Article Details

Al Brundage November 28, 1997

Bob Brundage - OK. Hi again. This is Bob Brundage and this afternoon we’re in York, Pennsylvania. We’re attending the contra dance weekend with Don Armstrong, Dick Leger and Bill Johnston who’ve been doing this at the Yorktown Hotel for quite a few years. It’s all contras and quadrilles, some Scottish dancing and so forth. The date today is November the 28th, 1997 and after all these interviews that I’ve done I finally got around to interviewing one of the Hall of Fame people called Al Brundage. Al, we’ve got a lot of things that we could put on tape. My thought was to start way, way back. First of all, you know, I was born in Danbury, Connecticut but I don’t think you were?

 

Al Brundage - No, I was born in Hartford Bob.

 

BB - Hartford, Connecticut.

 

AB - I think I was like two years old when we moved to Danbury and you were born shortly after that as I recall. I don’t really recall but that’s what our parents told me.

 

BB - And, of course, we were brought up on a poultry and market garden farm. It was a two part farm really. Our grandfather was a market garden grower and our dad was a poultry man. It was a hatchery operation, producing baby chicks of Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, and so forth. So, back when we were kids, we’re talking back in the early 1930’s, it was out mother who proposed to start a 4-H club and take music as a project. Just as an aside, we were the first club in the United States to ever select music as a project in the 4-H Club system. So, some of us started taking lessons and we began to, gradually began to get together. Do you remember some of the

 

AB - Yeah, I do Bob but, just to go back a little bit on that, as I recall Mom had a real hard time to get permission to run a 4-H Club where the theme was basically music. Since the that club, since that got going it turned into a lot of clubs which suited the 4-H program but we were the first music club in the country and even before she got it started, I think the reason she started was that, even before that, when we were eleven or twelve years old, somewhere along in there, we used to sneak out of the house on Saturday nights and go down to, about a mile down the road, to what I think was an old stage coach stop and they’d run a square dance down there about once or twice a month or something and we’d stay outside and look in and peek in the windows and things like that. And when  she found out about the fact that we were doing that and were so interested in that  why she decided she’d better get some activity for us going or we’d be hitting the road going out. So she got this 4-H club started and it turned out to be the best things in our lives for a long, long time.

 

BB - I guess.   So, do you remember some of the guys that were in the

 

AB - Yeah, I think there were, first there was you and I and then there was Guido, actually, now that I look back, his name was Ruggero but we called hi Ruggerio. It was Guido and George Ruggero and they had a brother named Louie and I guess probably he was in it.

 

BB - No, he wasn’t.

 

AB - He wasn’t in, I’m not sure but there was the Schroeders, Donald and Ralph and there was Joe Tomano. Was Howie Miller in that?

 

BB - Not really.

 

AB - Not right off the beat but Billy Waterbury was in that and he was our next door neighbor at a dairy farm down the road toward Danbury. So, I have a picture back in my office that shows the people and the 4-H Club banner in front of them or something when we won some award. But that was not the original. That was after we’d been formed a while.

 

BB - Well, I recall seeing a picture in the Fairfield County Extension Newsletter, a monthly newsletter, which was dated 1933. It should our band at our clubhouse at

 

AB - You’re talking about Papa Heck’s? Well, that was kind of a project. We had this band going and we just weren’t running any square dances right off the bat. We were practicing. We had kind of a funny instrumentation. Our mother played the piano, Bob played drums and I played trumpet but we had I think at least two banjos and a couple of guitars. It was, but we did play music and one of the guys named Luke Flannigan, he might have been in the club early too but he was living about a mile and a half or so away from us on another farm and his grandfather, or uncle, I’m not sure which said that he had an empty chicken coup out there that wasn’t being used and if we’d clean it up he’d let use it to run a square dance there. That was a project. We went up there and worked a day or two with all the boys and cleaned the thing up. We cleaned his chicken coup for him. That might have been his original idea I don’t know but we did get it clean and we did run a square dance up there. The very first, it was a community project, all the neighbors and people around were invited to come and we packed the house, did we not? That chicken coup held a good two squares.

 

BB – No, it was a little bigger

 

AB - No, I guess it was.

 

BB - Also, we had to use a plain blowtorch.

 

AB - Yeah, in fact, we used a thing called a fire gun. We used to use them in the poultry houses to kill lice and it would really clean. It would scorch the woodwork but it wouldn’t burn it for some reason.

 

BB - But when we first started with that some of the older boys were doing the calling.

 

AB - That’s right. I think Guido Ruggero was the first caller as I recall. He learned from down the road at this stagecoach stop where they were running dances down in a sort of basement room, There was an old caller there  named Andy Golder and Andy would call the old time stuff and they had what I think was a concertina  and a fiddle player.

 

BB - Jack Craddock

 

AB - Jack Craddock, yep. They would make what we thought was beautiful music. I still like that kind of music today, the stuff they played. But, you could learn the square dances by standing outside and listening and watching because they were all basically singing calls and very east visiting couple dances in what we now refer to as patter calls. Yeah, Guido was the first caller.

 

BB - I’ve always said to everybody, when you started calling, I said, well, we started calling about the time that Guido found out about girls. 

 

AB -I don’t know if he left for some reason or go to school or what or when he finally found out about girls but evidently he quit calling and I’ve said before, the reason I was the caller is because of the trumpet which I played which is about the least desirable instrument for a square dance band compared to other instruments so they figured they wouldn’t miss me very much in the band so I better be the caller. The first call I ever did, I jumped up on the bench with a megaphone and belted out, “Two head gents cross over, by your opposite stand”.

 

BB - The old “Life On The Ocean Wave”.

 

AB – “Life On The Ocean Wave”, right.

 

BB - So, and then as time went along we started getting invitations to call, to play for the different Granges, Farm Bureau  organizations, Extension Service things, all agricultural minded and we started branching out. I wonder when we first started getting paid.

 

AB - Well, I don’t remember for sure when we started getting paid but as I recall we played for fire halls and Granges and they did pay us a little money but, at first, all the money went into the club treasury because we didn’t feel we should make any money but the club needed money. Eventually, that branched out, well, two or three things happened first of all with the money that we made. It was fairly good money in those days. I think we got maybe  fifteen dollars for a dance, that was for everybody, the caller, the orchestra and everybody else or maybe 10 ($)  I don’t know but it was all put away and after about six months of it you had a couple hundred dollars saved up.  Anyway, we were able to send some of boys to our State 4-H Club Conference up at Storrs which is now the University of Connecticut. That was with expenses paid and for some of those boys it was the first time they had really ever been off the farm and away from home, only going into town or something. Eventually we became popular. People heard of us of course. We branched out. We formed other branches of the club. We had a fire fighting unit, even had our own fire engine there for a while. Bought a unit, put a big tank on it and we’ go out and burn brush and thin out trees in people’s woodlands and, I don’t know, we did a lot of things like that. When the money got a little bit better I think that Mom decided that the boys in the band should be paid a fee and then what was left over would go to the club because we were doing all the work and all these other fellows were not doing too much but benefiting. I think that Mon got two dollars and I got two dollars and you probably got a dollar. All the members in the band got a dollar, the caller got two dollars and the leader got two dollars. Put it all together and I think we got ten or twenty dollars for the whole evening and we ran a square dance.

 

BB - Let’s see. Some of the firehouses were Beaver Brook, Easton and we started getting out of town. Well, one of the things I wanted to mention too, I’m sure you’ll remember, while all this was going on, we were, Mother and Dad were trying to fill our education and would take us to dances out of the area and that’s how we started to learn other dances. I remember learning Sioux City Sue as a brand new theory in those days and if memory serves me right we found areas where some people were doing Do sa do left shoulder. We found an area where an Allemande Left was you hook left elbows and go around about fourteen times. We discovered that the whole world of square dancing was not confined to King Street.

 

AB - That’s right.

 

BB - I thought that was an interesting aspect of what we should talk about.  One of the things that sticks out in my mind too, this is your interview and I’m doing all the talking.

 

AB - That’s OK, You’re doing great Bob.

 

BB - I’ve already been interviewed. One of the things that sticks out in my mind is the trip that we made to Easter States Exposition. Do you remember that?

 

AB - I do. That was a big event. That was in Springfield, Massachusetts and that was kind of a long trip.

 

BB - We were there to lay the cornerstone of the Connecticut Building.

 

AB - The Connecticut Building. That was the first time that we ran across contra dancing up there, Sammy Spring and other contra callers. He had a voice like a nanny goat almost. He’d sing out.

 

BB -The thing that I remember about that was that it was to be, the cornerstone laying was to be outdoors and there was no way to get a piano

 

AB - That’s right.

 

BB - So we hauled a piano out of the house or did we find an old upright piano. I guess maybe it was the one that was in the 4-H clubhouse, put it on Dad’s truck and  hauled all the way to West Springfield, did the dance and the dedication, put it on the truck and drove back home again. A good three hour drive then.

 

AB - That’s right. That doesn’t do a piano much good but I don’t think it was a great piano to begin with. I think we moved that piano several times along in there to go to dances so Mom could play

 

BB - She was the backbone

 

AB - She was the backbone of the whole unit. She did all the booking. People would phone up. She’d answer the phone. She book a dance job here and there. But gradually the 4-H club began to become well known and we were, well, were called he King Street, it was the King Street District 4-H Club and the band that we formed was called the Pioneers, King Street Pioneers. King Street, well it wasn’t just a street, King Street itself is a whole section on like the northwest side of Danbury, Connecticut and it constitutes probably maybe twenty miles of roads in a big cross, a big T shape and north, south, east and west parts of King Street. Pretty much of the center was King Street Christian Church. They didn’t have any voice in the (garbled).

 

BB - Don’t forget the King Street school that you and I attended.

 

AB - We attended the school. We used to go up and as I recall there was an occasion where our mother got permission to use the school for dancing but it was full of seats and chairs and as I recall it was twenty-nine desks and twenty-nine chairs in that one room schoolhouse.

 

BB - Bolted to the floor.

 

AB - Bolted to the floor and we’d go up there on a Saturday and unbolt them with the club, the whole club would go up there and take all the chairs out and stash them and store them in the girls’ entry. In those days you had a girl’s side and a boy’s side in these country schools. We’d go in there and we’d run a dance and have, I don’t know, three or four squares I guess. The band would play over in the corner.  There was a big, big stove in the other corner

 

BB - Coal stove.

 

AB -  Coal stove and then Sunday we’d  put all the chairs back and put the seats and what not and Monday they’d run school again. That lasted a while and we became quite famous. People came from quite a few miles around to go to those dances.

 

BB - Well let’s see. How do we tie in the Danbury Fair ?

 

AB - Well, I can’t remember exactly how that started, but one day, as our fame in that thing spread and different people began to hear about us of course around our county and around the eastern side of the state and when we went away to festivals and things like that, we’d bring the band and like the dedication Bob was speaking about up in Springfield. You know, a lot of people danced to us, a lot of people attended and we became known and the name remembered and Danbury Fair was, I guess, one of the biggest fairs in the state of Connecticut and - it wasn’t as big as the Springfield Exposition which was a big fair but it was taken over by a man named John Leahy. John was pretty, he was sort of a country boy. He was, did very well financially, started in his garage, was a self made man and he got a big interest in the fairgrounds which was then owned by the Danbury Agricultural Society or something like that. They would run harness races there and have exhibitions of fruit and vegetables and poultry and  animals of all kinds and it became  a fair.  When John took over he wanted to pep it up a little bit so he had a huge big tent  and our family used to exhibit in that big tent.  We raised, our grandfather on the vegetable side of the farm would raise pumpkins and squash and things you’d exhibit and also ornamental gourds and ornamental corn. That was a family project. We go down and set up a theme, an exhibition there and show the corn and the gourds and then we had a table where we sold corn and gourds. This fair was like in October, the fall of the year when people bought Indian Corn, red and various colors and gourds of various colors. We’d shellac them and clean them all up and sell them for about a dome apiece in those days. That was a money making cash product  at the time. They had a big stage there in that Big Top where they used to have demonstrations. Somebody would put, they’d have cooking demonstrations.  Somebody else would show an animal or something like that. John decided that the people would like some dancing up there so fortunately we were the ones who got chosen for that and it became

 

BB - Originally we had the band.

 

AB - Yeah, we had the band there. We had the orchestra there and we had a demonstration there every day of the fair. I think it ran seven days then Bob. Seven or eight days and we had a demonstration team there.  We dancing there about an hour, hour and a half up there. We had different groups come in from here and there. About this time square dancing was beginning to become popular around the state and grow a little bit. There were dance clubs being formed in groups so that we had people from here and there and a few other callers would come in also to help out.

 

BB - Which brings up, how did western style square dancing as you remember come to New England ?

 

AB - Well, yeah, in all this happening as we evolved as an orchestra in the square dance, Bob and I, both of us were calling. There was a man from Long Island named Ed Durlacher  who used to come up to the farm. He’d always  wanted material. We’d feed him stuff. He’d go to some of our dances and he’d write down stuff and he, eventually, he wrote a book called Honor Your Partner and he had big records with a union orchestra - an eight or ten piece band - and  did, actually we didn’t think much of it in those days I guess but when you look back he probably did a great deal for square dancing as far as school children and people learning and a lot of people learning to direct some of these dances. As I recall, he was the one who suggested, you know, there’s a guy out in Colorado that really has a different theory about all this and he’s calling together some of the leaders and you should go out there. And that’s kind of how, I think, that I heard about it.

 

BB - Well, even before that the way I remember it, the first introduction to western style square dancing was Herb Greggerson

 

AB - Well,  that’s true.

 

BB ….. and that was in Brockton, Massachusetts.

 

AB - Yep, Well now that you’re jogging my memory again Bob, and that’s true. Herb was one of the early traveling callers around the country. He did come. He was from El Paso, Texas. He came through and we began to recognize two or three things. First of all, there was something else to square dancing besides what we were doing and secondly that there was a conflict in terms. When he called Do si do he didn’t want you to go back to back. When we called Do si do that’s what we wanted and this became a conflict. I think we heard of Lloyd Shaw out there in Colorado Springs, we know him but I think Durlacher was instrumental in talking to me about it. He didn’t go himself as I recall.

 

BB - Probably Pappy wouldn’t have let him in.

 

AB - I don’t think he probably would have, no.  But out there at Lloyd  Shaw's it was really an education. It was - we saw people from all over the country, California, Montana and Wyoming and Texas and all through the Midwest, various leaders and callers and many of them had things to show. We didn’t have a lot to show but we did a lot of listening and looking and became a treat with some of the things that were happening. As I recall, one year Jonesy Jones I think it was from California who did a lot of square dance calling for some of the early movies - the old black and white movies and it was about the time that the boom camera came into being. Remember the June Taylor Dancers. The camera was overhead and it flashed down on them and they’d make all kinds of formations with their arms and legs. Well, they wanted a square dance that would look like a kaleidoscope type of thing or something that’s spectacular for the boom camera. Other than that they were just looking at faces and legs and feet.  They wanted to get a picture from up above and I think Jonesy Jones was on staff at one of the studios and  he choreographed the Allemande Thar, the one that we just did this afternoon and it was the first time anybody had ever seen it outside of  people who worked in the studio and he presented it at Lloyd Shaw’s.  Lloyd was very amazed of course and we were amazed because it was the first thing I believe, the first new figure, the first new formation that had come into square dancing in the last two hundred years. We were doing stuff that came over with the pilgrims. We were just thrilled with that thing and Jonesy had worked out all the breaks - Allemande Left, Allemande Thar, Right and Left and Form a Star, Let the Star to the Heaven’s Whirl, Right and Left to the Second Girl. He had all this - Shoot the Star, Slip the Clutch  and Throw In the Clutch and he had all the variations. It was like a whole weeks project in those days to learn that stuff. When you learned it  you said, “Well, this is great” and I remember coming back to Connecticut and saying to some of the dancers that, “ Well, you’ve got to take some lessons.  We’ve got to show you some of this stuff” and they looked at you like, “Why do we need lessons ? We’ve been dancing for twenty years and we never had any trouble and what’s to teach ?” So,  I got up a demonstration team to show them well, this is what.  I taught four couples and we demonstrated that in front of the crowd and it was amazing how many people were amazed at what you could do and then they said, “ Well yeah, we would like to learn that” so we formed a class and that’s kind of how the first class got going.

 

It was getting back to Lloyd Shaw in a sense and I recall also a year later I think that it was Herb Greggerson who was at that along with many other early leaders who are still around and  many who aren’t was there. A big argument  ensued between Lloyd Shaw and Herb Greggerson about the Do si do. Lloyd Shaw being a research man and had researched various dance movements around the whole country had discovered I think that there was five or six kinds of Do si do being done. In one place in New England they’d go back to back out in the Appalachian mountains  they’d make a big loop and swing the lady around and up in Colorado why they’d  flip their corner over and turn partner left and corner right or something  and in Texas they’d make a circle and turn partner left and corner right  and partner left and that was what Herb Greggerson called the Do si do. So anyway, they almost came to fisticuffs at one point  because they were very headstrong people, both of them, but Lloyd Shaw being the wiser I think and in his wisdom told Herb that, well, he felt that the true Do si do from his reason was the back to back, and it all came from the  French  that Do meaning Back and consequently he was leaning that way but, in lieu of the fact  that Herb was really very strong on it that , in honor of El Paso, where Greggerson lived, that that the dance that Greggerson was doing was not a problem. From now in  it should be called D Paso in honor of El Paso, Texas. Herb bought that theory and from then on it was Do Paso. That’s how Do Paso came to be and how things  began to change a little bit and become standardized.

 

BB - I remember going with you and your wife, my wife and I along with Dick Forcher and his wife into New York City every Saturday morning to Carl Fischer’s Publishing House. We had a series of square dance lessons. You were there teaching along with Frank Kaltman, if I remember right This was at the outset of Sets In Order magazine and you got your material out of Sets In Order because every month there was a new figure.

 

AB - That’s right.

 

BB - All of a sudden, and these were all people who were in the teaching profession and it was interesting. I think this is where I first learned Patty Cake Polka . That’s one I still do to this day. Frank Kaltman taught that. Any thoughts about that that you remember ?

 

AB - Well, I don’t have specific thoughts about that Bob. It was just one more stepping stone I think in our progression toward more education and getting more knowledge. Frank Kaltman eventually went on to form a record company and do many things like that, the Jessie Polka and the Patty Cake Polka and lot of like that folk dancing, folk dances. Both Bob and I  have recorded on his label which is Folkraft. I don’t know how many sides now but they were very important dances in the old days. The Carl Fisher people were very cooperative as I recall. They wanted things like that particularly because - the talk was that it should be taught to our young people, used in schools and a lot of these things were going to be  sold to libraries around the country so they’d have a reference source that anybody who had an interest they’d be able to find it and things like that.

 

BB - We’re getting down to the end of this side of this tape. I’m going to run the tape to the end and then turn it over so just hang in. (?)and Ed Durlacher and the dances that he used to do around New York City. Can you tell a little

 

AB - Well, yeah. Ed was a good salesman. He had a very strong personality and I don’t know quite how it happened but he got into the Recreation Department of  the City of New York  and the Sanitation Department  Recreation and he did several things, one of which was to - he and his band conducted big square dances out side at Central park p Central Park Mall I guess they would call it.

 

BB - There were four sites.

 

AB - Four sites ? Well, they did things out in the beach area too I think.

 

BB - Jones Beach.

 

AB - Jones Beach.

 

BB -  And Riverside Drive.

 

AB - Riverside Drive. That’s the one I really remember.

 

BB -  And another and I can’t remember where it was.

 

AB - Well, then I also know that it in the summertime he did another out in New York State at Sanita.

 

BB - Sanitia Hills.

 

AB - Sanita Hills and eventually we went out there and did a program out there when he evidently, I don’t know if he gave it up or what happened to him, but we did that Sanita for a while.

 

BB - Maybe we were cheaper.

 

AB - Maybe we were cheaper. Ed was not, Ed was not cheap but anyway, they offered square dancing.  The one I recall on the outside dances during the summer were at Riverside Drive and Central Park Mall or places like that and they would attract thousands and thousands of people and Ed was good at getting a thousand people let’s say off the street, getting them into squares and being able to make them dance. The dances were not hard. He didn’t have to teach much but when he said, “Circle Left”  you knew what to do and when he said, “Swing your Partner” you somehow knew what to do and he was, had a very booming authoritative  voice and very commanding. He had, I guess at that time, the only union square dance band around the area called the Top Hands and the Top Hands were, there were like seven pieces or maybe eight, a seven piece band. That was required by the union. You couldn’t have a smaller band than that. None of us had a seven piece band. We had a three, four or five piece band and that was the end of it.

 

BB - Non union,

 

AB - Non union.

 

BB - Of course, you may remember that that series was sponsored by, I think by Pepsi Cola.

 

AB - That’s right.

 

BB -  And because that gave then the chance to sell and advertise Pepsi Cola so if they got rained out they got paid anyway. Four nights a week all summer long and it was a tremendous concert.

 

AB - And that’s when Ed Durlacher took what we now call the Hokey Pokey.  Put your right foot in, put your right foot out and shake it all about, and then when they used to have them truck on down like a conga line, First you do the Pepsi Cola, then you do the Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Pepsi Cola what’s it all about? turn yourself about and he was advertising Pepsi Cola right along the line as he changed that dance just slightly. We used to play on that too, get that line.

 

BB - So anyway, along the line there sometime you decided to build yourself a square dance hall.

 

AB - That’s right. Somewhere along the line we got popular enough and, actually we had two bands.  I formed a band that was a little more maneuverable travel wise with an accordion player and Bob stayed with the original band I guess with Mother on the piano and moved to Massachusetts. In 1948 I, well actually I started in 1947 I think, went to Massachusetts to a lumber mill and bought a bunch of lumber.  It was green, and trucked it down. A college roommate  of mine named Sherwood Edwards, his mother had a piece of property on Route 25 in Stepney, Connecticut, a commercial road, and I bought  that property for, I think it was $3000.   

 

BB - Yeah, too bad you don’t have it today.

 

AB - But it was a good big piece of property and we stored  the lumber there all winter, cured it, dried it and then I got a carpenter who used to work for our dad on the farm, built a lot of chicken coops and he built  that great big three story chicken coop that we had up back there and he was the head carpenter so I got Arnold Paine to come down with a helper to build it. We didn’t have any plans we just had a sketch.  Well, we want it this long, this wide and we staked it out and pored the foundations.

 

BB - Didn’t you buy a

 

AB - Yeah, I bought a, what they called a rib arch. It was something new and it was like a Quonset Hut arch, a big rainbow type of arch to support the roof. So it was a Quonset type arch and a Quonset type hall but then it had wings on it so where it came down it had wings on the side so that  people could sit off the floor, and I had a floor, the actual dance floor space was 40 by 80 and then I had ladies room and men’s room and a coat room and a soda room in the front and an entrance way and then in the back was a stage and in back of the stage I built a small apartment. At that point I think I had a house up in Lake Candlewood and I sold the house so I could get  money enough to build the Barn. I built the Barn and ran square dances. Actually did very, very well for quite a few years there. Then I sold the Barn . I figured up to that point our Saturday night, average Saturday night was the big night.  Now, what I’m saying when people think about club dancing now, they  think about what club.  There was no such thing. We did sort of have some clubs  but there weren’t that many and didn’t have a club. We just opened the Barn and it was open to the public and we danced easy dances. You could walk in and you could dance but we averaged I think 329 people every Saturday night for eight years, winter and summer. There was no air conditioning.  I had big fans up in the gable ends of the Barn, two big four foot fans I guess they were, and colder than blazes in the winter time.

 

BB - Well, you advertised that as ‘Summer Air Cooled’.

 

AB - Air Cooled, summer Air cooled. It was air cooled all right but you know we kept them hopping. We kept the dance going and people would wind up, after a while it got pretty warm in that hall, in the dead of winter.

 

BB -  Well, the arched ceiling took away some of it.

 

AB - It did.

 

BB -  The big fans to blow it out. But that was always with live music. The same three guys.

 

AB - The same three  fellows called the Pioneers and the was,  Jimmy Gilpin was our star.  He was the fiddle player and then the leader of the band I guess you might  say was  Louie Rosato on the accordion  and Eddie Munson playing guitar. They were basically the three but  every once in while we’d get George Pratt in  playing banjo. He played five string as a regular banjo and every once in a while people would  call up.  Could they sit in,   play with us. We had a lot of people who wanted to sit in for practice. We’d get an extra instrument or two. Sometimes they were pretty good and sometimes they weren’t but basically it was a three piece band and understand now Bob, you were telling me that that band is still  playing together, the same three guys. How many years ?

 

BB - Fifty-Nine years.

 

AB - Fifty-Nine years and they’re still playing together. I think that’s probably the oldest band  in the country now that have stuck together, that are still playing.

 

BB - Has to be.

 

AB - And they’re busy three or four night s a week right now.

 

BB - Yep. They’re working with Culver Griffin and

 

AB -  Yep. Culver Griffin

 

BB - Yeah. In fact I had lunch with the accordion player just last week as a matter of fact,

 

AB - Did you?

 

BB - We should do any article on that. I’ll tell you. They’re really amazing that they would be together that long. Before they hooked up with you they were playing steadily at a place called Medlicott’s.

 

AB - Medlicott’s Barn in New Milford. Connecticut and that was a square dance barn. It was an actual barn, a dairy barn and it was the hayloft portion of the barn and it was a very popular spot. And around the country in those days we played in a lot of barns. There were quire a few barns that were actually barns. Cows downstairs and you danced upstairs and things like that.

 

BB - Yeah, and many of them turned into a full time operation.

 

AB – Absolutely.

 

BB - Bay Path Barn.

 

AB - And they’re still going today. Bay Path Barn is still going. I don’t know how many others. Square Acres was probably the biggest facility up there and Howard Hogue  formed that, built a big place out there and stated with a barn but it turned into a big place.

 

BB - He kept adding on.

 

AB -  He kept adding on, adding on and he’d add another dance hall. How’s that ?

 

BB - He finally wound up with, I think he had about five

 

AB - He had five dance halls going. On a Saturday night you could go in, you could take a beginner class, a basic group, or an intermediate group or an advanced group or a round dance.  He had five halls going on one night. A lot of people

 

BB - They’d dance for a few weeks in one hall then graduate to

 

AB - Then graduate to the next hall.

 

BB - The object was to finally get into the big hall

 

AB - Yep. Get to the big hall.

 

BB - Where they had all traveling callers and so forth. Just in passing we should mention that there was , just after Lawrence Loy passed away it was called Loy Hall.

 

AB - Loy Hall, yes. Well, Lawrence Loy, as Bob can tell you was very instrumental in promoting square dancing and make it  for all to prosper up in the state of Massachusetts.

 

BB - Well, he was the one who brought Herb Greggerson in.

 

AB - Was he the one  that brought Herb Greggerson ?

 

BB - That’s very interesting. So, well anything further about the Barn before we get too far away ?

 

AB - Well, not too much. Actually, when I went out to Lloyd Shaw’s I already had the Barn. I came back and said, “You know, we’re going to have some lessons” and people were saying, “Hey, we’ve been coming to this Barn  for quite a while. We’ve been dancing for twenty years and we can dance with the best of them” and they didn’t think they needed any lessons and that’s where that first demonstration came.  We had people that were regulars, they would come every week and they were pretty good dancers and I had this demonstration team and I taught them the Allemande Thar and all the Allemande Thar breaks type of thing. We used it as a demonstration and that’s how I got my first class.  From that was formed the Connecticut Square Dance Club and we used the Barn, I think it was Friday . I think it was a Friday night I guess. The club night. And Saturday night was open dance night so we began to use other nights of the week and it started the first western style class that I started was there at the Barn and we grew from there.

 

BB - Remember Fran and Clyde Morris ?

 

AB - Yeah. He worked in a hatchery up in new Milford. They were beautiful dancers, very smooth and they could swing sixteen counts and then, bang, on the button.

 

BB - They’d have loved a weekend like this.

 

AB - Oh, they would, they would.

 

BB - Well then you started branching out.  You started weekend events and so forth. Tell us about what you were

 

AB - Well, that’s true. After a while, I can’t remember where the very first weekend was but, Oh, I guess I do remember, it was in Danbury at the Hotel Green which is no longer there.

 

BB - The buildings there

 

AB - The buildings there, but it’s

 

BB - It’s elderly housing now or something like that.

 

AB - But anyway, they had a ballroom there, a dancing area and I ran a weekend there to get people together and the basic idea was that a lot of people wanted to learn this western style. There were a lot of callers in the area that couldn’t do it, they didn’t know what it was either, they’d seen it but they couldn’t call it, they didn’t know how to use it . So the object of the weekend was well, let’s get together and if you get together over the weekend we can teach the whole thing in a weekend which you could in those days. So we started this weekend at the Hotel Green in Danbury and it turned into a successful event and a lot of leaders came. People even like Physical  Ed from New York’s school system, things like that came to learn new stuff and danced and we began to branch out then from the Danbury Hotel Green to other hotels and other facilities. I don’t know just where we went from Danbury, I think we went to Pittsfield, Massachusetts to the, I can’t remember the name of the hotel. It will come to me probably. But we worked up there and then eventually we ended up in Jug End Barn, which is a big country resort. They had a nice hall up in the hills there. We ran probably five or six weekends a year up there and I started to import callers from various areas. Other people started to, you know, travel and get known.

 

BB - Were these people you met at Shaw’s ?

 

AB - No, not all of them. Some of them were. I brought in Ed Gilmore . I met him at Shaw’s I believe and I thought a lot of Ed. I had Ed Gilmore come in and then Ed Gilmore started some kinds and things out in Steamboat Springs, Colorado out there and I was on his staff so we kind of swapped business things and I was on his staff and he was on mine.

 

BB - That’s when you started meeting other national

 

AB - That’s when I started to meet a lot of other national callers and national leaders.

 

BB - Manning and Nita Smith

 

AB - Manning and Nita Smith, big on round dancing. Nita was the first one to start the petticoat idea and pettipant idea. She made her first pettipants out of two pillow cases, sewed up a petticoat then eventually ended up in the petticoat business as one of the most prominent petticoats in the country for a long time. Since has had to go out of business or sold the business.

 

BB - You were at Jug End Barn for many years.

 

AB - Several years at Jug End Barn. We brought in callers, a lot of them whom you have interviewed, I suppose, Curly Custer comes to mind and Earl Johnston, Bob Yearington and Ronnie Schneider and Johnny LeClair. Gosh, I guess a whole raft of them. People were then anxious to go to these weekends to hear these fellows. They came in from Wyoming for LeClair and Maryland for Curly and different people. They had a following and we did pretty good with the weekend business for many, many years.

 

BB - So, how did you get associated with West Point.

 

AB - Well, I was running a summer thing at, I think it started, actually started at the Barn way back there. Frank Kaltman and Rickey Holden came to me and said that they were looking for a facility  because they had some sort of, made an arrangement with the City of New York school system to give interim credits to school teachers who would take this course of square dancing and be able to go back the following fall and teach square dancing in the New York schools around Long Island and New York City. So I started renting them the Barn. I became a partner in the enterprise and started to run a school actually for these teachers. We gave out certificates and everything else if they came. The school was a week long. We taught basic, how to teach a basic square dance, the basic stuff that we all knew and then some of the newer stuff. They were going to go back and teach kids and we’d invite in dancers from the area at night so that these teachers could practice and it was kind of a fun thing. We called it an institute. I think it was Ginger Brown who came way down from Medway, Massachusetts with her husband Lou to dance and got interested in some of this stuff. She said,” Well, this is not really an institute. This is more fun that it is education. You should call it Funstitute”. So I said, “ That’s great idea” . it’s a play on words so it was Ginger’s idea. Now we ran a Funstitute. It was an institute based on having fun. There was a guy who graduated from Springfield College, a recreation man named Bill Lewis, William F. Lewis. He had been in the army and was posted at West Point and he loved it so much that he didn’t want to leave West Point and he was due for a tour to shift him out. So he resigned from the army  because he had an opportunity to become Physical Education, I’m not sure it was Director, but never the less a good position on West Point and he gained a permanent position to teach high rings and bar and gymnastics at West Point for the cadets. He came to the Funstitutes and he was a treat. Finally, I sold the Barn and I didn’t have anywhere to go. He said, “You know, the Hotel Thayer up at West Point has a beautiful old ballroom. Nice wooden floor and everything else. Why don’t you come up there” ? Instead of farming people out here and there like we did and having to worry about catering food for them and all he said, “The hotel can do all that. If you want I’ll set it up for you. Come on up and take a look”. So I went to West Point which was actually not actually too far, it was only an hour and a half or two hours away. I talked to the hotel people and they were thrilled because they weren’t that busy and this was in those days a non-profit hotel. It was a government owned hotel being managed by some Colonel up there so we got the use of West Point Thayer Hotel. Actually, even before that through Bill I had gone up there myself to teach square dancing at the officers club. He was starting to get into it but, since he was on staff  at West Point, he was not an officer, he got me up there because I was to be definitely the expert there. He was there front and center. He was able to get into the officers club. We had the officers and wives, I think it was twice a month they’d meet and we’d run a dance and I’d teach them how to do it. Some of those fellows since have been overseas and did a little calling and really we had almost a square dance club there. I can’t remember why I stopped. Anyway I did and Bill then took it over and he kept running up there and I guess he’s retired now living out in Arizona somewhere. He was very instrumental in that and for years while we ran at the Hotel Thayer and this was the summer institute called Funstitute.

 

BB - Do you remember the first call he did called Texas star ? Being a military man he got up and said, “Ladies to the center and back to the bar, Hup Two, Three Four.

 

AB - He cracked up the whole floor. Well, I do remember also that  I always did a contra or two up there at that session and one of the favorites was the Fireman’s Dance. Part of the routine is, I guess a mescolanza or something now. It’s four people in line passing through another four and going on  to the next  one around - it had double lines or something. But the basic thing at a certain point in the dance everybody yells, “ Fire, Fire, Water, Water” and the caller says, “ Forward and Back and Cross Right Over” which is all part of the routine. You get a couple hundred people in a hall yelling, “ Fire, Fire” at the same, they heard it at the guard house at the bottom of the hill. They got excited. They sent somebody up to check it out.

 

BB - Did they really?

 

AB - Also, Bill Lewis being a little jokester, he got up in the balcony, OK ? We danced right under this balcony. After we did this for a year or two and I was up there calling, “ Fire, Fire, Water, Water” and he made a big deal. He had a big bucket of water and let it be known, he’d dip into the water and everybody in the room could see it but me, it was sort of behind me, and he was up there giving the signal that he was going to dump this water on me when they yelled, “ Fire, Fire, Water, Water”  I was going to get the water. I don’t even know this and, actually he had another bucket there full of confetti, chopped up paper you know  and I’m going along, “ Fire, Fire, Water, Water” and everybody is looking up and sure I’m going to get soaked and throws the paper down on me. He did things like that. It was a fun thing.

 

BB - He was a fun guy.

 

AB - He was. Still is I’m sure.

 

BB - where did you say he is now?

 

AB - Somewhere out in Arizona. I think it’s Sun City Bob. I’m not sure.

 

BB - Well, there are a couple of Sun City’s.

 

AB - Yeah, I think it’s the Scottsdale, Arizona, the Phoenix area.

 

BB - All right. Well, maybe this is a good time stall. I know you’ve got to get back to your room

 

AB - Yeah, I do.

 

BB -  And we both have to get ready for dinner. We’re just about to the end of this side of the tape so why don’t we end it right here and we’ll start again on another session sometime.

 

AB - Well, let’s do that. It’s been a long time getting this one.

 

BB - I know. Of all the times we’ve been together, especially since your wife passed away. We’ve been to a couple of conventions together, we’ve been to Callerlab together, traveled up the west coast together and so forth and never took the time to do this.

 

AB - It’s good to do it and we’ll get back to another session and start another tape.

 

BB - I don’t know if I should mention it but you’re the next to last Hall of Famer I needed

 

AB - Oh, really.

 

BB - The only one left that I haven’t already interviewed is Cal Golden. I hope to get him in Hot Springs, Arkansas on the way back to Albuquerque. By the time I finish this trip I will have talked to all the surviving Hall of Fame, Callerlab Milestone Award and Roundalab Silver Halo Award winners.

 

AB - Well, I know Bob that there are a lot of people that think you’re doing a great job and we know it’s a volunteer job for you and it’s time consuming and expensive and we know that you would like to get some funds coming in if at all possible the help pay some of the costs on this, transportation and getting around and a big cost coming up still to transcribe these tapes and put them in form and I think the cause is really good. It will eventually become part of the archives at the Lloyd Shaw Foundation so that anybody who wants to learn about the history from the word of mouth from the people that made it can get it there from Lloyd Shaw there in Phoenix. Excuse me, Albuquerque.

 

BB - OK. Well, let’s end it right here and we’ll get back on another tape at another time.

 

AB - OK. Look forward to it.

 

BB - Al was just talking about his callers’ school.

 

AB - Yes, Earl Johnston and I looked around for a facility and as I recall our first facility was the Wendell Sherwood Hotel up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. We had our group in there and they served the meals and they had the rooms so we operated there for some years. Then we moved to East Hill Farm up near Keene, New Hampshire. Then we did another school out in Oquaga, out in western New York State. Maybe that was before we went to East Hill. We were looking around for places because the hotel got very expensive and we couldn’t get the days we want. I don’t know, a lot of things happened then so we looked around and finally went to Oquaga. Then we went to East Hill for a lot of years. We ended up in Sturbridge Village, not in Sturbridge Village but in Sturbridge, Massachusetts at the Hayloft which is a square dance barn up there that the dancers had taken over. It was an old building. They’d taken it over, made a nice dance hall out of it, nice floor and Earl Johnston had called there many, many times over the years so we ran the school there. Earl Johnston and I ran it for I guess twenty-nine or thirty years something like that. Then , since we both retired we turned the school over to Ken Ritucci and Randy Page, two what we called young callers, not that young today but they always came to the school, they supported it and they were quite knowledgeable and very interested in teaching other callers so they now run the school.

 

BB - You would have extra help too from other leaders around the country who would come

 

AB - Oh yes. We always had, we tried to bring someone in. We had Jim Mayo with us for many years and he was our voice specialist. He’d done some study with voice and was very good at that as well as knew his dance material, choreography and breathing and enunciation and things of that nature which callers of course need. So we had Jim Mayo as part of the staff and we brought in people that were, like Deuce Williams, to teach more advanced dancing because Deuce was in that area. We had Lee Kopman one year. In fact, Lee attended our school one year even before we had him on staff. We tried to discourage him from writing too much material but it didn’t do any good. You can see that we never got through to him. He wrote so many things you can’t remember. We had those kind of people. Jack Lasry was important in our school for some time. We had Vaughn Parrish. Vaughn Parrish was out and I think we had Ron Schneider and we’ve had a lot of leaders from around the country and they each had a lot to offer. They helped us with the school were all successful and I think now the school is still running and I think, there again it’s probably like the Pioneers orchestra it’s the oldest running orchestra still in existence with the same original people I think our caller’s school is the oldest still successful existing school in the United States. I think we’ve run more schools and more years than anybody else.

 

BB - So when did News and Notes get started?

 

AB - Well, News and Notes, there again we felt the need, a lot of the people from our schools said, “Well, this is great. We’d like to keep in touch and as things come along how do we get this information ?” and we decided we can’t call up everybody or write them a personal letter so we’ll start this note service and we can send out information to the callers which is what we did. It was called News and Notes. We had, Oh I think it was like eight pages I think, four sides, eight and a half by eleven, two sides, four pages two sides. We had news of what’s happening in the area and then we had notes of how you do it. You know, how do you get into this and how do you get out. Then we had new features, new figures. About that time choreography was developing and if you look at Burleson’s Encyclopedia you’ll find some four thousand square dance calls in there and they’re all a little bit different. They were coming out at the rate of ten or twelve a month in those years and we’d list all those. Earl would analyze them. He wasn’t as caustic as Frank Kaltman was in some of his comments but he would say, “ This is ill timed , it doesn’t flow, it makes you use your right hand three times in a row or”. He had some reason why it was not good but then he’d list three or four more and would say, “If you want a good to workshop this month take this one”. He’s recommend one and would also recommend the record. The record companies were producing oodles of records every month and this was before Hanhurst’s Tape Service and all that. He would listen to the records and analyze them and tell them why he thought that they were good or not good. News and Notes came along because of a need. Callers were asking about material and how do they tell a good piece of material from a bad piece of material. Of course, this is long before Callerlab and people like that now set themselves up to tell you well, this is what we recommend sort of thing. It’s a guide line at least. That’s how it started and we developed not only the people who went to our school but a lot of other callers around the country subscribed to the notes because they needed the same kind if stuff.

 

BB -  It was one of the early ones.

 

AB - It was. I think Will Orlich probably he was the earliest.

 

BB - Or  maybe the Northern California  Caller’s.

 

AB - Well yes. Or the Southern California Caller’s Association did put a good set of notes and that was very popular. That’s right Bob and they were perhaps the first. I don’t know. We were not the first by a long shot.

 

BB - Well, I know you were heavily involved with Callerlab, one of the founding members and so forth. Tell is a little about how Callerlab got started and about what time we’re talking about.

 

AB -  Actually Callerlab got started because of Bob Osgood. Bob Osgood, of course was the Editor of the Sets In Order magazine and a long while back he had set up the Hall of Fame actually.

 

BB - The American Square Dance Society.

 

AB - The American Square Dance Society, that’s correct. That wasn’t Bob personally. Anyway, he felt that the activity probably wasn’t really headed in the direction that we all had felt that it should go, that Lloyd Shaw, who was the Daddy of all these ideas more or less had set the philosophy of a good dance activity. He wouldn’t have been happy with it and maybe we should get together and talk about and get a lot of renegade callers out there that maybe if we all got together we could help the activity. I think Bob was and is still a deep thinker and very dedicated to the activity. So, he, in effect got the Hall of Fame members all together to talk about it.

 

BB - Was this at Asilomar?

 

AB - It was at Asilomar. I did not go to the first meeting. For some reason or other I was unable to make it as were some of the others. I Don’t know, there was six or eight callers at that first session. So, they formed and Bob was real good at coining words and he coined the word ‘Callerlab’. It was a laboratory so to speak situation for callers. The next year I did attend the meeting. I don’t even remember where it was but

 

BB - I think they skipped a couple of years.

 

AB - They might have skipped a year to get themselves organized. Actually we did meet and more of a formal proclamation was formed and a code of ethics and some bylaws to operate by and a statement of purposes, what our purpose and our goal was. So, I was in on the forming of all that and at that point there was still only fourteen or fifteen callers involved but every caller that was involved was a very well known leader in his own area, doing a lot for square dancing all along, dedicated people. The following year we decided a program where every caller could invite one more. Then the next year every caller could invite one more so it kind of doubled every year for a while and now that’s not the rule.  That’s the way it got started and we thought it was a worth while organization. In line with Callerlab Bob we might also mention that along about that time I mentioned that there was an awful lot of new material coming in. We featured it in our note service. So did Jack Lasry. So did Bill Peters in southern California. So did Will Orlich and everybody had these things going. At that point the traveling caller came into being or even before then. He traveled around and, for instance Marshall Flippo would come into New England and he do six or eight dates around New England then he’d book to New York State and over to Ohio and welcome him to come back next year. But every time he came he’d bring a brand new basic, something new to workshop. One week later another traveling caller would come in. He’d workshop something else. One week later somebody else would come in and he’d workshop some third thing. So, after about two or three months of this you got so much material that was workshoped  and the dancers had to take a look at and actually dance that it became to be a hodgepodge. The dancer was getting a little angry because if you did all these things the people who weren’t at that particular dance didn’t get it so had to review it and workshop it and the dances were becoming big workshops to try to catch up with all this stuff. They said, “We didn’t come to this, we want to just dance. Why doesn’t somebody do something about it?”

 

So EDSARDA I believe it was, the Eastern District Association of Square Dance Clubs got into it as it was representing  dancers. They asked Charlie Baldwin if he would come to Callerlab. This was when Callerlab was quite new and present this problem because here we are, the professional callers from all over the country and we helped create the problem now make us solve it. He did come out to Callerlab with this problem. So Callerlab decided that the way you solve the problem was to create a list and to create levels and create this. Now this was not a brand new idea for Callerlab. California people had their own list of basics. Bob Osgood had it when he started Sets In Order, the list of forty-eight basics which still are pretty much the same basics with only a few changes. John Hendron I believe had a list of his own up in New England. There were callers around the country but, there again, every list was different. Every caller made up his own list of things that he wanted to use and that he called beginner or intermediate or advanced. So Callerlab took this project over and we decided that if we’d all agree that this is going to be sort of the official organization to present the list and have it screened by the Callerlab organization representing a lot of real good callers that the people would accept, which they did, Now the speculation, was it good or was it bad, did we do the right thing or the wrong thing but I believe that if we had not have done it we would have been worse. Yeah, I think so. On that basis  I guess it was a good thing.

 

BB - Well, let’s talk a little bit about something a little more serious. I’ve been asking most everybody, “ What’s your overview of where you think square dancing has been and where is it going ?”

 

AB - Well, that’s a good question Bob and I think the first part of that is where it’s been and where it’s going. But where it’s been, you know, when you and I got to square dancing it was just a Saturday night or a Friday night at the firehouse or a Saturday night here and there. It was being done in barrooms and downstairs basement places that were not what you might say culturally acceptable to society many of them and I feel that , even my own dance hall when it opened up, we were in proximity of Bridgeport, Connecticut and had people from up in there and if a ship pulled in full of sailors and they had the night off why a lot of them would come out to the Barn and that’s the only time we’d see them. They’d ship out two days later. It was OK because in those days you didn’t have to learn a thing to go square dancing. You could just walk in and everything, not everything but most things were very self explanatory. The caller would say, “Circle Left” and you would somehow know what to do. He’d say, “Swing your Partner” and you’d figure that out and when you got on the floor if you formed up as couple three or couple four by the time the dance got around to you you’d know it from observation if you kept your eyes open. So, everybody could dance and have a good time and that’s probably basically what it was all about.  With the advent of the new material and with the teaching program and the set up and the people actually learning how to do an Allemande Left  and a Grand, how many counts it takes and who do you meet  and how do you twirl and where do you go when you Promenade, all that kind of thing. For brand new people things began to improve as square dancing was taken out of the rougher element let’s say. It was put on a more of a family basis. Men and wives and children participated. There wasn’t just a sailor walking in to get a dance with a girl he could find. I feel it was upgraded and Lloyd Shaw was a big part of this. This is what he foresaw and wanted to happen. I think it did happen so we elevated square dancing to the point where now you are able to get a school to run it in or you are able to get a church hall or you’re able to get, it’s more of a respected activity and I guess many people feel it’s the folk dance, American folk dance and as such we should preserve it and give it some prestige and culture. I think that  basically that has happened.

 

Now, as to where it’s going. It may be going back. I don’t know. The level system has gotten in many areas has divided the square dancers up so he’s no longer happy to go to a square dance club and socialize with some friends, have a cup of coffee and talk and socialize and laugh and have a good time. He has to have more material which is a mathematical solution to a social activity and I’m not sure that’s really the thing that’s going to keep square dancing alive and make it the folk dance of America. I think it’s going to be great but  many area already have wound up in the real high levels becoming nothing more than cellar parties or study groups because in order to keep up if you don’t study this stuff two or three or four night a week you can’t keep up when you go to a challenge convention or you go to a challenge dance. There’s too much material for most people to retain. As I mentioned earlier, over four thousand, maybe five by now in Burleson’s Encyclopedia and how many of these things can you memorize? Well, two or three hundred is a good score  but some people know three hundred and they feel that they are superior to the person who only knows one hundred. It doesn’t make them a better person, In fact it makes them a worser person if there is such a word as worser but it makes them feel, you know, well, you better do this right because I’m in your square and I know that stuff cold and I can’t help you. There’s not many laughs. There are groups I must say that do laugh and have a good time and if you made a mistake it’s not such a big deal but gradually some of those things I feel are going to possibly be  the ruination. it’s drifting back into private groups and if you can’t dance keep out of my square. Already has happened and that’s not the spirit that we were taught and that we grew up with so I think the spirit of square dancing is being torn down slowly. There are several clubs in Florida that I dance in once in a while now that I’m dancing and not calling anymore that I feel still have the spirit. Frank Bidell in Boynton Beach, Florida has a Castoff’s Club. It’s a beautiful club. They have club uniform. They do club project. They go places together. They have a long refreshment break every time. People talk with each other. They love Frank. They support him all the time. They have a beginner class and start new people every year and this committee, they sing, they announce birthdays and if you have an anniversary they give you a cake. I mean they do a lot of sociable, nice things and the level is Plus. It’s not challenge although there are some challenge dancers that dance there. They dance good rounds in between and that’s part of the activity as well. The real high level challenge, challenge dancers many times  and most of them I would say probably don’t even dance rounds which is also a very nice part of our activity. They couldn’t care less about contras and here we are this weekend having a great time doing contras and we find that hey, they’re pretty intricate.. I know one challenge dancer down here right now that they’re having a little trouble doing what ‘s supposedly real simple stuff that you wouldn’t be bothered with it. He can’t quite make it through even after instruction. Anyway, I feel that it will probably never die out completely. There will always be somebody doing a square dance somewhere. I feel that it has dropped off as we all know over the past few years to where it is a serious problem in many areas. Also hearing reports - well, if we could bind the clubs together we’d have a decent club again but people really don’t want to do that. Oh, I only dance on Wednesday, I can’t dance

 

BB - Your caller or my caller.

 

AB - Yeah, who’s caller are you going to get and they’re wrangling. I can understand. It’s human nature but our whole human nature in the whole country is changing Bob. Look at road rage now. Look at what rage is going on. If you don’t hurry up and beat a red light some guy behind you bumps you. It’s terrible. This is what’s happening. This mentality is getting into square dancing and I feel it’s not going to really help make it the big national social activity, family activity.  I think it’s going to segregate it into small specialists groups. It’s already done that and I think it probably will get worse before it gets better and I don’t have the solution.

 

BB - Well, I think you’ll agree that there are pockets of areas, like north of Boston for example. I talked with Tony Parkes and they’re up there dancing ten or twelve, fifteen basics and that’s it. That’s all they all they ever want to learn.

 

AB - Absolutely. I do agree with that and a good example right here this weekend.  Dick Leger is here on staff and Dick Leger does do some of the Plus movements but basically he’s a Mainstream caller and he’s been so for the last forty years or more to my knowledge and he runs a very successful program. He’s giving a lot of people a very good time. Jerry Helt out in Cincinnati is another one of these people. He is not calling to any of these advanced levels and he is a very, very popular caller. He’s got some very good material, He’s a real nice guy and the people that dance with are very, very nice people and this is the kind of thing we really need. But we need more people that will actually do that. You know, one of our problems is, the caller gets prominent, he begins to know more material and he wants to go into the higher levels with his calling and he doesn’t want to be bothered with teaching beginners anymore because he has to run an A2 workshop. Consequently he leaves the teaching of new people to some caller that’s six months old as a caller. I mean, he really doesn’t do a good job so some of the training is not so good. I know that it’s been said that we used to say, well come on in, we’ll teach you how, if you can walk you can square dance, don’t worry about it. Well, that’s true, we’ve said that long enough now that we have a bunch of walkers in there who don’t dance. We have lost the dance ability in many cases.

 

BB - We’re getting down near the end of this section of the tape and I have one more serious question.

 

AB - OK

 

BB - Looking back on your career do you have any regrets, anything you wish you had done differently?

 

AB - Ah boy. I don’t know Bob. No, I think probably not. I don’t have any serious regrets anyway. I know I made a serious mistake long, long, long ago. I was calling at the Houston, Texas Festival, Doc Journel and Ed Gil,I don’t know, Gilmore was there,  a lot of callers and they had maybe twenty, thirty callers at those festivals. They’d have local callers come in and they’d all call one number. I had a five minute spot and I could call one number. Grady Hester was there with his orchestra and it was live music. They didn’t have any recordings I don’t think that early in the game. I can’t remember what I called but it went over big. It was a singing call and it was very big and I got what you might say was a standing applause. Applaud, applaud, people yelling , “More, more” and the committee man, I’m supposed to quit, get off the stage and I didn’t know what to do. The committee man rushed up on the stage and he said, “ No, it’s not our policy, we don’t let anybody do that, thirteen, fourteen callers to go on the program.  Your five minutes is up, you have to get off the stage”. I started to pack and the people yelled and screamed, “No”, So he said, “Well, all right we’ll make one exception. Get going”. I turned to Grady Hester and I said, “ Do you know Marching Through Georgia”? And the reason I said that was because that was real big in our crowd and I’d get them revved up again. So, He said,” Ah, I don’t think we know that”. How can anybody not know that you know? I whistled it and he said, “ Ah, I don’t know”. Well I said, “I tell you what, I’ll start it you just give it a whirl and play some chords and we’ll just do it anyway. I have to do this”. So I did Marching Through Georgia and I think that was the worse thing I could have done. I didn’t realize that Marching Through Georgia, and I’m in Texas, below the Mason-Dixon line, was not a very good choice. I got no tremendous response. I got no loud applause. I’ve got a very quiet hall and I walked off a very, very hangdog caller and I’ve never been invited back to Houston since that day and that was like I think it was fifty years ago Bob, maybe more. I guess that’s my only regret. I should have used better judgment.

 

BB - Yeah. There’s another story about Texas, we’ve got a minute on the tape, where he (Ed Durlacher) went down into Texas. He always had that long-horned steer on the front of his shirt and the horns going down his sleeves. He made the comment at this convention he said, “You know you Texans down here, you weren’t the first ones to have cattle ranches. We had then back in Long Island long before you”.  The next day after this, the paper came out and said, “ We found out that all the bull that Ed Durlacher had was not on his shirt”.   

 

Well, we’re just about to the end Al. Golly, I appreciate your taking the time. It took us long enough to get it done.

 

AB - Yes, it did.

 

BB - After we leave here we’ll probably go down to dinner and find out we missed talking about another half a dozen things.

 

AB - Well, maybe we can get together some other time Bob and do another one. Do another tape.

 

BB - For the sake of the tape we’ll call this the conclusion of the interview with Al Brundage, currently living in Florida and thank you very much for your time.

 

AB - Oh, thank you. I hope you, and I believe in your project. I  think it’s the greatest thing that it’s being done and badly needed, you’re fulfilling a lot about history and giving us the wherewithal to preserve it. You’re doing a great job Bob.

 

BB - OK

 

 

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Written By: Bob Brundage
Date Posted: 9/28/2007
Number of Views: 4009

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