Proud of East Texas: Reo Palm Isle

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - Blending the nostalgia that everyone remembered with the electronics available today was the challenge that businessman Mike Kittner faced when he bought the legendary Reo Palm Isle a year ago.

Although Kittner knew he would need to turn the old dance hall into a viable business, it was the colorful history of the place that first attracted him.

"I knew the building was a landmark and it was something I didn't want to see go away. I wanted to see it come back," Kittner said.

Kittner has renovated the 25,000 square foot building, with its iconic 1,600 square foot dance floor -- one of the biggest in the state.

"I knew that my grandparents used to come here whenever I was a young boy," Kittner said.

From Sept. 1935, when the Palm Isle first opened, to the 2010s, when the building fell into disrepair, East Texas couples have danced to the music of top bands of  the day and been entertained by top performers. The Palm Isle was built to be the "largest and most elaborate night club in the south", with a dance floor made of the finest hardwood.

In June 1942, the club was leased to Mattie Castleberry, owner of the popular oil boom dance hall, Mattie's Ballroom.

Glynn Keeling purchased the Palm Isle in 1951, but lost the original building to fire in 1961.

"It took us awhile, I didn't have enough insurance to cover it," Keeling said.

In time, Keeling was able to rebuild the Palm Isle, and he and his wife, Pat, have seen the greatest stars in country music perform at the club; Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Loretta Lynn, and Willie Nelson have all performed at the Palm.

"It was a big deal to come here," Kittner said.

Owner Mike Kittner is determined to make coming to the Reo Palm Isle a "big deal" again. He's added a full time restaurant, the latest in lighting and sound equipment, lots of glitz, and talented performers. Add all that to the nostalgia of yesteryear and the Reo Palm Isle is bound to be a hit.

"Willie used to play here, Elvis used to play here, and who wouldn't want to walk in their shoes."

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