Armstrong, Don: SIO Hall of Fame

Photo Armstrong

Bob Brundage: Here we are again, and it’s November 29, 1996, and we are still in York, Pennsylvania, attending the big contra dance weekend and having a great time doing so. And one of the members of the staff, originator, of this weekend is Don Armstrong, and he’s here today to tell us about what life was like before square dancing and so forth. And also joining us is a gentleman name of Al Brundage, and we’re going to let him stick his ore in any time he feels like it. So Don, where were you born and brought up? 

Don Armstrong: Well, I was born in New York State, and went to school in New York, state, actually, and I guess my first dance experience was probably in upper New York State in or around Casanovia, Manlius, in that area, which is in the Syracuse area. 

BB: Yeah. Okay. And how did you, how did you get involved in dancing? 

DA: Well, in those days, and this is back in 19, holy mackerel, ’36, ’37 maybe.  And in those days, nobody had any money. So, but, I mean if we wanted, I wanted to go out on a date on Friday night, it was to go to the square dance. Because the square dance, the first couple of dances I went to, kids could get in for 15¢, and adults paid a quarter, and they, it was just one of those things that if you, if you didn’t intend to go to the Friday night dance and you asked a gal for a date at school, you better dam well tell her that you, that you had some other plans because she thought that’s where we were going.  And so we just, we just went to dances every time we had a free, it was a Friday night dance if I’m not mistaken, I can’t remember that long ago. It was certainly near the weekend at least. It was not a Saturday night. A Saturday night dance was couples and for musicians.  At the Friday night dance, the caller sat on a stool, and clogged, and played the fiddle, and called all at the same time.  This was one, one musician and one caller. 

BB: Do you remember his name. 

DA: I don’t, and I’ve never been able to track him down. I went back to Casinovia for, I’d say at least 3 or 4 days. I went all over the place trying to find this guy. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t even find the barn in which we had the dances. Of course, you’ve got to realize, that was probably 40 years after the fact.  That wouldn’t be very hard to disguise. Names didn’t mean anything to people. I mean I know we, I went to dances, you know, several times with old Floyd Wooshull.  And the only reason I remembered his name later was because of his records. I mean, I think we all remember him starting out a regular right hand to your partner, Grand Right and Left, and then the band would play, you know. 

Al Brundage: Right after he would spit into the spittoon. 

DA: Right, but the little local dances, this one guy did most of them.  And we had a lot of fun. All, all the kids from school, that’s where we went. That was just the thing to do.

BB: Right. All right, now how did this evolve itself into calling? 

DA: Well, that was real, that was real easy. In the first place, this guy had a funny thing going Bob. He, in some cases, sometimes he was just as lax as he could be about conduct. And other times he would get real persnickety. And if you can see the little scar over my right eye here.  I was at the top of a set, and come off the set, and, of course, I’d been kidding around, like anybody did in those days, especially, especially if you were a young teenager. And got right up to the top of the set and without a breaking the routine of the dance, the fella, he just lashed out with his fiddle bow, and he says, dance nice, damn it, and kept right on calling, and I suddenly realized that I needed three or four stitches in my forehead. But I always kind of like to tell that story because it’s,  you know, it goes way back, and people don’t realize that things like that happened. Well, anyway, how did I get involved in it was very simple. This guy enjoyed apple jack. And after about 10:30, maybe 10 o’clock, he’d forget some of the calls. And one night he’d, I was getting ready to dance, and he looked down at me and said, hey, kid, do you remember. And I can always remember the name of the dance, and I’ve never, never seen it written down again. I couldn’t know, I don’t know what the dance was now, at all. But I remember the name of it. He said, hey, kid, do you remember Barge Canal Reel, ’cause this was right near the barge canal. And I said, sure, you call it every week. He said, come up here and, and prompt it. Because he couldn’t remember it. And so, I got up there, and we didn’t have microphone or anything, we just shouted out the call, and then shut up and let the people dance. So that was the first time I called. And then he got to me where I was doing it about every second or third week, I guess. He had poured more apple jack than normal. And so, I got to call on several after that. And everywhere I went, in my flying career after that, I went to dances and did, you know, mainly for relaxation and recreation. And then at a lot of them, I found myself in war and by the time the US got into the war, why, even in Canada, we’d go to a dance, and the caller was gone. They’d drafted him, or transferred him, or something. So, they’d say, well, who knows a few calls. And, I’d get up and call a few, and somebody else would call a few, and that’s how it just kind of graduated into a 

BB: Right. Well, that’s certainly a unique way of getting in. I keep hearing different stories about how people got into square dancing, and that’s one of the things that I was very interested in. You’ve been involved in a lot of big events, I know. So, tell us, like national conventions, and you’ve done all kinds of things like that, so

DA: Not much on the national conventions, Bob. I, I just wasn’t that enthusiastic about them frankly.  But you know, other, I probably had taught at more different camps than anybody I ever knew. Primarily, because I was able to teach not just rounds, squares, contras, and mixers, but also, international folk dancing, a lot of different nationalities. And I also taught basic ballroom. So, I was sort of a back-up guy. A guy could have a camp, and their folk dance teacher wasn’t coming, they could call me up, and if I was free, I could go and do it. And sometimes, I never knew sometimes, you know, exactly what staff assignments I’d have until after I got there many times. 

BB: Right. Well, it put you in touch with a lot of the nation’s leaders today, and who were some of the people that you have been affiliated with in some of your endeavors, week-long camps, and weekends, and so forth. 

DA: Well, of course, we did an awful lot of those, you know, as you guys know. In Canada, and all over the US, and abroad as well But some of the original week-long camps in Canada, one was called Hairs and Squares. It was organized by a fella named Harold Hartin, and that went on for many, many, many years. That was a nice week-long camp. And then, of course, most of the eastern camps, whether they were a folk dance camp up in Maine, or one of Ralph Page’s weeks, or out at Stockton Folk Dance Camp, and you know, going from literally from coast to coast, some of them have been really great, and some of the old original camps now, Ogilvy Institute in West Virginia.  I can remember doing the camps down there when the rest rooms consisted of stockades. And no roofs at all. The showers were only cold water.  And I can remember doing some up in Manitoba that were, today, people wouldn’t go anywhere near them. But they were crowded. And then, what was the guy’s name from Minnesota, lives out on the West Coast now. Oh, golly. 

AB: Not Ralph Piper. 

DA: Ralph Piper. Ralph Piper used to have a camp up in Minnesota that was a lot of fun.  He always had some pretty good leaders up there. And we had a lot of fun up there. And then the opposite extreme was down in Atlanta, Georgia, where Fred and Mary Colette had a camp. Complete extremes, opposite of style and dress and Everything. When you went down into Atlanta especially.  I can share an interesting experience with you, Bob and AI, about Ralph Page. The staff down at Camp, I think, I can’t remember what they called, Dixie Hope and Square Dance Institute, that’s what, that’s what Fred and Mary Colette called it, but anyway, Ralph Page and I were both on staff at the same time, and Mary collected the scheduling. And she was very stubborn at times. And, she wanted to schedule Ralph Page for an 8 o’clock class. Well, all of us that knew Ralph Page know that you don’t schedule Ralph before 11 o’clock in the morning if you want any smiles at all. And I told Mary, I said, Mary don’t put Ralph on, I said, I’ll come in, I’ll do the early sessions. I don’t mind, No, he’s got to do his turn. Well, she told Ralph, and Ralph told her the same thing. He said, I don’t want to do that class. No, you’ve got to do your turn. Well, he left in a huff. And in the morning, why, here we have all these bright and shiny, cheerful, southern Baptist faces. School teachers, mostly women, out on the gym floor waiting for Ralph to arrive, and about 2 minutes to 8, the door opens, and Ralph comes in. And he’s got the same clothes on that he had the night before.  He hadn’t shaved.  His hair was kind of messed up.  He had his record case in his hand, and he walked toward over and he plopped the record case (bang) down on the table, picked up the microphone, and turned around, and he said, well, goddamn it, we’re here, let’s dance. Mary never had him do another early session. You could see all these bright and shiny little southern Baptist faces just go Ah. I’ll always remember that story. 

AB: That’s a good one, Don. 

DA: Oh, Ralph was funny some times. 

BB: One of the things that you did a lot of was make a syllabus for all of your camps and stuff. We have a bundle of them at the archives. 

DA: Oh, I bet you do. 

BB: Thanks to you. I remember the Pairs and Squares syllabi, or a bunch of them there, and the Ogilvy things. Gosh, that was, we were looking for, we finally got them sorted out, and we got them on the computer now. 

DA: Rather you than me.

BB: But now, as you probably know, our next job is to catalog about 20,000 records, and how we’re going to do that, I don’t know, but you came up with a wonderful suggestion and that is to go to Supreme Audio who already has a data base for that, and I will talk to Bill Litchman about that yet but I certainly will and a wonderful idea. Thank you. Just to change the subject, do you have any hobbies? 

DA: Oh, gosh, lots. That’s my only trouble. I’m never going to live long enough to do all the things I want to do. Yeah. I used to do a lot of scuba diving, and, of course, recreational flying, as well. But I love to fly fish, I love to trout fish, and I like to hunt, and camp, and so, I never am at a loss for something to do. 

BB: Good. In fact, I’ve enjoyed a moose steak at your place.  That was really great. 

DA:  It also ties in with dancing, because you can usually schedule a dance appearance somewhere near where you want to go during hunting season. 

BB: There you go, okay, good thinking. 

DA: Good idea, oh, yes. 

BB: Well, you brought up flying. I know this is, nothing to do with square dancing, but although in a lot of your flying career you’re involved with square dancers while you were doing it. 

DA: Well, yes. It was my recreation Bob. When I was, when I was flying, the obvious thing to do was to get involved in some sort of an activity that required mental and physical stimulation that didn’t keep me up late at night. Because many test flights in those days were conducted on take-off just prior to dawn, for example, to take advantage of the smooth air. Especially if the test were at low attitude. And so, my recreation was to get involved in a dance group somewhere wherever I was. For example, I used to be in Washington a great deal because of the Naval Air Test Center. When I would come into Washington, Eben and Mary Jenkins, who lived in Silver Springs, Maryland, I’d call Eben and Mary and say, what’s going on, what hotel I was staying in, and usually partners were no problem at that time, because all the guys were away in the service. The ladies were real happy to find an available man, and so they’d say, well, we’ll have so and so pick you up at your hotel at, you know, whatever time it was that night, and away I’d go to a dance. Most of the time, I didn’t even know what kind of a dance I was going to.  It could have been a folk dance with Dave Rosenberg, it could have been, uh, oh, whatever, whatever was around.  Square dancing, folk dancing, round dance club, whatever was open, whatever was running.  I’d, I’d go. That’s my recreation.  I did very little calling in those times, because I didn’t carry any equipment or any records, or anything with me. I would do you know, a guest spot if somebody insisted, but I went mainly to dance.

BB: Right. Well, getting back to flying, I understand your Father was a pilot. 

DA: Yeah. 1910, 

BB: 1910 Yup. And you, I have written down here that you soloed at 13. 

DA: That’s right. I flew an old OX5 Traveller solo when I was 13 years old. 

BB: There you go. And just for the sake of the record, Don has been a very, very busy test pilot all his life. He started out with the RCAF, I understand. 

DA: That was my first testing experience. 

BB: And you’ve actually flown 160 different airplanes. 

DA: At least. I can, only 160 that I can document.  In the book I wrote about my career, I list 160 that I document, that I can show documentation for flying. There is about another 15 that I can remember flying, But can’t, 

BB: Can’t prove it then. 

DA: Well, yeah, I can. I don’t have anything that I can say, that shows that I did it at that particular time and place. 

BB: Right. So after your military testing, you also got involved with US companies. 

DA: Yeah. Four companies. Curtis Wright Corporation, CAA, which is now FAA, and the Douglas Corporation, the Goodyear Aircraft who built the Corsair and with the Grumman Corporation on their Phantom Jet. 

AB: Right. And I see that you bought an airplane at age 16. 

DA: Yes. And I paid $85 for it. That’s about all it was worth, AI 

AB: And you finally sold it for $90, probably. 

DA: Well, I don’t know. I, I don’t remember, but they cut us out. I came to a fairly abrupt halt when my Dad found out about it. 

BB: And I see here you graduated air school in Texas in 1935. 

DA: No, that was, Bob, that must have been, that must have been 30, 39, rather than 35, I would think. Maybe it was 38. It was 38 or 39.   My first job, flying job in Texas, I got room and board, and $5 a week. 

BB: Sounds reasonable. 

DA: I was glad to get it. 

BB: Right. You had, you probably are not particularly interested in sharing this us, but you had one really bad experience in test flying. 

DA: Oh, several really. 

BB: I know, well, you had several, but one was worse than the others. 

DA: Oh, yes.  Well, I had the tail come off of a fighter plane in a dive which is a rather difficult experience In many ways. Other than that, I just survived, obviously, we’re making this tape. 

BB: Well, you didn’t have to land cross wind or anything. 

DA: No, I landed, well, actually that’s a down wind landing, Bob, in a parachute (laughter). 

BB: Yeah. That’s great. I know you’ve never gotten really involved in the so-called western or club style of square dancing, but you’re affiliated with a few people. But you’ve managed to keep your career going with the traditional, and contras, and rounding dancing, and so forth. How about line dancing, you do anything with line dancing? 

DA: I, you know, line dances we did, oh, 5 or 6 years ago. I always have a few of them in my repertoire, but I, I never got involved in the line dance activity of today.  My only difference was in the niche that I chose for myself in calling was that I avoided the club form of dance with the long series of classes because I grew up in an atmosphere of dance which was so different. I grew up in a live music field where, where relatively open dance situations, and I felt more qualified to do that. The, I lived also at the so-called hype, I guess at the beginning of my career, I lived in an area which, in Florida, which was basically populated at that time by, or visited at that time, by tourists that didn’t stay the season.  They’d come down for a month or so.  And so to get these people committed for a series of 12 weeks of classes or something, you’d, you just missed so much of the population.  So we would have open dances with instruction periods before the dance. We sometimes had very short series of classes on rounds which we would consider the old time couple dances.  And, but it was the majority of the people that came down from the North, an awful lot of them had danced somewhat up in, in the Northeast rather than the western contemporary, at that time, the expansion of the western square dance movement. I did probably up to what we would consider Mainstream today, but that was about as far as I wanted to get involved because I expanded my dance expertise horizontally rather vertically.  I added other forms of dance rather add to the complexity of any particular one phase of dance.  And in the average program that I did had contras, quadrilles, squares, lots of squares, singing calls, patter calls, old-time couple dances, circle dances, mixers, two-couple dances, three-couple dances, as opposed to staying on one formation like squares, or like contras.  And building up the complexity of those, because the minute I did that, you know, ‘the old axiom, the higher the fewer. And when I built the level up in my hall, the fewer people I had knocking on the door.   And it was a matter of economics as well as anything else. 

BB: Sure. At this time of your life you were in Newport Richie? 

DA: Yes. 

BB: Right. And you owned a radio station. 

DA: Yeah, we had two radio stations. We had an AM station and an FM station with different programs that I built. My son was involved, my son, Don, was involved in radio at college, and it was he that really got me interested in radio, and convinced me that we needed a radio station in the little community in which we lived.   We applied for a license for the Newport Richie area and had a really fantastic success with it, because I never had a month’s station that didn’t show profit.  Which was very unusual for radio at that time. As an aside, Bob, a very interesting occurrence at that time. The radio station went on the air Halloween day, and unfortunately, I can’t remember the date of Kennedy’s assassination, but whatever that date was, it was right after that, not too long, I don’t remember the date. And I happened to be standing by the associated press machine, and they have what they call, oh, and I don’t remember all the designations, they have a series of, of things which call attention to a particular event. And they had what they call a flash, and a flash was a very important news story. And I happened to look at the machine, and the bell rang. There was a flash. It was ticker tape type of a machine.  And excuse me. It was not a ticker tape machine, it was a printing machine. And anyway, the bell started to go ding a ling, and I looked at the flash, and it said President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas. And I, the control room door was right there, and my son was on the air at the time, and I just opened up the door, and I said, Son, hand me the microphone. And he knew by the tone of my voice, I wasn’t joking, and he handed me an extension microphone. And I stood at the associated press machine and read these things off. Well, most of the stations in our area were network, and nobody had it on the air.   Nobody, I mean it takes the average big city stations sometimes 15 minutes to get organized to get a flash from the news room up to the guy that’s on the air. And for some reason, they just, they weren’t with it. And, we got telephone calls accusing us of hoaxes like, remember the Wells, Orson Wells, that’s it. And we got these nasty telephone calls and everything.  And I said, I’m sorry, I’m reading right off the associated press machine. And it was like somebody told us later, it was 16 minutes before any Clear Water, or St. Petersburg, or Tampa station had it on the air. And, but I always remember that because, boy, we got vilified. People called us accusing us of telling the President had been shot. Of course, he had as we all know, he had been. 

BB: Right. We’ll call you Hot Flash Armstrong. 

DA: Well, it was funny. And it was a real sadness, a sad situation, obviously, when the President gets assassinated, but from our standpoint, here we are, a little tiny radio station that was doing very well in the community even though it had only been on the air a very short time.  And people were accusing us of all this horrible thing, and then when they realized that, that we actually were telling the truth, then, of course, we had all the usual problems of having to change programming, because you’re not going to run a medium rock record right after the President of the United States has been assassinated.  And people from the community actually brought us some appropriate music in the station so that we could play. 

BB: Huh. That’s really great. 

DA: It was an interesting event. 

BB Right. Well, at one time in your life, I guess that was before you were in Puerto Rico, oh, excuse me, Costa Rico. 

DA: Yeah. I went down to Grand Cayman after I did some testing at the stations operating well, and went down to Grand Cayman and did some, a lot of dance teaching in Cayman. We were at a fixed base, operation, charter flying, and instructional flying down there. Taught dance down there. Belonged to a Scottish Country Dance Society club in Grand Cayman. Then I moved to Costa Rico, and I was in Costa Rico for a few years and did a lot of American dances, calling at the, at the, well, I can’t remember the name of the center there, San Jose, Costa Rico. And had a lot of fun there, too.

BB: Right. Well, we can’t complete this tape without talking about recording, and in your day, you’ve made a couple of records.

DA: Yeah. I never have figured out how many. Probably 150 or more. 

BB: Right. Well, I know you’re, you’re doing it through the Lloyd Shaw Foundation. 

DA: Right now, yeah. 

BB: Right. What about before that? 

DA: Well, the first series of records, the first record I ever made was called Down South. It was on the Windsor label, and I did that for Doc Allembaugh, and a whole bunch of others for Doc Allembaugh on Windsor. 

BB: Windsor? 

DA: Then I recorded for Michael and Marianne Hermans some squares on Folk Dancers. I recorded on Pairs and Squares label in Canada. Oh, gee, I don’t remember, but lots of different stuff. Two European companies. Recorded some for Tonce, recorded some for Phadeliphone.  I don’t remember any more.  Another European company.   And, then, now some of my records are on a couple of Belgium labels, and others, but you know, we had a lot of fun with it. I think it was easy for me, because I had my own band, as you guys did, but I called and played at the same time. I played drums. I had the set of drums up on the front of the stage. And I took the front head off the drum, loosened them.  I was saying that my first affiliation with Doctor Shaw must have been ’50 or ’51. The city of St. Petersburg approached me and asked me if I was doing any traveling west during the summer. And I said, yes. As a matter of fact, I was going out to go to whole bunch of different places. And they said, well, how about making it sort of a square dance good will tour. And I said, well, that sounds good. Well, that’s how it all started.  It went from there and expanded into a, I think it was like a 13-week tour, Bob, but don’t quote me on it. I don’t remember. It was a fairly long trip. And I traveled all over the country giving out St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce information, and where they could square dance, where people, tourists could square dance in the St. Petersburg area. And, of course, they footed a lot of the bill and made it real comfortable. And I got to go some real, have real fun trips. I mean, I went, I can remember both of you guys here on the Old Timer records. And what’s the other one that ,ah Mike Michelle was

BB: Western Jubilee 

DA: Western Jubilee but Clay Ramsey, and I can’t remember the other Ramsey’s name, it doesn’t make any difference, had a record company called Old Timer, in Phoenix, yeah, Phoenix, and I got, I ran into an interesting experience there that I’d never run into before. And Clay took me around to several dances, and at all these dances, you had to be real careful what you called if you were a guest caller. Because you were infringing on somebody’s rights. You were stepping on their toes.  These guys, all of them planned on calling their dance. 

BB: Right. And one number. 

DA: And they’d do one number. And, they’d come, they’d go to this dance, the next dance, the next dance, and every time they called, they’d call the same number. 

BB: And they’d get in free if they were calling.

DA: Yeah. And so, I show up, and they say, well, you know, Don’s here from the East, and he’s going to call something. I have to stop and ask somebody, now, is anybody going to call this dance, because if you called their dance, you were big trouble.  You made an enemy right there.  But that was, that was one of the things that I always remembered from the Phoenix area that was kind of fun and real different. And, I had the opportunity to meet, gee, the fiddle player, Mom Ruth, the fiddle player. And I met Mom Ruth, and she was a real interesting lady. Played a heck of a fiddle, too. And then went out to visit Osgood, Bob Osgood, out in Asilomar, and a whole bunch of different places. And I’d stop back at Pappy Shaw’s, and visited his callers school, and interviewed him for the radio. I was sending interviews back weekly on reel-to-reel tape, which they played on a square dance program in St. Petersburg. I think it was WTSB, but I can’t remember now. Anyway, I interviewed Pappy Shaw on tape, sent that back, and then I don’t know where I ended up, but it was a long, long, long trip. That was my first experience with meeting with Dr. Shaw. And just a year or 2 before he died, no the year, the year before he died, just the time before he died, he called me up, and he talked to me for, oh, a long time, about contras. He’d become very much interested in contras. He thought that contras had a very good recreational appeal. And he, he knew something about contras, but he realized his knowledge was fairly limited in contras. And, of course, he’d been back East and visited Ralph, and, you know, visited, oh a lot of the callers from New England area. But he asked me to come to the, to the little dance group that he had once or twice a year then. I don’t remember. But anyway, he asked me to come out there and present a bunch of contras. And I said fine. And I would be happy to do that and was looking forward to it. Because I always liked him. He was an interesting character.  There was a lot of myths about Pappy Shaw that I, are strictly myths believe me, this man was an entrepreneur, and he knew what he was doing. But anyway, I was teaching at, I think the Maine Folk Dance Camp or some, somewhere in New England. Maybe, I don’t remember. One of the camps in New England, when I found out that he had died. And I was just actually getting ready to drive west, I had something else along the way, but anyway, I called Dorothy Shaw, his wife, and she said, they were going to go ahead and do it as long as I would come. And so that’s how it started. And then, I don’t remember what year, it seems to me it wasn’t that year, but it was right, not too long after that, that Bob Osgood and I happened to be there at the same time, and we proposed the formation of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation. And I think it was one of those things, he made the motion, and I seconded it, so they made me president (laughter). So, I was the first president of the Foundation until I could turn it over to Enid’s dad, Enid Cocke’s dad, and turned it over to him as soon as I could. That’s how it all started. 

BB: Right. Plus you’re still affiliated with it, and your, what’s your official title there? 

DA: Well, I, I direct the recordings division, and supervise the sales division.  And that’s basically what I do. Although the sales division is in very, very capable hands with this, with a group in Missouri, and Mack’s Creek Missouri, and I really, my supervision consists of sticking a set of initials on a financial report once a month, I think. 

BB: Yeah. Well, you’re still active in producing records for the Lloyd Shaw label.

DA: Yeah. We use a lot of exchange material. For instance, Al gave us rights to produce three of the old records that, that you guys have done. My gosh, I don’t know how long, how long ago did you do that series, Al.

AB: It’s really hard for me to remember, but I guess it was really in the, must have been in the early ’50s.

DA: I would think so.

AB: Or late ’40s. Somewhere around in there.

DA:. And we felt that this, this was a good thing preserve, and Dick Pasvolsky agreed to take over the actual chore of redoing in the East, but Al gave us permission to use them, and we have, that’s the kind of stuff we did in certain areas. We also borrowed music from many other companies because they, they were not using them actively, or they felt the use to Lloyd Shaw Foundation would put the music would be supportive of what their same philosophical ideals that they had. And so we recorded lots of material, oh, probably 25 different companies.  Things as remote as Folk Dancer label, Folkraft label, The Methodist Publishing House, Sets in Order, Bob’s labels, several European labels that were given the Foundation because I know most of the people and could talk to them on the phone and get permission to use their material. We’ve done a lot of that. Then I’ve done some, you know, a lot of recording. We, we made some of the original recordings with Fred Bergen and some live musicians which came out for contras. And way back, I mean it goes to tunes like Broken Sixpense, Homassa Hornpipe, Sackett’s Harbor I can’t, you know, way, it’s a hundred years ago. 

BB: Petranella. 

DA: Yeah, but we did an awful lot of those, and then just, we still do the same. We just recorded a series in the Czech Republic, and we have stuff from, from Sweden, American music that was well done by a group, matter of fact, they sound more French Canadian than French Canadians. And so I do a lot of work with them. Help in the publishing end of, of books and things. Try to acquire books from other leaders around the world that, that I think, you know, aren’t going to get generally circulated and stick them in the Lloyd Shaw Foundation. The sales divisions will make them available for people.  The goal of the Foundation’s sales division is not to make money, it just to sustain itself, and the nice part about it is it makes enough to where we can have a project that we want to do; why the money is there for us to do it without donations. 

BB: Yeah. Well, that’s really great. What was I, well, you’ve been the much decorated gentleman over the years who, in more than one way, I know you’re a member of the Square Dance Hall of Fame.

DA: Yeah, along with Al, Bob and Bob that share this weekend.  Anybody else? 

AB: That share this weekend? 

DA: Yeah. I don’t think so. 

AB: I don’t think so. 

BB: I’ve got the list right here. 

AB: I don’t think anybody’s here but us. 

BB: Well, you don’t have your glasses on. I don’t think there is anyone on here that’s, Helsel is here, but Oh, Dick Leger.

DA: Dick, oh, yes, Dick.  There’s actually four of us here this weekend.  Well, I can remember right off, right off quickly 

BB: Yeah. And, you’re also a member of the, or you received the Milestone Award from Callerlab.

DA: From Callerlab, right. Yeah. Al and I were involved in the original conferences on that, weren’t we, AI? 

AB: We were, Don. It was, golly, how, I can’t remember when that got started. 

DA: That was a long time, we were out, remember we were out at Glen Wood Springs, one time. 

AB: Glen Wood Springs, yeah. 

DA: With Ed and Bob and Jim, what’s the boy’s name from the Pacific Northwest. 

BB: Jim York? 

DA: No, Brooks. 

AB: Brooks? 

BB: Brooks, okay. 

DA: Jim Brooks and Bruce, Bruce Johnson. 

AB: Bruce Johnson. 

DA: I don’t remember whether Lee Helsel was involved, 

AB: I’m not, Bob and Janet 

DA: VanAntwerp. 

AB: I’m not sure either. 

DA: I can’t remember. 

AB: I’d remember. But they were involved shortly afterwards. 

DA: Right. 

AB: The following year. 

DA: I can remember that first, that big, that first conference when we all got together with Gilmore because he was in Glen Wood Springs. 

AB: That’s right. 

BB:I have down here one that I’m not too familiar with, too, the Lloyd Shaw Foundation Silver Boot.

DA: That is an honorary gesture that the Foundation extends about every, oh, every couple of years, and I was the first recipient of that award, and then, as a matter of fact, I’m very sad to say I can’t remember who else has been involved since then, but I know, but it symbolized the boot that Pappy Shaw used after one of his dancers was drowned out on the West Coast.  That was the idea. 

BB: And away from square dancing, you’ve just been extended the membership as an Honorary Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. 

DA: That’s probably the greatest accolade I’ve ever received, Bob, because that organization is a worldwide organization. At the last meeting, they had people there from something like seven or eight, maybe more, countries. It’s been in existence 40 years, and in that period of time, they have only named, I’m the 36th recipient of the Honorary Fellowship in 40 years. And we just lost some friends, well, the guy who invented the jet engine and his wife. He just passed away recently. He was an Honorary Fellow, and I just felt that this was very, several of the astronauts, this was very significant and very humbling honor. I felt that, to join that august company was quite an honor, and I’m still kind of amazed by it, quite frankly. 

BB: Right. Okay. As an aside, didn’t you tell me one time you had a simulated dog fight with a German pilot. 

DA: No, I had a better one than that. We were down in at the Naval Air Test Center in Pautuxet, Maryland, at a joint Army/Navy fighter conference. And we did simulated combat in addition to, to evaluating all the manufacturers’ aircraft, and three of the captured, we evaluated Messerschmidt 109, Folkwulf 190, and a Japanese Zero in addition. But I was asked to do a simulated combat with a Spitfire against another pilot that was flying a P-38 and both of us understood our relative, good and bad things about our aircraft, so we chased each other around the sky to no avail for quite a while, and finally landed and talked, on the way back into the hanger, chatted about my Dad and the old days of Roosevelt Field, and Floyd Bennet Field, and areas like this. And mutual friends of my Father’s, and that was the last time that I saw Charles Lindbergh alive, he was the pilot of the P-38. 

AB: Oh, my goodness. That’s great. 

DA: Yeah. 

BB: All right. Getting back to square dancing, I’ve been asking most everybody what do you find appealing about calling square dances. 

DA: What do I find appealing 

BB: What is the appeal. 

DA: I think it’s the ability to create feelings of joy and obvious smiles on people’s faces. I like to see, I don’t, I enjoy really excellent dancing, but on the other hand, I like to see people just having a good time. And it’s an easy thing for me to do. I’ve always been able to teach easily whether it be flying or whatever subject’s involved. And I think it is just a pleasure I get from sharing that with other people. 

BB: Right. Well, that’s certainly a good answer. 

DA: Well, I mean, I, I don’t think it’s the motivation, I think, that, that’s probably the biggest motivation I get. I get a big kick out of it. 

BB: Right. Now the other one I have been asking most everybody is, where do you think square dancing has been, and where are we, and we are going? 

DA: Oh, boy. 

BB: Have you got a half hour. 

DA: Square dancing has been a tremendous activity in the United State, and we have to, we have to define, or I have to define, my interpretation of the word square dancing. Maybe we should say recreational dancing, because I, square dancing to me includes contras, quadrilles, couple dances, some folk dances, anything that I can do on a recreational level. And Ed, you know, people used to say square dancing died. Well, it never died. It, it was still going on from the time I was in school, and it had gone on before that, all the way during, you know, it was there in New England, Pennsylvania, New York. It was in the South, the Appalachians, it never really went away. I mean, where it just wasn’t known. And so they thought it had died. Well, it got revived, in quotes, and turned into a modified version which we referred to as western square dancing which again is a little difficult, more because it defines specifically, I think that we, that it is a cyclical thing. I think you go from an area of availability to everyone to an area that naturally people wanted to develop their skills, like tennis or golf I mean, you play golf on a recreational level once every 3 months, and you have a good time. Suddenly, you decide you want to play a lot more golf, so you take a bunch of lessons to play better golf. And then you have a, you have the same thing in dancing. You have some people who want to increase their skill levels, you have people that want to increase the complexity of the patterns that they dance. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong this. I mean, it’s just like in computer skills. Some of us can work the word processor, and some of us can do everything under the shining sun.  Or some people play chess once or twice a year, and some people play chess once or twice a week. And it’s just a question of individuals. Where it’s going, I think it, numbers wise, and that’s not a fair assessment of an activity.  Oh, the assessment of an activity should be based on the success of it in any particular group of individuals. And I think that it’s a successful activity in the western field, because there are clubs and groups that are enjoying it, and thoroughly, and so their particular numbers in that phase of the activity have declined rapidly. That doesn’t mean it’s a failure. It just means that fewer people are doing it right now because of the general atmosphere in the world today. We have a different type of society than we had 15 years ago. We have people that are avoiding commitments. We are, we’re having people that want fewer commitments as far as their time periods are concerned. They want to be able to go to a dance now and maybe not go for another 2 or 3 weeks, or maybe not for 2 or 3 months. And so there has to be a place for all of these levels of dance. I think we’re seeing one thing which is very interesting, and that is the expansion of the open, live music contra dances. This has been a thing which naturally would have occurred because of a group of people that are seeking the non-committed form of dance. And contras gave that to them very readily because the music is inspiring, it’s repetitious, the patterns of the dance are repetitious, and they don’t get into the complexities like they can in other patterns, and it’s a more structured activity than some of the other fields. And right now, we’re seeing a vast expansion, a very rapid expansion that, I think that’ll peak out, I think other things will come in. Look at the activity we have in the country and western field. They, you know, again I think all of these things will be cyclical, and I have no idea where it’s going to go, as long as people keep coming in the buildings where I’m working and having a good time, well, I’ll keep doing it, and if they don’t, why then I’ll stop. 

BB: Right. Interesting that Dick Pasvolsky who I talked to earlier, said that this is a hundred year cycle. It was a hundred years ago, right about now, that Henry Ford got involved. 

DA: Well, it could be, who knows. It’s, it would, I think all of our cycles are going to become shortened. If it was a hundred-year cycle, 500 years ago, it’s probably a 50-year cycle now, and, or 10 years ago, now it’s a 10-year cycle, and I think our, our life styles, and our communications, and our ability to travel has an affect on this. Think of how long it took for a call to go from East to West, 40 years ago.  And today, it’s from East to West the next morning.  And the Internet stuff, why, Al devises something he wants to do in Florida, and Glen Nickerson does it in Seattle the next morning.  And usually, somebody had to go to one of Al’s camps, and eventually work their way back to, to a camp on the West Coast, you know, it’s a different situation, so, I don’t know. I don’t have any idea where it’s going. I know it’s been fun, that’s all I care about. 

BB: Well, most of the people I’ve been talking with feel that this renaissance back into something simpler like a CDP program is, will never be accomplished with our present-day western club style square dancer. And kind of got to start over again. Do you kind of concur with this, I mean as far as new people are concerned. 

DA: There’s always new people, and I think you, one of the mistakes that, that many of us make as leaders, is that we fail to realize that there’s always new people available, and there’s always people that are very content to do something which has become boring to us as leaders. And I use the example all the time of, I recorded a dance years ago called Trail of the Lonesome Pine. And I got so sick of calling that dance because I, I called it thousands of times.  And I’d leave it off a program when I was out traveling as a traveling caller, and people would, I mean I literally had them stop on the floor in St. Louis at the end, the problem , I had ended the program. And they stood on the floor. And they stayed in the square, in squares. And I said to the guy, the Emcee, or the organizer, what, he said, they’re waiting for you to call Trail of the Lonesome Pine.  And it wasn’t, it was boring to me, but it wasn’t to them. And I think that we have a lot of newcomers in, and we’ve got to make room for them, and they aren’t ready at this particular time in our life, life style, in our cultural evolution, they aren’t, in many cases, the majority in my opinion, are not willing to make the commitment to even 10 weeks of lessons. They want to go right now, and they, we instantly achieve everything. They want to do the same with dance. They want to go to a dance and dance. They don’t want to go to a series of classes. And this will, I think, this will change. But I think we have to be willing to accept that there are niches for everybody and provide a place for all those people that fall into that niche. And we have to have a place for some really experienced Scottish dancers. We have to have a place for really experienced, advanced square dancer. We have to have a place for the guy that wants to go a series of one-night stands four times a year. And, we shouldn’t neglect any of those fields, and we have leaders that are capable in all those fields. And I don’t think we should expect every leader to do every job. We can’t be all things to every, to all people.  I can excel in a, a recreational type program. I can call a relatively advanced dance program if I had to. I don’t think I’d enjoy it, and it would show. And if it shows, why should I do it. I mean, when I could say, AI, you do it. And AI can handle it and be happy as heck.  And so I think we have to be willing to accept each other’s talents and utilize them. And just be glad that we’ve people that can handle all the varieties.

BB: That’s very interesting. So, Don, I know you’re on stage here pretty quick, so I think we’re about down to the end of this tape. I think we’re just going to say thank you very much, and I’m sure before we get through with this project, I’ll probably be back talking with you again.

DA: Hey, anytime.  I hope you’re going to interview you brother right over here, too. 

BB: I’ll say, Al who? 

AB: Al who. 

DA: Al who, yeah. 

BB: Yeah, I’m sure plan to 

DA: Oh,

BB: Thanks so much. 

DA: Well, just as a matter of record, Bob, I just have to say that I do appreciate what you’re doing because it’s a hard job, and I think that it’s just great. 

BB: Well, thank you very much. I’m enjoying it. Thank you, Don, and we’ll be talking to you again.

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