The opening of the Savoy Ballroom marked a change in the social pattern. For the first time in history, status quo in America was challenged. There was no segregation in the Savoy. Blacks and whites entered through the same door, sat across from each other in the booths, and danced on the same floor. Inside the Savoy, everybody's money was the same. .
The Savoy opened three years before the climax of the Great Depression. Even with Prohibition still the law, in 1926, the ballroom still was a catalyst in uptown society. The opening rocked the ideals of America of that time. Harlem was said to belong to the blacks during the a.m. hours, but to the whites at night. The Savoy, however, wasn't a black club that entertained the white crowd who were "slummin' it,".
The night club circuit had it's lingo. Anyone who's anyone knew what to say. It was imperative to know at least these terms when venturing uptown: .
Kelt Fay- white person.
Bolido - the gambling game on the New York clearing house numbers.
Dicty - describes a high class man or woman.
Sweet man Honey man - a man who is kept by a woman.
Passing Passer - the act of passing/ a person who can pass for white.
Scronch Skip- a dance.
Eight ball Gigwatny - dark colored person.
Juice Joint - speakeasy.
Lap - liquor.
Knowing these terms was a necessity in communication among the clubs. .
Once the Savoy's success became common knowledge, other clubs jumped on the bandwagon. These after hour joints, other wise known as speakeasies, were springing up all over town. You could get anything you wanted in these clubs, especially if it were illegal.
The grand-opening gala, on Friday, March 12, 1926, featured Fletcher Henderson's orchestra, which would be the house band for a time. Built on the second story of newly built stores on Lenox Ave, the ballroom was growing quickly. The youth of Harlem converted the Savoy into a celebration of jazz music and swing dancing, not to mention an incubator of a distinct group identity.