Wanaka woman Shirley Omer-Cooper (82, centre) pictured with
fellow cabaret-goers Bill Riley (75), of Dunedin, and Erika
Gordon (36), of Cardrona Valley, was one of the oldest
people at last night's Cabaret on Ruby event on Ruby
Island, Lake Wanaka. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Nearly 90 years ago, Shirley Omer-Cooper's parents
visited Ruby Island cabaret, Lake Wanaka, while on their
honeymoon, and yesterday evening, she followed in their
Mrs Omer-Cooper, of Wanaka, was the oldest person at last
night's Cabaret on Ruby, a revival of the traditional cabaret
dances that took place on the island in the 1920s and 1930s.
Her son and daughter-in-law gave her two tickets to the
cabaret, held on the site where her parents had danced while
honeymooning in Wanaka, after they were married in
Invercargill in 1926.
''I always remember my mother telling me about dancing at
Ruby Island,'' Mrs Omer-Cooper said.
''It must have been special to Mum.''
The tales relayed to her about what went on on the island
match the memories of other former Ruby Island revellers,
particularly those about smuggled liquor.
''I think that they got sort of warning signals if the police
were coming [to the island] ... They weren't supposed to have
alcohol ... over there.''
Mrs Omer-Cooper was initially a little unsure about attending
the event: ''It's a bit old to be going to cabarets, don't
However, she and friend June Hyde - who took the extra ticket
- seemed to thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere around them from
their deck chairs on the dance floor's perimeter, as they
tapped their toes to the live ragtime and jazz music provided
by the Roseneath Centennial Ragtime Band and Bella Kalolo.
Numbers for the event were limited to 200 people. They were
ferried to and from the island on Lakeland Adventures' Dual
In a nod to the original cabaret tearooms which operated at
the site, the Matakitaki Diner sold food and drinks to the
crowd, many of whom were dressed in era-appropriate attire
which added to the sense of history revisited.