When you approach the door of the old building, the first thing you see is a replica of the Texas flag. Once inside it is apparent that this place is indeed uniquely "Texas," and some folks might wish that the walls could talk and describe the years of dancing, music, laughter and just plain old good times that have taken place at Mustang Hall.
According to owner Jim Lancaster the hall, which is located about eight miles southwest of Hallettsville on U.S. Highway 77A, was built sometime in the early 1950s by Emil Slovacek, and Lancaster purchased it from Slovacek in February 1981.
"The way I heard it," Lancaster said, "when they brought the highway through here it cut off this four and a half acres from Emil's farm and he decided to build this hall on that land." Back in those days it was known as Slovacek's Ballroom.
Lancaster, 63, said that he decided to leave the Hill Country, near Lampasas, where he had been in the farming and ranching business to move to Lavaca County where his wife had family. He had always wanted to get into the entertainment business; so when he got the opportunity to purchase Slovacek's hall, he took it.
Lancaster and his wife later divorced, and she actually had the place for about a year or so. His son also ran the dancehall for a while. But after some business dealings, he got it back and has run the place ever since.
"Mustang Hall has operated under the Lancaster name for the past 25 years," he said.
The days of privately-owned dancehalls have diminished somewhat, according to Lancaster, and have been replaced by those owned by corporations.
"We consider Mustang Hall to be the third-oldest dancehall in Texas that is privately owned," he said. It is apparent that the old hall is a real landmark in this part of the state and has been for more than 50 years.
The George Machart Orchestra was the first to perform at the hall under Lancaster's tenure. After that he continued to seek more bands to play at the hall. He made a trip over to Shiner and asked Joe Patek to play at Mustang.
"I went to see him at his grocery store in Shiner, and he thought I was just another salesman," recalls Lancaster. "I asked him what it would take for him to play for me and he said that he usually got $300 to play, but he would do it for me for $275. He drew a good crowd here until he retired."
Lancaster said that Joe's brother, Charlie Patek, played his last dance at Mustang Hall.
Over the years many other bands have played in the old dancehall including Tim Hall, The Red Ravens, Texas Dream, Whiskey River, Chris Rybak, The Wence Shimek Orchestra and Leroy Rybak. There have been many more. Lancaster said that he likes to hire local bands when he can.
"Our biggest dance was in 1996 when Johnny Rodriguez played here," he said. "We filled the place up that night." Hank Thompson has also performed at Mustang Hall.
Many folks in this part of Texas are familiar with the old dancehall. "People come here from Columbus, Victoria, Cuero, Gonzales and Yorktown," Lancaster said. "We draw from a large area, probably five or six counties."
Mustang Hall has the best concrete dance floor in South Texas, according to Lancaster. "I had a lady here several Saturday nights ago that thanked me for the condition of the floor."
He said that people come here especially to dance and the floor has to be in good shape. After he put air conditioning in the place, it helped the floor a lot. Concrete tends to sweat in high humidity, and the air conditioning solved that problem. Lancaster uses a floor wax to keep the surface smooth and perfect for dancing.
"You have to apply just the right amount on the floor," he said. "I am in charge of that."
Lancaster says that Mustang Hall is a place where the older crowd, 40 and up, can dance and have a good time. He wants to keep the hall family oriented where "a grandma can bring her granddaughter and teach her to dance." He said that they do not charge children under the age of 14 to enter the hall, but they must be accompanied and supervised by a family member or legal guardian.
Over the years, Mustang Hall has sort of played cupid to a number of folks. "We've matched many a couple here," Lancaster said. "If they all showed up at one time we wouldn't have enough chairs to seat them."
Several folks help with the Saturday night dances. Lynette Hessler tends the bar and greets the customers. "She has been with me over two years," said Lancaster. "I can count on her to be here and do a good job. On those rare occasions that she is not here, many of the customers ask about her and want to know if she is okay."
Lupe and Mary Barrera also help out at the dances. "They help clean the hall and sort of pinch-hit for Lynette and me when we need a break," he said.
Mustang Hall has been an important part of Lancaster's life for the past 25 years and he has enjoyed it. "It has been quite an experience running this place," he said, "been a lot of fun and got the bills paid. It has been quite a ride." He says that at some point he will retire but he is not sure when.
Lancaster cooks a pot of his famous red beans every Saturday night along with some Janak's Sausage. You can get a bowl of beans, with free refills, for a dollar. A sausage wrap will cost you a dollar and a half. Mustang Hall opens its doors to customers at 7 p.m., the music starts at 8:30 p.m. and goes until midnight with one intermission. The hall is also available for private parties. For more information call 772-6256.