The Music Box was a teenage dance hall at Prudenville on Houghton Lake in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula. It opened over the July 4th weekend in 1946 and was owned and operated continuously by Lee and Shirley Kelly until the early 1980s. In the early '80s, the Box closed its doors due to Shirley Kelly's debilitating arthritis. Shirley, for most of the run of the Box, had been the disc jockey and worked in an unheated booth above the dance floor for many years. This contributed to her poor health and Lee Kelly chose to close the Box so he could provide full attention to Shirley's health and care during her later years. In the late 1990s, a few years after Shirley's death, friends convinced Lee to reopen the Box which he did for a few summer seasons in the late 90s and early 2000s.
During its "heyday" in the late 1950s through the 1960s, the Music Box was open nearly year-around on weekend nights, with both outdoor open-air dance floor in the summer and a "winter room" during the colder months. Teens from throughout Michigan, the midwest and Canada flocked to the Box, the most popular teen dance venues of many that dotted the Michigan landscape in the 50s and 60s.
The reputation of the Music Box was well-known throughout the country, as it was operated as an alcohol -free and drug-free, safe environment for young people to meet, dance and romance. When it reopened in the late 1990s, Friday nights were "nostalgia" nights for the older generation and Saturday nights were reserved for a new generation of young people. In the early 2000s, with his own health declining, Lee Kelly decided to sell the Box but was having trouble finding a buyer since he refused to sell to anyone who wished to operate the Box as an alcohol-serving venue in the future. Real Estate developers convinced Lee to tear down the Box and sell the land for redevelopment which he did in 2004, literally tearing down the building brick-by-brick and selling off parts of the building and the interior memorabilia to longtime Music Box fans.
Today, the Music Box property, located on M-18 and M-55 at Prudenville on Houghton Lake's eastern edge is the home to a miniature golf course and a medical building. The Music Box Historical Society is working to erect a memorial monument at the mini golf course parking lot, near where the Music Box admission doors were located. Dedication of the historic marker is planned for summer, 2019.
Photo: An image of a popular bumper sticker advertising the Box in the early 1960s, courtesy of Mark Barnhart