BILL DAVIS INTERVIEW
March 29, 1997
Bob Brundage: Well, we’re at Sunnyvale, California, and it certainly is a beautiful sunny day today to go along with the town. The date is again, March the 29th, 1997, and we’re visiting today with Bill Davis, and his wife, Bobbie. I almost said Connie, I don’t know why. So, we’re here to find out a little bit more about Bill’s past life, and experience, and career, and so forth. Connie, why don’t you give us a run down on how this guy got started, where he was born and brought up and so forth.
Bobbie Davis: Well, he was born in Los Angeles, and grew up in Glendale, primarily, lived there through Glendale High School. We were still living in Glendale when you went to Cal Tech. Right.
Bill Davis: Yup.
Bobbie: So, he went to Cal Tech for his, uh, Bachelors in Electrical Engineering.
Bill: Four years.
Bobbie: Yeah. But during that 4 years, he took some time out and went back to Annapolis with the Navy. Was at Annapolis for 6 months, 9 months.
Bill: No, 4 months.
Bobbie: Four months. And then spent the rest of the war in the Navy during various things. He was in Boston, then Philadelphia at Naval yards. I don’t know about all of that too much. He got married to Catherine at Annapolis. After graduation there, I think. And then after the war, they came back to California and lived again in Glendale, while he went back to Cal Tech. Got his Masters in Physics, and then went to work for Hughes.
BB: Hughes Aircraft.
Bobbie: Yeah. Worked for them for 4 years, and then left them to work with some start-up company in Santa Barbara doing some kind of engineering.
Bobbie: You were there 2 years?
Bill: Year and a half.
Bobbie: And then came to the Bay Area here.
Bobbie: Was that with Detroit Controls?
Bill: Yeah. Detroit Controls.
Bobbie: Another small company. And worked for them for…
Bill: F our years.
Bobbie: Four years. And then went to work for Lockheed in missile guidance systems. And stayed with them until 1989 when he retired.
BB: They say he is one of these guys that couldn’t hold down a job.
Bobbie: No, couldn’t hold down a job. He kept moving on.
BB: Right. Did you by any chance ever happen to know Howard Hughes?
Bill: Yeah. Yeah.
BB: Did you’?
BB: He’s quite a character all right. But so how did0 we come to get into square dancing?
Bobbie: Was that Russ Hewlett?
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
Bobbie: One of the guys that he worked with at Hughes, first and then went to Santa Barbara with actually got Bill started on a lot of his activities. Got him started in – Bill’s always one of those guys who had to be busy doing something. And had always been very interested in sports, that kind of activity. So Russ got him started on badminton and handball which he stuck with until he had his hip replacements, and then he wasn’t able to bend any more to react. And volleyball. Two-man volleyball. Big thing. And then, finally introduced him to square dancing. Up here.
Bill: Well, no, but basketball.
Bobbie: Oh, basketball. Yeah, the other thing. So, at somewhere along the way, he decided he was all involved in all of these activities, these sports activities, and he was never seeing his family. So Russ got him started on square dancing, because it was something that they could do with their wives and have some time together. And I think he was probably hooked from the first night. I don’t think he’s….
BB: Approximately what time, what year was this, approximately?
BB: Well, just to kind of put a time frame on it. So you started square dancing. Then how did you make the transition into calling. That’ a big question.
Bill: Three years later.
Bobbie: Three years later? Was it that long? What was that singing call that you had to learn?
BB: Caribbean. I recorded Caribbean one time.
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
Bobbie: Well, he decided he had I guess they made mistakes in dancing it or something. It was one of those things that he decided he was going to learn that song or die. And so he started practicing that song. And then very shortly after that, I guess, he went to Callers School for one session.
Bill: One session
Al Brundage: One session.
A lot of over talk -hard to transcribe.
Bobbie: And decided that the rest of the guys didn’t know any more than he did. So I think he bought himself a tape recorder and started practicing. And I do remember him telling me once that the first time he heard himself on tape he almost quit, but, he kept plugging. And he essentially taught himself to call with the tape recorder.
BB: Yeah. Well, that’s great. And well what were some of the big events that you participated in, like national conventions, or local conventions, and so forth.
Bobbie: What was the first state, or national convention that you went to, do you remember.
Bobbie: Where was it, Riverside?
Bill: No, No.
Bobbie: San Diego.
BB: San Diego, right.
BB: Right. No, Riverside was the first one.
BB: I think this one was either the fourth or fifth. I don’t remember. Because I was there myself. But
Bobbie: Well, these are all way before my time, so I can’t
BB: All right. But that was a whopper, and of course, the big one that I remember was Detroit, but did you by any chance go to Detroit?
Bobbie: Yeah. He went – I know you went to one in Detroit after we got married.
BB: That was the 10th convention.
BB: That was a biggie. But, uh, all right, then, who were, outside of Bill .Castner…
Bobbie: Oh, well, yeah, he also got his Ph.D. at Stanford after he came up here, while he was still working at Lockheed.
BB: All right. Very good. Got to get that down.
Bobbie: Around the, ‘60…
Bill: ‘5, ‘6, ‘6.
Bobbie: ’66. He got a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Stanford.
BB: Great, that’s great. Okay, then, beside Bill Castner, who do you think was a big influence on your career? I know the first caller’s school is usually the big influence, but were there local people around that kind of took you under their wing.
Bill: Oh, well, no.
Bobbie: But there were guys that you, you thought were really great and that you – I know you always thought Castner was and everything was really great
Bobbie: Bill Peters.
BB: Bill Peters.
Bobbie: Joel Pepper I know you used to talk about a lot.
Bill: Joel Pepper.
BB: Oh, I’d forgotten that name, right. Yeah, well, that’s great. So, um, all right, well, um, one of the questions I started to ask you a little while ago and then you answered it for me and that’s other hobbies, and, of course, basketball, and badminton, and things like that, but how about passive hobbies now since then, you know, like model airplanes and things like that.
BB: Like some of the guys are doing.
Bobbie: No, well, before he had his stroke, he was all really cranked up about computers, especially after he retired.
BB: Oh, okay.
Bobbie: At Lockheed he spent a lot of time playing with his computer doing various things.
BB: That’s great.
Bobbie: And reading was always something that he really enjoyed.
BB: Yeah. How about – did you ever get involved with contra dancing?
Bill: No, no.
BB: How about round dancing?
Bill: Well, sort of.
Bobbie: Well, he did all the square dancers rounds.
BB: I see.
Bobbie: You know, the, the callers used to teach all of those.
BB: Right, right.
Bobbie: And so he always did those.
BB: Yeah. I forgot to ask you earlier. Did you come from a musical family.
Bill: I …
BB: You know, Al and I, our Mother was a, was a concert pianist, and uh …
BB: Some families they grew up all singing together, playing together and like that.
BB: Well, all right. That’s the way it goes. Uh, how about overseas? Have you done …
BB: No, no overseas …
Bill: Well, yes.
Bobbie: Yes. He, he did several schools in Canada, and then, we went to Australia and New Zealand for 5 weeks in 90, ’92, ’93, ’94, 1994.
Bobbie: Wasn’t it ’94?
Bobbie: No, ’95 was when you had your stroke.
Bill: Yeah, stroke, yeah.
Bobbie: So, ’94 we went to Australia.
BB: And your impression, I’m sure, was fantastic ( … )
Bobbie: Oh, yeah, yeah, I was ( … ), and I had been waiting 25 years to go back to Australia .
BB: All right, okay. The upside down country, right. Um, how about recording?
Bobbie: Oh, well, he did some Sets in Order things.
Bobbie: And, he did some stuff for Kip Garvey when …
Bobbie: He momentarily decided to, to do a record company.
BB: Oh, yeah.
Bobbie: Actually, I think Bill did his biggest seller.
Bobbie: He had a, a patter record …
BB: Uh, huh.
Bobbie: That he did that turned out to be Kip’s best seller. We actually still get a little royalty check.
BB: Okay, do you really.
AB: Very good, good for you.
Bill: Yeah. Sunny Hills.
BB: Sunny Hills.
BB: No, that’s Sets in Order.
Bobbie: That’s Sets in Order.
BB: Johnny Preston, John Marshall, Bill Davis, Bob Fisk, Bob Osgood Emcee. This is one of the promotion records.
Bobbie: Um, hmmm.
BB: There’s a notation not for sale.
BB: And produced by Ken Kernan and Herb Egender, yeah. Uh, Ken Kernan lives in Albuquerque now. I see him once in a while, and he’s told me about you and those production records. So, uh, yeah, that’s ah, that’s it. You didn’t have your own record company, or anything like that, right.
Bobbie: But he didn’t do a lot of traveling.
BB: Yeah, okay.
Bobbie: You know that. You almost have to travel a lot to get enough of a name …
Bobbie: For people to recognize you to buy the records.
BB: Urn, so, we’re back talking about sports again. I hear – you mentioned handball. Tell us a little bit about that.
Bobbie: Well, handball was probably one of the two or three great loves of his life actually. I, I’ve only ever heard him try to talk people into doing two things. One was square dancing and one was playing handball.
BB: Okay. That. .. that. … That puts it in context.
AB: Yeah, it does.
Bobbie: He, he was in a lot of, of local tournaments, you know, California type. He, he organized and managed a Labor Day tournament in San Jose. Ran that for many years. It got to be one of the biggest tournaments in the state, I think. He also was, what, secretary for the NorCal …
Bobbie: Handball Association …
Bobbie:: For many years and as such, organized and ran a lot of their tournaments.
Bobbie: And, as a matter of fact, 4, 5 years ago, 5 years, no 4 years ago.
Bobbie: He was inducted into the Northern California Handball Hall of Fame.
BB: There you go.
AB: Oh great, great.
Bobbie: So, so he’s made the rounds there.
BB: Sure, right. Uh, how about other professional associations, uh, like in the engineering field and so forth.
Bobbie: Well, he was always In the engineering, whatever it 1S. They have a professional organization …
Bobbie: That he was always in. He wasn’t – I don’t know that he ever was terribly active in that, and actually doing anything with them.
BB: Okay. So, um.
Bobbie: He was always very productive …
Bill: Secret, secret.
Bobbie: Yeah. See most of the stuff he was doing was top secret stuff.
BB: Db, huh. OK
Bobbie: He had a lot papers and things published on various aspects of missile design systems and that sort of thing.
BB: The old cloak and dagger thing.
Bobbie: Yeah, yeah.
AB: It’s all classified material …
BB: Yeah, probably.
Bobbie: No, no.
Bill: Not much of it.
Bobbie: A lot of the stuff isn’t, certainly not now.
AB: No. It was.
Bobbie: Yeah, yeah.
Bill: And you’ve been affiliated with Callerlab for some time.
Bobbie: Since ’74.
Bobbie: That was the first year …
AB: That was the first year.
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
Bobbie: And the only convention he’s missed is the one last year in Kansas City.
BB: Oh, I’ll be darned.
Bobbie:: He was still recuperating from his stroke.
Bobbie: So he didn’t make that one.
BB: Oh, that’s too bad. You could have stood up there with Jon Jones see … at the Callerlab. You would have been one of the last ones standing then, right next to Jon.
BB: Oh, that’s interesting. Urn, I keep losing the thought that I had. Uh, what about local callers associations, uh, was there …
Bobbie: Well, he and three or four other guys actually started the Santa Clara Valley Callers Association.
Bobbie: So, and he has been continuously …
Bobbie: Johnny Barbour and Herb Jackson, was it?
Bobbie: No. Who was it? Who were the other guys?
Bill: ( … )
Bobbie: I didn’t hear ( … ). And he was also always active in the Norcal Callers Association. That’s sort of the top half of the peninsula in the Bay Area. Santa Clara Valley sort at this end.
BB: Was Sunny, Sunny Hills Bam up in this territory.
Bill: Yeah. Well, no.
Bobbie: K9 Bam.
Bobbie: There was one called K9 Bam. K9, K5?
Bobbie:: K5. It was before my time, too.
Bill: Uh, Sunny Hills, that’s
BB: It’s up in northern
Bobbie: Is that the one over in Pleasanton?
.BB: No, no. Dh.
BB: Do you remember
Bobbie: In Los Angeles .
AB: Close to Los Angeles.
BB: Oh, okay.
Bobbie: He says it’s Los Angeles.
BB: Isn’t that funny. Well. You know when you are all the way the other side of the country …
BB: You don’t get the perspective. .. Uh, Bobbie, when did you start hooking up with this guy?
Bobbie: Urn, I moved up to this area from Wattsville. I had been down there a year. My first year out of college …. teaching school down there. And then I came up here the next year. And a couple of gals that I was teaching school with talked me into going square dancing with them one night. And, and I had major reservations about it. But I went anyhow, because they told me, it’s okay, we’re all just learning which wasn’t actually true.
Bobbie: So I learned to square dance by the push-me, pull-me method and …
Bobbie: Got through things.
Bobbie: But it turned out that the guy who was calling for this group was just starting to call and had learned to dance from Bill.
Bobbie: And so Bill and Catherine would occasionally stop by and see how the group was going, and that’s when I first met them but then. . .
Bobbie: I dropped out of square dancing for a long time.
BB: Urn, hmmm.
Bobbie: Didn’t get back into it until after I moved back here from New York.
BB: I see, okay. Well, urn, so actually, Bill, you were never really full-time caller per se.
BB: I mean you always, well. How long ago was it you that retired from your engineering work?
BB: Oh, ’89, yeah.
BB: So, you’re like somebody said the other day. The day I retired, now I’m a full-time caller.
BB: Laugher. Right.
AB: He’s calling the same program he’s always called.
BB: He’s calling the same program he always did.
Bobbie: He basically had two full-time jobs.
AB: Right, yeah.
Bobbie: For many years.
BB: Well, as I recall, Bill, you’re renown more for your choreography. Uh, you’re, you wrote a lot of, uh, different choreography in Sets in Order.
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
BB: I see your name all the time. Right. So.
Bill: Uh, coronation.
AB: Formation, right.
BB: Okay, right. You’re responsible for some of the ones that we’re using now.
Bill: Oh, yeah.
BB: Yeah, there you go. Parallelograms or something like that.
Bobbie: No, no, not those.
BB: Not quite that bad.
AB: Interlocking blocks.
Bobbie: He probably made the first real effort at diagramming and, and giving names …
Bobbie: To the formations …
Bobbie: On some kind of rational basis.
BB: That’s interesting, right. And Sets in Order picked up on that, did they, and …
Bobbie: Well, I don’t, I don’t know that they did much with that, but
Bill: Sight calling.
Bobbie: He did stuff on sight calling for them, and he did, uh, he wrote articles, and he did do some choreographic stuff for them from time to time.
Bobbie: But, he also published some of his own books.
Bobbie: And so the stuff was always sort of around.
Bobbie: And in ’72, ’71 or ’72, the Santa Clara Valley Callers Association asked him to start doing their note service for him, for them.
Bobbie: And so then he really started working on the, the formation names and things just as a way of simplifying communication.
BB: Dm, hmmm.
Bobbie: So that he could just identify starting formation with a few symbols rather than having to go through a series of five moves to get you to the starting point.
BB: I see, right. Well, that’s interesting.
AB: Did you come up with the Ip2p line, Bill?
Bobbie: No, no.
Bobbie: That was an old-time …
AB: And the box 1-4.
Bobbie: Box 1-4, yeah. But there is, I don’t understand all this terribly well you understand …
Bobbie: But as I understand it, there wasn’t a lot of consistency between the IP, 2P formation naming, and the naming of the B 1-4, box 1-4.
AB: Box 1-4.
Bobbie: Uh, and so what he did was try and develop a system so that there was some relationship between the progression from one to another.
Bobbie: And so he started using that in his note service, and that became, the note service became very popular
BB: Right. Okay. Yeah, the note service, uh, that, uh, spread around the country, am I right. That’s for sure. Well, we’re now looking at some of the books that Bill has written, and, uh, so, Bobbie, tell us a little bit about these.
Bobbie: Well, the very first one he did, uh, was on sight calling, and it, it sort of grew out of a, an afternoon seminar talk that he did with the Northern California Callers Association (cough) … , and he began writing it as a means of clarifying things in his own mind.
BB: Dm, hmmm,
Bobbie: And it, it eventually wound up with him developing this entire, uh, nomenclature for identifying formations.
Bobbie: Uh, by, uh, formation, arrangements, sequence, and relationship.
BB: Oh, okay. All right.
Bobbie: Those things. Which have sort of been changed in order from …
Bobbie: At various times.
Bobbie: It’s now F AS R. But, uh, he did that in this symmetric choreography and sight calling. And, and then, later did an English translation of that from engineering to, uh, language that, that at least some other people could read.
Bobbie: There are those who still say it hasn’t quite completely made it into English yet, but he’s working on it.
BB: Laughter. All right.
Bobbie: So the next version then was called the Extemporaneous Caller. And that one is still in print.
Bobbie: Symmetric Choreography isn’t. And then in ’72, was it ’72
Bobbie: When you started what was then called the Top Ten.
Bobbie: And, he began by compiling a dictionary of definitions for Mainstream and Plus.
Bobbie: And that was just it.
Bill: Yeah. No, no.
Bobbie: Mainstream, Plus and Challenge?
Bill: No, Yeah.
Bobbie: He had the definitions of
Bobbie: But, but the title, the Big Ten, came from his concept of picking the 10 biggest hits you might say in the . . .
BB In that year.
Bobbie: Experimental area of that year.
Bobbie: So the 10 experimental calls that seemed to have gotten the most play and, and might be the most useful in choreography were the things that he, he highlighted the book with.
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
Bobbie: And then when Callerlab came up with their QS program and initially had it as a, a sort of a required addition to the programs, then the, the number of new calls that were written each year began dropping off drastically. So after a few years, it became harder and harder to find even 10 new calls that were worth mentioning, much less the big 10.
BB: You didn’t know Lee Kopman, or …
Bobbie: Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, Lee was still writing, but he was about the only one.
BB: Right, okay.
Bobbie: And, uh, by that time, Callerlab had identified five levels.
Bobbie: Five, five programs.
Bobbie: And so that’s when they switched over. He stopped doing the, the Top Ten …
BB: Top Ten, right.
Bobbie: New things and just went with compiling and upgrading the definitions, the dictionaries of the five levels.
BB: Well, that’s …
Bobbie: Five programs.
BB: Certainly a big contribution to the activity, that’s for certain. So, uh, well, we’re getting down to the end of this tape, and, uh, we’d like to have your, some idea of what you think is your biggest accomplishment, or your most satisfying accomplishment in – uh, certainly these books have got to – had a tremendous contribution (long pause), the books I would say, right?
Bobbie: Well …
Bobbie: Just probably, no, but your contribution, the thing you think is most
BB: Well, Milestone …
Bobbie: Milestone certainly was …
BB: Certainly an important …
Bobbie: That and the gold card were probably emotionally the two biggest things.
Bobbie: Probably just the concept from which F ASR has developed is, is probably his most lasting concrete contribution.
Bobbie: To square dancing.
BB: For the sake of the tape, AI, could you tell us quickly what FASR is all about.
AB: Well, I think Bill, 00, or Bobbie, mentioned that the formation, arrangement, the sequence, and, uh …
AB: Relationship …
AB: Were the four. Uh, Bill had them in a little different order …
AB: And, uh, I’m not just sure maybe it was Bill Peters or somebody at a school had put this thing together.
AB: Who was it, you?
Bill: Yeah. Yeah.
AB: Good for you. Uh, and, uh, it came out eventually as a F ASR.
Bill: Peters ( … )
Bobbie: At one point, when they were doing a series of schools together …
AB: I see.
Bobbie: And, at one point, they changed one of the words …
Bobbie: Because it made better …
Bobbie: Better alliteration or something.
Bill: Yeah, yeah.
Bobbie: And so they changed a name of one of those segments, and then the Callerlab committees that were working on formations wound up with this order, the FASR order.
AB: You might also, for the tape, like to know that that is now a definite part of the Callerlab teaching curriculum and, uh, anybody who wants to be a certified, or an accredited caller coach …
AB: Has to know the F ASR, what it means, how to use it, and able to teach it to other callers.
AB: At a caller’s school. So it’s become a rather important part of our choreographic section
AB: Of teaching.
BB: Well, that’s great. Well, I think we’re kind of winding down, Bobbie and Bill. And, I really want to take the time to thank you, or I want to thank you for taking the time, uh, to see us today, and it certainly is a beautiful section of the country you’re living in, and you certainly made a tremendous contribution to the activity, and I’m sure everybody in the future will be cognizant of that. So, uh, thank you so much for having us in your home …
Bobbie: Thank you.
BB: And, uh, we’ll be looking forward to seeing you at the next Callerlab.
AB: Yes, we will. You’re planning to go, aren’t you, Bill? I don’t know.
Bobbie: He may, he may not.
BB: Okay, well. So, thank you so very much.
End of Tape