JANESVILLE, Iowa --- Any night of the week is a good night for ballroom dancing.

At least, that was the case in Janesville from 1951 through the late 1980s, when the Riviera Ballroom and bowling alley was alive.

Debbie Mather-Renner, a Janesville native, has captured detailed accounts and photos of the ballroom in "Memories of the Riviera Ballroom in Janesville, IA."

The book, which encapsulates four decades of local events, was released Dec. 15. Images of couples gliding to music of the times are unveiled, as well as firemen's dances and bowling leagues. Old couples rekindle memories of young romances sparked while dancing at the ballroom.

"It's an important part of Janesville history," Mather-Renner said. "It really put us on the map."

Madge and Heine Kurtz opened the ballroom in 1951 on old U.S. Highway 218. The book unfolds accounts of several famous attendees including Louis Armstrong and Lawrence Welk.

While a food demonstrator at grocery stores, Mather-Renner began documenting patrons' memories of the ballroom. After several unsuccessful attempts at uncovering the ballroom's history, Mather-Renner decided to dig deeper.

"I enjoyed researching library archives and old newspaper ads to see how the ballroom had changed," she said.

But it was the help of former ballroom patrons and the original owners' daughter, Janis Kurtz Wilson, that led her to begin her book seven years ago.

She was especially surprised to hear the ballroom was open every night of the week.

"And people were actually there every night of the week," she said.

Mather-Renner, now a service coordinator at North Star Community Services in Waverly and mother of three, has her own memories of "The Riv," as she calls it.

She experienced both her prom and wedding dance with her high school sweetheart, Mark Renner, at the ballroom. Her son, Wes, received bowling lessons, all three sons had birthday parties and the family attended 4-H banquets, all held in the ballroom.

"It was a big part of our life," she said.

The book was published at The Printery in Waverly, with the design help of Julie Bierow and Melissa Jacobs.

It may be purchased at A&K Design Hair Salon, 302 Main St., Deb's A Cut Above, 405 Main St., and Janesville City Library, 227 Main St., all in Janesville, and at The Printery, 215 W. Bremer Ave. in Waverly. Call 352-5822 to order a copy to be delivered.

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