The Dance Halls of Bokoshe

By: 
Terry Jo Wiles
PDN Columnist

Ya know, there’s three kinds of music round here - front porch family bands, church bands and honky tonk/dance bands! LeFlore Co. has produced many outstanding musicians and a whole bunch like me that have played an instrument only a li’l bit more than they did a fishing rod or a spoon and fork! But this leans a bit more to the honky tonk side of life! Bokoshe, a town of legends, will be the focus. In the North part of the County, Coal was a huge part of the story. Miners worked hard at dangerous work and they played even harder on Saturday nights! Kinda rough and tumble place with a lotta colorful stories!
When I was growing up, BOTH my grandmas warned me ‘bout Bokoshe. Telling me not to ever go to the dances. The only thing that saved me was that the changing times scattered the “entertainment” to county-wide locations! Sunset Corner, Talihina, Wister, Heavener and Monroe to name a few. But I never danced or played in Bokoshe!
But to get info I spent the afternoon with a young man, Ray Evans, Bokoshe native, who had lived thru those days. Ray is a very young 92 with a memory that I envy! We talked bout dances, mining, traveling the world during WWII in France and the Philippines, (Thank you, Sir, for your service), gardening and canning and sharing his faith and concerned bout mine! Thanks for the encouragement, I needed it right now!
So, this will have to have two parts! Beginning with a li’l info bout the town of the day. Bokoshe was a Choctaw town, translated it means  “Little Creek”, in the late 1800’s. Coal had been discovered and the first mine employed 10 miners. It soon turned into a boom town and Ft. Smith and Western RR built a track just for the coal soon followed by Midland Valley RR! The center of town grew up at the crossing of the two and is the place of a disaster that I heard from ten miles away when I was young. The head-on collision of Midland Valley Westbound #41 and Eastbound #42.
But coal was King and in the 30s, there were 900 or so residents, mostly coal miners! They worked shaft mines with long hours and dangerous conditions, but top pay for the day. My Grandpa Wiles worked as a miner for years, walked over Bokoshe Mt. six miles or so to work, and passed away suffering from Black Lung disease! Tough way to feed a family! So, ya work hard, ya play hard! Most miners were single, some family men and the town reflected that. 
Looking at an old pic of S. Main St., there was a Mercantile store, a Cafe with beer joint in the back, a movie theatre, grocery store, pool hall and S&S Gas Station at the end. Post office was built in 1886 before statehood. There was a church or two and a small school. A doctor in town to handle delivering babies and patch up miners, as well gunshots and stab wounds! 
So when the work was done for the week, a few things were in place to have fun. Ray said pool was his thing and he was the “house stick”…(Note to self, don’t play pool for money with Ray). BUT the main thing was the dances! The VA hall was a place that drew a big crowd from as far as Fort Chaffee! Street dances were well attended on Saturday night!
I am still gathering info for the second installment, names of musicians, joints and owners and some of the more colorful characters from that era. If anyone can help me, I would appreciate it! I love to see and hear stories of how music developed and the pioneers of live music in LeFlore County. AND there wouldn’t be live music without the dedicated and very colorful fans and dancers!
So, live music this week! It starts with the Open Mic out at the DAV in Poteau. Music starts at 6 p.m. Take a guitar and a friend!!
This Friday is also the Abbott Memorial Open Mic Jam! 305 S McKenna is the location at the Poteau Activity Center. Dave Abbott invites pickers and singers to sign up and set in. Good Country and Gospel music, and a pot luck meal, too. So bring a song AND some banana pudding. Music starts at 6 p.m. Get there early so as not to miss a meal or a song!
Just down the road at 112 S. McKenna, The Poteau Artist Co-op will help with a fundraiser for the Corbin Family. Amanda is a skilled photographer and news editor for the Heavener Ledger. Her father, Bobby, recently passed. To help, like other friends have, with final expenses, a portion of the money raised at First Friday Live Music will go directly to the Corbin Family!
The music will be top notch with The Road Less Traveled opening for MJ and the Geezers. RLT starts at 5:30 and Geezers at 7 p.m. Stop by and donate, plus hear some of the best live music around! 
The Danny Richmond Band will be at Gilley’s - Choctaw Casino Pocola, Friday from 9-11:30 pm. Great outlaw country! 
Josh Snyder will play at the Coffee Cup on Saturday, Feb. 8. Music starts ‘bout 6:30! Great place for food, drinks and live music! 
So get out and support live music  It is a joy to do these interviews and gather info for the article. I know I drive folks crazy getting times and dates at the last minute. Thanks to all but I have made this deadline, just barely! If ya enjoy it, lett’em know at the paper. Subscribe to Poteau Daily News for the best reporting of our area! 
If ya have a live music event or fundraiser in our area, please let me know! I can’t read your minds, folks! But ya can read the Tuesday edition of the Poteau Daily News and find out what is happening! Please send me info on music in the area on my Facebook page, or text 918-649-5736 or email tj.wiles61@gmail.com.

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