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Tony Parkes November 11, 1997

Bob Brundage – And this is Bob Brundage and the date is still November 11, 1997 and I’ve moved a few miles away to Billerica (he is pronouncing it like Bil – ri – ka, the proper pronunciation).  The people here in Billerica don’t know how to pronounce the name, but … properly.  I’ve always pronounced it Billerica (he is pronouncing it like Bil – er – i – ka an incorrect pronunciation in jest), but be that as it may, we’re in Massachusetts and this evening we are talking with Tony Parkes who as been around … involved in the business here North of Boston for so long.  So Tony, tell us a little bit about your family background, where you were born and brought up and so forth. 

 

Tony Parkes – I was born in New York City

 

BB – Ah, ok.

 

TP – … in 1949 and you had said you were going to ask about my life before square dancing.  Well I can hardly remember my life before square dancing because when I was about six years old we started square dancing in grammar school, and I loved it and most of the kids could take it or leave it and I was one of the few that didn’t end up hating it by about the time of 8th grade.  But uh …

 

BB – Were you still in New York then?

 

TP – Yeah.  I was in New York until ’73 when I was 23.  (I) spent my formative year’s right in the middle of New York city, Greenwich Village.  It was a nice neighborhood, lot of artsy types around the place.

 

BB – Did you go out to Folk Dance House?

 

TP – Yeah, I actually did.  That was a little bit later.  I had a fairly normal upbringing I guess.  I was an only child.  I was a bit of a shy kid and square dancing and folk dancing gave me a place where I could really shine.  It gave me something I could do well.  It gave me a built in social circle so I really took to it.  We had square dancing in school from about 1st grade to 6th or 7th grade, and then I went to summer camp in two or three different places and they always had square dancing there, usually with live music.  Starting in 1960, when I was 10, I went to the Farm and Wilderness Camps in Plymouth, Vermont.  They were … they are a set of Quaker camps, there are about a half a dozen of them for different age groups and interest types … that one of the things they emphasize is self reliance, making your own everything.  The kids make their own buildings with help, of course, from the counselors, they make their own … a lot of different things, and they make their own fun. 

 

So, when they have a square dance it’s a live band, and these days it’s the kids in the band.  When I was there it was mostly staff, counselors 18 and up in the band.  I think I was the first camper, the first under 18 that they had as a regular musician.  As I say, I started going around 10 and I fell in love with the square dancing because at school it had been pretty tame.  The music teacher would sit at the piano and she would give the calls as she would play the piano and it was all kind of genteel.  Where at the camps, the caller was one of the counselors and he would just belt out the calls like…. like Jimmy Durante, or Eddie Cantor.  And there would be a five to ten piece band backing him up.  It was wonderful. Some years it would start sounding like Dixieland.  We had a head coach who played a mean set of drums on things like Alabama Jubilee and Just Because.  They did a lot of the old standard singing calls from the ‘40s and early ‘50s and some of the patter calls.  The Ed Gilmore stuff from the same era. 

 

And it wasn’t until later in the mid ‘60s that Dudley Laufman’s influence started permeating and we started doing contras and some of the older New England stuff.  When I first started going there it was…. it was mostly the transitional stuff from the ‘40s and ‘50s, when …. when traditional dancing was becoming modern dancing and I just fell in love with the whole thing.  It was so exciting, and I looked at the caller up there on the stage and I saw he was having a great time and I saw a hundred different people doing the same thing at the same time because he had said so and I said, “I want to be him”.  And I think right from the start, right from when I was about ten, I knew I wanted to be a caller.  I didn’t know if I wanted to do it as a profession but I knew that my life was going to involve calling and dance music someplace.  So the summer I was twelve they … I tried out for the band and there was nobody else, I guess, that wanted to play piano full time so I ended up playing piano in the square dance band that year.  And then a year or two later my voice kind of settled down (Bob chuckles) and decided it was pretty much done with cracking.

 

BB – Right. Not quite as deep as it is today.

 

TP – Well, it was pretty low even then.  And I think they had been waiting, because they saw I was interested.  I think they had been just waiting until my voice settled down because one day they told me I was going to call the next night at my age group’s dance.  I was about fourteen I guess, and I said, “Gulp, I am?” and they said, “You are. We’ve seen you, we know you can do it”.  So the first dance I ever called was Uptown-Downtown to the tune of Golden Slippers.  Then the next week I did my first patter call which was Forward Six and Back and the left hand lady under.  And then I did a couple of more that summer I think, and then the following year I did a little bit more. 

 

Meanwhile, back in New York City during the school year I was looking for what ever square dances I could find in New York, and there weren’t many in those days.  It was the end of an era, the end of the big square dance boom.  But there were still a couple of places.  Dick Kraus was calling at the Teachers College at Columbia University, and he had the only weekly dance that I knew of that had square dancing.  He did three squares and three folk dances back and forth all through the evening. 

 

BB – Right

 

TP – And I went there and I told him I had done some calling at summer camp and he said, “Why don’t you bring a record here next week and we’ll see what you can do”.  So I did … I brought a record and called, I think it was Just Because.  And then he was very kind and very encouraging and he let me bring a different record every week for several years.  And that’s where I got most of my early practice.  I bought about ten square dance records mostly from Michael Herman at Folk Dance House and from … what was his name … Harry Berliner whose shop was about two blocks from my house so I spent a lot of time there listening to records and buying the ones I liked.

 

BB – I haven’t run across that name in a quite a long time.

 

TP – I also would take the Hudson Tube out to Newark and hang out at the Dance Record Center with Frank Kaltman and the Folkraft label.  And there again, you could listen to the records before you bought them.  Just like you used to be able to do with popular and classical records.  And Berliner’s was really an old style music shop. 

 

BB – Really?

 

TP – Yeah.  He had records going back twenty or thirty years and I wish I had been able to get more of them.  But I got quite a few.  Those were the days you could get almost anything you wanted at the manufacturer’s price and now, you know, if you find something it’s like $50 for one book or one record.  So, I was getting plugged into the local scene. I discovered Folk Dance House, and they had a teenage group that met from, I think, 6-8 on Saturdays and I would dance there and I would dance on Fridays with Dick Kraus and that was, of course, when he called squares.  And I kept doing it at summer camp and I guess it was about that time, ’64 - 65, ’64 was the year I started calling, and it was right around that time that I discovered Ralph Page.  He was semi retired from regular calling, but once a year he would come to Folk Dance House and he would do an afternoon workshop and an evening dance.  And that was when, I think, that I discovered contras.  And, of course, they were wonderful too. I mean the squares were wonderful, the squares were my first love and I’ve never given up on them, but the contras were like a revelation because there you could actually hear the music and the caller wasn’t talking all the time.  So it was a different kind of fun. 

 

BB – Sure.

 

TP – And I learned to love them both pretty early.

 

BB – Right.  Did you ever get a chance to dance much?

 

TP – I’ve tried to keep my hand in, or I should say my feet, all through the years.  (In) Boston we’re lucky in that there are several dances a week and so there’s…. there’s dancing every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and most Fridays and most Saturdays, so even when I’m not calling I can get out and dance. 

 

BB – Well, when was it you moved up to the north of Boston?

 

TP – Well ok.  I … I moved out from my parents in ’70 and I lived on my own in Queens, New York for three years and during that time I ran some square dances in New York and got maybe 40 people every couple of weeks and got some more experience that way.  I decided to move to Boston in the early ‘70s. I ended up actually moving in the fall of ’73, just before I turned 24.  And the reason I moved was that there were more people involved in playing and calling traditional squares and contras in Boston than in New York.  That is still true although the New York scene has improved.  There is a lot more people … I figured there were a lot more people to hang out with. There were a lot more people to learn from ‘cause there wasn’t anybody in New York at that time that could show me much.  I had some … a lot of nice help, the old time callers encouraged me when they saw that I was interested.  We used to have old timers nights at Dick Kraus’s dance.  Some of the people who had been active during the ‘50s would show up.  And then I took one … you want names, I not sure I can remember them all.

 

BB – I was gonna ask you if you remember Abe Kanegson.

 

TP -  I never knew him.  He died before I …

 

BB – Yeah, he did die.

 

TP - … had the chance to meet him. 

 

BB – He was one of those … he was the Mel Tillis stutterer.  But he sang beautifully.  Yeah, who were some of the other people?

 

TP – Let’s see.  There was a caller named Shorty Williams, there was … oh it’s been years … Cliff Bullard who was a black guy, one of the few at that time, his specialty was Hurry, Hurry, Hurry and he did it like nobody else.

 

BB – Olga Kulbitsky.

 

TP – Olga showed up occasionally.  Let’s see.  There was a guy named Fred Leifer …

 

BB – Ohhh.

 

TP – He wrote the Lil’ Abner square dance book.

 

BB – He’s still around.

 

TP – Is he?  He did a lot with international folk dancing but he was also a caller and he used to go by the name Tex Lightning (Bob chuckles) but he had given that up by the time I got to know him.  Then there was a real tall guy named Tom Steward.  And I got at least one nice call from him.  It was to the tune of Last Night on the Back Porch.  And so this gang of maybe half a dozen callers … there was another one named Norm Forgash.

 

BB – I’ve heard that name.

 

TP – He used to show up every year for this old home night so I got to know a few of them that way.  And then there was a wonderful woman named Betty McDermid, who I met at Mary Ann Herman’s Teaching Techniques class at Folk Dance House.  And Betty was a friend of Don Armstrong, and she also knew people like Ed Gilmore and Manning Smith.  She was from Florida and she…. she went back quite a ways as a dance teacher although she was retired by the time I got to know her. 

 

BB – Betty McDermid?

 

TP – Yeah.  And she kind of took me under her wing because she thought … she thought I had real potential so she had some of Don Armstrong’s contra records with the calls on one side and the instrumentals on the other and I would use them like training wheels.  I would call along with Don on the one side and I would flip them over and try to do the same thing on my own.  And she would listen and she would correct me when I … when I got it wrong.  And give me all kinds of encouragement.  She loaned me some of her records.  She even loaned me a sound system and my first … the first contra dance that I wrote I named Shadrack’s Delight because Shadrach was her Teddy bear. 

 

BB – Oh ok.

 

TP - She had a whole collection of Teddy bears, some of them were, you know, regular size Teddy bears and some of them were little tiny porcelain ones on a shelf.  She just collected bears.  And I was too shy to name the dance for Betty so I named it for Shadrach.  And that’s … that was my first contra and it’s probably my best known.  It was beginners luck.  (Bob chuckles).  You know, I came up with a routine that felt a little bit traditional and a little bit modern.  And that was ’72 that I wrote that just before I moved to Boston.

 

BB – Oh, ok.  I’m going to see Don Armstrong in about a week … Thanksgiving weekend. I go to his contra dance weekend in York, Pennsylvania.  So I’ll tell him that I saw you. Right.

 

TP – Speaking of encouragement, I just want to make sure I get in that when I moved to Boston it was like New York all over again only more so because the older callers were so overjoyed to find someone under 50 who was actually interested in calling.  Because by then, since about the mid ‘60s, Dudley Laufman had had a big influence on the kids playing the music.  There were a lot of young musicians but there were no young callers yet.  So that was … they gave me all the encouragement they could.  Ted Sannella, Roger Whynot, Louise Winston.  They let me come to their private parties, their one night stands, to see how they worked with beginners.  Again, they did everything they could for me. 

 

BB – Right. How about Mel Haden?

 

TP – I never knew him.  I’ve heard he was a good man but I never had the chance.  I met Rod Linnell exactly twice.  Once when he was just passing through the Maine Folk Dance Camp just saying hello to his friends, and then once he did a workshop at Folk Dance House when I was still in New York.  I guess it was just before he died. 

 

BB – You were probably there when I was on the staff there, the Maine Folk Dance camp. 

 

TP – I must have missed your week but I might have been there one of the same years that you were there. 

 

BB – Yeah, right.  Yeah, that was…. that was a nice experience.  Well, Lawrence Loy had the Recreation Leaders Laboratory up in Maine too.  Linnell came to that one time and I fell in love with him.  In fact, in one of the recordings that I made … he had given me … but he had never named it and I named it Rod’s Right and Left.

 

TP – Oh, that was your name?

 

BB – Yeah.

 

TP -  I have heard your recording of that.  And I also have Rod’s own recording of it. 

 

BB – Yeah, right.  So I’ve used that every where I went and I used to call it my challenge dance because you get around to these hot shot club dancers and the higher the level of the club the worse it was and the worse it goes.

 

TP – Yup.  I tell people in the traditional scene, I call it and I say, “Now there are some kinds of square dancing where people think the more calls you know the better you are.  This dance, aside from the partner change, uses only two calls, ladies chain and right and left thru. Therefore, it should be an easy dance, no?” (they both chuckle)

 

TP – I love it.

 

BB – It’s basically the same thing. Right. But well, that’s fun.  Tell us about your keyboard work. You’re playing occasionally with other musicians around … you said you’re not playing as much as calling but …

 

TP – Yeah.  Since those early days at summer camp I haven’t played too much of the time.  There was a period in the mid ‘70s when I was playing a little bit more.  About a year after I moved to Boston I met Donna Hinds who is now Donna Hébert, and she uh … they uh … a good … both a contest fiddler and a dance fiddler and we fell for each other and partly, you know, I had always had the fantasy of having a fiddler in the family and she had also wanted somebody to play piano or guitar and we joined forces.  We got married a couple of years later and we started … we founded the band called Yankee Ingenuity.  At first it didn’t have a name, it was just the house band at the Country Dance Society’s Tuesday night dance in the Boston area and they … this was when the … when the Boston CDS board was trying to put some new life into their weekly dance.  They had been using retired callers from the North of Boston Callers Association and attendance was down to about two squares.  And they asked Ted Sannella if he would take it over because he was THE most popular caller in the area.  On Ted’s night it was five squares as opposed to two the rest of the time.  And Ted said he would … he would be artistic director and he would call every other week but he didn’t want to commit himself to every week and he suggested me as the caller to alternate with him, not necessarily because I was the best in the area but because my style and my philosophy were the most like his so there would be some continuity from week to week. 

 

So, in the fall of … ’75 I think it was, we started this new format and right away there were complaints that the quality of the calling wasn’t consistent from week to week. (Bob chuckles)  I never got better so fast as I did that fall.  (they both laugh)  In about three months I think I had gotten good enough so people weren’t complaining any more and attendance was shooting up through the roof.  And we had to move to a bigger hall.  For a while we had 250 people every week.  And the bands, they asked Donna, who had done some substitute work the year before, they asked Donna if she would put together a band.  So we found a Bass player.  A piano was no problem on Ted’s night because I would play. That’s when I was doing most of my playing.  But we needed somebody for the weeks when I was calling because I can call … I can play when I call but they both suffer.  I’d rather concentrate on one or the other.  So, we were … Donna and I were playing a dance up in New Hampshire and there was this young fellow named Peter Barnes who was fooling around on the piano during intermission and Donna said to him, “I didn’t know (you) played piano”.  And he said something like, “Sure, it was my first instrument”, because she knew him as a guitar and banjo player.  Now he is mostly a keyboard and flute player but it was then that we found our piano player and he is still in Yankee Ingenuity and he is the only original member who is still in it after twenty …, twenty odd years.  But we had a great time for a few years there.  And then we had some differences of opinion with the Society and Donna and I started our own dance out at the Concord Scout House near here, and that’s been going for about 19 or 20 years every week.

 

BB – What night.

 

TP – Monday night.

 

BB – Monday night, ok.  Well, that’s interesting.  Well, speaking of the Yankee Ingenuity now let’s talk about recording.  You’ve … Yankee Ingenuity made some records.

 

TP – Yeah, the band has made two albums.  One, Kitchen Junket, came out in 1977 and that was available on an LP with  a double jacket that had the dance instructions on it.  And it came in two ways, with my calls, or without calls. And it’s been reissued on a double length cassette with the called version on one side and instrumental on the other so the whole thing is on one tape. 

 

BB – Is that right?

 

TP – And then we did … what was it, about 12 years later, 1989 we did one, Heatin’ Up the Hall, which is half a dance record and half a listening record.  Kitchen Junction is all dance music and is all long enough to dance to.  The second one, Heatin’ Up the Hall is more like a concert, although there are some cuts on there you can dance to, there’s La Bastringue, there’s Levi Jackson Rag, there’s a reel medley and a jig medley.  And that came out on all three formats, LP, cassette and CD.  I still have a bunch of LPs if anybody wants one. (both chuckle) If not, I’m going to go into the vinyl siding business. I bought thirty of them just before people quit buying LPs so they are still up in the attic (Bob chuckles).  Before … before Yankee Ingenuity I helped make a recording called Fireside String Band.  That was in ’76.

 

BB – I’ve seen that.

 

TP – And that was to go with Louise Winston’s book of Rod Linnell’s calls.   It was music that Rod used, some of the Quadrille music and some of the tunes that had gone out of print on other labels.  I got together an eight piece band for that including Donna, who I had just met and I had already lined up two fiddlers but I got her in there too, and I think she was the strongest of the three and I was glad to have her.

 

BB – I had a thought, let’s stop that for a second.  I just thought of a question. (Shutting tape off)

 

TP – It’s still going.  (noise on tape) I think your pause control is broken.

 

BB – Right, ok.  I had a question and I wanted to ask you now and I started … I tried to stop the tape temporarily and I can’t remember what the question is now.  All right, well, moving right along as they usually say.  One of the things that I usually asked most of the people that I’ve interviewed so far, “What is it you find appealing about calling square dances”?   

 

TP – Hmmm. Oh, look at anybody’s reasons and …. and for me it’s all of the above.  I … I love seeing people light up and go. “Hey, I can do this” so I love calling one-nighters or what you might call fun nights for people who have no idea what they’re doing.  Because I maintain that anybody can dance and I love proving that to them.  I love the chance to use my voice. I’ve been blessed with a pleasant voice and I get a lot of pleasure out of the difficult act of producing the sounds and letting them reverberate.  So there’s that and I get a bit of an ego boost from it and I … in my case … I like the fact that I can make a little bit of money from it.  I’ve been doing it as a substantial part of my living for several years now. 

 

BB – Right.  I know the question, it came back to me.  Your Monday night program, what’s a typical program and what’s the balance of contras and quadrilles?

 

TP – Ok, it changed over the years.  I’m not calling the Monday night anymore, as of this year.  But over the years it started with about maybe five contras and three or four sets of squares.  Two squares to a set.  More recently it’s been about seven contras and two sets of squares or maybe three.  Contras have become more popular and squares have become less popular among this crowd.  And even …, even with two sets of squares there would be some people who thought that was too many squares in an evening.  And one reason that I got out of there was that I was getting tired of hearing the same thing from the same people all the time who wanted twelve contras in an evening and that was it.  I have hopes of starting a new series, maybe on a small scale at least at first, where I can do anything I want.  Squares, contras, mixers, couple dances, and maybe some folk dances, maybe some singing, play party games.  Just because I … I love it all.

 

BB – Right.  Well, the next question then is in your programs do you include folk dances and couple dances and like that?

 

TP – We always have some couple dances even if it’s just a couple of waltzes, a Swedish Hambo, a polka or a Schottische.  I used to do more international folk dances in an evening than I do now.  I’d like to start something like what Ted Sannella used to do.  In almost all of his programs he would include some folk dances.  Some he would teach and some he would just put on the music for people who knew.  I think that’s a great idea.

 

BB – But no round dances as we know … as club dancers know them.

 

TP – Not really.  We’ll do something like Salty Dog Rag which was popular in the ‘50s but that’s about it.

 

BB – I’ve still got that record but nobody dances it any longer.  It’s a great dance. Looking back on your career … anything you would have changed, any regrets?

 

TP – Oh. I … I might have made more of an effort to get to know some of the people I’ve worked with a little better.  I spent a lot of time … as I said, I was a shy kid … I spent a lot of time getting good at the technical end of calling.  The planning, the phrasing, and the judgment about when to use certain dances, and I think sometimes I got more caught up in the material and (was) not so aware of the people as people.  But I have very few regrets about my calling and playing.  I’ve loved just about every minute of it. 

 

BB – Tell us about the New England Folk Festival and how you are associated with that.

 

TP – That’s just about my favorite non-profit group.  I’ve been on the board; I’ve done various things behind the scenes.  Right now I’m on the Grants Committee that takes the surplus and decides what to do with it.  We give scholarships to callers and musicians; we do up front funding for new dance series and the like.  I’ve been involved in sound; I’ve been involved in oh, I can’t even remember what all over the years.  I’ve done some writing through the program books, I wrote a souvenir program for the 50th festival.  It’s amazing it’s been going for more than 50 years now …

 

BB – I didn’t realize that.

 

TP - … and it’s still going strong. 

 

BB – That’s amazing.

 

TP – I mean it’s one of the oldest big events in the dance world as far as I know.  It started in 1944. 

 

BB – Still in Natick now?

 

TP – Yeah.  It moved around for awhile, a different location every year, but it’s found a permanent home at Natick High School which is about … oh, 45 minutes southwest of Boston, a nice central location for New England. 

 

BB – It’s certainly handy to the Massachusetts Pike and everything like that, right .

 

TP – I think we had about 5000 people over a three day weekend.  It’s about half contra dancing and half international folk dancing. 

 

BB – Well, it’s been much contra dancing.  If I remember right, when I was active in the Folk Festival there was not that much contra dancing going on.  There was some, but not … and it was usually Ralph Page and company. (chuckles)

 

TP – Well, if you look at the program books over the years you can see that the squares kind of diminished and contras got more popular and the American dancing … the American and contras together has gotten to be a bigger and bigger part of it.  So in addition to being the New England Folk Festival it functions as a sort of the de-facto National Contra Convention. 

 

BB – I see.

 

TP – People come from all over the country including California and that.

 

BB – Is that right?

 

TP – Yeah, to come and just be there and take part in the dancing and calling.

 

BB – But they still have a major part of the program the folk dance exhibitions don’t they?

 

TP – Yeah, there are four sessions of those that are about 90 minutes each.  They definitely keep them as a major part of the festival and, of course, the folk dancing for everybody. 

 

BB – But there wouldn’t be contra dances going on while the exhibitions are going on, or would there?

 

TP - There probably would be.  There are two big halls, the main hall and the lower hall which are like the varsity gym and the downstairs practice gym, and there are about four I think … three or four dance halls and three of four concert halls going all at the same time. 

 

BB – Oh yes.

 

TP – When I first started going to the festival in ’69 it was just the main hall and the cafeteria where you got the ethnic food and the vendors in between in the hallways.  And that was it.  Then they added the lower hall and they added a couple of other halls and they keep expanding, they keep getting permission from the school to use more and more rooms.  So now you can, in the same hour, you can do contras, you can do folk dancing and you can go listen to a concert.  You can be in on an instrument workshop, or a caller’s workshop, or a discussion on where this whole thing is going.  Or you can feed your face or you can buy things (Bob chuckles).  There is a big craft hall too. 

 

BB – Right.  And a lot of dancing material, caller’s material and so forth.  What about National Square Dance Conventions?

 

TP – I’ve been to roughly half a dozen of those and I’ve enjoyed them quite a bit, I gave up going because I just … you know for budgetary reasons.  But if money were no object I would still be going.  I would hang out in the contra hall of course or any traditional squares that would happen would be in the contra hall as well.  A whole bunch of people, dancers and callers, from around the country that I started to think of  as…

 

                         (tape stops abruptly)

        

BB – Ok, we just turned the tape over … now you were just saying …?

 

TP – I was remembering the years that I was at the National Square Dance Convention and (would) spend the time in the contra hall with a group of people that would come from all over the country and converge on the hall.  I sort of thought of them as the contra mafia since I only saw them that once a year and they would go back to their communities as I did and …. and spread the good word about contra dancing.  Most of them working within the modern western square dance network.  But you know one or two mavericks like me. 

 

BB – Uh ha.  Do you remember some of those people?

 

TP – Let’s see.  Mona Cannell in Ohio … and Walt Cole from Utah,

 

BB – Walt Cole passed away, right?

 

TP – Right. 

 

BB – Yeah.  Let’s see. Bob Howell …

 

TP – Oh yeah, Bob Howell.

 

BB - Cal Campbell. ….. way up in Washington?

 

TP – Oh, Glen Nickerson

 

BB – Glen Nickerson,

 

TP – Yeah.

 

BB - Stew Shacklette

 

TP – Yeah, occasionally.

 

BB – He’s from Kentucky.

 

TP – I met him somewhere else but, you know, we wouldn’t see all these people every year but some of them would come back.

 

BB – Yeah. Well, many of them were the same as me.  When one was fairly handy … Do you remember which cities you made …

 

TP – Let’s see.  I started going when it was in Atlantic City in ’77.  And that was the year that a bunch of us from New England, from the traditional scene decided to go because we figured it would never come closer than Atlantic City in our lifetime and we wanted to see what it was like and maybe make our presence felt and let people know there were other ways of doing things just for the fun of it, not to be combative or anything.  So, Ted Sannella and Roger Whynot and I and probably one or two others that I can’t remember off hand went down.  That was the one year we had a booth trying to sell our record but, as I said earlier, just before you turned the tape on we didn’t sell enough of them to make it worth going back as a vendor.  So after that we just … we would hand out flyers about our records but we would just be there to call and to dance. 

 

BB – Did you know Chip Hendrickson?

 

TP – Yeah, I’ve been in touch with him off and on over the years. 

 

BB – I’m trying to think of some of the others who might be mutual friends.  Well … I think were pretty well … we’ve been through a half hour and (there’ve) certainly been some …. certainly interesting facts.  Unless you think of anything else …

 

TP – No, I can tell you …. you asked before who had been the greatest influences on me. 

 

BB – Oh yes, that’s right.

 

TP – Well, certainly Ted Sannella, who is just about the greatest traditional caller of our time.  Dick Leger…  who puts a little bit of modern flair into his calling but he is giving people good phrased, solid material, and I’ve learned a lot listening to his recordings and I also took his callers course when the New England Festival people sponsored him a number of years ago.  I would say that my biggest influences in terms of calling style in the traditional scene would be Ralph Page, Ted Sannella and Dick Kraus and in the Modern Western movement probably Dick Leger  and Ed Gilmore.  I never met Ed but I have a lot of his recordings and I have a lot of respect for what he did for the activity.

 

BB – Well you missed a great one, not having met him.  So, well, I think you’ve pretty well covered most everything that I wanted to find out about you … do you have any other hobbies?

 

TP – Ah, let’s see.  Well, I’ve been into model railroading off and on over the years.  I’ve gotten rid of most of my trains when I decided that they were owning me so that I just didn’t have the space or the money to keep up with the hobby.  I’ve stayed in it in a small way.  I have my father’s old trains.  Somewhere in the last few years I’ve started collecting roller coaster rides because nobody can … they don’t take up space in the attic and nobody can ever take them away from me.  My parents say as they get older they are spending their money more and more on experiences rather than things.  And I think that’s a good plan.  I’ve enjoyed traveling and one of the things I’ve loved most about calling is that it’s given me the chance to travel and see different parts of the world and to meet new people.  I’m hoping to continue that.  I’ve been to Denmark three times now.  I’ve been to England once, and up to Alaska, Belgium and all over the lower 48. 

 

BB - Did you call … do some calling while you were there?

 

TP – The Danish tours were all done as calling.  There is a woman named Margot Gunzenhauser, who was born in New York and went over to Denmark for a year of college and liked it so much that she decided to stay.  And she has taught about 200 people in Denmark to call traditional squares and contras and now she is hoping to teach some of them how to give callers schools themselves to spread it that much faster. 

 

BB – Interesting.

 

TP – So, she’s had me over there twice as a caller to do dancer workshops, and parties, and most recently as a caller coach to … as a caller coach ….coach to try to teach other callers how to be caller coaches themselves.  And that is a new experience for me.

 

BB – Oh sure, sure.  Well, that’s really interesting.  So. well … it’s getting kind of late at night and it’s labor day tomorrow for you and I’m on my way to Connecticut, so I think maybe we can wrap this up Tony, and I want to thank you very much for taking the time to sit down and put these thoughts down on tape.

 

TP – It’s been a pleasure.

 

BB – We’ll put them in the Lloyd Shaw dance archives out in Albuquerque and, incidentally we’re going to try to arrange to send copies to the Square Dance Foundation of New England too.  You’ve been affiliated with many of those people I’m sure.  The Square Dance Foundation of New England like the Dixon’s that I just talked with, and people like that…. Dick Severance.

 

TP - I’ve met Dick and Judy.

 

BB – So, once again thank you very much Tony.  So,, I think we ….we’ll call this the conclusion of our interview with Tony Parkes in Billerica Massachusetts.

 

         Tape shuts off - End of interview with Tony Parkes

 

 

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Written By: Bob Brundage
Date Posted: 1/28/2008
Number of Views: 1449

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