By Don McAlavy
You will not find information about “The Jungleland,” which was a popular amusement place in Clovis, in any of our history books. Most of what we know is from the late Gordon Fitzhugh, who graduated from Clovis High School in 1928.
Sometime in the late 1920s, Fitzhugh joined high school music professor Verdi Croft’s “dance combo” orchestra. This is what he said about Jungleland in the late 1920s and 1930s:
“We played up in Armand Mandell’s “hall” above his clothing store at 320 Main, and played at the Jungleland at the southwest corner of Second and Axtell. Hal Bryant and his first wife ran the dance hall there.”
The Jungleland was first a wrestling arena about 1924, then a swimming pool built around 1926-27. On March 4, 1932, the Clovis News announced the swimming pool would be “re-opened at the dance palace (The Jungleland) during the summer months.” In the winter the owners boarded it over and had a roller-skating rink. Then Hal Bryant, a railroad engineer, enclosed the skating rink and a lot of the young people of Clovis danced there. Many orchestras came from out of town to play at the Jungleland, such as Gus Lump’s Orchestra from Roswell.
“We placed for dances at the Elks Lodge at Sixth and Mitchell and it was clean fun,” Fitzhugh said. “Course there was dancing at Charlie Smith’s Legion Cafe and Dance Hall at 116 Main, but our band didn’t play at that dance hall … because it got a little wild down there.”
Charlie Smith was later to build the original La Vista Restaurant on the highway going to Texico in 1940-41.
“Our music,” Fitzhugh said, “was strictly jazz and swing. Western music was frowned upon and hadn’t come into its own yet. When the Hotel Clovis was built in 1931 and I formed the Gordon Fitzhugh and the Hotel Clovis Orchestra, The Jungleland was not good enough for us. Like the Legion Cafe and Dance Hall, the dances at the Jungleland got a little too wild.”
In the beginning, the dances at The Jungleland were popular and well attended by high-class Clovis couples. Leon Gray’s Dance Orchestra played there about 1932.
Leon was the son of Clovis High School Band Director, L. W. Gray.
Charley Young first played there in 1935 with The Jungleland house band.
The Jungleland was not a liquor-drinking place, or so it was said, but after about 1937 many party-goers had a bottle in their cars and made frequent visits to those cars. (Sort of on the order of drinking at the Old Midway Dance Hall between Clovis and Portales.)
On Jan. 13, 1934, new owners W.C. Boyce and May Hart announced the opening again of a roller rink at The Jungleland. This was good clean fun, too.
On Nov. 11, 1938, The Jungleland, now operated by G. C. Pribolth, had its license to operate revoked by the city of Clovis because 13 witnesses, living in this residential neighborhood, called The Jungleland a nuisance.
The action to shut down The Jungleland was spurred by the Clovis Federated Missionary Society, headed by Mrs. Vernon G. Sullivan, whose husband was one of the popular professional photographers in this area.
Sullivan called for an investigation of the dance hall, and she pleaded for the removal of what she termed a moral menace.
Wesley Quinn was the lawyer for Jungleland and Otto Smith represented the city. After an investigation conducted by the Clovis police department, the city would not renew The Jungleland’s license to operate and it never opened again.
Nobody today can recall how The Jungleland got its catchy name.
Much later the Salvation Army made its headquarters at this site.
Don McAlavy is a history buff who lives in Clovis.