February 24 and March 8, 1999
Maxine Brooks was born around 1912. In 1923, when she was about 11, Maxine started taking ballet lessons at the Hotel Elberton [now McMenamins Hotel Oregon] in McMinnville. She continued the lessons for about four years. The teacher was Miss Ireland, who came down from Portland.
Maxine doesn't remember wearing a tutu for her ballet lessons with Miss Ireland, but she's certain she wore a leotard and slippers. Maxine and 7 or 8 other little girls practiced their ballet moves in a large room on the hotel's first floor. The room had a handrail around the walls. Maxine remembers the Elberton as being elegant. She had the chance to go stand on the second-floor balcony overlooking Third Street, an experience that thrilled her.
Maxine was spellbound by Miss Ireland. "A darling woman," is how Maxine remembers her. She was petite and possessed of a seemingly endless supply of patience (an important trait for teaching small girls disciplined dance moves). Miss Ireland, then in her 30s, had short, dark hair with bangs and a vivacious personality. The ballet teacher seemed to young Maxine to be aristocratic and elegant. "She just sparkled."
At the close of the conversation, the 86-year-old Maxine was inspired by the memories of her ballet lessons of 75 years earlier to see what moves she still remembered: "I'm gonna try... see if I can still do the first position."