Mar 4 2010

Maxine Brooks Telephone Interview

February 24 and March 8, 1999

Old Hotel ElbertonMaxine 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."

About the author: Tim is the McMenamins Historian.
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