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Earl Johnston June 22, 1997

BB:  Well hi again, this is Bob Brundage again. It’s been quite a while since my last interview and today I’m in Bradenton FL talking with Earl Johnston who originally came from Connecticut as many of you well know.  Today is June 22 1997, just about to leave for the big national convention in Orlando tomorrow morning.  In the meantime, let’s talk with Earl and find out, Earl is one of our Hall of Fame and Milestone Award winners, so Earl tell us a little bit about life before square dance, where you’re born and brought up and so forth.

 

EJ:  Well Bob, we were, both Marian and I were both raised in a small town of Pruitt Connecticut, and we went through school together, started going to I guess we were in 7th grade when we started riding the same bus to school, and square danced all through our high school years.  And I got started calling because I used to go to a dance, Saturday night Square Dance, and this was during the 2nd world war in a place called millers dance hall in Manchester Connecticut, and we learned calls that were used, they were always the same ones every week and some friends and I as we would be going to the dance we would sing the calls and one night after that I started playing saxophone with an orchestra and one night we weren’t going to have square dances and I, the kids got very upset that there weren’t any squares, and I thought well I know enough of these, so I got up and I called.  The first number I remember calling was “Golden Slippers,” the old down the middle and split that two and around and back to home and honor your partner and corners all, swing your corner and promenade.  But that was the first time I ever called a square dance.  And I called dances with this band in high school for the remaining two years and I well we graduated from high school and I was in the middle so I lived on a farm in Vernon and I got a call from a man, Ernie Rock, who had one of the better square dance bands in uh northern Connecticut, northeastern Connecticut, and also he worked up in the Sturbridge, Worcester Mass area and he called me and he said would you wanna call dances with my band?  And man I’ll tell ya, was that something!  Because he had a caller Bill Kooja who was from Ellington Connecticut and Bill had. his wife hated square dancing.   She didn’t want him out running around, he was working on his farm and he was going off calling these dances and it was just too much.   So he quit, and Ernie needed a caller, and I was 17, and I’ll tell you, I had this chance to work with this band and we worked every Wednesday night at the Charleton Grange Hall in Charleton MA, every Friday at the town hall in Sturbridge MA, and on Saturday nights we were at the Auburn MA fairgrounds.  And that was three nights a week.  And that was a pretty big deal.  The band was Ernie Rock played the piano, and there was Billy Einseedle on the drums, and then Louie Gasset played the accordion and they had Chester Salvatore played the bass, and then if they had a bigger dance, then we’d bring in a sax man.   But anyway that was the band and I had the sound system, and I stayed with Ernie Rock for about 8 years, I think.  And of course we changed places and went to different halls and worked different areas.  But it was always in that general South, no Southwestern corner of MA, Dudley and Webster and down into Danielson CT, and New London, we used to play 12 dances a year at Ocean Beach Park at New London in the summer, then somehow, I got involved with some let me see, I can’t remember exactly, I think I was going to teach the kids in town how to square dance.  And we ran an ad in the paper, well the recreation ward did, that there would be square dance lessons for the young people at the Recreation department on some morning.   And I went to the dance that week on Saturday night, I can remember we were playing at Wildwood Park in Dayville, CT and Ernie Rock said to me, I see you’re gonna teach square dancing to the kids.  And I say yes.  And he said whose band are you using?  And I said well I don’t have a band.  I’m gonna use records.  And he said, Oh this will be your last night calling with me.  And he fired me right then.  Man!  Marian and I had gotten married by then, and we had a baby, and I think we had another one on the way.  And I had just lost 48 bucks a week income, and I was making I think probably 21 or 24 on a day job, and man!  What a terrible thing!  So then, I went out and I decided, well I gotta do something, I can’t give up all that money.   And I went, first of all I thought, well I’ll go down and see if anyone wants to hire me and I’ll get a band.  Well, that didn’t work out at all, and I decided I would teach kids how to dance, and I went to the PTA in Vernon, CT where we lived, and because we had the summer program, they knew what the dancing was about and I sold the PTA a deal where we would teach the children how to square dance, waltz, polka, and fox trot, and we would charge 50 cents a kid, and I would get a quarter and they would get a quarter.  And it went very well. We had a big group, and so I went to the town of Broadbrook, CT over in East Windsor and I got them to do the same thing and then I went to Coventry and I got them to do the same thing.  And by golly, within a while, I was teaching about 600 kids a week how to square dance, and I was getting 25 cents a head, so I was doing pretty good.  And from that, the group in Broadbrook, said look if our kids can dance, why can’t you teach a class for the adults, so we had a six week course in teaching the adults, and then I went to Vernon CT, which was our home town and got, I don’t know how we got that, I guess we got a group of people together to take lessons, and we had right after we announced it, we started teaching and we had so many people taking lessons, and I didn’t know what I was doing really.  We had so many people, that we couldn’t get em all in the gym on Tuesday nights, so we hadda go Tuesday and Wednesday.  And then we started the Vernon clubs.  So now I had a club in Broadbrook and then I had the Vernon club.  And then a man named Jim Hurdick was running a recreation program in Manchester, CT and he had been involved in square dancing in I believe it was Montpelier, VT and worked with a young man who was a caller up there Dick Pasmalsky, so he was aware of square dancing, and I went down and saw him and he said, sure we can have square dance classes here and I started a class in Manchester, sponsored by the recreation department.  And we had well, probably, 4 squares. And then, but then we had a club in Manchester and a club in Broadbrook and a club in Vernon.  And I guess what happened I guess I gave up the Broadbrook club and Ralph Sweet took that over and I went to Vernon and Manchester and we were doing really good.  We had big crowds on Saturdays in Vernon, but Manchester was trying to dance on Tuesday nights and they were suffering.  They weren’t doing well at all, and I don’t know why, cause there was no problems whatever, we were just very amicable, but I left Vernon and went to the Manchester club, and a fellow that I had taught to call named Frannie Heinz, I got the Vernon club to hire him, so now everybody is still friends, because Frannie was my friend, and the Vernon club were my friends, and I was in Manchester, and we ran in semi-competition for 15 years, but never competed really.  And then, we also started learning dances, and I don’t know why, well, I guess I do.  We were going up to dances up in Wilbraham, MA I think that was Tuesday nights as dancers and you were calling up there Bob, and we used to go up there to dance, and two couples from there, No, then we started learning a dance on Saturday night in a little community hall in South Windsor CT, it was called Wopping.   We started dances there, and some of the people who were taking lessons from you in Wilbraham came to Wopping.  And they asked me to start clubs in West Springfield and Chicopee.  And that didn’t compete with anybody, ‘cause they were going to be on other nights.  They were still dancing at Wilbraham, and were very loyal to that club, so they didn’t want to have anything that would compete.  And so I, we started these dances/classes in West Springfield and in Chicopee, and from then on there was just no way you could slow things down.  And it just went along, just grew and grew and grew. 

 

BB Well when did you get into the Western style square dancing?

 

EJ:  Well, I got into the Western when I started teaching at Vernon, so that would have been back, well not long after I got fired.  We weren’t doing western at Broadbrook, and your brother got me involved in the whole thing, because everything was going fine with Ernie Rock when I was working with him, and I, we were at a caller’s meeting, seems to me, at Hartford at the YMCA and he was telling about Grand Square and Dopaso and things, and I said, well you can’t, when you got 400 people out on a dance floor who know the dances you’re doing and they know Spanish Caballero and things and they don’t want to learn a new dance.  And he said when is this, and I said Saturday.  And he said what are you doing on Tuesdays, and I said Nothing, and he said, why don’t you teach, and that’s when I got into trouble. Cause you know I think I can remember teaching at this Broadbrook school.  I had an amplifier, cause I had worked with Ernie Rock, and I bought a Decca, you remember the old Decca record company?  They had a record player that they had their name on, so my amplifier would take two microphones, so I put one microphone in front of the speaker of the record player, and I used the other one to call into and that was my sound system.   We didn’t have Hiltons, or Newcombs, or Califones, or anything.  And you know that worked out pretty good there with the microphone.  And in fact one time there was a magazine, the New England Caller magazine and there’s a picture on the front of that and what it was, my name was there, and I think when that picture was taken, I still was using that primitive (BB:  Right, Rube Goldberg).  Yes, and it worked fine.  We didn’t know any better, we couldn’t slow the records down, but we were young, so we could dance faster, and so we got going, you just wind it up and let it go, whatever speed you had. But that was how we got started in the Western style, was because of Al [Brundage], and also going to the dances in Wilbraham, learning how to put this stuff together.  But we did all that calling, or I did, from memory.  Was strictly memorized, we never did anything that was innovative, we just learned stuff, used to subscribe to the Sets in Order magazine and get the dances out of that and memorize them.  We were at a dance recently, cause Marian and I still dance, the caller, Glenn Zino who we dance to, he called, he said do an allemande left and promenade.  And it flashed into my mind, back at the dances in Wopping, this is how inexperienced or naive we were, there was a recording out I believe it was on Windsor, Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight, no maybe that’s not the name of it, but anyway, the call said do an allemande left and promenade.  And we had to stop the dance, because we couldn’t figure out how you can allemande left somebody and promenade em too, cause it never did say, go back home and promenade.  And we didn’t know that you didn’t have to go back after an allemande left. Another interesting thing, one time.  I remember calling at a barn in West Woodstock, CT.  It was a barn dance, it was back in the days with Ernie Rock.  And I was up on this, well we danced upstairs.  The barn was built into a side hill, and the cows were down below.  And then from the street level they went into the hay mow (??) and then there was a set of stairs going up the side to go up into this area that he had a dance hall, plus a room for the hired man.  And I was up there calling one night, and I said 4 ladies chain and chain em back, it was a singing call but that’s the way the words went.  And I remember a lady coming to the stage and she said to me, “young man, if you’re going to say 4 ladies chain and chain back, you’ve got to give me eight steps to get over and get back!”   And I had no idea what the hell she was talking about, no idea in the world.  So I went to the library and I got a book, and I don’t know what book it was now, probably Paul Hunt.  But he had a book out he wrote with a woman named Rose Zimmerman I think, but anyway, I read that book and it said ladies chains were 8 steps and right and left thrus were 8 steps.  That’s the first time I knew there was anything called timing.  I just went by memory, you know.  And that didn’t faze me, because we never changed that dance either, that’s the way it was.  But golly that’s a long time ago.

 

BB  You had an interesting experience in a place called Wildwood, too.

 

EJ  Oh Wildwood Park, well Wildwood...we were working at Wildwood.

 

BB This was a summer...”

 

EJ Yes these were summer dances, these were at Alexander’s Lake in a little village of Dayville CT, Dayville is part of Danielson, but Danielson is part of Killingwood.  So it was all over there in Eastern CT.  And calling there, and Ralph Sweet used to always come to the dances there, and Paul Trollbridge, Paul and I became pretty good friends in later years.  But Paul told me then about this new-fangled dancing with dopaso in it, and I couldn’t quite figure that one out, and he’d been going to Al, your brother Al, down in I think he was driving all the way to Steton, to dance to him down there,   But ah those were, those were interesting times.  Those dances, this always kind of annoyed me.  People always said that barn dancing were drawn from the hills and everything.  [possibly misheard prior comment]   And at these dances at Wildwood Park we would have 400 kids every Saturday night, and there were 2 policemen at the place and all they ever did was take tickets.  They never had any fights, we never had any problems.  There was no drinking.  All the kids were I would say, 15 to 18, and never a problem.  Now after I got fired by Ernie Rock, and they brought in a fellow named Bob Hanback, who was a good friend of mine as the caller [sounds of kitchen activity in background]   He was a good caller, but after that, it wasn’t really rock and roll...well maybe it was.  The dancing changed, the music changed.  And the last, before they closed at Wildwood Park, they had 5 cops working the dance, and one of them did nothing but patrol the inside of the hall, and the other 4 were outside in the parking lot, and they had to hire special people to take money.  Yeah, everything changed at that time.  There was a great revolution in well um barn dancing anyway.  I don’t know if it was everywhere, but they certainly did go through that at Wildwood Park.  And then they finally closed up the dances, cause the kids didn’t dance anymore, and went into other stuff.

 

BB well you’ve had great experience with callers schools and so forth.  Tell us a little bit about that.

 

EJ  Well, we started...Marian and I started teaching callers in our cellar in Vernon, because some of the people who were coming to our Wopping dances wanted to learn how to call.  And I remember, I guess my favorite caller who went through that cellar school was Frannie Heinz, who was very very well known in New England and in New York State, in the eastern part of the US, but uh, we used to have the other callers like Gordie Born, and Jerry Benoit, and uh Gloria Rios, don Atkinson, you know they were all fellows that became callers.  And I don’t know how, but your brother had one caller’s school well he ran one in Vermont with Durlacher.  I shouldn’t be telling his history, but he told me these things (chuckle), but he also ran one out in Wisconsin somewhere with Gilmore, and uh anyway I said to him, why don’t we teach callers?  And he said that would be a good deal.  So he was working at the Hotel (BB Green.)  Well, this was up in Pittsfield. (BB oh yeah).  What the heck was the name of that hotel, well anyway it was up in Pittsfield there, so he made arrangements up there and he ran a callers school, and it seems to me, I don’t...I didn’t save the papers, I probably wished I had now.  I think at that first school, I think that Lee Kopman came to that school.  (BB Is that right).  Yes, Lee Kopman was one of ...was at our first school, and a fellow named Paul Andrews from down in Pennsylvania, who was down around Lancaster, was a very popular caller was there.  And another fellow from Philadelphia, Burt Keys was there.  Burt has since quit calling, and Paul has got to be 75...he’s not calling anymore.  But, uh, we ran this first school, and gee, that want pretty good you know!  The guys enjoyed it and we had a good time.  And so then we added another week, I think.  We had two weeks, and we decided that...to...it would attract more people if we had somebody come in from out of the area.   And so, we were both friendly with Bob Page from Hayward CA, and so we got Bob to come out and be on our staff, and he did that for a coupla years.  And we saw that that worked well, because it took part of the weight off Al and I, and he had new ideas, you know?  And then another year we hired Kasner, Bill Kasner, who was (coughs) a well known caller from CA who used to travel in the summer, I guess he was a school teacher, so he was free in the summer.  They kept raising the price,, you know every year they’d go up in price.  So we went over to a place called East Hill Farm in NH, outside of Keene, and talked to a fellow there, Parker Witkin, and he’s go well yeah, he’d like to have it...his business was slow in the summer, cause he was more of a winter resort, and so um we went there, we ran schools there for..oh golly, I don’t know how many years.  Um, and we would have two and sometimes three weeks of school.  It got so specialized, we would have school for beginner callers, and we’d have a school for experienced callers, and we’d have a super advanced school, and then we’d bring in these real hot rod...we used to call them hot rods, guys who were real choreography buffs.  And uh we had Deuce Williams, and uh...well, Deuce was the best.  We had Deuce three or four times.  But then because of the experience up there, then Bob Osgood called and he had been conducting callers schools at Asilomar in CA, and we wanted to know if we’d come out there and conduct a school.  Fine with us,  you know.  Cause we used to try to travel in the summer, so we went out there, I think we went there two or three times.  That was a hard school though, cause Bob wanted to incorporate the school along with the week long institute.  So every time there was a workshop at the dance hall, everybody had to attend, and then if you had any free time at all, you had the callers school, and also, he had top notch callers on his staff.  So then you had to give each of those guys an hour to make a presentation.  So it was very little [unintelligible], a great concept that I didn’t think worked at all, So then Frank Lane called us, and he was going to try to start a calling school at his place in Estes Park, and wanted to know if we’d come out there and do that.  Well, that would be great.  Frank was uh probably as well a known caller as there was in the country, so we went out there and well, Frank had never run a callers school.  Brundage and I, uh Al and I at least we’d had em for probably five or six years by then, So actually, Frank actually wanted us to help him set it up.  And that was fine, Frank was easy to work with.  So we went out there for gee...I don’t know how many years we went to CO in the summer.  And uh started out with one week and moved it up to two or three, and stopped going to CA.  Well, we had the gas shortage came in, too...remember in the 70s?  So it didn’t move you to go all the was to CA, so we went up to Frank’s and worked there.  Then we started a school in Bettendorf IA with a caller from Muskotene, Bob Herrington (BB oh yeah) and we ran a school there for three years...that was a nice school.  And then Al and I started a school in well we had a, we tried a school at Penn State one year and we didn’t’ care for that.  But Dick Baer from up in MI who was a very very well known caller from up in that area and owned a square dance hall.  He said, well why don’t you come out here, and we’ll run a school in my dance hall.  So that sounded good, so we did that.  And we also started a school down in Virginia in James Madison University.  And we used to fill em, too!  We had a lot of guys, we’d get 30 guys at a school, and they’d come with their wives.  And we’d make the arrangements, and get their meals and a place to sleep.  Those schools, they were profitable for us, and I think they were good because the schools that Al and I ran, I think we had a good attitude.  Um, the callers did most of the calling.  We didn’t preach to them.  I didn’t think we preached.  Tried to give them a feeling for the activity.  We stressed timing, we stressed flow.  We hired callers to work on our staff.  We hired guys like Jack Lasry, you know top dog guys.  Who just couldn’t been em, and um they um would come in and do their wonderful jobs.  And uh Al and I always wanted to reward some of the guys that signed up for the school, cause we’d sit in the back and listen to them.  So we had these schools everywhere.   And I guess that was probably, if we made a contribution to the activity, I guess probably that was we ...most made us feel good anyhow.  And uh kept us busy in the summer.

 

BB  Well, we just flipped the tape over and now EArl lets see if I remember you have quit an association with a product called yak stak.  tell us a little about how you got into that and all its successes

 

EJ  Well, Yak Stak is a sound column, folding loud speaker column array, I guess they called it, but we um Marian and I were at Toronto well it was the Atlantic convention held in Toronto at the Royal York Hotel and they were having a terrible time with the sound, the sound was just awful, and uh Decko Deck was there, he was living in Ottawa at the time, and Decko was a military guy and he didn’t put up with nonsense, and he went to the sound people who had put up the sound and said it was terrible and it just coulnt continue and they had to straighten it out, and uh by golly they came in with a speaker, I never saw anything like it, it was tall and narrow and as I recall, they put on a piano, on a table, they put a table on the piano and the speaker on the table in one corner of this great big ballroom, and suddenly the sound was perfect.  Everbody could dance!  And uh so we continued you know and I was amazed at this thing and us when we got back to CT>

 

BB  What was the name of that speaker

 

EJ  It was Telefunken, it was German.  When we got back, Marian said why don’t you make one of those speakers, because at the time, when we would do big dances, we’d have to go into the hall an hour, two hours ahead of time, and hang speakers and wires, and we’d use those big university round speakers, and we used box speakers from newcomb and hilton speakers and it was just a tragedy trying to setup.   And then wehn the dance was over you had to take it all down cause we didn’t have these halls everynight.  So, Marian finally talked me into using my many talents as a carpenter and woodworker (chuckling in background) to make a speaker and I’ll tell you it was something else.   I didn’t know how to measure, so we had a 1957 Oldsmobile at the time and I went out and measured the trunk of that Oldsmobile to see how long it could be cause we had to get it to the dances if I made thing.   And then I remember going up to Springfield, there was a fella who owned, well he was involved in an amplifier/sound store up there, and I went to him and told him what dimensions I had, and we came up with the fact that 6 inch round GE speakers, no... 8 inch round would fit in the dimensions that would fit in our car.  Then I went home and I bought some plywood and I had these GE speakers, and I build this speaker, well you had to carry it in two arms cause it was so big, and uh anyway I took it to Chicopee to Mountain Park actually up in the city of Holyoke one night where we used to spend an hour putting up speakers.  And we went in there and we put that speaker on the table and I was using a newcomb sound system at the time and I hooked up the speaker to the Newcomb.  And the committee was there and they said what are you doing, and I said well I wanna use this speaker and they didn’t believe it would work.   We had to put up the other ones.  We had to hang everything up the way it normally was so if this didn’t work, we could plug right in to it.   Well, the thing worked like a charm.  They couldn’t believe how good it worked!  And uh, never had to hang speakers again!  Had this big old thing that fit in the trunk of my car.  And um then we were, there was a man, Irving Gross, who was one of the smartest men I ever knew, who was an acoustical engineer with General Radio Corp. in Lexington Mass.  And he has seen column speakers before this, made by Jensen.  And he said, we can make a speaker, I’m sure we can design a speaker that we can use that would be easier to move around and would be more portable than the one you made.  So he went ahead and um designed a folding column.  Folded in half, and there were 3 speakers in one half and 3 in the other, with a hinge in the middle.  And he used the dimensions of that darned speaker, but instead of 8 inch rounds he made 6 x 9 ovals.   And that thing worked great!  And gosh darn it if suddenly we didn’t have a good speaker.

And people wanted em, so Irving and Ed Ross Smith who was a caller up in Winham Massachusetts suddenly became this speaker company, and I believe it was Irving’s wife who came up with the name Yak Stack, cause it was a stack of speakers you yakked from, and that’s how the name came about.  Well, I remembered going to Haven Hall or Shallopmon Hotel down in Atlantic City one time and they were having a dance.   And walked in with this speaker and I put it up on ....  Oh!  I remember what it was.  Joe Lewis was calling, and Joe was having a terrible time in this one hall.   The sound was awful and just terrible.  So I wen tout and got my speaker from the car and brought it in.  And I remember Frank Coffin [check spelling...maybe Kaufman] from Newark NJ.   He was the guy who I think he owned American Square Dance magazine and Folk Craft Records and everything.   And he saw me come in and he said what’s that thing and I told him it was a speaker and he laughed at me and said that looks like a piece of junk.  Well, anyway, we that up on a table on the stage, and Joe called and it was a miracle!   The sound was perfect.  People wanted to know where the other speakers were.  They couldn’t believe we just had the one.  And Coffin, he stood at the back of the hall and he looked and looked.  Well, it wasn’t three months later before he started advertising the speaker in his magazine called the FLK, you remember that? [ yah, yah ] and that was a sound column.  So he was no dummy, that guy.  But laughed at what we brought into the hall.  But that..people wanted to buy this speaker, and the first person to every buy a Yak Stak was Beulah Sammons down in Staten Island [oh, yeah].  She was one of the few lady callers that worked at the time and she bought that Yak Stak and then, just a few years, just before we retired, I bought the speaker back from Beulah.  [oh, the original] Yeah, so Irvin has the original Yak Stak, the #1.  And then Yak Stak grew really, um, at one time I think we were probably selling 700 a year, those Yak Staks.  But that’s how that, and then of course everyone got in the business.   Bob Pinon started building a Supreme soundcolumn out in St Louis, he and Vern Aubischon.  he was another caller out and those two fellows started, and uh.  The only one who never got into the sound column business was Jim Hilton.  No, he would never ever build a column.   He didn’t think a column was very good.  That was okay with us.  Everybody was buying Hilton amplifiers and Yak Stak speakers so everybody was winning.  But that how that came about and that was a pretty big convention for us.  We not only got the idea for a Yak Stak or a sound column there.  But that’s where we were.  You were on the staff there, and Hugh Macey from out in Ohio was starting a record company called Grenn and he had decided...this is all trivia, but it’s things I remember.  He had decided that the predominant callers in the US were from California and he thought there were lots and lots of good callers on the East Coast.  And he wanted to feature them, so he made a deal with Johnny Davis and uh he was from Covington KY, and Ron Schneider who was from the Cleveland area, and me, to be on his label.  I couldn’t get ove rthe fact that I was going to be on the record label, and we got paid for it in those days!  [ha ha ha]  We used to get 2 cents or a penny and a half or something a record, and we....remembere he wanted to know what record I wanted to do, and the most popular song of the day was “Mac the Knife” by Bobby Darrin.  And I asked for that, and he made a recording of it on a dub and sent it to us and made arrangements for us to go to New York to Decca Studios and make that recording.  And Marian and I went down there and made that recording.  And when I was finished with that I think I had a migrane headache that lasted for three days...oh God.  I was so nervous, so worried!   And I had come up with an idea of a dance, it was an old dance you starred in the middle and you starred on the side and you starred in the middle, and I didn’t know how to get out of it, you know.  And uh I put a call in there, there used to be an old square dance call “Catch All 8.”  And I put a Catch All 8 in there and everybody said it wouldn’t go, but by golly it was a big big seller, a big hit.  And it was the first record we ever made.  And then, in those days, you had to do two.  And on the other side of that, I think they put on Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer.   And the dance, that dance was written by Willard Worley from out in Ohio.  He was a big choreography buff.   And he put a Wagon Wheel in it and no one could do it.  It was a shame, cause it was good music. And from then on, we recorded with Grenn for probably 15 or 20 years.  Very, very happy times, because it was so easy.  For the first few, he would send us the music, and we would go to New York.  Then somewhere along the line, I bought a tape recorder, a small German make called a UHER, and uh Marvelous sound quality, and uh, I made a recording live at a dance, using my UHER and didn’t go to New York, you see.  And when I sent it out to him, he couldn’t tell the difference.   So from then on, I did all my records live at dances.  Well, that was wonderful.  I guess probably a big thrill in recording was when Bob Osgood asked us to be on Sets in Order promotional albums.  Well, that was kinda fun.   I have funny stories about that.   One time, Kenny Bauer came to our house, he was becoming a traveling caller.  And he was going to be on one of those albums and he asked me for what to use for a call.  And I have written some ridiculous call with strange names and everything.  And um he thought that was a great call and he put it on the record and he told me later, it was the biggest mistake he ever made.  Cause nobody’d every heard of it, and he used to get letters from all over asking how do you do this dumb call you put on this. And another thing we used to do is kinda fun.  We used to write calls under a pseudonym.  And what the heck was that guy’s name...we used the name “Claude Speers.”  And wrote these strange calls...we did [Marian: and they’d get published in the magazine]...and they’d get publish, see!  But we never said where Claude Speers was from.  And they’d say you know, California, or Florida, you know.  And wrote “Tag and Trade Your Neighbor’s Deucey” [laughter], and I wrote “Hit the Wall,” and uh, remember the call “Barge Thru”?  I was a half square thru and a partner tag?  I dunno.  We wrote a strange thing, and put a strange name on it, and it was nothing but a Barge Thru without hands and THAT got published.   ooohh!  I used to think that was funny...heheh...and Al did, too.  Cause he would call me and say, What has Claude written lately?.  And he’d go out and call the dumb things, too.  Oh, golly...of course, I always thought you should have fun with the activity.   I guess that was part of my trouble.  I thought you should have fun with it and you should laugh at yourselves.  I always thought square dance callers really were kind of mediocre entertainers.  A lot of people thought were were gonna save the world, or thought this was a very serious activity.  I didn’t feel it!  I thought this was supposed to be a fun thing, and uh, actually the older I got, the more fun I had.  I think the most fun I had calling was the last 10-15 years, when I really stopped taking myself so seriously.  I laughted and I used to call my dances the Frick and Frack hour.  It was just fun...everybody laughed.  That’s another thing about calling.  We call for clubs for years...I mentioned I guess I told you about the Chikopee club starting.  Well, you know we stayed and called for the Chicopee club for 30 some years, didn’t we honey?  And you know when we quit, they closed the club.  And then we had another club down in Millington CT that Bob Prentiss ran for 20 some years.  When we decided to retire, they said, well, if you’re going to retire we’ll close up.   Sacroiliacs was the same thing, and Shooting Stars on West Hartford another club that we called.   and when we decided to retire, they said, well, you know we had a good run,  we had good times...we’ll just close it up.  Kinda sad, but in a way it was family, you know?  And sorta well the old man’s gonna quit, well...[garbled conversation] oh yah, it was time, sure, but some of the clubs...The only club that we had that didn’t fold...hasn’t folded, kept really going strong is the Manchester CT club.  And they’ve done very well.  They had their 40th anniversary, I believe?   And they had 35 squares come out and they had a marvelous time, and it’s not the club that we knew...it’s all new people and everything, but that club is continuing to go.  And that brings me to another point.   You know, one of things that happened in square dancing that created some of these problems was the proliferation of clubs.   If there was a club in West Springfield that was going good, there’d be two...then pretty soon there’d be three.   And up in Chikopee MA there were 3 or 4 clubs going [the Checkmates].   And in Manchester, there was one club.   And I got a call one time, from a guy and he said, we’re gonna start another club in Manchester.  And I said, Really?  And he said, Yea!  He said, I’ve been down talking to the priest, and we’re going to run it through the KofC club so that it would be sponsored by the KofC.  And I said, I don’t think it’s a very good idea!  You know, the Manchester club is going well, everything is going fine.   I said, we take Catholics, you know, we’re not opposed to Catholic people.  And you know he never started that club.   And I think that’s one of the things that helped Manchester, they never had another club in town.  There was just the one.  And like in East Hartford, the next town over....there was Circle 8, there was the KC squares, there was the East Hartford Square Dance club, and they all died, over a period of time.  So I think part of the trouble...we have the same thing today.  You know McDonald’s was doing okay, and now you got Burger King and Wendy’s and they all open up around each other.  And I think they all starve.  I don’t think it’s a good idea.  If you have a square dance club, one in town is enough.  And I think it was Gilmore or Joe Lewis who said, it takes a town of approximately 40,000 people to support a square dance club for a long period of time.  And I think that was maybe probably right.  That Joe Lewis, he was a smart cookie.  We were running dances up in Chickopee, up in the Springfield area.  And Joe came in and we used to run 3 hours and if we could get away with it 4 hours, and Joe came in and said...what are you running a marathon for?  You don’t need to run this long.  2 1/2 hours is plenty!  And we said, aw no!  We gotta go!  He said, when you get a little older, you’ll find out!  Funny story about Joe...if you don’t like this, you can take it off.  He went down and called for Howard Hogue one time.  Joe told me this...he told me the whole story.  He went down and Hogey said, we dance from 8 to 12.   And Joe said, I only call 2 1/2 hours.  And Howard said, well, we dance 8 to 12 down here.  And Joe said that’s some kinda [garbled], you want me call the 1st 2 1/2 or the last 2 1/2!  I don’t know what happened about the dance...I think Joe called the last 2 1/2 hours.   But he said, that damn Howard Hogue got the best of me, he gave me $100 and the check bounced.  And he carried the check with him!  And we were over in Toronto, over in Hamilton Ontario, and he had that darned check with him.  And he said, he saw him and he said “I’m trying to sell this!  You live down that way, would you like to buy this check?”  I always thought that was a good a funny story as I ever heard....you wanna call the first 2 1/2 or the last 2 1/2!

 

BB:   Speaking of Joe Lewis, just to interject for a second.  Do you know his original recording is still around?  [oh, really]  You know who has it?  [no]  Your friend, Milton Luttrell

 

EJ:  Oh does he?  They were pretty good friends I think.  Milton Luttrell was a nice man.

 

BB:   We hope it’s going to end up at the Archives some day.

 

EJ:  Oh sure!  sure!  Well, Milton Luttrell, I don’t really know him very well, but everytime I ever talk with him, he was a pretty nice man.   I heard a funny story about Milton Luttrell...at the National you know, they like to have you just call your tip and get off the stage.  Well, Dick Jones was somewhere in the National.  I don’t know if people in the Foundation remember Dick Jones, but he was one super square dance caller, and he could really do the singing calls.  So, he had a tip at this National, and he called, and when he finished he really tore the place apart.  They were stomping and screaming...and instead of leaving the stage like you’re supposed to, he stayed there and took a bow and he took another bow and he took another bow and they were stompin’ for more.  Milton came up and he took the microphone, he was the MC, he said it’s pretty obvious you people want an encore.   We shouldn’t really have encores, but he said, I’ll tell you what...we’ll let Dick call patter!   [laughter] And he handed him the microphone and he called a patter call, and you know nobody’s good at patter.  I just thought that was a good way to put him down...he shoulda got off the stage!  Nationals...well, I dunno, I was never a big fan of the national convention.  We went a few times, and uh, I always thought it was unfair to make the callers pay, then expect you to call.  And then demand what you did, it was like they were doing you a big favor.   My favorite story of the National is in Detroit.   We, Marian and I went to Detroit, and that was in the 60s I think, the early 60s.  It was at Kobal Hall.  That was the year that Sam Mitchell and Bob Fisk sort of came out.  And they hung around the stage.  One in a blue suit with blue boots, and the other in a red suit with red boots and cowboy hats to match.  And it wasn’t quite as organized in those days, and if you didn’t show up at your alloted time, they would take somebody from around the stage.  So these guys hung around the stage.  And they got up on the stage, and they would call, see.  And they were good, too...they were good callers.   I dunno, I was talking with them, so anyway I said to Gilmore, who I always thought was one of my mentors.  I said, you know...I don’t understand it...these guys are hanging around the stage...they booked 60 some dances!   I think I only booked about 4!  He said, do you have 60 open nights?  And he said, then what’s your problem?  I’ll never forget that!  That was a pretty shrewd old boy...what’s your problem!  Well, the National we used to go, and we went to a few, and we got away from it.  As far as honors go...I guess being in the Square Dance Hall of Fame, we considered that an honor.   And then of course the Milestone Award...the Milestone Award was because of teaching.  Because we had been in ALLERLAB...we have been in the original board of governors.  And then got out of it...I dunno...I felt there was too much influence from the Advanced callers.   They seemed to want to push their...they wanted all the lower levels to train for the next higher level, and I didn’t think that was right.   I loved to call Advanced, but I didn’t feel I was teaching beginners to get them into my A2 in three years.  And then, you know, they kept dropping calls from the above list down to the next lower level.  I just disagreed with a lot of that stuff and uh, it was very expensive.  We’d go and stayed at the best hotels...honey, I told Bob before, we’d go to CALLERLAB and you’d stay at the Marriott and pay $110 a night, then when I’d take you out, I’d go to Budgetel.  And I didn’t think THAT was really very fair.  But I really do disagree with their philosophy.  I always felt that Bob Osgood was doing a great job with his Sets in Order, in his 75 Basics, Mainstream, or what do you call it 50 Basics and 75.  Well, I dunno...it was interesting.   We had big crowds.  And if you went to a Lee Kopman dance, you knew what you were going to get.  And if you went to Les Gotcher, you’d get teacup chains till it came outta your ears and you weren’t going to get any singing calls.  But they wanted it programmed.  But some of the guys have done the programs well.   You can see they’ve done a marvelous job, conscientiously programmed and used their levels, and done everything the way they wanted it to be, and it hasn’t sold, either.  I wrote an article for the New England Caller one time...no, for NECCA.  They had a history program, and wanted to know what had gone before.  And I said, that I felt square dancing demise started with the oil embargos when the hall rents went from free to $50.   And the people instead of the man working and the lady was home with the children, and when he got home from work, she wanted OUT of there for a couple of hours.  She went to work.  Then when she went home, she was exhausted.  All she had to look forward to was getting the kids to bed, making supper and doing washing and ironing and keeping the house clean.  No time for square dancing!  That was too frivolous an activity to get involved with.   And the lesson period went up from 10 to 15 to 20 to 24 to 30 and then they wanted 40 weeks and all these things happened at the same time.  And I think if you want to blame somebody for square dancing going into a decline, I blame the A-rabs.  Cause they ...everything became too expensive.    No more, you just couldn’t uh...the school couldn’t give you.

 

BB:  Earl, tell us..most of the people I’ve been talking with, ask the question...where do you think square dancing has been and where is it now.  Of course, you’re inactive at the moment, but where do you think it might be going.

 

EJ:  Well, of course, we were lucky...we got into square dancing when it was Barn dancing as we called it in New England.   I don’t think we called it Eastern-style...we just called it square dancing.

And uh, we had big crowds then....and they were young people.  Then we went into club dancing, and we were doing, well, people in their 30s and 40s and it was big then.  Square dancing was super big.  You remember, in New England, the crowds we used to have, and we thought the world would never stop.  Square dancing would always be that way.  And now we’ve to the point where sometimes it’s hard to get enough people to come to the dance to pay the hall rent, never mind the caller.  I really feel that what would happen to square dancing, is it will have to practically die as we know it today, and be reborn in a very simplistic manner, of maybe back to the six lessons.  That’s we had when we..the first class I had were six lessons, then we went to 10.  10 was okay.  But I think we may have to go back to that point.  And people say, what about your dancers today?  I think you just have to forget about them if you want the activity to go.   Now I dunno who’s going to do this, cause, the callers, you know, when we were young and wanting to call, I can remember going out and running free dances and free parties and go to..one time we went over to Windsor Locks CT and ran a dance for the couple club and they gave me what was left of the refreshments!  That was my pay!  Some cupcakes and 1/2 a brownie or something.   I dunno...now today.  It’s different.  If you want this thing to go, there’s got to be some dedicated, pioneering type people who are willing to go out and fresh start it from scratch almost.  Right here where we live...there’s been interest...people say they want to try square dancing.  And I don’t want to get involved in it, cause I retired, and I don’t want to do it.  But I don’t think they could get a caller who would come in and work at it.  Now this goes back to something else philosophical.  Joe Lewis, who I seem to be quoting a lot here, said that square dancing was built backwards.  When General Motors or Boeing wants to sell a new product.  Let’s take Boeing.  If they want to sell a new airplane to United Airlines, they don’t sent the guy they hired last week outta college who is in sales, to sell that contract.  They send their very best salesmen out there to sell it.  And in square dancing, when we want to sell square dancing to a new group, we take the guy who just started calling last week because he’ll work cheap.  And we send him, and our very best callers, like the Oxendines and the Storys and the Bowers, they call to the people who are already in the program and make the big bucks.  Joe always said, we’re working backwards!  We should send out best people out to sell and let the others work for those who know what they are doing.  One time I suggested in New England, New England wanted to...they had a thing a cooperation committee that was [garbled] and I was involved in starting up that, Charlie and I got that started.   But nevertheless.  I suggested one time..they wanted to have Square Dance Week in September, and I said why don’t we hire Dick Leger and pay him $1500 or $2000 for the week, but then we would own him.  And we would, each state each [garbled] Worchester, Waterbury CT anywhere could set up a free dance party, Introduction to Square Dancing.  And he’d hold it a hall or a high school arena or whatever you wanted.  And then, you’d tell Leger, look, then you’ll be in Worchester from 5 to 7 and then we want you in Sturbridge from 7-9 then we want you to get down to Highbrid from 9 to 11.  And can you get there, and at the end, we’ll give you 2 grand.  I said, let’s put our very best salesmen out there, and let the clubs put out their flyers and say, we can offer you this!   When I suggested this, and I said, let’s pay the guy $1500 or $2000 they almost had heart attacks.   And they laughed at me!  I’m serious.   I thought that would be a great way to sell square dancing.  So I don’t see a future for square dancing.  Here in Florida, it’s all over...it gets harder to find anybody on the floor under 70...70!  That’s pretty old.  These people, somehow they keep up with it....they keep up with the tempo, they keep up with the hard material.   But when they stop, there’s no replacements.   If you see a new couple come...everybody looks at them!  Hey, we’ve got a new couple tonight.  That’s not the way to do it.  I think...we can see it right here in this town.  Glenn Zeno has a Plus club.  Meets on Mondays, and he’s getting now in the middle of summer when everyone that can has gone north for the summer, and he’s still getting 7 and 8 squares, and during the season he gets 15-16 at Plus level.  And I keep saying to Glenn, don’t tell them about your advanced club, let them think this is all there is!   Because I think they’ll stay longer...I really do.  I dunno...there’s nothing you can really do about it.  CALLERLAB tries.  There again, they don’t succeed.  I’m not sure you can put a name on it like the Community Dance Program...you just gotta have some guy that’s got some gumption to go out and rent a hall and start running a program.  Then you could do it.  You could do it, I could do it, if we wanted to.  You know that’s something.  The first class that Marian and I had...I shoulda told you this cause this was funny....the first class we had in CT, after we got fired, we rented the Redman’s Hall and advertised in the paper, put a little block ad in the paper for 2 weeks, and got the coffee pot and did all the things you were supposed to do, when we went up there and we had our first class, and nobody showed up!   Not a soul.  So we had to get it better than that after that.  But that was our first experience with running beginner class...nobody came.   But I think that if you wanted to do, right here, if I wanted to, I could put up a sign on that board, do it free.  I think for six weeks, I could get 20 couples.  Whip em out and dosido and have a good time.  But callers don’t want to do that today.  So that’s my...that’s not too bright is it.

 

BB:  No, it’s...you’re saying the same philosophy as some of the others.  When you look back at your career and you suddenly realize that when you started at 17, you were calling for 17 and 18 years olds, and every year you look at, you suddenly realize you’re calling for the same age group.

 

EJ:  Yah, if some young kids would come in and get involved, they would be able to sell it.  Some young guys come in and start at the church, if there was a guy, say 25, who called and went into the couples club at the church, you could sell it.  Sure!

 

BB:  Wasn’t there a young fella up in northern CT that started to make a name for himself?  I forget his name right now.

 

EJ:  Yes, Steve Garrick.  Steve had some other problems.  Steve was first of all, dyslexic, which a lot of people are, but he also had some emotional problems.  So he felt everyone was always picking on him.  Sort of paranoid.  So that’s what happened to Steve.  And he wouldn’t show up for dances.  He had a lot of talent, that kid.   As with many people who have learning disabilities, he had a perfect pitch ear and he would come up to the stage when I was calling and he would ask me if heard chords in the recording.   Hell, I didn’t know what he was talking about.  We’d play it back and he’d show me where a musician would play a certain chord.  [garbled]  He had a wonderful ear [garbled] he coulda been, he had his other problems.

 

BB:  He doesn’t call anymore?

 

EJ:  No, I don’t think so.

 

BB:  That’s the type of thing you’re talking about, what I’ve been talking about quite awhile.  One of the things that bothers me is that there is no training ground for young people at college level.  Talking to Ken Kernen for example, and Cal Campbell is another good example.  There were both brought up in a college square dance environment.  And they became callers through that environment.  And at that time, several of the people who were interested in square dancing at that time, were students and were out [garbled] some of our nation’s leaders.  And we’re not getting that anymore.

 

EJ:  Well that’s how Red Bates got started, and Dick Jones.  The thing that you see at the National convention that I, I haven’t been in a few years now, but I’ve noticed.the young people were clogging.  They weren’t in the square dance halls, having a great time.  They were all standing around doing the clogging.  And so, that’s not the way to sell square dancing is to sell clogging.  And of course the nationals, like everything else, they’re in dire need of attendance, so they do everything.   They’ll probably do the Macarena this this year if they could get 4 more people.

 

BB:   Somebody was saying that some program that someone devised, they were going to make a videotape and put it on the television, and basically it said, don’t be a couch potato, get out and square dance!  What the hell TV station is going to put that on the air.

 

EJ:  And they did that.  Spent all that money in CALLERLAB and made those tapes.  And what station is going to put that on!  Tell you not to watch TV...that was dumb.

 

BB:  If you could change anything in your career?

 

EJ:  No, I ....Marian and I and other people we talk to...we were fortunate, we were in the golden years of square dancing.   Maybe we had a part in its growth, not that I would say a feather in our cap, we just happened to be there at the right time.  And no, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Probably wish we had never gone to more than 20 lessons.  20 lessons, that was enough lessons to teach people to square dance, but at that time we didn’t think that.  We were just at the top, we were on cloud 9.  More people wanting to get in, and couldn’t get them in the halls.  And you could pick your people.  If people came up and complained, you’d tell them to get lost.  Don’t complain to me, go somewhere...that’s the wrong approach.   I wouldn’t change anything that we did.  Maybe not have taken myself so seriously when I was in my 30s...

 

BB:  What did you find that was appealing about square dancing calling?  What was the appeal to calling to you?

 

EJ:  When I started?

 

BB:  Well, anytime.

 

EJ:  When we started, I played in this orchestra, and we used to go dancing, and I’d know these calls, and I swear I must have been a bit of a show off.

 

BB:  I didn’t know a caller yet that wasn’t an egotist.

 

EJ:  Got up there and could do that, and then Marian and I have always square danced.  Of course, Marian has been dancing a LOT longer than I have [chuckles from wife].   She started in Grange, you know when you go and dance.  Her dad passed away when she was just a little baby, and she went to the dances.   The old men who were in their 30s would dance with these little kids.  They’d put them on their toes and dance em around the square.

 

MJ:  We used to dance at university, too.

 

EJ:  [garbled, there is a lot of banging and stirring noises of a meal being prepared in the background, which is louder than the voices of the interview]

 

BB:   Do you remember who your teacher was.

 

EJ:  No, I didn’t do that, I wasn’t into the 4H-ing stuff.  That was one of the things that we had.  I just think we were at the right time at the right age, everything worked out.  Fortune and good luck was upon us.

 

BB:  Well, we’ve covered recordings and so forth.  Tell me, you and Marian have a difference of opinion on costuming.

 

EJ:  <chuckles>  I always insisted that people wear square dance attire to our dances and at our weekends where we would be at the hotels and so on.  And the first time I ever ran into to this was at camping weekends.  Campers didn’t want to...they always used the excuse that they couldn’t pack the clothes.  And uh, they wanted to sit around and dance in shorts and stuff.  Of course, if you were at a camping weekend somewhere and the temperature was 90 in the afternoon, god forbid you didn’t have the session.  You had to have the session or they felt cheated, but then they didn’t want to wear square dance clothes, so that’s where it started.  Now I can see...but first of all Marian says this, and I agree.  Ladies dance better when they are properly dressed.  They dance better, they carry themselves well, they look better, and they seem to get through the material better...I don’t know why.  But I think that it’s in the summer down here, we’ve gotten away from the forearm grip to the handshake, so the long sleeve bit is kind of passe.  The ladies, I object to the ladies with all the rings, because it’s so uncomfortable to grasp hands with, they’ve got all these diamonds and all that stuff.  I think that especially the men can get away without all the long sleeve shirts, and here in the summer they all wear shorts, bermuda shorts...they don’t wear speedos, they were bermuda shorts.  That would be our disagreement.   Marian and I, rightly so, they do dance better when they’re dressed, and they seem to act better, too.  That would be our only disagreement [garbled discussion] ...dress is optional.

 

BB:   I think we’ve pretty much come to the end of our session Earl.  We could probably sit and reminisce...

 

EJ:    I really feel it’s a chance to get all these things down.  I want to give you that history of NECCA, which is the New England Council of Callers. That’s interesting, and you can put that in the archives, and then with this, what we’ve said here and then with that article I did write before, which was sort of the history of being [garbled], I tried to put names into that that people would recall.  Of course, nobody recalls them anymore.  What I thought was interesting about the square dance halls...Trose Barn and Rif’s Barn, and all those many, many places...that was another thing I mentioned about keeping one club in one town, up in that Worchester area after Chet Slim started [garbled], within four years there was Allen’s Homestead, and there was the Coop, and there was Sterling Hall and there was Trose Hall, there was like 8 halls within 20 miles, and they couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t get big crowds!  They just saturated it, and of course you can’t control it.  That’s one of the things that too that hurts.  Guy gets a little club going and somebody else jumps right in next door and then he has another club.  But you can’t control it I guess, you’d have a dictatorship.

 

BB:  In that article you talk about, you spend quite a bit of time describing Square Acres, how...why don’t we put that on tape.

 

EJ:  Well Square Acres was in Westbridgewater MA, run by Howard and Marian Hogue, Howard was always called Hogey.  It was a rambling structure, built on a what would you call it, a pine lake...the water was red, a cedar lake.  I don’t know.  It wasn’t much of a lake, but it was there.  When you drove in there, was a big parking lot.   And then there a big hall, and you went in sort of at the side and there was a big hall and a stage.  On the back of that hall, there was a smaller hall, so that the two were back to back.  And there was a kitchen and dining area, and there was a record shop, and clothing.  A separate entity.  And then there were 3 or 4 other smaller halls.  What Howard would do, he would have once a month, a night where you brought a couple to a dance, you got a chicken dinner or turkey dinner, and the dance was free, and it was an introduction to square dancing.  He would have a group taking lessons for 4 weeks and they’d move to another hall, cause he’d bring in another group, and he’d take one square or two or five, and they would dance and then go on to the next hall and eventually work their way into the main hall, where every Saturday night you had a traveling caller.  One of the better callers of New England.   ....dances from 8 to 12...long dances.  Man, they were LONG dances, no intermission.  And in the summer, the building had a tin roof.  I think he collected old cocacola signs and things and laid them out, and he had a tin roof, and in the summer he would put lawn sprinklers on the roof with hoses attached and he’d run cold water on the roof, to supposedly cool it off.  And in the winter, at the far end of the main hall he had a bank of car radiators, connected with hot water running though them and fans behind them, blowing out.  And this was the heating system, it was really a place!  And Howard ran 4 weeks of square dancing all summer.  He’d come in on a Sunday afternoon, ....Sunday evening, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays, Friday, and the big thing was Saturday night dance.  And then you left Sunday morning, cause he had another crew coming in Sunday afternoon.  And he had GOOD callers, from all over the country, and people used to go to the REMOTE Westbridgewater, they’d come in from Canada and Virginia .....[garbled]....Pawpy Ire?  Virginia, he’d bring his group.  Decko would bring his dancers.  You’d get the callers to bring crowds...you’d get all kinds of people dancing there.  And they’d live in the cottages, such as they were.  The cottages were 2 or 3 bedrooms.  Some of them had one common bathroom. [garbled conversation with wife].  Then the doors, I can remember one of the cottages, the door was one of these doors they had in apartments back in the 30s, where you would store your ironing board in the wall.  Well, open the door and it’s just big enough for an ironing board.  That would be the DOOR!   I don’t know how people can get thru this, but Howard said welllll...it works.  It keeps them separated there, they’ll be happy there.   But Howard ran these programs, and it was just unique.  One time, I was there calling and it was in the middle of winter and it was so cold, and I put my coat on.  And Howard came into the hall and he said what are you doing with your coat on!   And I said, I’m cold!  And Howard said for goodness sakes, wear it under your shirt!  We don’t want the people to think it’s cold in here!  And everyone knew it was freezing cold.  It was just a unique place.  I guess when Howard finally sold it, he sold it to a church and they now have it, a church.   That was some place I’ll tell you.  Square Acres. 

 

BB:  A unique operation.

 

EJ::  Howard was a real promoter you know.  He’d keep them dancing.   He never ...you could go down there and call your dance, and Howard never ever said a word.   Call your dance, never cared what you did.  As long as you got a good crowd.  They were tearing the East Bridgewater town hall...going to build a new building.  So Howard went down and made arrangements to buy the floor of the upstairs...it was a ballroom.  I suppose it was oak or birch, I don’t know.   Supposedly a beautiful floor.  So Howard announced that he wanted everybody who was available to come down and remove this floor, cause they had to mark the boards so that when they put them down, it all matched.  So everybody went down, and they took down the floor, and they put it on trucks and they took it to Square Acres.  So then Howard announced another time that they were going to lay the floor...so anybody with any expertise with floor laying, come and help.  So a whole crowd showed up...a whole bunch of guys.  And they all went down and they layed that floor in one day.  They had to do it on the weekend, so they started Friday night and they finished up Saturday.

And everybody went home and when the came back to the dance Saturday night, Howard had raised the price of the dance, because they had a new floor to dance on!  [laughter]  They probably went from $1 to a buck and a quarter a head.  Oh, everybody was furious...but they still kept going, cause it was the best dance in town.  I always thought that was a funny story...he got everybody to help and then he raised the price!

 

Well, Square Acres...those were the things that we had, you know.  One of a kind and there’s never been another like it.

 

BB:  Well, Baycott Barn was another story in itself, too.   [oh, sure]  Another ideal situation, because Chet was the caller and teacher and Barbara was the round dance teacher and cuer.

 

EJ:  Now  Chet and Barbara danced in the..oh, this is going back...the old Satchem Steppers.   Which was Ginger Brown and Moo, and the Adamses danced to Macroo, and Bob and Johnson...old timers, you know.  If you could ever get ahold of that picture of the old Satchem Steppers at [garbled] if you could get Tom Rinker to give it to you.   That was going back...I think they were before the Worchester Quadrille Club in New England, they claimed.  Yeah, remember that, Hal Matson used to call for that, the old Worchester Quadrille Club.

 

BB:;  I wonder how far back that goes, do you remember Earl?

 

EJ:  No, that Worchester Quadrille Club was...well, I went there to call for them in their dying days, you know.  They thought if they blocked me in, it would help them.  I [garbled]   But they did Western style toward the end, but that didn’t help them you know.  I [garbled] But they were trying to keep that club going, but they had gotten old, everybody was old.  You remember Harold Matson [yeah]?  Harold’s a good caller.  He thought maybe if I went up there and called for them, and they’d have me up there once a month and somebody else once a month, you know a guest caller.   We lasted about 3 years I guess.   Same happened in Wilburhan.  They were going, things were going down, and they hired me to go in there, and I couldn’t do anymore than anyone else could. I tried to call for them and do what they wanted, but it wasn’t me or...

 

[tape 2 side 1 ends abruptly]

 

 

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Written By: Bob Brundage
Date Posted: 1/19/2007
Number of Views: 8732

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