Bill Litchman: Today is May 2, 1996. My name is Bill Litchman, and we are interviewing Bob Brundage. Well, Bob, tell me a little about your childhood.
Bob Brundage: Well, let’s see. I was born in ’22 in March, and I was born on a poultry/market gardening farm in Danbury, Connecticut, and life was a little bit different in those days than it is today. But I remember going to the first five grades of school in a one-room school where there were six grades in attendance with one teacher, one room and, as a matter of fact, as life progressed, we used to dance in that school. And we had to unbolt the desks from the floor every time and re-bolt them back the next day before Monday morning. And in fact, we had a two-part farm. My grandfather lived on one part of the farm on one side of the road, and my parents lived on the other side. And it was my grandparents that had the market gardening part of the farm, and, but we worked together, and my father had a hatchery operation where we trap-nested birds and Rhode Island Reds and had them, so we knew which of the hens - they were all banded, and we’d know which of the hens would lay the most eggs and so forth. And we bred for that, and we had a successful business. We produced many, many thousands and thousands of baby chicks as you might imagine. And we also had a side line of ornamental gourds and Indian corn. I remember the 1 year that we got really involved and raised 3,000 bushels of ornamental gourds. So, and I moved into sixth grade down town, and in those days, the nearest place we could go to catch a bus was a mile or a little more. I had a choice to go one way or the other, and depending on which girl I was interested in at the time, why, depended on which way I went to which bus. And I met my future wife back in those days, and we traveled the school bus together. And eventually married. A year and a day before D-Day. And we were together for almost 49 years before my wife passed away in April ’92.
BL: Wow. That’s very, very interesting. What were your parents’ names?
BB: Well, my mother’s name was Mabel Gene Griswold Brundage, and my father’s name was Harold Arthur Brundage. My mother was related to the, if anybody remembers, the old black iron skillets. They were called Griswold. Ha, she was related somehow to that family. Her father was an old fashioned trap drummer, and she was a concert pianist. She made her debut at Bushnell Memorial Hall in Hartford at age 14. And she and her father played for silent movies, and he was the old traditional trap drummer that had all the sound effects, and she did the escape scenes and so forth. And, of course, they traveled by horse and buggy, so that was quite an arduous event. He was, during the day he manufactured brushes. In those days, times, the brushes were made out of pig bristles. And he died at a fairly young age of anthrax.
BL: How interesting. Fascinating history. And your grandfather, the one that had the truck, garden farm.
BL: What was his name?
BB: His name was Benjamin. A. Benjamin Brundage. And he was quite a character. He was a very religious man. Read the Bible at every meal. And I remember my father telling me that there was a big highlight in their relationship when he was growing up when my Grandfather finally allowed the Sunday New York Times into the house on Sunday. And that, before that, it was strictly do your chores, go to church, spend the afternoon reading the Bible, do your chores, and go to bed.
BL: Wow. Well, that’s interesting, too. Of course, that’s a little bit strict for now-a-days standards.
BB: You better believe. Laughter.
BL: Who were your brothers and sisters?
BB: Had no sisters. I have one brother named Al, who I guess everybody in the square dance field is, a name they would recognize, but we had no sisters, just Al and I grew up together. We are 2-1/2 years apart in age.
BL: He was an older brother?
BB: Yes. Al said he was older but I was fatter.
BL: Laughter. Well, now that you’ve mentioned square dancing, maybe you could just say something about how your family was involved in square dancing or dancing in general.
BB: Well, as I said, my Mother was a concert pianist, and she was not really a farm wife. But she married my Dad after they graduated from the University of Connecticut. And we moved into our little King Street community which was a suburb of Danbury, Connecticut. And here we had a couple of dairy farms, and we had our poultry/market garden farm, and the rest of the people did odds and ends of things. But my mother was interested in our, her two boys, to be active in the musical field somehow. And so she set about to get us to take musical lessons of various kinds. My brother played the trumpet, and I started out playing the banjo. And finally wound up playing drums, percussion. But she wanted to expand our experience, and she contacted her brother-in-law who was A. J. Brundage, the state 4H Club leader in Connecticut, and asked him if it would be possible to have a 4H Club which took music for a project. As you probably remember, the 4H Clubs had either poultry, or market gardening, or dairy, or something like that as a major project which everybody participated in. And so, we finally formed the first all music 4H Club in the United States. And we, my Mother was able to convince other students in the area to start taking lessons, so our first band consisted of three banjos, a guitar, a piano, and trumpet. And that was where we started our community square dances, in a converted chicken coop as a matter of fact. One of our neighbors in the area in King Street community had quite a good size chicken coop that he did not use anymore, and we undertook to, with the help of the men in the community, to clean it all up and scrape it down and burn the walls and so forth to get rid the lice, and we polished the floor and painted the place, and made a community hall, a dance hall, out of it. And we used to dance there. I really don’t remember whether, how often we danced, but at least once a month, probably twice a month on a Saturday night. And, of course, at that time, the whole community came because there was nothing else to do until church the next morning.
BL: When, when was that chicken coop fixed up? About?
BB: Well, I have a picture of the 4H Club, the first band, and it appeared in the Fairfield County 4H Club News in 1933.
BB: So it was long about that time, ’32, ’33. And we danced there and, of course, at the time, Al and I, we were just going as young, youngsters and dancing. We had one man in the community that knew some square dances, and he did most of the calling, and then some of the older boys started to take over the calling, and all of a sudden, they got interested in girls. And, so Al took over calling part of the time, and it was a community effort. It was about the same time that I started also.
BL: What was the name of the man that did, the adult who did the calling?
BB: Oh, his name was Andy Golder, G o l d e r.
BB: And, but it was an interesting experience, and we did the old, we did all visiting couple dances and so forth. But I remember we did some dances which were beyond the, the realm of visiting couple dances. We did Right and Left Six, Right and Left Eight, Three Ladies Chain. Right and left eight would be just like what is today called an Eight Chain Thru no hands. And Right and Left Six would be three couples across, you know, one visiting couple and the two side couples for example. And we did Three Ladies Chain In Line and Four Ladies Chain In Line. These were pretty much complicated dances, and we had a lot of fun trying to figure them out with very little, we had no knowledge of square dancing outside of our own community at the time. But as time went along, as I say, our parents were both very interested in expanding our, our realm of reality, and we started traveling to other dances outside of our own community. Even, eventually as far away as New Jersey and all parts of Connecticut and over into New York state.
BL: How old were you when you started to travel?
BB: Well, that was right around about that same time
BL: Oh, ’34.
BB: Yeah, it would make me 11, 12 years old, 13, 14, long about that time. And we found interesting things. Number one, we learned that we did not know everything there was to know about square dancing and there were a lot of other figures that we never heard of. And we found out that if you go to New Jersey, an Allemande Left is you hook left elbows and you spin around about four times before you continue the next call. And we found other areas where you did the Do Si Do left shoulder instead of right shoulder. And we eventually began to meet other callers who had little more knowledge than we did, and we would comprise quite a repertoire of calls at that time. It was certainly an interesting time of our lives, I’m sure.
BL: Yeah. Did you remember any of the callers names in Jersey, or New York, or any of those places you went?
BB: Well, not at that time. I can’t honestly say that I do. A little bit later on when we started getting involved, Charley Zintell from New Jersey, and Rod LaFarge who, let’s see, he published
BL: Rosin The Bow
BB Rosin The Bow is that the name? Yeah. And then we found other people up through our own state of Connecticut, like Kip Benson from Berlin, and along about that time, as I say, we were really getting active in, in the business. By the way, our 4H Club had this band that was our popularity started to rise when the Farm Bureau organizations heard about us and wanted us for their entertainment. So we used to travel around to a lot of different places and put on just a little show and like that and occasionally do a square dance. But that was where we, all of a sudden we started getting paid, and
BB: Now life was getting interesting.
BL: You were still young
BL: You know, in age by that time, too.
BB: Yes, right. Well, I ran across a book that I kept a ledger, that I kept at one time, and it said things like Peach Lake, $3.15. And that was my pay. I remember when we started working at Peach Lake, where we worked for over 25 years every Wednesday night through the summer, it was a summer community place, and at that time, the whole band, a four-piece band and a caller went for $35.
BL: Laughter. Well, time’s have changed, haven’t they?
BL: Okay. So you now have been involved for several years, even though you were quite young, maybe10, 10 to 15 years old, you are now getting into high school. Could you say anything more about your activities through, through high school? Your Mother was playing the piano in the band, say something more about what you were doing while you were in high school.
BB: Well, in high school I remember, as a matter of fact the most outstanding thing I remember that I got me really involved in the calling was the year my brother went away to college, and, so we were left without a complete band, and, so I used some of my classmates from college. One turned out to be a very, very well-known doctor, medical doctor, another wound up to be a vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank, and at the time we were sophomores and juniors in high school. It was an unusual band because we were playing things like clarinets and trombones, and, but our first regular job wound up to be a little place called the Hawleyville Fire House. When it was full, it held four squares. And they danced every Saturday night for a while, and we usually danced two to three squares regularly, and, so it was quite an experience for us to go out and work for pay and make things like $3 a night because at that time, there were guys, other classmates of ours, that were working every night after school and all day Saturday to make $3. And of course in those day, the dances were all from to with about a 30 to 45 minute intermission around the spot somewhere. And it was also a practice that if it came and everybody was not ready to go home yet, we would pass the hat and we would figure out how much money we took in from passing the hat to determine whether we would play another 20 minutes, another half hour, or another hour or what. As I say, there wasn’t anything much else to do so we may as well party.
BL: Now when, when you were doing all this, band work and dance work through your young years and into high school, what sorts of dances did you do? I mean you mentioned the visiting couples squares and a few other figures; what sorts of dances were you doing? Were you doing any round dances at all, or?
BB: Well, the band, you see, with my brother playing trumpet, the usual program would be three squares, and then three round dances which were not like round dancing, we’re talking about ballroom. And it would be a set of three, usually like a waltz, and then a polka, and then another waltz, or maybe a two-step, or three two-steps in a row, or what have you. And, so Al would call the squares and then he’d play the trumpet for the round dances, and at that time I was full time playing the drums. So I was playing drums for both. And then if Al was not available to call for some reason or other, something to do with high school or whatever or after he went away to college, then I started to do the calling. In fact there were many, many times that I did like Don Armstrong does and sit at the drums and play and call at the same time. And, but I was also active, and Al was too, through high school with band and symphony. I know I was invited to play with the Danbury Symphony Orchestra and I was playing tympani at the time, and I was the only one in Danbury with any knowledge of a tympani drum, so, and that was I remember I was going to a symphony orchestra rehearsal and after rehearsal was when I got engaged. That just occurred to me, I don’t know why. Laughter.
BL: Well, tell me about that. That sounds like an interesting story.
BB: No, it was just that on the way home I had purchased a ring that day, and we had pretty much agreed that we were going to eventually marry, and so here it was at 10 o’clock at night, and I remember going back to her parents’ house, and she got them out of bed and, told them she was engaged.
BL: How did they take it?
BB: Oh, they took it fine, yeah.
BL: You know a square dance caller and
BL: An itinerant musician and all.
BB: Yeah. Well, my wife fortunately was a very, very good dancer. She was an excellent follower, and she loved music and she loved to dance, and so as time went along, we got involved in all kinds of things. We were on the staff of many folk dance camps, like Maine Folk Dance Camps with Marianne and Michael Herman. And then the New England Recreation Leaders Laboratory with Lawrence Loy, in Massachusetts. All of the camps were up in Maine. But wherever we went, she was happy with that type of dancing.
BL: Yeah. Well, it sounds like a great partnership.
BB: Yes. Right.
BL: My wife and I both had that same kind of involvement.
BB: I know that.
BL: It’s great. Yeah. It’s a terrific time. Well, when you went away to college, and were involved there, did you go to the same school that your brother went to, or
BB: Yes. We both went to the University of Maine, and the other interesting thing I think folks would like to know is that the year that Al was senior and I was a freshman was when my father started to call. In order to keep the band working so that when we were home for holiday breaks and so forth, why we would have a chance to make a couple of dollars. And everybody logically thinks that we both learned from our father, but that’s not the way it was. And I always felt that he really did a credible job. He was not particularly into music per se. He did play the bass drums in the American Legion Fife and Drum Corps at one time, and he sang in a quartet which had quite a bit of popularity at one time. But outside of that, he had no formal musical training like my mother did. So,
BL: Now, when you went to college, let’s see, you must have been 18?
BL: Eighteen years old?
BB: Yes. Right.
BL: That would have been just about the time when the war
BB: Well, I was in the, my high school class was 1940, and I went to Maine in the fall of ’40, and I went through 2 years of school before I enlisted in the Air Force and went through pilot training and so forth. I had taken CPT was Civilian Pilot Training while I was in college in my first 2 years, and then I spent 3 years in the service, and came back and got a Masters Degree in 1948. I always said I’m one of the few people it took me 8 years to get through college.
BL: Laughter. Oh, my. Well, so, your Dad then started calling about the time you left.
BL: About 1940.
BL: And carried on from there. Where did you go in the service?
BB: Well, I was, went through the Southeast Training Command and flying fighter aircraft, and I put in 10 hours on a P40 one time, but I ultimately wound up in a P47, a Republic thunderbolt, and I went to England, and we flew many missions out of England during the bombing of the oil fields and so forth. And then D-Day came along, that was January 6, (Editors note: proper date was June 6, 1944) and I flew four missions that day with no problems at all primarily because there was no opposition. Our biggest problem was that the British were flying clockwise and we were flying counter clockwise over the beaches. But then I eventually moved over to France on D5, 5 days after D-Day, and sometime if you’d like, I’ll tell you the story of how I invaded France in a Piper Cub.
BL: Laughter. That would be very interesting. Where were you stationed in England?
BB: Well, we were down in the south just near the Isle of Wake, near Bournemouth as a matter of fact.
BB: And we, we were not there too long, but we were flying mostly off of temporary air strips where the Corps. of Engineers came down and laid these huge plates out on a field anywhere, and we were flying off them. They were up over and dale and so forth.
BL: It must have been exciting.
BB: Yeah. It, it was an experience. But the P47 was a very, very dependable plane with a very wide landing gear, and you almost couldn’t ground loop it but you couldn’t, almost know you couldn’t wreck the darn thing taking off or landing.
BL: Even if you wanted to.
BB: Even if you wanted to, right.
BL: Well, tell me about your invasion of France.
BB: Have we got enough tape?
BL: Well, we can always turn it over.
BB: Yeah. Well, it’s funny. You know you say in the Army you never volunteer for anything, but because of the CPT program that I’d been in while I was in college, we were flying Piper Cubs. And, so a call came down from Wing Headquarters that they had four airplanes they wanted to transport from England to the continent. And it turns out that I was the only one in the whole group that ever had Piper Cub training. So I reluctantly volunteered. And so we got together, we had one plane what was called an L4 at that time, and we had an L5, and a, C10, which is a twin engine, and a P47 that belonged to the Wing Headquarters that had to be transported. So we sat down and tried to figure out how we could all arrive at the Chergurg Peninsula at the same time. That’s where we were headed for, that’s where the beach head was. And because the P47 was armed and he could have protected us so to speak, so we didn’t realize that we’d almost run out of time and of course, the L, my Piper Cub was the slowest aircraft of the four. So, I had to take off first, and we were rushing to make this rendezvous so to speak. And we never made it. But anyway, I jumped in the plane and took off, and it’s, I performed what is called a cardinal sin in those day. In an airplane before you take off, part of the pilot’s responsibility to check what is called a Form 1 to make sure it’s been serviced, and all the maintenance has been taken care, and everything is checked out, and so forth. And I never did it. I was in such a rush to take off, and, so before I even got off over the Isle of Wight, well the L5 went by me, and also, oh, maybe 20 minutes later, here comes the C10, the twin engine, and that went by me. Of course they were, they couldn’t fly with me. And so as the story goes, here I am at 3,000 feet over the English Channel and I forgot to mention the fact that I had always flown the Piper Cubs from the back seat. And so its configuration is such that, if you put a seat pack parachute under you in the back seat, then your head is against the ceiling. So I, again in my rush to make this rendezvous, I threw the seat packed parachute in the front seat and sat in the back seat. And so at 3,000 feet over the English Channel, I am saying to myself, you know, I’d feel much better if I was sitting on that parachute. So I decided to change seats. And, so I, there’s one trim tab, and I was able to get that stabilized, and I set the throttle in such a way that it should maintain a fairly, it was a calm day fortunately and sunny. So there are two spars up over your head, and the front seat, the back of the front seat was quite a bit higher than the back seat. But I thought I could wrap my feet around the seat and swing my fanny up over the top of the front seat and slide down into the pack parachute. Well, I grabbed the two spars after I got everything all trimmed up, and I was wearing the Air Force flying suit which has a very loose thing with all kinds of pockets in it and so forth. So I grabbed these bars, and I made the big lunge and as I did, I hit the throttle with my elbow which threw the airplane out of trim. And, so I wasn’t able to get my fanny up over the front seat, so I dove for the back seat and in so doing, I caught the stick in the crotch of my flying suit which immediately pulled the nose up into a stall, and here comes a nice spin. And so I, here I am in the middle of a spin trying to disengage the stick from the crotch of my flying suit, and fortunately, the Piper Cub is such a nice airplane that if you just let go of everything, it will pull itself out of a spin. And, so down near about 7 or 800 feet, I finally was able to get it disengaged and so I came out maybe 500 feet above the water, and I’m looking down the barrel of many, many, all kinds of armament on a US destroyer. And the rule of thumb at that time, because of the invasion, was anybody flying below 2,000 feet or above 3,000 feet got shot down. So I’m, I can see the poor Navy guys out there saying to themselves, what the heck is that guy doing out there practicing spins today. This was only 5 days after D-Day. But planes coming the other way headed toward England with their wheels down, and I thought they were Stucas. That was the fixed landing gear aircraft at the time, and I said, well, I guess I’ve had it. But it turns out, they were DC3s hospital airplanes with their wheels down which is another form of recognition that because of the invasion at that time. So I continued on anyway, and I made land fall with Cherburg Peninsula and about that time, the P47 caught up with me. And he was a good friend of mine, and he was going around and around and around and I hadn’t seen him for a couple of minutes. I looked over my shoulder, and here he comes. He’s got his wheels down and full flaps down, and he’s coming through the air just barely staggering and he goes, whoosh, right by me. As if he was going to fly formation with me, but that’s kind of ridiculous. But anyway, and I finally found the air strip, the beach head at that time and inland was less than a mile deep so it wasn’t hard to find, and so I landed. And the Germans were shelling the field that day and, but I managed to survive. But I thought that was, when I told that story to Don Armstrong, he said that really belongs in the Aviation Museum
BL: Sure. It would make a very interesting story for someone.
BB: Yeah. You bet.
BL: That’s neat.
BB: Not much to do with square dancing.
BL: Laughter. No, but it’s to do with you, and that’s okay.
BB: Yeah, right.
BL: Sure. Well, okay. So then after the war, you got back to the States. Did your wife go with you to England? I don’t suppose she did.
BB: No, no.
BL: No. So you get back to the States, tell me about what happened then.
BB: Well, I went back to the farm and just kind of bummed around for a couple of months. And my father said, don’t you think you ought to go back to college? And I said, well, I guess maybe I should, so I went back a little late actually. That, a year of course my wife was with me then. And we lived in student housing which there were a lot of veterans with wives at that time back studying again. And so I went back into calling a little bit. I had a fraternity brother who played piano, and he and I went out and worked together. And I remember we got $5. He got $2, and I got $3, and so we played quite a few things together. I had a little, of course at that time there were still no recordings that were available, and I had a little 8 watt amplifier and one speaker and one big humongous microphone. And so we went out and entertained. We’d play for 2 or 3 hours. But it was
BL: Was this the University of Maine again?
BB: Yes. And turned out my piano player, his father was a very successful lawyer in Portland, Maine, and so his son wound up to be one of the prominent lawyers in Portland also. And we, after I graduated from college, my first job I took at the University of Massachusetts, and I was working at the Experiment Station doing research work and like that.
BL: What field was that?
BB: Agricultural Economics.
BL: Oh, okay.
BB: And so that was when I met Lawrence Loy. Unfortunately, Lawrence Loy’s fame is not quite as predominant as I think it should be. As time went along, he was the first man that I know of that recorded square dance music on a major label. He recorded with RCA Victor, and almost seems as though somewhere here in the archives, I hope maybe I might find some copies of those.
BL: I’m sure we have them.
BL: I’ve seen some records by him.
BB: But, at that point, we were doing a lot of square dancing. Square dance clubs were just getting started. Much to the consternation of the, my boss at the University. I was taking so much time traveling. I was going somewhere all the time. At that time, I was on the Board of Directors of the New England Folk Festival Association and traveled from Amherst to Boston once a month for quite some time. And I really should mention to you before all this happened, too, earlier at the University of Connecticut, my father’s brother, A. J. Brundage who was the state 4H Club Leader, decided primarily because of the formation of our music club, got himself sort of interested in what’s going on in square dancing around Connecticut. And at that time, every caller had his own repertoire you might say, so he undertook to contact all the Granges and Farm Bureaus and so forth, any group like that in the state and asked them if they would like to participate in a huge festival. And we got, the response was terrific as you might expect. And so he prepared the calls that the callers would use in a mimeographed form and sent it to each group, and they practiced what they were going to dance before they got there. And in conjunction with this festival, he called it a Song and Dance Festival because he also contacted every choral group in Connecticut, and we danced on the University of Connecticut football field, and the Song Festival took place before the Square Dance Festival and at that time, it amounted to approximately 3,000 voices.
BB: And we danced, for the Square Dance Festival, we marked off the field with squares and so people would just, because people came in squares. There was not a single couples. And like one Grange would send one square or two squares, something like that with a couple of alternates, and we sat in the stands. But everybody went to their square. It was assigned. And so we had, if I remember right, we used to average about 100 squares.
BB: Dancing on the, and it was amplified and we all, every caller brought his own band, so we’d have five or six callers and five or six bands that all congregated at the University of Connecticut every summer for quite a few years.
BL: Let’s see, was this before the war or
BB: Yes. Before the war. And then we, Lawrence Loy carried this tradition on afterward at the University of Massachusetts. And we used the callers from Massachusetts then, but I even found a program that Ed Gilmore was there. He was from Yucaipa, California, and way down the other end of the state Charlie Baldwin plus there were callers around the Springfield area. And it was really quite an event. We had callers that came in from over in the eastern part of New York State and like that. So it was a big event. Much the same way, I remember Jack Mansfield who called for the Storrowton Dancers. They were an exhibition group in contra and square dances, one of the dances in, this is mentioned somewhere in print and I forget exactly where, but at one of the dances that the, somebody hit a light pole and the lights went out on the field, while Jack Mansfield was calling. And he always called this singing call. And that was his favorite and most of the dancers knew it. So when the lights went out, they started singing and dancing, and Jack got so mad, he folded up his band and off they went. Never came back. Laughter.
BL: Isn’t that funny.
BB: Jack was, he was a funny guy. He had a record of one of his favorites, and it only had six choruses on it. And every time he’d start out that seventh chorus to call, and the record quit. And he said, darn, that did it again. Laughter. I can’t believe that he would do that. Laughter.
BL: Well, let’s, continue a little bit with Lawrence Loy, he certainly is a famous name. What else, what other associations did you have with him?
BB: Well, of course, I should mention also before we get into other things that the Square Acres way down in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, which became quite a very well-known square dance hall. His main hall was called Loy Hall in Lawrence’s memory. But Lawrence was very involved in the recreational aspects and at that time, I was doing play party games and so forth. So I was on the, his staff at the Recreational Leaders Laboratory which is a New England wide function. And, or actually Northeast and was held up in Maine. And we had quite a square dance program there, and so it was at that time that I met Bernice Scott who was from Ithaca, New York, associated with Cornell, and, which is also a land grant college by the way. And she was in the recreational field, and she got me involved in an annual competition of different age groups, mostly young people, at the New York State Fair. And I went and did that every year for several years. The interesting, the first time that I went to do anything like that was at Cornell actually, and they had huge, huge big not a gymnasium, not an auditorium, but a field house type of a thing. And matter of fact, there were military vehicles parked inside at one end of this, and they were so small they looked like toys it was that big. And I happened to lead what I think might be one of the biggest grand marches that anybody ever heard of because we had hundreds and hundreds of kids from all over the state that came to this thing. And it was big enough and large enough that we had 64’s coming down the center. And we stopped at 64, and then we broke into eight and eights of each. And we had live band, Phil Green, who was from the Springfield, Massachusetts, area. And I understood that I was to call for a competition. And so Scotty said to me, well, how do you plan to do the judging. And I said, Scotty, you want me to call for these 70 or 80 squares of dancers and judge at the same time? Oh, yeah, you know. She couldn’t see any problem with that. And so, don’t ask me how, but I somehow came up with a winner, and working with a strange band that I never worked with before, but that led to this annual competition at the New York State Fair. And these kids were put in different age groups, and I tell you, it was as big to them as these cheer leading things that you see on TV once in a while today. And it was really quite a competitive thing. It was in the horse ring at the New York State Fair, and it had a tanbark floor which is not the best to dance on. But they marked off the floor in squares and had them numbered, and the kids came in. But there they were being judged as squares and they came from all over the state. And I remember one of the first time that I went there in the afternoon of the day that we were to have our competition, Zavier Cougat and Abbey Lane were playing for the entertainment of people, a free concert type of thing, and the coliseum was, well, maybe a third full, and when we had the square dance competition, I tell you, it was a packed house. And I also said, well I remember the day that I outdrew Zavier Cougat and Abbey Lane. Laughter.
BL: When was this contest held? Are we talking after the war?
BB: Oh, yes. Yes.
BL: About when was it? Before 1950, or?
BB: Uh, probably before 1950, yes.
BL: About 1948 or so? 1949?
BB: Yeah, I’m kind of guessing. I hadn’t really put my mind to it, think about it.
BL: Maybe it will come later, but
BL: But that puts it about in perspective.
BB: Yeah, yeah.
BL: Well, that’s great.
BB: But it was during the annual fair, you know.
BB: And it was always a Tuesday night. And I remember I always drove up, I drove up that day and stayed overnight and drove back the next day. Syracuse is a good full day’s drive.
BL: Oh, yeah. Well, that’s interesting. Uh, what about Lawrence Loy, uh, and your, uh, recreational work with him.
BB: Well, that was a little bit limited actually. Uh, he got me interested in it. I remember I did a few recreational leader type things for groups that he put me in contact with, but I never really got into that field very deeply. Primarily because I was spending so much time in developing a square dance program. And, uh, folk dancing and so forth. And I, I actually taught folk dancing at one time. Uh, when I was - as part of a square dance program. At that time, we were - about an hour getting, talking, having records available and so forth. And so the things that I learned like at Maine Folk Dance Camp, uh, I would take them and use them as - because round dancing as we know it today, was not (phone ringing), uh, done hardly at all in New England.
BL: Let’s continue our discussion a little bit about Lawrence Loy. Maybe you’ve got some other memories of him and what he did.
BB: Well, Lawrence Loy was responsible for bringing the western style of square dancing to New England. And I’m sure there are very few people that know that probably. But he was the one responsible for bringing Herb Greggerson, uh, into – Brockton, Massachusetts for a weekend, uh, dance seminar type of a thing. And I think Herb Greggerson, as I remember, came from Ruidoso, New Mexico, and, so at that seminar where all the people that wound up to be anybody in square dancing at that time like Charlie Baldwin, and Howard Hogue, and my brother, uh, a few people were not there like Earl Johnston and Red Bates perhaps, but, uh, the biggest part of the group came obviously from, uh, southern Massachusetts, south of Boston, Massachusetts, area. But, uh, I’m pretty sure Dick Ledger was there, for example, and, uh, the people that eventually became any kind of a name, I think, were there to learn about - that was the first time we’d ever heard Do Paso and uh, and things like Allemande Thar, and much - they were like Challenge dancing to us. But it was a very interesting program, and he also presented some, uh, round dances. We did Laces and Graces, and he taught us the, uh, Boston Two Step. And, uh, the original Varsouvianna, and all of this was a brand new experience for us. And some of the people who became full time in the business at the time. I remember my brother, for example, really perked up his ears when we found out that Herb Greggerson was gone from Ruidoso for 32 days, and he was calling 30 times during that period at $100 a pop. And all of a sudden everybody who had been working for, ha, $10 or $15 a night, all of a sudden said, hey, you know, maybe there’s more to this than meets the eye. And this was just about the time that, uh, Sets in Order was, uh, starting to be published. And it was just about the time that we heard about Lloyd Shaw and the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers, and, uh, so everything seemed to come together about that same time. And we all started to, uh, form square dance classes and square dance clubs. Of course, our square dance class at that time was 6 weeks. And you could learn everything there was to know about square dancing in, in six, 2-1/2 hour sessions. And it didn’t take long before we were now doing 10 weeks, and then we were doing 12 weeks, and then we were doing 15 weeks. And of course, now we’re doing 60 weeks, or thereabouts to learn what there is to know about square dancing. It was very, very interesting. I remember the first square dance, one of the first classes that I had was in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and we had 11 squares of, of students with no, no angels as we know them today. And all over the New England was popping up with a myriad of, of square dance classes, uh, they’d become clubs. So I was living in western Massachusetts at the time, and we had a very active program in, in western Massachusetts at that time, in the Springfield area. And, uh, by this time, uh, Earl Johnston was in, and, uh, Rate Bates and so forth. And a lot areas had very, very successful clubs and some of them are still dancing today. Unfortunately, many of them folded, and, uh, this one that I mentioned in Wilbraham folded up, uh, soon after I moved back to Connecticut, but, uh, matter of fact, I, I actually drove from Connecticut to Wilbraham, uh, twice this week and once next week and, uh, class every week and club every other week. And, uh, I was at that time, a short period of time I was punching a clock back in Danbury working for a corporation called Manning, Maxwell and Moore. But, uh, so there were a lot of things going on, and we expanded our area of expertise, and, uh, our area of meeting other people from farther away. This is when we first met Ralph Page and all the people that everybody remembers probably. So, it was a very busy, busy time when people were traveling all over the place, and we were worried about the level of square dancing at the time, and this was long before Callerlab (cough), excuse me, long before Callerlab brought up and Bob Osgood brought up the idea of trying to standardize things. But, uh, there’s an amusing story you might like to know. At that time there was sort of three levels of dancing. People were called either low level, medium level, or high level dancers. And, uh, Chip Hendrickson, who lived in Newtown, Connecticut, good friend, said, well I, I’ve solved that problem, he says, you don’t have to worry about the level of dancers anymore, because people were complaining because the high level dancers didn’t want with the low level dancers and so forth. And he said, well, all you do, he said. you have a sign at the door. If you’re a low level dancer, you pay $2, and if you’re a medium level dancer, you pay $3, and if you’re high level dancer, you pay $4. And all of a sudden you’ll find there’s a whole world of low level dancers. Laughter. Leave it to Chip to do that.
BL: Very clever.
BL: Well, talk a little bit about Ralph Page. You met him. Did you go up to his camp at any time, or?
BB: No, I never did as a matter of fact. It’s really interesting that, uh, I was intrigued. I was on several programs with Ralph, and we partied together, and people might not know that he was, he was a pretty good partyer. And, uh, of course, he was a strict disciplinarian, and, uh, at the time, I was young and cocky, and his format didn’t, didn’t kind of, didn’t kind of jive with my, my thoughts, and I couldn’t appreciate, uh, his philosophy then as I do now. So I never really, as - I was on several festivals with him, especially folk festivals, and, uh, I remember he hated bag pipes, and New England Folk Festivals always started with the grand march led by the bag pipes, and he, he couldn’t even be in the hall. He didn’t want to hear them at all. He was funny that way. But, uh, but he was an excellent gentleman. Of course, he headed Northern Junket, and I didn’t particularly care for that. I didn’t particularly care about the recipes that he put in and so forth, and as I say, I couldn’t appreciate his philosophy at that time because, because I was young and cocky. I was so interested in the western style square dancing that the old New England things, although I enjoyed dancing them and I enjoyed calling them, I just never got that involved with him or with that area, uh, until later on.
BL: Dick Ledger came from where?
BB: Rhode Island.
BL: Rhode Island. Uh, what was your association with him?
BB: Well, Dick and I, uh, are closest association was on the timing committee at Callerlab, uh, for a few years. And, uh, we bumped into each other. He was a guest caller at my clubs, and, uh, uh, he stayed at my house many, many times, and, uh, if he had a 2 or 3 day lay-over, why he’d spend the time at my house. And, uh, he was probably one that got me thinking more about the, the musical portion of square dancing instead of the boom chuck kind of an idea that, uh, most square dancers subscribed to, uh, just start to appreciate the musical phrase and got thinking about contras and quadrilles and like that. And, uh, so we, we spent many programs together and enjoyed each other’s company, and, uh, of course, he and Sue, his wife, Sue, were quite the entertainers. She played piano and much like Pancho and Marie Baird, . . .
BL: Oh, yes.
BB: They worked together, and, uh, for a long time. I guess they don’t any more. So we kind of lost contact, uh, with - I was playing golf with Dick in Danbury one time, and he hit a, he hit a 4 iron into the hole for an eagle, and, uh, that’s one of the memories that I have of him.
BL: Laughter. So he did pretty well.
BL: Who were some of the other people that you associated with there in, uh, in the New England area about this time - say around 1950?
BB: Well, golly, as I said, I was closer to the folk festival idea, the folk dance people. Ted Sannella had quite an influence on my thinking, and, uh, I remember Rod Linell. He was from Peru, Maine. Tremendous, tremendous voice, and, uh, he has some printed material which I’ve got to get my ands on again. Yeah, again, my thinking was, was not along that line, along the same with Ralph Page. It was more about the modern, western style square dancing, but, uh, he was at, uh, at one or two of the camps that I did, and, uh, just had a tremendous, tremendous voice. And his calling was just impeccable. Uh, he printed stuff that he put together. I wish I had a copy of, and I’m sure there is one here in the archives somewhere.
BL: Were these callers’ notes or something or?
BB: No, there was a book that he put out and. . .
BL: I see.
BB: Louise Winston hawked it for quite a while. She, she was sort of the co-author of it, if you will.
BL: Um, hmmm.
BB: And, uh, then there were other people in the Boston area associated with, uh, Irwin Davis, for example, was on the board of directors of the Lawrence Loy Memorial Scholarship fund with me, and he was, he was a Scottish dancer. Beautiful - big man and just beautiful to watch dance. He, he was a very successful lawyer, and, uh I didn’t mention (. . .) people should realize that Lawrence Loy died at age 42. But, uh, and there was . . .
BL: How did he die? Was this an illness or something?
BB: Yeah. He had a, he had a cardiac condition.
BL: I see.
BB: And, uh, but he was, you know, he was overweight, and he was under a lot of stress. He was a stressful type of a person, and I’m sure it just got to him because - and I, I wasn’t that close to him because I’d moved back to Connecticut by that time, so I don’t really know all the details. So, uh, Connie, and let’s see, Connie Taylor, delightful guy, and Irwin Davis’s daughter, and they, uh, I believe they wound up getting married together. But we had, uh, gosh, I don’t know, I really enjoyed it - my time with the folk dance people. They’re a wonderful group, and, uh, I never really got to know Tony Parks. I met him once or twice, but I never worked with him. Uh, I wish I had. I wish I could, I’ll put it that way. So, uh . . .
BL: What about Charlie Baldwin?
BL: (. . .)
BB: Charley and I, uh, we were - there’s a good story about Charlie. He was one of the first speakers at the, uh, we had a New England-wide conclave of callers one time. And, uh, after his speech about what it was at the time I don’t remember, but, uh, somebody said are there any questions. And a fella got up, and he said, Charlie, he said, how do you know when a record is worn out? And he said, when you hear the music coming from, through from the other side. And this was Charlie He had kind of a dry humor. And, of course, everybody knows that he was the editor of the New England Caller Magazine which started out as a little back pocket pamphlet, and, uh, turned into a very successful magazine which today’s evolved into the Northeast Square Dancer Magazine. And, uh, it’s a very comprehensive magazine, a very, very well published and edited. So he and Bertha were great people, very, very interested in the program itself, and he was the one that founded and - the Square Dance Foundation of New England, and, uh, he’s the one that got it off the ground. Unfortunately, shortly after that, he passed away, and then Bertha passed away also. Well, um, I don’t think very many people would do what we went through in order to get to one dance. We had a virtual blizzard, and, uh, our farm was 3 miles from the center of Danbury, up on a mountain. And, uh, so telephone calls were going around during the day, and everybody was saying, well, the roads, the streets downtown are plowed, and probably some people would show up for the dance. And can you make it. And so my Father said, of course we can make it. So, we packed … now I want you to realize that, uh, as we looked out our living room window down the street toward, toward town, there was a stone wall fence on one side and a hillside on the other, and it was level with snow. And the snow there is probably up to your shoulders. Every where else it was also waist deep. So, uh, Al took his trumpet, and Mother took a few sheets of music, my Dad carried the bass drum, and I carried a snare drum and a pair of sticks and a couple of other things, and we took off up over the mountain the back way. Plowing through the forest, and, uh, we marched over the mountain. It took us probably an hour to go the 1 mile down the bottom of the mountain where my future wife, my wife’s family lived, and, uh, the roads at that point were partially plowed so we were able to get their car out by shoveling the snow. And we drove the rest of the way into Danbury and put on the dance. And we did have three squares in attendance. And, uh, actually we didn’t reverse our path that night. We stayed overnight with my wife’s, my future wife’s parents. And, uh, it was a long time. Our, actually our road was never shoveled out until about 5 days later, and they had the WPA men making, uh, 75¢ a day or something stupid thing, who actually manually shoveled out that 1 mile from the bottom of the mountain to our place.
BL: Wow. This must have been the late ‘30s?
BB: Yes. Yeah.
BL: Okay. Fantastic. Well, uh, I’m, I’m sure that, uh, your relationship, your association with other callers whom we probably have heard of, know, would be of great interest. So, if you have any memory of your involvement with any of these other people, that, either are known nationally or might be regionally, we’d sure like to hear some of the stories.
BB: Well, I went to Lloyd Shaw’s summer school in 1954. And one interesting thing happened there besides meeting Bob Osgood for the first time and other national leaders. Um, the, uh, students at that school normally stayed in dormitories at the Cheyenne Mountain School and before we were able to be billeted, they ran out of dormitory space. So three couples were assigned to a private home. Uh, a nice three-bedroom home, and, uh, so we thought we were really quite fortunate because we found they had a beautiful wide open basement with no upstanding pillars and so forth. And it was, you can imagine the size of it under a three-bedroom home. So we invited people from, after one of the dances to come back to our place and have a little after party. And we set up an amplifier and, uh, the predominant leader there that night was Manning and Nita Smith. And we round danced, and we round danced, and we round danced, and, uh, we did a couple of squares and after all this hilarity, someone said, uh, bear in mind at that time, the, uh, square dance dresses were floor length and so someone suggested well, you know, Pappy Shaw’s lectures at 9 o’clock, and we don’t dare miss that. And we, uh, said well, we’d better get back to our own place and get at least a couple of hours of sleep. And, uh, this basement had no windows, and we walked upstairs, and it was broad daylight. So the whole gang of us, the whole party actually went to a restaurant somewhere and had breakfast, and, uh, just barely made the lecture. And, of course, I’m afraid that most of us probably slept through the lecture, but, uh, and that was my first association with Manning and Nita. I, uh, saw Nita just, uh, uh, a few weeks ago. In December I decided to drive to Florida to see my brother, and on the way through Texas, I stopped in College Station and took Nita to, uh, lunch. And we had a very interesting time. We reminisced about that particular night, and she’s still broken up about, um, Manning’s passing away. They, uh, had an improvement to make on their home. They wanted an open area that they could move some furniture and be big enough to dance in. And, uh, I understand that was completed about, uh, just a few days before Manning died.
BL: Oh, what a shame.
BB: And, uh, so we, uh, did stop to see them on one of our tours, uh, they also have a mini ranch outside of town, and, uh, we did stay there. I remember a moving picture that I took - one of the popular dances at that time was, um, (. . .)
BL: Can’t remember the name of the dance. It’ll come back to us later on.
BB: Right. But the picture showed my wife doing this solo out beside the house, and they had a bunch of college students there, they were having an afternoon dance party. And it was really interesting times, and we had, unfortunately we didn’t get together that often because of the distance. But, uh, I remember they were in - somewhere in New England and were asked to put on a round dance exhibition. And the, uh, handed me a record that they liked to perform. Uh, I don’t really remember the name of the dance, but at that time I had a Caliphone amplifier and this was where the player was going to be used.
And unfortunately, the Caliphone has a 10% above average, uh, above RPM speed control. And so they put this - I put this on at normal 78 RPM speed. They started to dance, and as they did, he had told me, now as the dance progresses, I want you to speed it up. So I speeded it up, and he kept giving the speed up signal from the floor, and, uh, within a very short time, I had it at top speed, and never did get it up as fast as they wanted it. But they, they forgave me for such an error. Laughter.
BL: They were certainly nice people.
BB: Oh, they certainly were. So, um, but this was the beginning of my touring years. As I contacted most of the people that were at the Shaw School, and was able to arrange dances around the country. And I used to tour, oh, 6 to 8 weeks every spring, about May or so, and we had many good times. I always remember that, uh, as soon as we got west of Detroit, the square dancing would seem to change a little bit. It always had a faster tempo, and I remember calling at a dance in, uh, just outside of Chicago one time, and a little old lady, must have been 90 years old, came up to me and very secretively she said, “I know you can call faster than that”. Laughter. And so I couldn’t wait to get back East, and I remember the, the best dance of my tour every year was when I stopped in Ann Arbor, and, uh, called for the Shorty and Dottie Hoffmeyer’s Club in Ann Arbor. And I thought I was getting back home again, getting back to the old plod-along New England tempos that I still enjoy. So, um, then, of course, we saw Bob Osgood at many, about all of the nationals every time that I went to one. And spent time together and, of course, we enjoyed Sets in Order and all of his efforts.
BL: Now when you went on your tours, uh, were these repetitive. Every year you went to the same kinds of places, or . . .
BB: No, usually different places. Some were repeats, but, uh,
BB: I remember the, the, uh, a friend of mine was, uh, the manager of the Triple A in Danbury. Uh, he said to me one time, he said, “How in the world do you ever find a dance in Red Oak, Iowa”, he said “ I couldn’t even find it on the state map”. I had to go to a county map to find Red Oak, and it was through some association in the past. You know, we made our contacts at the nationals also.
BL: Uh, huh.
BB: Someone hears and sees, you know, if you’re ever coming through, let me know, type of a thing.
BL: Well, you know, when, when you would, uh, do these tours, would you call every night and drive during the day to the next place, uh, basically?
BB: Well, I wish it would work out that way, but, uh, I remember one of the worse treks that I made I called in, no, I stayed over night in Montreal after a dance over the Bangor, Maine, and, uh, the next day I drove to Toronto, and stayed with the lady caller there and called for her club. And after the dance, because of our next commitment, Fran and I got in the car and drove all the way to Duluth, Minnesota.
BB: Arriving there the next afternoon.
BB: And, uh, . . .
BL: How did you keep up that pace? I mean that was . . .
BB: Well, not very easily, but, uh, that’s the way it was, and, ‘cause my next dance I think was - I had one dance in Canada at an Air Force RCAF Base, and I remember they had problem with the sound and they had draped all the, this huge gymnasium with, uh, camouflage parachutes to deaden the sound. And we drove all across the Trans Canada Highway and came down into Glacier National Park area, and called in Missoula, Montana. And, uh, about the second day of that particular part of the trip, my wife said, you know what the trouble is. We haven’t seen a tree in 2 days. Laughter. And you travel 25 miles and there’s a grain elevator, and a gas station, and that’s it. And after our little stint in Missoula, I was going back down into Wyoming, and we had to wait until the snow plows had cleared the road over the Continental Divide before we could get through.
BB: And luckily we did. We followed the snow plows and, uh, in order to make our next dance. And we always seemed to arrive on time. The closest I ever came was, I forgot that we changed time zones when I was heading for Ann Arbor, and I got into Ann Arbor at, uh, 20 minutes to eight their time, and I thought it was 20 minutes to seven, and, uh, so we had kind of a . . .
BL: And the dance stated at .
BB: Yes. And we had kind of a quick, kind of a quick change and go . . .
BB: And no dinner type of a thing.
BB: So, uh.
BL: Well, those tours are always a lot of fun. You meet a lot of people, but you sure do get tired.
BB: Yes. Yeah. Yes, 6 weeks, 8 weeks was tops as far as I was concerned. I remember Ed Gilmore saying if he ever tours again, he’s never going to drive more than 300 miles a day.
BB: And this is way back when 300 miles was like 400 is today . . .
BL: Long time, yeah.
BB: Or 5. So, um . . .
BL: Well, you were about to say something about the National Square Dance Conventions. They started in 1952 in California.
BB: Yeah. Well, I went to - I happened to be on the clinic staff of the fifth national convention which was in San Diego at Balboa Park, and on that trip, I remember we came back through, uh, Phoenix. We met Mike Michelle at that, as he was, uh, Western Jubilee Records. I don’t know if he’s still around or not. I’d sure like to see him. But, uh, he said, well, we have our Valley of the Sun, or whatever it is, annual festival still going on. It was just passed here a few months ago. And, uh, he said, why don’t you stop by? And so I did. And we were treated royally. I remember we had a communal breakfast at someone’s home with about 50 people. How they ever - tiny little kitchen - how they ever cooked bacon and eggs for that number of people, I’ll never know. But, um, Mike and his wife were very hospitable. They had a guest home in back of their property, and, uh, we stayed there for a few days. And, uh, so at the dance there, Mike asked me to call, and I called and got a rousing reception. And, uh, so Mike said, well, go ahead and call another one. And I got on the mike, and I said, well, I guess I know one more call. And after that dance was over, Mike took me aside and he said, Bob, you know, he said, you said the wrong thing. He said every other caller on this program tonight only knows one call. Laughter.
And that’s the way their festivals always were. The, uh, somebody that could call one particular figure would get in the dance free. And he’d call his one figure then enjoy the dance the rest of the night. But there was nobody outside of himself that knew how to call the whole evening . . .
BB: Much less more than one or two dances. And, uh, that’s where I was introduced Ends Turn In was a brand new idea, and some fella with a name like Red something or other, that was his favorite, and he called it every dance that he went to. So, uh, yeah, we used to enjoy the tours, but there were long, long rides, as I say, you can get down in Texas, and you can see from here to tomorrow, as they say. But, people are always asking about, uh, what was the biggest dance you ever called for. Well, the biggest dance I ever was paid to call for was in Omaha, Nebraska, and they had an annual festival there, and the year I called, I shared the dance with Arnie Kronenberger from California. Delightful guy. And I think one of my all-time favorite callers. So here we are up on a huge stage with live music that we’d never met before. There was a Friday night and Saturday afternoon workshop and Saturday night dance. And we drew cards as to which one would call Friday and which one Saturday. So I was to call Saturday night, and, but I was the Emcee Friday night. And when they opened this huge, huge curtain on this huge stage, well, I really was so terribly much impressed standing on the floor all in a grid formation, perfectly lined up all the way because they marked the floor, stood 300 squares.
BB: And when you call heads go right and circle to a line, now you’ve got 20 perfectly straight lines all the way up and down the hall, and it was a real, really a thrill. And I remember the workshop session. Arnie Kronenberger handled it, and that was the year that he work shopped Square Thru, and after the workshop, I said, Arnie, it’ll never work, it’ll never last.
BB: So much for my prediction.
BL: So much for prophesy. Laughter.
BB: Right. You’ve got that right.
BL: Well, Square Thru sure has been popular.
BL: And not only in squares, but, uh, contras, too.
BB: Then, uh, but, uh, probably the biggest dance that I ever attended was at a National, that was in Denver, Colorado. Uh, not Denver, I’m sorry, Detroit in Cobo Hall. And Cobo Hall has a tremendous convention center. They can have three huge conventions at one time divided by sliding doors. And the night that our National Convention was there, they opened both of the doors that divided it and here was three huge, big coliseum-size dance floors all together, one right after the other. And someone estimated there were 700 squares there.
BB: And one of my favorite cartoons that Grundeen put on the back of Sets in Order showed two dancers standing on a chair at the very, very foot of the hall and looking toward the stage where the, because of the distance, they look like ants. And one fella is saying to the other, he said, I think it’s either Les Gotcher or Ed Gilmore.
BB: Sure, right.
BL: Well, if you knew Les Gotcher and Gilmore both, you’d be able to tell them apart no matter distance you were from. Laughter.
BB: Either by dress, or by voice, or what have you. Right. So. But, um, oh the other thing about Omaha, when I got there was a place called Aksarben Coliseum. And I said to myself, gee, that’s probably some Shriner’s thing or other, because they had these weird names. And as we got to meet people, uh, we found out that Aksarben is Nebraska spelled backwards.
BB: So, when I was introduced on the stage, I said I was very happy to be there from Tucitcennoc. That’s Connecticut spelled backwards in case you don’t remember.
BB: So, uh, the most significant experience of my career, as far as I was concerned, is the day, the night that I appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s show, uh, called Arthur Godfrey and His Friends. People who do remember Arthur Godfrey will remember that he had an amateur hour one night, and he had something else another night, and he had Arthur Godfrey and His Friends on a Wednesday night. Uh, I was calling probably at Bay Path Barn outside of Worcester, Massachusetts, on a Friday night, and I was to be in Ann Arbor on Saturday night. So I drove to Boston and left my car there, and I had this lay over in New York City. And when I landed in New York City, there was an announcement for me to go, you know, there was a telephone call for me which completely shook me up. And it was my wife and said that, uh, we had been invited to, uh, present a square dance on Arthur Godfrey’s show which was coming up that Wednesday, the next Wednesday, the upcoming Wednesday. And that, uh, so here I am on my way to Ann Arbor. I went there and called the dance and flew back on Sunday. Got our people together from the Milford Square Dance Club in Connecticut, and, uh, my wife danced with another caller, Dick Forcher, and we went to New York on Monday morning, bright and early, and, uh, so we were all nervous, of course, and we had our best square dance dresses and shirts and so forth. And I said, uh, I thought we would feel better if we just got together and danced a little bit, so we went into a back room somewhere, and I just started calling with no music, just, uh, using my voice and two fellas came in and sat down for a few minutes, and we didn’t pay them any mind. And when we finished dancing, they both applauded and said, well, okay, you’ve, you’ve been interviewed for the, auditioned if you will, for the program, so you’re in. Well, in those days, this is before tape recordings, and, uh, so the dance went on, I mean the program went on live, and we started about Monday morning. The first time we went through, it took about 3 hours to do this 1 hour show. And gradually, it was refined down and down and down until we squeezed it all into an hour. And, uh, so, when it was our turn to come on, we didn’t get on until one or in the afternoon the first time, so when it was our turn to do our little bit, Arthur Godfrey was in the, in the sound booth way up the back of the auditorium. And we did our thing, and when we finished, why he came storming out of the sound booth walking down the theater’s aisle and saying, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. And I says, uh, oh, Goodbye Charley. But he said, I want these people on more than once, he says. I want to give them another, another 30 seconds at least, and I want them dancing behind the opening credits. And the director’s going crazy. He said, we can’t do that. We’ve already got (. . . ) and he goes on and on. And he says, I don’t care, and he finally got his way. We put on two different times, and we were dancing during the opening credits. And actually the show ran a little bit short, and so after our performance, uh, they had some extra time, and Arthur Godfrey came over and wanted to interview me a little bit and then meet the dancers. And, uh, one of the dancers, unfortunately, uh, was a hardware store owner back in Milford, Connecticut, and when Arthur came to him, he said, blah, blah, blah, and he couldn’t find his voice, and his wife said, this is Bud Campbell. But, uh, it was an interesting experience. We had hay bales all over the place, and, uh, I had to call to a blue grass band which, uh, I’m not particularly fond of blue grass music for square dance purposes, but we made due. And they had farm animals wandering around the set, and I remember that, uh, and this is all live remember, that a skunk got lose and went into the audience (laughter), and it was never shown on TV particularly, but, uh, and nobody really knew what all the hilarity was, but here was a poor skunk walking around, de-scented, I’m sure.
BL: Better be. Laughter.
BL: Well, that’s pretty good.
BL: What, uh, what, uh, square dance callers would you say affected your calling?
BB: Well, I think the greatest influence in my life was Ed Gilmore. He was such a great caller, such great timing, and such a good precision in his voice, and good command, and so forth. I would say he was certainly, he was certainly the primary influence in my life, but, uh . . .
BL: Where did you first meet him?
BB: Ed Gilmore? Golly, uh, probably at a National.
BL: Um, hmmm.
BB: Somewhere. Although he was in the East quite a bit, and, uh . . .
BL: So you were listening to recordings of him?
BB: No, no. I, uh, I, well, I used a lot of his recordings. I think I have all of his Balance records, and they are still in my box as a matter of fact. Uh, but, no he was in the East quite a bit, and, uh, if you had enough coffee and cigarettes to last, why he would stay as long as you wanted to.
BL: He would stay up all night.
BB: All night, right. But, uh, so he and Dru, of course, were an inseparable couple, but we, we after partied lots of times, so I have a picture in storage back in Connecticut, and Ed is in the thing. It’s the only picture that I remember that is square dance oriented that was taken at a dance in Danbury where, uh, Al, and my Dad, and I, and my Mother all appear in the same photograph. She was the stage at the piano. We had a seven piece, we had three fiddles and a guitar and a drum and so forth beside the piano, and, uh, Gilmore was in that picture along with Ed Durlacher …
BB: And, uh, uh, Lawrence Loy and some of the other local callers around. There was a caller from Texas there who was doing research at the time, and his name escapes me. I tried to think of it before this interview, and I couldn’t remember it. It’s written on the back of the photograph. If I ever get to see it, I’ll let you know.
BB: But, uh, and speaking of Durlacher, uh, he certainly had some influence on us early on. He was, as you know, a great promoter. And before he got into producing records and selling them to schools on his own, he had a, uh, a live band that he worked with, and these were all very accomplished theatrical musicians. Uh, union musicians also. And he, uh, got a deal going with Pepsi Cola, or Coca Cola, I forget which now, but they sponsored him, and they paid for he and his band and the New York City Parks and Recreation Department provided four places for them to dance around New York City 4 night, or 4 week nights, uh, every week through the summer. And, uh, we saw them at Riverside Park and went to his dance many, many times, and he was, uh, you know, a tremendous throng of people and no knowledge of square dancing, and, uh, at the Riverside Drive, was built up on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. And they danced on tennis courts and on grass areas and so forth, but, uh, he was really very good at getting those people, uh, into square dancing. And did this every week. And so he thought that was really quite a deal because Pepsi Cola paid him whether it rained or not and whether he worked or not. He did that 4 nights a week, and one interesting thing that he said he had a lady come up to him one time, obviously had some money, uh, because of her dress and so forth, and asked him if he would come up to upstate New York some time and entertain. And, well, he didn’t particularly want to go that far away. So he quoted her the ridiculous price of $400. And she said, that’ll be fine, she said, and you can be guests at our mansion and, uh, you know, the food will be provided and everything, stay as long as you like, and so forth. And he was flabbergasted. And they, they put the band into two station wagons and off they went. And they drove up there and got all billeted in their huge big mansion and, uh, came down in time to start their entertainment, and it turns out that they had 16 guests for dinner. And he stood there and called, and, uh, they sat there listened and nobody danced, and that was it.
BL: How interesting. All for $400.
BB: All for $400. I mean, we’re talking about, what, probably the end, late ‘30s maybe at that time. And that was a bunch of bucks.
BB: I guess the average night’s pay for somebody might be $10 or $15 at that time probably.
BB: So. But that was a lesson for all of us. Never, never under quote your fee, you know. They probably - she probably would have paid a thousand dollars maybe. Nobody really knows, but, uh, so, um, but he was quite a character. I remember one of the stories that was written up in - he was invited to come to Texas to call one time. And he had a red shirt that he wore with a longhorn steer. The whole face was on the chest, and the, uh, longhorns went out his sleeves . . .
End Side #1, Tape #2
Begin Side #2, Tape #2
BL: He didn’t make the right . . .
BB: But he didn’t, unfortunately, he didn’t make the right introductory remarks for himself when it was his turn to call. He said, I want you to know you people are always talking about how big you are with your cattle ranches and so forth. I want to realize that we had cattle ranches on Long Island long before you Texans ever had any. And I tell you, Texas didn’t cotton to that too well.
BB: So the next day, after, after Ed had left town, the local newspaper said, well, we just have to appreciate the fact that all the bull that Durlacher brought to Texas wasn’t on his shirt.
BL: Laughter. Poor guy.
BB: Well, he was a very successful businessman. He, uh, produced teaching records and took them around the country and sold them to schools and their seminars, and golly, they sold like crazy. He tried to get me involved in it at one time, and I just was tied up with other things and didn’t, couldn’t quite see the potential there, but, he certainly did and made it successful too. And then, of course, his son came along, Don, and, uh, but they’re both passed on now.
BL: Oh, is Don gone?
BB: I do believe. I . . .
BL: Okay. I didn’t know that. Well, um, so that was Ed Durlacher.
BL: What about, uh, some of the other callers in New England that, uh, did they make any impression on you as far as your calling? Or did you strictly stay what we might consider to be the western calling?
BB: Well, uh, as I say, when I was talking about the New England Folk Festival Association, I was very impressed with Ralph Page, of course, and, uh, Ted Sannella and their style of dancing. I wish I’d listened more, more adroitly than I did to what they were trying to do. But, uh, that came later on, and in looking back now, I’m sorry I didn’t spend more time with them, and, uh, people like Rod Linnell. I was just reading his book, and it’s very, very intriguing. And there were many successful barns throughout New England, and the one that I called in very, very frequently was Bay Path Barn outside of, uh, a little town of Boylston north of Worcester, Massachusetts. And they had a Friday night, Saturday night program and taught classes all week long. Converted dairy, hip roof dairy barn. And, uh, of course, one of the other barns in the area in Weymouth, Mass. houses the Square Dance Foundation of New England. And, but around Connecticut, we had many - I thought quite successful local callers. They were very, very talented and could have gone anywhere if they didn’t have other interests or other occupations and so forth. One that comes to mind is Al Brozek, for example. Uh, early on, he was picking my brain for getting started and, uh, now he’s a very, he’s one of the few callers in the East now who calls contra dances at his square dance clubs. And, uh, I see his name up there in Contra Lab and, uh, the Lloyd Shaw Foundation American Dance Circle Magazine. So I know he’s very successful. We correspond once in a while, and I have to thank him. He was the one who nominated me for Honorary Life membership in the Connecticut Square Dance Callers Association. So I’m not paying any dues any more, and I still get all the, all the information from them. But, uh, in that association, of course, Randy Page presently, I think he’s the current president as of this year. Ken Ritucci is, uh, I guess it’s the other way around. Randy retired and Ken is now the, uh, president. But, uh, guys like Dave Hass, Ed Rutty, how I miss dancing with those guys. They - after my wife passed away, and I started dancing again, I really, really enjoyed Ed Rutty’s dances, because he has that old, as I say, that old plod along New England kind of a thing with very, very interesting choreography, but you could dance to it. You didn’t have to run around in order to get there in time. But, uh, and right in Danbury was Bob Paris, very successful caller in his own right, and, uh, But he was not a joiner. He never belonged to the Callers Association or Callerlab or anything and you probably never even heard of him maybe, I don’t know, but he was very, very adept and, uh, as I say, very successful in what, what he does locally. And there are a lot of local callers like that around Connecticut and throughout Massachusetts, I’m sure. And, of course, the predominant ones that came about that lived well, Earl Johnston in Vernon, Connecticut, and, uh, Red Bates up in Massachusetts, and there were a lot of local talent all through New England actually, and I enjoyed all of them. John Hendron was a special good friend of mine. I, I used to run these square dance weekends at a place called Grand Lake Lodge, and Don Heath, who came from Plymouth, Massachusetts, was the first one that shared the program with me. And the round dance people were from Schenectady, New York, and, um, the Hanhursts. Uh, that was Don Hanhurst’s brother, Michael and his wife. And their mother and father were always there, and there was always a great time. And the year that John Hendron came to be, uh, share the program with me, we had one really hilarious thing that happened. And that was, when we got there, we found back stage a, one of these inflatable dolls. And there was a very attractive looking face on this doll. And our - the people who were there for the square dance shop was Elsie Stanavage, and she wore wigs all the time and made no bones about it. So we, uh, this was just the time that they were talking about topless waitresses in San Francisco. And so we - I concocted this idea of implying that we were going to show a topless square dance dress without actually saying so. And we were going to do it at the Saturday night after party. So we inflated this doll and put this blonde wig on it and made this doll up, put a nice square dance dress, or skirt with a nice full petticoat on, a pair of ballet shoes, and, uh, when we were building this up to a climax, of course, without actually saying topless square dance dress, I’m sure everybody got the idea that this was we were going to see. So we had John Hendron sitting back of the curtain with this doll on his lap. And when we opened that curtain finally, he finally said, Brundage, will you get this show on the road. So we opened the curtain and the entire audience went (big sigh). It was, it was a multi, multi gasp from everybody. It was so realistic with the lights a little bit low and so forth. And everybody thought for sure we had a real topless square dance dress. So John got up without saying anything and walked down the steps of the stage and sitting in the front row was a little old man, I forget who it was now. I wish I could remember. But he set this doll in this man’s lap, and he - you would have thought he put a bucket of snakes in his lap because that was his reaction. He couldn’t get out, and he couldn’t get away. And it loses something in the translation, but it was a hilarious event. One thing about Grand Lake Lodge, I’ve always been - remarked about. The first one that I did, we had, uh, good attendance. I forget exactly how many, something like 10 squares perhaps. But out of that bunch, there were, I think, 15 people who were then, or soon became, callers. And, uh, I always felt that I had a little bit to do with the, with the, uh, interest in square dancing and helping develop it throughout Connecticut.
BL: That’s interesting. If you, did you ever run any caller training programs yourself?
BB: No. I never got into caller training. I, uh, I’ve had a lot of guys pick my brain but, uh, and a lot of conversations, uh, Al Brozek, uh, he would come to my dances and catch me in the parking lot after the dance, and we’d be there until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, but that’s not exactly a callers’ school. No, I never got into that, uh . . .
BL: What about, uh, vacation dance weeks like Kirkwood Lodge, or Oglebey, or . . .
BB: No, I . . .
BL: (. . .) Maine Folk Dance Camp.
BB: I was at Maine Folk Dance Camp with Marian and Michael Herman for quite a few years and doing the squares and contras there. And, uh, uh, they most of the time had Ralph Page there also, and it was, uh, so I was introduced as so called western style to the folk dance camp while Ralph did all the traditional things. And I, I remember one time when, uh, Michael was teaching something like a Kolo and unbeknownst to him, Ralph turned the record over while Michael wasn’t looking. And it really shook Michael up, and, uh, so the next time the dance came on, Ralph was out teaching a contra dance, so, um, Michael turned the record over, didn’t phase Ralph one bit. He went ahead and called it just the way it was.
BL: Laughter. That’s very funny. I can see Ralph Page doing that.
BB: You said it.
BL: Laughter. Is there anything else that you’d like to, uh, discuss and present right now.
BB: Well, I happen to think of one more war story.
BL: Okay. Laughter.
BB: Uh, during part of my training, I was into the advanced section which is almost ready to graduate into fighter planes. And, uh, I was one of a few people who were selected to go to Pensacola for, uh, air-to-air target practice. Now you have to realize that it - all this took place out over the ocean, and we had our AT6, uh, aircraft which is still a student aircraft fitted with a couple of machine guns. And the machine gun bullets were color coded so that when you hit the target, they’d know it was you or the guy behind you. And, uh, we always flew in formation, uh, coming up to this target which had to be about 5 or 6 feet tall probably and 15 or 20 feet long, and it was, had a very heavy steel bar in the front with a great big lead weight at the bottom of the bar to hold the target up, uh, upright as it was towed through the air. So we would approach this target from the opposite direction and then when we got just beyond it, why we would peel off and make a diving approach to this target and, of course, the practice was to learn how much you had to lead the target in order to hit it. And it happened that I was in the last airplane and the last flight to make this run. And the sequence of events was that you would dive toward the target and, uh, just as you got up to it, you’d dunk the stick and duck under it. So, just as I got up to it and dunked the stick, the target stopped in front of me. I shot the wire that dragged it.
BB: And all of a sudden, I have this huge target completely enveloping my entire airplane. I don’t why it never got into the prop. I can’t figure that out. But the AT6 had a radio mast that, uh, stuck up right in front of the cockpit and a wire went from the top of that to the tail. And, of course, the target hit that mast and knocked it off and eventually the target just, just blew off and fell into the ocean. But one - evidently the, uh, at the bottom of that radio mast was a line that went from the gas tank to the gas gauge indicator because after the target was pulled off, why I had gas fumes in the cockpit. And I’m saying, you know, this ain’t too healthy. And so I opened canopy, and I took out a handkerchief and put it across my nose, and I said, you know, you’ve got to bail out, that’s all there is to it. And I looked over the side, and, uh, I’m probably 3,000 or 4,000 feet, and I say, well you know the thing is still flying at least - I might as well wait until I get over land any way. So, I’m heading - fortunately the airfield was only, maybe a couple of miles from the shore, so I, uh, in the meantime, of course, I’m on the radio hollering mayday, mayday, and nobody can hear me because the antenna is gone. And, so I’m flying along and everything is working pretty good until I wanted to make a turn to head toward the field, and I suddenly realized that, uh, if you pulled the stick over to the side and let go, it would stay there. Now an aircraft flying stick is supposed to neutralize no matter where you put it if you let it go. And when you pull it back, it would sit there. And I’m visualizing these World War I movies, of course, where the, where the cables that are controlling these, uh, various controls are starting to fray, and I’m saying, you know, one of these cables are going to snap. I guess I’d better bail out. And I said, well, I don’t know. I looked down at 4,000 feet, and I said, well, you know, it’s still flying, so and the airport’s only a couple of miles away, I might as well try to bring it in. So. And I finally did, and I was so nervous about these cables that I was trying not to, not to over use them that I missed the field.
BB: And I had to go around. And by the time I got in, I tell you, I was almost court marshaled for not bailing out.
BB: Uh, you know, Lieutenant in charge of our group had the buses waiting for us when I got there said that you’re a lot more valuable than that airplane. And, uh, he said, I could actually bring charges against you if I wanted to for not doing what you should have done to bail out.
BL: Uh ha.
BB: So I never did bail out.
BL: Laughter. But you got the plane back.
BB: I got the plane back, right. And they never thanked me either. Laughter.
BL: Alright we’re back again. Uh, how did you get involved with round dancing and, uh, in that area? Square dancing’s quite different.
BB: Yeah. Well, if you remember when we were talking about Herb Greggerson, uh, he introduced the, uh, old standard round dances when he came through New England to teach us about western square dancing. And so I was interested in the round dancing aspect of it also. And, uh, in those days, anybody that did round dancing at all, it had to be the caller because there were, there were no people that we now call cuers. And it was standard practice for all the callers to teach round dances as part of their program. Uh, obviously, the, uh, level of round dancing at that time was very low compared to today if that’s a proper term. But, uh, in those days, round dancing was, uh, the dancers were expected to learn, learn the sequence and after the dance was taught and was cued, why, at regular dances after that, the same dances would be done. And it was the habit of the caller to cue one sequence and the dancers danced the rest of it be themselves without any further cues. And all of these people were, many of them that were in my early square or round dance classes, uh, many of them are still dancing today, and I’ve always had a feeling that the people who round dance and square dance also are the real dancers in this activity. And, matter of fact, one of the pupils that was in the class that I became life-long friends with was the guy that was responsible for getting us the Arthur Godfrey show. Uh, he worked for - he lived in Milford, Connecticut, and commuted into New York City every day. Uh, he worked for Eastern Airlines. And one of the, one of his lunch-time drinking buddies was, uh, Arthur Godfrey’s body guard, if you will, or call him what you will. He was the guy, he was the gofer in other words, chauffeur, and so forth. And they got together many times over lunch, a three-martini lunch probably, and he said, Jack, uh, you’re, you’re into square dancing, aren’t you. And Jack said, he said, I know I heard Arthur Godfrey saying just this morning, he said, he wants to do a harvest theme thing this fall, and, uh, it’s, it’s coming up, matter of fact. Now I know he hasn’t got everybody programmed for it yet. Why don’t I put a bug in his ear. So that’s how we came by - it was through Arthur Godfrey’s, uh, body guard, and through his luncheon association that - and he brought it back that night and called my wife, and, uh, so she didn’t know how to get a hold of me until she (. . .)
BL: (. . .)
BB: Intercepted me in the air plane, right. So. And, uh, Jack and I were buddies, and we used to vacation with them in their home in Miami after they retired from Eastern and moved to Miami. And, uh, I don’t see them much any more, but, uh, that’s the way it is in life.
BB: Yeah. (Tape stops)
BL: Well, this is Bill Litchman again with Bob Brundage. It is the 24th of May , 1996. We’ve had a little bit of time space here between the last conversation and this one, but, uh, Bob has a series of anecdotes and other things that he’s remembered that he’d like to relate. So, we’ll turn the time over to Bob.
BB: Well, I thought I was - I’d like to mention the fact that I made recordings. I recorded, first of all, on Folkraft. As a matter of fact, some records I did in a children’s series, I don’t think I was - my name was even on the label. But Frank Kaltman, who owned Folkraft Records and Folk Dance, Folkraft Record Shop, um, proposed that we start a new, uh, theory of, in square dancing called Progressive Grand Circle dances, which are nothing more than a contra dance which is so long it has to go all the way around the hall and end up in a big circle. Uh, we were trying to put out a different format hoping that it would appeal, bring the contra dancing idea to square dancers, and, um, I think I recorded four of those. And then later on, I recorded a couple on the McGregor label, uh, one of which was Cabaret, the one I remember, and, uh, I thought I should also mention the fact that I was offered an Honorary Life membership in the Connecticut Square Dance Callers and Teachers Association. My good buddy, Al Brozek, who, uh appears in print very often in the contra field, uh, nominated me and, uh, made me an honorary member so I still receive today, uh, all the information of what’s going on in the Connecticut Callers Association. Um, one other note as long as we have a little bit left, time left on this tape, uh, to mention. I mentioned earlier about the, uh, huge festival that I was hired to call for in Omaha at Aksarben Auditorium, and we, uh, during that time I was presented with, uh, uh, a card which calls me the Honorary Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska signed by the then Governor Victor E. Anderson, and I still carry that card today. It’s, it’s kind of a prestigious thing. And I show it on occasion to impress people. Um, do we have time, Bill, on this tape?
BL: Yeah, I think we do. You might just as well . . .
BB: I thought, I thought I might just mention my number one, uh, square dance joke which I told at the recent Central District dance here in Albuquerque. And that was unfortunately a man and wife passed away at the same time and got up to the Pearly Gates and St. Peter met them and said, well, what is it that makes you think that you’re eligible to get into Heaven? And they said, well, we’ve been very God fearing people all our lives. St. Peter said, yeah, yeah, yeah, and he said, what else? Well, he says, I was a Deacon in that church and my wife sang in the choir. And St. Peter said, yeah, yeah, sure, what else? He said, well, for a good part of our lives we’ve been square dancing. And St. Peter said, oh, for Heaven sake, you should have just mentioned that you were square dancers, he says, come on in, he says, the gates are wide open, he said, the place is full of square dancers in here. And the fella said, gee, that’s great. When’s the next dance? And St. Peter said, oh, I’m sorry we never square dance here. He said, how come. And he said, we don’t have any callers.
BL: Yeah, right. Laughter. I could see that one coming a mile away.
BB: You could see that one coming, right.
BL: Laughter. Very good, Bob.
BB: Okay. Um, one of the trips that I took, uh, I went up into northern part of Maine was a caller named Howie Davidson. He had a square dance barn he called the Merry Barn, and he came down into Massachusetts and guest called a couple of times and introduced a new round dance which was appealing, and, uh, so he and I got acquainted. And he said, why you don’t you make a trip up through Maine some time, and, uh, I’ll book you into a few places, and you can make a trip out of it. So, uh, I took off one time and went to his Merry Barn, and it was the only time that I, I ever remember that I had someone that, uh, suffered an epileptic fit during the dance while I was calling. And, uh, everybody knew this person and treated her, and we resumed dancing in a very short time. But interestingly enough, why from there I went to Bucksport, and, uh, you’ve heard, I’m sure, about the old kitchen junkets. Well, this was a true kitchen junket. And it was quite a good size home, and, uh, but there was no - hardly any space in any one room, so we danced one square on the porch, and one square in the living room, and one square in the kitchen. And, uh, I had to put one of the - I only had two speakers with me, and I put one speaker in, uh, one of the windows that pointed of the living room onto the porch, and - so that the sound came out the back of one speaker and the then front into the living room, and the other one into the kitchen. And all we had was that three squares. And they paid, uh, 50¢ apiece to attend this particular dance, and I was to receive 50… 50% of the gross was our original agreement. So we had three squares and I think my addition is right, it adds up to $12, so I, for that dance I got $6 and for Howie’s dance it was the same kind of a thing at the Merry Barn. So, uh, here I made about a 4-day trip altogether, and I think my total income was less $40. Hardly covered the cost of the gas. In the meantime, my wife was staying with a fraternity brother of mine down in North Shore of Boston area, and while I was gone, she had an abortion. (Editors note: Should read miscarriage) And, uh, she suffered three or four of those during our lifetime, so we never did, uh, she was never able to carry full time so I never had any children.
BL: Oh, what a shame.
BL: I didn’t know that. Well, maybe you could talk a little a bit about the Silver Spurs. You’ve got that on your list (. . .).
BB: Well, the Silver Spurs were a very, very accomplished group. They’re caller was Red Henderson, and he had a series of, uh, dances classes in the Spokane, Washington, public school system. And the ultimate goal of these kids in school was to get to be a member of the Silver Spurs because they traveled every summer for several weeks. And one summer they would go to the East Coast, and the next summer they would go to the West Coast, and they were allowed to be members of this when they were Juniors and Seniors. So, it was a very prestigious thing, and he had a very, very comprehensive program which started way back in grade schools, and, uh, so all of the kids in Spokane at that time, they had the least bit of interest for involved in his classes. And he was a very, very good teacher, and he taught all kinds of, uh, different folk dances and western square dance figures and so forth. Much the same as, um, Dr. Shaw did, uh, with the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers. They, um, traveled around, and I was fortunate enough to sponsor them for quite a few years at various square dance clubs back in Connecticut when they came through the East. And, uh, I always wished that I had gotten to Spokane to observe this system to see what all - all I knew about it was exactly what Red ever told me about it. And, uh, again Red was not the best caller in the world, but he was an excellent teacher, and he, uh, he called and the kids did their program. It didn’t matter what he called really, because they were going to do their own anyway, uh, because theirs was a choreographed presentation . . .
BL: (. . .)
BB: A real entertaining show. Very, very excellent.
BL: About how long of a dance program did they have?
BB: Oh, it was a good 2 hours.
BL: Two hours.
BB: And, uh . . .
BL: What did it cover? It had round dances and . . .
BB: A few round dances. Different ethnic groups, uh, ethnic dances. I know - and they changed costumes frequently, and one of the dances that impressed me was the Hawaiian dance that many people probably remember called the Bamboo Dance or Tinikaling
BL: (. . .) Oh, yes, sure.
BB: And, uh, I, uh, I even got to try that but I left my western boots on when I did it.
BL: Laughter. So as not to smash your ankles.
BB: Right. So, I never did get to accomplish it in exhibition form, I’m sure. But it was always fun.
BL: Now when Red Henderson brought his group in, did he just, uh, require you to house the dancers and feed them.
BB: No. As a matter of fact, we had couples all signed up and, uh, each one was responsible for one or two kids depending on what accommodations they had free. Uh, most of them were young people who had children about that same age. Perhaps they were away at school or something, and they were expected to, uh, feed them while they were there at least two meals. And, uh, put them up overnight and normally they were just there over 1 night. And, um, if they happened to get in early in the day, hopefully they would entertain them. I know one group went to, uh, the beach, uh, in Milford, Connecticut. The Milford Square Dance Club was one of the sponsors. And, uh, during that - they were told not to dive into the ocean, and one of the kids did, and when he did, he scraped a leg really bad, and Red grounded him. He was a strict disciplinarian. He said, I’m sorry, you’re not dancing tonight.
BB: And the boy, uh, was very, very sorry that he misbehaved, but, uh . . .
BL: Well, it probably paid off. It’s hard to keep track of how many kids he had on that team, but it would be hard to keep track of all those kids and make sure they were all safe and, uh, not getting into any mischief that would hurt him and so on.
BL: How many kids did he bring?
BB: Oh, gosh, it must have been, uh, a dozen or 15.
BL: Um, hmmm.
BB: There about. And there were always parents of some of the kids that were there as chaperons and also seamstresses that, uh, did repair last minute problems in the costuming.
BB: Because they changed costumes so rapidly. It was really amazing how they would, uh, exit one dance as a Hawaiian and come back in 2 minutes later as a square dancer . . .
BB: And full of cowboy boots and the whole thing. Uh, but actually I’m sure they, uh, changed, uh, members of the group to perform first, or second, or whatever, so that probably made up for, laugher, probably shows you how they were able to leave one dance and come back in another in just a couple of minutes.
BB: Very, very interesting group. Um, a couple of - I wanted of things that I wanted to be sure to get on this tape is the - some of the musicians that I worked with over the years. Uh, the longest relationship that I ever had was a group of musicians were a group called the Pioneer Trio. Uh, originally when our square dance life started, and we started with this 4-H Club and the name of the club was the King Street Pioneers. And, uh, we - the original band had that, uh, name anywhere they went. And, uh, as we got away from the King Street Pioneers and the 4-H Club kind of dissolved and so forth, we started with, uh, a group of people who later made quite a few records with my brother as a matter of fact. And, uh, originally there were four pieces. There were Louis Rosato, who plays accordion, and he just visited me here just, uh, a week or so ago.
BL: Yeah. Great guy.
BB: Yeah, we had a great time. And, uh, he lived in New Milford, Connecticut. The fiddler was named Jim Gilpin, Jimmy Gilpin. He came from Ansonia, Connecticut. And the guitarist was Eddy Munson. He lived in Warren, Connecticut. And then, uh, oh God, we had a saxophonist and banjo, uh, gosh, I forget his first name. Pratt. But he was only spasmodically part of the band. Uh, but these three fellas performed regularly for years, and years, and years. The last I knew, they had played together pretty close to 60 years. And, uh, I - matter of fact, 2 years ago when I moved here to Albuquerque, I had a live music dance for a club dancers at the, uh, in Woodbury, Connecticut, my old, um, Woodbury Town and Country Squares, and, uh, we had two callers there, uh, Culver Griffin and I shared the program. Matter of fact, we have a video tape of this which, uh, I have in my home. And, uh, so the Pioneer Trio played for me that night, and, uh, of course, I haven’t seen them since except during the visit Louis made while I was here. And it was a great experience to work with these fellas. They played every Saturday night at my brother’s barn when he built the Country Barn in Stepney, Connecticut, and, uh, they had a sell out crowd every Saturday night for years. And this was just before we got into what we call the western style of square dancing. And, uh, so, and then recordings were coming out and suddenly the, uh, live musicians were, uh, put back to a few dances here and there. Uh, most of them were, became active in other forms of entertainment, uh, like the bar type of dancing and so forth. Country western and what have you. A couple of fellas I really should mention. There’s a caller back in Connecticut named Pop Benson, and, uh, he had a fiddler and his name was Tude Tanguay. And Tude was a real character. He had, uh, he was, his face was paralyzed on one side so he only smiled a half a smile, and I don’t think I ever saw Tude dressed in anything but a pair of bib overalls and a flannel shirt, and, uh, usually a red kerchief around his neck. And he played, uh, for years and years with Pop Benson, and he and Pop used to put on a an entertainment with the same routine every time, but nobody ever tired of it. Uh, one of the things they did, they would both sit in the same chair with Pop Benson played banjo and Tude played the fiddle. So when they sat in the same chair, why Tude would finger the fiddle and strum the banjo, and Pop would finger the banjo and bow the fiddle. And I don’t - I’ve never anyone else anywhere that could accomplish such a feat.
BL: That’s amazing
BB: Right. And another thing that Tude always did at these dances as part of the act was to invite a young lady out of the audience. She came and sat in his lap, and, uh, all she had to do was hold the bow and run it back and forth, up and down, and he would turn the fiddle in such a way that it did get a comprehensible tune out of it. But Tude was so strong, his left forearm was so strong that he’d hold his fiddle out in mid air and he could finger and turn the thing at the same time, and, uh, as a matter of fact, this is how Tude met his wife. Uh, it got so that she came to every dance that they were there, uh, that they played, and, uh, when Tude asked for a volunteer, she always volunteered and jumped up and sat in his lap. And it was really quite an exciting thing for her. And 1 day, he stole, uh, a little bobby pin ribbon out of her hair, and he put that ribbon on, on the neck of his fiddle, and I think that ribbon was still there until the day he died.
BB: Um, but he had quite an interesting act also. I was - I wished that I could have introduced him to Arthur Godfrey when I was there with him. But Tude would hold the fiddle out in the air and, uh, hold it in all different kinds of positions and he played Pop Goes the Weasel and, uh, at the end of the tune when the tune said pop, he would change from one position to another, and, uh, he would actually pluck the strings with his left hand while he was changing position so he never lost the melody. And he would play, uh, normally for a couple of choruses and then he’d put it on top of head and play, and then he’d put it behind his back and play another tune or play another chorus, and then, uh, he bend down and, and put the bow under his bent knees, and um, then he would actually lay on the floor and he arched his back supported by his shoulders and his feet and play, put the, uh, bow under his back and fiddle. And the grand finale was when the last Pop Goes the Weasel, why he popped up on the (. . .), he popped up on his feet and held the fiddle and the bow in the air. Tremendous ovation.
BB: It was always a winner. And, uh . . .
BL: Amazing ability.
BL: Before we leave the idea of live musicians and so on in, uh, in Connecticut or any other place in the East Coast, as you were calling back and before records became really, uh, involved in a lot of square dancing, there must have been quite a few bands back there, right?
BB: Yeah. There were a lot of bands. Um, many of them I didn’t really know or get to work with.
BL: Do you remember any particularly that you did work with besides the Pioneer Trio?
BB: Not really. Um, of course, one of the most perfect kind of bands was one that played in New York City with Ed Durlacher.
BL: Oh, yeah.
BB: And, uh, these were all, uh, union musicians and very, very accomplished and so forth. I think I mentioned them once before. The Riverside Drive and the Jones Beach dances that Ed Durlacher put on, and, uh, so it was a privilege to play and to call with them.
BL: Um, hmmm.
BB: And, uh, but I, uh, when I got - moving out of Connecticut - I lived up in Massachusetts for a while. I went to the University of Maine to school, and when I finished school, I moved into the University of Massachusetts and I met Phil Green who had a very good band. And as a matter of fact, I played with him at Cornell, which I’ll mention again in a minute, but, uh, and I . . .
BL: What was the name of his band? Did he have a particular name?
BB: Yes, he did, and I can’t remember.
BL: Uh, huh.
BB: Unfortunately. But, uh, uh, so he was well known enough that he traveled around here and there.
BL: Um, hmmm.
BB: Jack Mansfield had his own band and, uh, he called for the Storrowton Dancers. Storrowton is a historic area in western Massachusetts. It’s a tourist attraction type of a thing. And he had some dancers that always did a contra dance for their exhibition. And, uh, uh, Corky Caulkins who lived in South Hadley, Massachusetts, he had a band, and I called with them a couple of times. Interestingly enough, I called with a band I was hired to do a dance at the University of Connecticut one time. And, uh, when I got there, I knew they were going to have a live band but that didn’t bother me. And when I got there, there were two people that many, a man and wife who were playing in the band that people recognized their name. That was Red Bates . . .
BL: Oh, yeah.
BB: And his wife, Shirley. And they were both playing the mandolin. And this was before he started to call. But uh, the Pioneer Trio very often would add like a bass player, uh, they call for the First Atlantic Square Dance Convention, uh, up in Boston, and then it was held there 2 or 3 years, and then it moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, one time, and they were always there. And, uh, I remember one poor fella. He was not used to live music, uh, I - and he got up and it was his turn to call and the band started play, and he missed the first couple of beats. And he made the dancers stand there for a whole verse. . .
BB: and chorus while he said, wait a minutes, wait a minute, wait till it comes around again. And, uh, so when it started the verse again, why he was off and running. But he didn’t have the facility to, to fake it at the time just to get by, but be that as it may.
BL: Yeah. Of course, when you’re put on the spot like that, it can make you . . .
BB: True, right.