dance featuring a smokey beef barbeque, three nights of dancing, a casual dance in the surf at Battle Rock, a fundraiser pancake breakfast and lots of visiting and sightseeing. The clubs’ “Birthday” is celebrated with a similar festival around July 4th each year.
Dancers have come and gone over the years but a list of charter members and the first known group photo hangs proudly in the Cove. Since 1959 callers and round dance cuers who have lead the dancers through their paces have signed small plywood life preservers which ring the dance floor. A place where history and Modern Square and round dancing come together, it doesn’t get any better than the Beachcombers Cove.