ROBERT (BOB) LEWIS OSGOOD
1918 – 2003
Bob was often heard to say, “Square dancing is friendship set to music.” Dedicated to bringing people together through square dancing, Bob committed his talent, energy, resources, and love to the promotion of the activity for 60 years.
His leadership was recognized recently when he was presented with the Millennium Award by CALLERLAB, the first and only time this award was given. He also was a recipient of LEGACY’s Heritage Award, CALLERLAB’s Milestone Award and Gold Care Life Membership, and was a member of the Square Dance Hall of Fame.
The energy and enthusiasm that Bob brought to square dancing were evident in the rest of his life, as well. As student body president of Woodbury College, an officer on a landing carrier during WWII, an involved neighbor in the Hutton Drive community, and member of a large family, Bob provided consistent support, loving care, and a sense of fun.
Bob is survived by his daughters, Linda and Wendy, and his sisters, Mary and Helen. He was the proud grandfather of Gayle, Max, and Bram, and delighted in his two great-grandsons, Cody and Jason. As you might expect, the Osgood family reunions would not have been the same without Bob there to lead an afterparty skit or game.
Bob will be remembered by all who knew him as a man who loved his family, music, and dancing, and enjoyed the riches of the many friendships he made in his lifetime.
BOB OSGOOD INTERVIEW
August 26, 1996
Bob Brundage – Well good morning. Here we are bright and early. This is Bob Brundage again and today interviewing the guru of modern square dancing. I’m at the home of Bob and Becky Osgood in Beverly Hills. The date is August 26th, 1996 and as has been my process with past interviews I’d like to kind to start, Bob with where you were born and brought up and what was your family life, etc, before we got into square dancing. Tell us about education, other jobs – things like that before we delve into the myriad of questions we have about your success story.
Bob Osgood – Robert! Yeah, thinking back to those years – I was born in New York City in 1918 – the 8th of April. My dad was an architect and we lived in what was then a real nice area near Grant’s Tomb. After many years I went back to look at the area. It had changed quite a bit but then it was very nice. I lived in New York – I have very few recollections of early childhood. Things that stand out to me would have stood out to me now for age just within the few years following World War One when there were lots of parades and people coming home from the war and so, it certainly is kind of a blank but what I do remember is the fun times. My dad as an architect got a position out here with a real good firm, here – in California that is – so the family moved out here at Christmas about 1924 or 25 and we moved into Los Angeles proper and my dad got started in his position at the architectural firm, He picked up a lot, a residential lot in Beverly Hills and drew the plans for the house that we were to live in and my sisters through the World War Two. I started school in Beverly – Grammar School in Beverly Hills- went through grammar school here and then went through Beverly Hills High School. Great days. I had two sisters – I have fond recollections of living in Beverly Hills when it was quite – quite new to me. I remember one Sunday night – we didn’t have a car in our family. We didn’t need one. We lived on the street car tracks and my mother was a natural non-driver. She got – had a car given to her one time which was an electric and my dad learned how to drive it and taught my mother and she proceeded to practice driving – the principle was that the streets had lots of ruts in them and you drove over them fast. In an electric car that would drive the batteries loose so we ended up by not having a car but, this one Sunday I remember my dad and we walked up to the Beverly Hills Hotel because this mayor was going to talk to us near our bank (?). Beverly Hills had a – in those days had a large bridal path and the people would ride up in their carriages or horses. This town had an ancient time of western – it’s just that the society had about – should have really gone to him for fancy dress and all that stuff. And what a kick I got out of it as a boy about seven years old – and it was Will Rogers and that was my first introduction to Beverly Hills society.
We had great neighborhood where I grew up. We would play football in the streets and kick the can and all those great things. We had a dead-end street at that time so that cars could not go through and when they did come we had to stop playing football. We got into a little rough habit – one of the guys in the team would slap the rear fender with his fist as the car went by and then grab his knee and limp off and we would all carry him over to the side and pretty soon the residents in the area found it wasn’t too good to move down through our football games. Christmases were great. We still had these newspaper boys who would come down with the news that Lindbergh had crossed the ocean in ’27 – that was special and we – the guy would call as he went down the street and still find that hard to believe in modern times because we were not completely modern. I remember when the Lindbergh case was on and it was a special down the street. That was delivered by horse drawn carriages – the junk man went down the alley calling out what his cries lists were and it was kind of our era. We had a lot of kids my age in the neighborhood, different projects – we would all over a period of a year get samples of Hires Root Beer and we would collect bottles as we went to and from school up the alleys and we’d have a root beer making time in the summer. Our only problem was we didn’t keep track of how long it took to ferment and so we’d often end up with explosions of root beer all over the place. The whole neighborhood smelled like root beer at times. It was a time for miniature golf – that was the big thing and we had, I think three yards in a row were picked by each so we divided – each yard put three holes in the backyard on their property and we would just play up the neighborhood. Halloweens were a thing. I remember one time the folk’s next door had bought for their kids a striped down, no-motor Model T. That was the end of the street. We had a guy that we thought very unfriendly to us so the whole group – I think there were about twenty kids my age in the two block radius – we decided that we would at night on Halloween take the Model T down the alley and somehow get it on the property, hopefully on the roof of the guy down on the corner. Well, by the time it was dark that Halloween night everybody gathered behind my house and we took the car and rolled it down the alley – about six or eight houses distance and suddenly there were red lights all over the place and the siren and the guys saying, “Hold it right there”. Well, we stopped and looked around – everybody else – all the other guys had disappeared and I was alone with the car. I and three police had to roll it back and they took me to the Beverly Hills city jail and scared the heck out of me. I didn’t end up with a record but I ended up with a recollection.
BB – And you’ve been a good boy ever since. Chuckles.
BO – Those were great times and I often felt that we grew up in the best of times – we never locked the door. Everybody was a friend in the neighborhood. Parents had different calls they used to call the kids. One lady down the street had a real weird way of calling her kid and we used to have fun imitating that. Those things we remember. High School was great. Second year of high school a group of our parents got together and set up a ballroom dance class. That was the first experience that I ever had with any kind of dancing. There was an Ernest Ryan group down – it was really quite a society of ballroom dance teachers. He would take a group of maybe 100 – 150 of us – the boys had to wear white gloves or carry a handkerchief in their hand in order to not soil the dress of the young ladies. Those times in high school – I was not an athlete but the second year in high school they changed over from the Los Angeles City Schools to the Beverly Hills School District and brought in a complete new faculty. Everything started fresh and I guess this was really my third year – 2 years with one school system and 2 years through my senior year. I was walking through the auditorium to one of my first classes and I got waylaid by the bandmaster who said, “We need more members in the band. What do you play?” and I said, “I don’t play anything”. He said, “Have you ever taken piano?” and I said, “No I haven’t”. Well, with absolutely no talent I became the bass drummer and so the next two years in high school, then for two years in junior college and later, in the drum and bugle corps in Navy training I was the bass drummer. I was the rhythm trained. Whatever it was I (??). But, I did have great recollections of high school. Wonderful friends – as a matter of fact there are still some of us after fifty, sixty years that see each other on a semi-regular basis and some are from the neighborhood. I went to – when I finished high school I went to Santa Monica which was then Junior College and took a little arts course and minored in journalism and became the basketball manager and yell leader down there. Before I graduated, excuse me – the last year I was active in school politics and I was President of the graduating class. When I finished junior college I figured I don’t need any more education. They’ve really given me all I need and so I wrote – I would get into the work force and work myself up in no time at all so I applied for and got a job in the Safeway Stores manufacturing department and they put me into the candy department where I – I think I started out in gum drops and worked up to marshmallow. I think that was the order. By the end of thirty months I had not advanced past marshmallows – I was not a Vice-President in the company or anything and it looked like it might be quite a while before I really progressed out of the candy department so I figured maybe there’s something else I should learn. So I looked for a business education school and I got one in Woodbury College which was in downtown Los Angles – you could get a Bachelors Degree in about three years. With the credits I that had from junior college I could make it in two. This was in ’48 I think. Backing up just a smidgen because it does enter into the fun of the thing I was a member of the college YMCA which was quite active in those days in most of the colleges in our area and in junior college and several of us from Santa Monica went to a conference at Christmas time in 1948 – I guess when I was in my final year at the junior college – at a place called Asilomar. There were 500 students from twenty some campuses in the western part of the United States including Canada. All college students with their great enthusiasm and everything else, visiting a truly beautiful place on the northern coast up in the Monterey area right at the north end of the Pebble Beach Golf Course. So, for one week we studied – there were leaders from all over the country on subjects like politics, religion, many (??) subjects and I remember the first day after hitting these classes I kind of dragged in because it was the end of college semester and we’d been up to here in studies so I was just walking back up to where the dormitories were and I heard off in the distance music which sounded real great. I found my way up to the main hall which was called Merrill Hall and went inside and here were about 200 college kids square dancing. I didn’t realize at first that they were doing stuff in a big circle and I think the first thing I heard was Captain Jinks In The Horse Marines or something like that and my gosh – it looks like fun. It didn’t take long to get swept into one of the circles and eventually into a square. The person who was doing the teaching and calling was, I learned later – I don’t know his name – but he was supplied by the WPA. He was one of the Works Progress Administration employees and was sent from one area to another to teach and call square dances. This was my first taste and to say that it was – caught me would be putting it mildly. I really, really enjoyed it. When we came back – (little interruption from Becky in the background) – when we got back to college I couldn’t find anything in the way of square dancing but I know that some of the folks belonged to a German Club and we went to the Hoffbrau. We did Schottisches and some of the things that were really part of the early square dance picture here in California. Then when I was at Woodbury – the business course was quite intensive and I got into several – what do you call them – extra curricular deals like public speaking and the drama club and things like that and got into a fraternity. After I had been there in school for a while and it came to summer vacation one of my fraternity mates asked me if I would be interested in coming with him to his folks home in Arizona. I said, “Sure”. I had a car and he didn’t so it worked out well. I went with him to his place in Phoenix and then up to his cabin which was in the conservational forest in Zane Grey country. There were a number of cabins in the area in general and because the only building in town – it was like a commercial building – it was Cole’s Ranch. I remember the 2nd or 3rd day his folks were going to do some errands and drop me off to buy some stuff at the little market and said that they’d pick me up in a couple of hours. Well, it happened that there was a wedding on in the little store and they cleared the store up pretty well and I stood on the outside and watched the wedding. People came from all over the hills – it was sheep and cattle country both and that’s the wars that Zane Grey had written about…
BB – Right
BO – … so these were all kinds of people and they all had gifts for the bride and groom which consisted of shovels and sacks of flour and jars of preserves and this sort of thing. When they – when the wedding was over we all went into the store room which had been cleared – I noticed earlier one of the kids was dragging a bale of hay back and forth against the splinters, taking them out to smooth the floor. There was a piano and the people came in and they square danced. I think the room was big enough for two squares – each of the squares had it’s own caller and the people stood around on the side and eventually, everybody that wanted to got into the squares and I had that one experience previously – had seen square dancing and this was quite different. This was typically country while the other one was more what I found out later was the eastern influence. But they did the western dancing there at the Town House. Then they did a couple dance at one point. The newlyweds would dance together then if you wanted to dance with the bride you cut in and pinned a piece of paper money to her dress and if you wanted to dance with the groom you put a piece of silver money in the tin cup he carried and this was their dowry along with the other gifts of – the interesting thing about the band – they had – a fiddler came in and they had a fiddle and a piano but they had three musicians. The piano player – the piano had no ivories on the keys but it made noise anyway and the fiddler sat in a chair behind the piano player and the little old mother – I guess they were brothers – she sat facing the fiddle player and he fiddled with the fiddle on his lap – fiddled the bow across and she had two knitting needles and she would hit on the strings and – I learned later I think from Frank Kaltman that this was ‘Playing the Straws’ and it was typical – 3 musicians, 2 instruments. That experience did – we had a week out there and then when we came back my first experience of students trying to get everybody acquainted with each other was a big dance the first day at Woodbury. They had a large semi-auditorium that had a dance floor – hardwood floor which worked out well – but nobody came into the room. They had the, I think student council – this is my very first year before I’d ever gone to Phoenix and the leaders – the student leaders they danced with each other and they tried like mad to get people to come in from the hall and do dancing but because the student center in a school like that it comes from all over the country. I think most states were represented and they came from countries overseas. There was – there were very few that were bold enough to come in so consequently the thing was a bitter failure. When I came back I thought well maybe there’ll be a chance the next time the semester opens to try something different. By that time I had worked myself into the student council. I got to be Commissioner of Assemblies or something along with all the other things that were happening and so they said, “OK, then why don’t you go ahead and set up that thing that has not worked for us before – the Howdy Dance or whatever we called it”. So we did what everybody who has done one-night stands tried. We got a few people in our student council and recruited few others and we had a couple talk sessions and then we did a few things in the center of the floor at the very beginning then everybody (??) and went out and brought people in from the side and we started in a big circle. I knew nothing about what I was doing but I knew more than anyone else so I was an authority. I think back in those days before the war we were very lucky to have public address systems that worked at all and non-variable speed players and I don’t know what we would use for records because at that time I don’t think I was very aware – I think we had a couple of Schottisches and stuff like that – I don’t know that we had Blackberry Quadrille yet but somewhere along the line we had enough to get by and the thing was a success. By the end of the hour or whatever time we had we had a pretty good room full and people were talking about it – people were talking to each other and I felt that good things were turning out. The balance of my school years – we have now reached 1941 – I had all my credits in for graduation except I didn’t do my final thesis and we knew that we were getting close to war and I got my draft notice in the summer of 1941 and by the end of August I had my date set to go into the army and thanks to a friend of my dads I did get an appointment to go interview with the Navy and on September 9th I went in as a Store Keeper Third Class and God given sent down to the Section Base in San Pedro which is the mine-sweeping harbor – harbor entrance control post. The area in Section Base San Pedro was a fishing area. By that time pretty good preparations had been made – we were – I don’t say we were war ready but we did have anti-submarine nets that would go across the entrance to our gate both there at San Pedro and down at Long Beach. We were loaded with mine sweepers. This was one of our main jobs. On the 9th of September I became a non-military type of Navy person. I knew nothing about anything to do with military. After the first month, going directly into the rating we got no Navy training – we did not go to boot camp or anything – we skipped all that so consequently I barely knew how to salute an officer. They decided that, after I’d been in about a month that we should show readiness for whatever cruel thing might be coming up and so for the Los Angeles Times and other area newspapers we decided to show a mock invasion of Los Angeles. Troops from Fort – Fort McArthur I guess – which was up on the hill – they were going to come in and take over the Section Base San Pedro for the benefit of the photographers. In preparation for all this they trained us – all our storekeepers, yeomen, welders, everything else – on how to be fighting men. I became part of a machine gun unit and was given a Thompson Sub-machine gun to use. They decided that, to make this thing real we had to be in uniforms that were kind of left apart – we were issued dungarees or our regular blue uniforms but also whites. Hey decided that the whites should be dyed khaki so that it would look right. So, we collected all our white uniforms and put them in a strong concoction of coffee and boiled them in coffee for about a day. Then dried them out and gave them back to us. Well, no problem at first but we went out into the field and they gave us some directions – we thought we would do a few very simple directions on how to fight a war. It was very ridiculous at the time but we were told that we were doing something that was important. So by noon when it was – even though it was winter time – it got pretty hot by noon and we began to perspire – we perspired coffee and it was the darndest smell – I doubt if there ever was a machine gun platoon that smelled of coffee quite as much as we did.
BB – Chuckles
BO – I don’t know if you call it smelly camouflage or what it was but the war started and I remember that first day, December 7th zooming down to the base when we were told to get back to our ships and bases. They had closed up all the entryways except by identification because they were sure the Japanese were going to keep on coming. The Army had sent down truckloads of soldiers to issue gas masks and weapons and they asked each one of us what our gun or weapon was at the practice one day we had. I said, “The Thompson Sub-machine Gun.”
They gave me one – they gave me a magazine and said, “Do you know how to load it?” “Heck, no” and they said, “ Well, this is a loaded magazine and you put it and snap it”. Then he said, “Do you know how to fire it?” and I said, “Heck, no”. He said, “Well, when you’re ready to fire this is the safety, you push it forward and there’s your trigger”. Well, he did turn the safety off – there must have been 300 of us wandering around with guns of different sorts – none of us ever having fired a gun ready to repel the hoards that were bound to come later that night. Getting away from the Navy part was played a great part. That four years – the following four years of college was probably the greatest education I ever had. When I finished college – my major was Foreign Trade – I had a general degree in Business Administration but Foreign Trade looked like a good way to go. The Navy scene felt right. By four years of education I got in the Navy I decided what I was going to do was not
BB – This is a pick up from the first side and we’re onto the war years.
BO – One of the things along with the experiences the Navy was the fact that the people I had gotten to know in high school and in college were a part of our social circle still continue to be very important – a lot of the guys went overseas or went out of the area and others were still in the Los Angles area and we decided that we would be of some value to the church groups and the newly formed – there were Bundles For Britons and that formed into Bundles For Bluejackets and these were social groups that did things for service personnel. The newly formed U – US – USO – isn’t it the USO’s?
BB – Yes.
BO – …which ended up with the Flying Saucers. They were beginning and we found that our group could be helpful in entertaining service personnel and so, whenever I was off duty we could still go home on weekends if we didn’t have the duty. We found a Boy Scout hut right down the street from which eventually became Sets In Order on Robertson Boulevard and this scout hut which we could rent for $5.00 became the center for the next four years – war years of entertaining service personnel that came into a service center down in the train station in Los Angeles and also into various churches in the area. So, people would put the service personnel – many of them – up for the night or something and then bring them over to the hut. One thing that worked for us in our party structure was using square dancing – one-night stand type of stuff. We knew – I remember I bought my first sound system which was a Concord amplifier and had a turntable on the top of it. No case for the turntable – just sitting up there on the top of it and it would only play too fast. It had no variable speed but we found that we could adjust and by that time we did own a few of available records. I think the main one was Blueberry Quadrille and Soldiers Joy which all the old time callers would have but we did have Schottisches and Varsouvianas and things and we did have one heck of a lot of fun and I did get experience in doing some calling and teaching in those early years. There again, I wasn’t much but I was better than what there was because there wasn’t very much. So, during the – during the first two years I was stationed in Section Base San Pedro. I could come in and work with a group that called themselves ‘Fun Unincorporated’. Those were our earliest square dance years of any type of organization and we had, through this met many people who lived in different parts of the United States who – some may have had experience in their home areas with some square dancing which got me more and more interested. By 1940 – late ‘42 or early ’43 I was transferred down to Section Base – down to Auxiliary Air Station in San Diego – Camp Carney and was put on the ship’s company and by that time was a First Class Yeoman. It just – I worked in the control tower and had a good experience whenever we had free time down there going into San Diego and locating one or two groups that were fooling around with International Folk Dancing and occasionally would interject a square. I went overseas – well, let’s see what happened when I was down there in Camp Carney I got called into the Executive Officer’s office one day. The Captain was there and two of the other officers and you never saw a more glum looking group. I came in – I think I was fairly presentable – the guy said, “Don’t slouch. Stand up straight. We’ve got some serious business to talk over with you”. I guess I prayed – scared – I had no idea what they were talking about. They said, “We just got a report here of your messing around with some of the people down in San Diego and getting – and getting a girl in trouble with her parents because you were keeping her out late at night and we don’t know just how far you went but we wanted to hear your side of the story”. I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and the guys couldn’t hold it any longer – they had a telegram – I’d just been made an Ensign. I hadn’t any pre-warning. They scared the holy dickens – I sat with – right with three or four officers there I think I just sat right down on the deck.
Anyway, having been commissioned I got – I was scheduled within a week or two after that point – it’s going to take me a while before I – the commission came through and I was transferred but I was going to get married. It was about that same time to one of our square dance girls named Virginia Hunt and the – I called her and told her about this and I said, “Let’s not tell anybody this and tell – you know until I actually get the uniform” and stuff like that and I eventually did get the commission but it wasn’t effective until something like the Monday following the wedding but I got but I got permission to wear my whites in the wedding. I did tell my dad – my dad was a reserve officer in World War One because I was born right at that time he didn’t go overseas so he was tickled. There was only one other person in the Osgood clan going way back that never almost got a Navy commission and it was – I think my great-grandfather – he fell on one of the riggings of the training ship just one month before he was to get commissioned so I was the first one to get a commission. Anyway, the night of the – I was still attached to the San Diego Base the night – the day of the wedding rehearsal. I wore my enlisted man’s blues and the whole wedding party and everything were there and nobody had any idea that I had just transferred into a different world. Then when the wedding came I came out in my whites – even I was impressed.
BB – Right
BO – There were a lots of little things with square dancing connected with them – getting married and going to officer training school. The Navy had a – set up a training school at the University of Arizona. I think it’s the U of A at Tucson. It was not the one in Tempe – one is Arizona State and the other University – this one is in Tucson. We had two battalions there that time. Dennis Day was in my battalion and we had rigorous training for two months. We were all officers – anything from Ensigns like I was I think – the highest one was a two-stripper. We didn’t – when we were actually training we took our identification off but when it was after hours and stuff we went back into regular uniforms – particularly if we were going off base. I found a square dance in Tucson – coughs- and it was quite, quite country. I was impressed with it. The guy used no microphone but we did things that I had done before and so I felt at home. I didn’t call at all. Having finished the course – the course was finished on June 6th – I think we were graduating June 6th, 1944. A memorable day because a lot of us had gotten our assignments to go into amphibious training and we knew the amphibious training was one or two sides and by that time it would not be for the landings in Normandy. We would be going to the Pacific. So, my orders took me to Fort Pierce, Florida – to the amphibious training school and I had several months – we were given our groups – our motor mechanics and other crews. Each one of our LCVP’s had a four-man crew and they had just come out from first boot training and then special training. It was interesting how the thing worked. All the motor machinist men – I guess they came in a draft and so all the ones that I had – I think I had eight boat crews and each one of them had a – their name began with Mc. They were Motor Macs and they were called Macs because – but they were all Macs because their names began with an Mc. While we were in Fort Pierce, Florida we did find one square dance down there which was, I think 90% ladies. It was not any big shakes as far as advancing any education I might have in square dancing. Following the training down there I was – what is naturally done if you come from California you’re shipped to the east coast and trained. If you’re trained on the east coast then you’re shipped to the west coast to get an assignment. We came across on a real slow train – troop train – up to northern California where we waited a day or two and then got our assignment. We got aboard a Coast Guard run cruise liner and went to Hawaii. We got into Honolulu the day after Thanksgiving of 1944. As soon as we got there we were sent to an advanced amphibious training base at a place called Wai’anae. We’d been separated from our training crews and we were getting new crews. We were getting guys that had just made landings in Timian (?), Saipan and some of those places. They were coming over as our advisors. They had three guys who had Silver Stars who were coming with – the stories that they told made us pay more attention to the training. Tape clicks off momentarily. The time that we spent in Wai’anae in training was most interesting. We had the boat crews and we were part of what was known as Ship’s Company and every week a new group of infantry – either Marines or Army would come through and we would give them practice landings at – I’m trying to think of the name of the beach right there where we had 18 foot waves and stuff. It was one of the great surfing places but these were our times of work. During the few months that we had there we did get into Honolulu and got a chance to see how it was up to and including World War Two. The one big hotel – the Royal Hawaiian and the two others that were not perhaps as tall as it was but they were quite nice and I know that there was so much vacant area along the beach that, in later years when seen it was hard to believe it was the same place. I did find one couple who knew something – a little bit about square dancing but they – it was not enough to make any impression and I know at one time we had a recreational day with our troops and some of the gals from the University in Hawaii came and we had a one-night stand in a little old Japanese school there at Wai’anae and that was one of the few experiences of any dancing. I got put onto a ship from there an APA177 Kingsbury with several other officers that I had been with since training in Tucson. They, of course had their own boat crews and everything – we were just officers coming in to make the landing craft readiness – we were going out into the Pacific and by that time we – I think a lot of the major landings were over. We knew that there were big ones coming and probably the mainland of Japan. Okinawa had not been thought about as far as we were involved but we knew that we would be on board ship for quite some time and we didn’t know just exactly what was coming. I think on every ship’s company every officer has 27 duties. I was navigational assistant and I stood deck watches and I was also the Welfare Officer, put out the ships newspaper and scheduled church services although they did have a regular Chaplain – what was the other? – Oh, in recreation we did have a lot of time – we took a group – we went into Seattle and picked up Army troops for replacements in Iwo Jima. It was a long haul – we convoyed – part of the time anyway and as part of the recreation my job was to set up boxing matches and stuff. One time we put on a variety show and one time a group of eight Marines said they’d like a square dance. Four of them tied their jackets around their waists and tied four knots in a large handkerchief for a hat – they became the girls and we did a square dance to top any square dance you ever saw anywhere ever. That was pretty much it. I didn’t have a lot of chances to square dance once we got to sea. We put into – in and out of Honolulu several times and made runs to the various islands to pick up and move troops. We were battle ready on a very short notice anytime needed. I did have an injury at that time to my eye and got treated on the ship and eventually they said, “Well, you’d better go into the hospital” and I got dropped off – how did they get me over there? Anyway I was quite a ways from Honolulu – they transferred me to another ship and they took me and I got into the hospital there right at the tail end of the war before the bomb was dropped. When the bomb was dropped a couple of days later our ship, I learned later was put into Greyhound Bus duty – it was transferring troops for the next year and a half. All the crew – everybody on the crew was frozen. They couldn’t get off. I had just evidently got off in time and within a short period after the end of the war I was flown back by ambulance plane to the hospital up in Oakland, California and then shipped down here to Long Beach where I was worked on a little bit and then released. That was the end of my Navy experience. I picked up rather soon on our Funland Incorporated which was still going strong. What had happened is that in the days immediately following the war when people started coming back from overseas duty and from duties other that own home and were all coming back to the Los Angeles area . Many were getting married and many had been married during the war. They were looking for new places to live and so we had a great building boom I guess like everywhere else in the country and in these facilities sometimes there would be maybe a thousand homes and a thousand new families made up of a thousand groupings where nobody knew anybody. This turned out to be a natural for square dancing and there was a little bit of square dancing going on – I think there were about six of us in the greater Los Angeles area who called. Before the war I knew one caller – Carolyn Mitchell who was a great encouragement to me but then I met – before the war was over I met Carl Miles and Ray Shaw and went to some of the folk dance meetings with a group called ‘Hollywood Peasants’. They were a folk dance group and if you went to one of their dances you might be one of the lucky ones to get to call the only square dance in the whole evening. All the rest were Russian dances, Jewish Share (?), British dances, Mexican Cousins and those things. When the time came for the square dance one caller was between the 4, 5 or 6 of us that were there one of us would get to call. That was the only actual training we had. These were the months right after we came back. So much was happening and just trying to put it back in some sort of position. I didn’t have to rush right into work. I had six months back leave coming from the years I was at sea and before. I wasn’t in any rush to get a job that I – I knew what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to do what I was trained to do in college but I looked up in the phone book and asked questions and about ten different corporations in the Los Angeles area that were good. One was a large bakery, the other was a soft drink company, the other was a paper mill and they all were real successful firms and I wrote to each one – to the CEO and said I’m not asking for a job but I wonder if I could have an appointment with you to ask you some questions. Essentially, if you were in my position having graduated from college and just – still in the Navy actually – not released yet and an officer – what would you do looking back on your experience. All I want is some suggestions and maybe some advice. Out of the ten I think eight responded and I had lunch with a couple of them and I had meetings with the others. I had two or three queries of whether I’d be interested in working for them and one definite offer of a job. That was with the soft drink company which was right in our area to work in the public relations publicity for the Squirt Company home office. I took that and I had my first job. By then we had a – let’s see, I’m getting ahead of myself – anyway, I did go to work and still did our little group of Fun Incorporated still had it’s square dances on Robertson. Part of my job with the Squirt Company was to travel across the country and visit bottlers and do stories on them and give them suggestions on point-of- purchase advertising and how they could increase business and stuff. These were daytime jobs and at night I started looking for square dancing in Wisconsin, in Chicago and all over – wherever I went. I did find square dancing almost every area – kind of a minor thing. The people were all interested in what I knew and I was interested in seeing what they were doing but the big thing was nobody in any of the areas knew what was happening beside in their own area. When they knew that I square danced in California they asked what the style was – what people wore – what kind of records we’ve got and how to get live music and stuff like that. Aside from that, I mean it was a very crude way of getting the information but I knew that folks were really interested in what was happening out there. I did notice that there were seldom two areas where the dancing was the same. In one area the number one couple faced the head of the hall and it went around that way and I found out in one place where that was because if they had six squares they had six callers and the number one man was able to see the fiddler and if he indeed the one – he would let him know when he was going come close to the ending. With six different squares, six different callers, six different dances going on at the same time that scene was an education too. There were umpteen ways to do a swing. I noticed everybody was swinging different which didn’t matter a didle because everybody just danced in their own are. In Texas there were different ways to walk – a regular shuffle or walk step. There was the Sweetwater Lift and other types of steps depending largely on the speed of the music – the speed of the calling and the age of the dancers. The idea started going through my head that here is something – here is something where the people are really looking for information and there’s no way to get it. I discovered out there a magazine – it was mimeographed – it was called American, I think American Squares and a guy named Charley Thomas ran it and when I was in Washington or somewhere on the east coast I got in touch with Charley and he invited me over to the house for dinner and out to his square dance that night. He had a pretty good crowd. He had live music and his wife took the money at the door. He had a young son that must have been about six months old who was put on the edge of the stage. He cried so Charley picked up and he called and held the baby at the same time. When I got back to California – one of my regular jobs was putting out the Squirt Reporter which was the house organ for the company. The printer and artist that worked that with me was named Charlie Dillinger. He was one heck of a nice gentleman and really talented. I had a lunch with him and we started talking about this idea of communication – maybe I could turn out a newsletter or something. He said, “Why don’t we think seriously about sometime putting out a magazine” and I said, “Well that would be great” and that sort of went on the back burner at the minute. By now it was 1947 – little bits of square dancing were picking up and a man that I had heard of in 1940 – there was an article in the Saturday Evening Post about a school master in Colorado Springs who had trained a group of high school students the western square dance that – there was much more known about the eastern dancing. Henry Ford had done a book with a man named Benjamin Lovett but Shaw knew that there was more than that according to the article. So he had trained these youngsters and, starting in 1939 they had made tours across the country. They had a done few before then in their own state of Colorado. That I had heard of but knew very little until I realized that one of the leaders in our area who had helped me so much was named Ray Shaw – a former high school boys vice principal was the older brother of Lloyd Shaw. One time at one of the folk dances that we were all attending and hoping to have a chance to call Lloyd Shaw showed up. He was in town to do the movie – what was the name of it – Selsnick’s …
BB – Duel In The Sun
BO – Duel In The Sun and got a chance to meet him for the first time – very impressed because I remember he got a bunch of around – he had watched the dancing and everybody was sitting around the side some getting up for this dance, some getting up for that and when they announced, “ OK, a square dance” everybody up and he said to a bunch of us afterwards he said, “ You shouldn’t have to take a back seat. There’s enough for both – why don’t you consider having your own square dances – your own groups” and that sort of set the pace for us. We didn’t separate ourselves entirely from the folk dance field but we did have an extra empathy, and having no; At this point in time things were happening quite rapidly. I was getting the idea that maybe possibly down the line there would be room for some – some sort of communication – a magazine or a newsletter. I had met Shaw. I had learned through his brother and through Carl Miles and through Carolyn Mitchell who were my essential guides in square dancing that Shaw had a caller’s school. I was to learn more about that later but I was enthused in that 1947 I wrote and said, “I’m just starting in calling – I’ve been with it a little bit. I really need some training. I’d love to come back there and be with you” and I got a note back a short time later saying that, “ We appreciate getting your letter but the class is full. We can only hold a few people because we do not have a very large area. Maybe you’d like to apply again next year”. I was personally shook but not entirely. I went to Ray and I said, “Ray, help me out of this thing”. Ray got in touch with his brother and then a day or two later I got an OK to join the class. So, I think the biggest turning point in my life was – here I was with the start of a business career in a soft drink company which could have gone on forever and been very interesting but I was getting more and more interested in square dancing. I called for a couple of groups. At that time in Los Angeles all the square dancing was on the basis of one night. I had a group – about 200 dancers every time that we would get together I think two Saturdays a month at Griffith Park and the ones who didn’t know how to dance or had never been to a dance before would come early and we would show them a few simple things to do. It was never at that time a matter of showing them a few basics. It was to show them how to react to the music and how to move and they, of course would learn an Allemande Left, Right and Left Grand and those essentials because the evening was relatively simple. They could learn it quickly and they learned from each other. At that point things were just about – you could almost sense in looking back – were ready to explode in our area. More people were getting interested in calling and I went back and I think – I don’t know how many callers from our area – quite a few – went back to Colorado Springs to Cheyenne Mountain School for this initial experience in caller training. We never heard of caller training. If we wanted to learn we’d grab on the coattails of a Carl Myles or somebody else and learn what they had. If we wanted to know a dance we just we just called usually he’d give us the black notebook and we’d copy it. Or we’d try to remember it and not embarrass ourselves by trying to writing it down where they could see it and then we’d go could home and write it and it would probably be a different dance by the time we remembered it. This deal of a callers school was interesting and I don’t know what I or anybody else was prepared for but what we got was terrific and the little school house – it really was a one building at that time and grades one through twelve and they had a little auditorium and on the opening day we all went into the auditorium and in comes this gentleman – long canes – there was a stool there and he’d sit facing the crowd and before he starts talking an older man who turns out to be the janitor named Joe comes and pins a rose to the man’s label and leaves. Then Pappy introduces himself – of course most of us had already met him or knew who he was and he started talking. In this initial session set the scene for what was going to happen. He didn’t talk entirely during that first hour about square dancing or each of the first hours during the balance of the week. He talked about how people need each other and square dancing as a means of getting people together – that we live in homes, apartments maybe where we could hear people in the next room but we never see them or maybe we live in a house and we walk and we see the man next door going out to pick up his paper – maybe we wave but we don’t know him. He said people need each other and there are so many other things that he told that were just great. He tried to break us down in size by saying, you know you may find that people are loving you and, you know admiring what you’re doing and everything else. But he said that this reminds me the parade right soon after the first World War on Madison, not Madison Avenue – the main street in Washington where the parades were all held and units of all the military forces were there. The Navy was leading off the parade and they asked one of the midshipmen to carry the American flag, which he did and this is Richard Byrd, later Admiral Byrd. As the parade started he walked down, he began to feel the crowd applauding him, taking off their hats, standing at attention and putting their hands over their hearts and he was so impressed with himself until he suddenly realized that they weren’t applauding him they were applauding the flag. He said, “In square dancing you, the caller have the opportunity to carry the flag. We knew square dancing was great. Somehow it has to get the dance to the dancers and that is your definition of a flag bearer”. I think things of that nature impressed us so much that we didn’t mind spending an hour in the morning when we were really chomping at the bit to get out on the dance floor and dance or try our calling we listened to these things that were important. I hope somebody somewhere along the line has some of these lectures that Pappy gave. I don’t know of the existence of any of them verbatim but we do remember parts. Then we went into the little cafetorium which held 90 dancers crowded and from – the people that he had selected to attend this course – and I might interject just long enough to say that this was the second time after the war that he held these sessions. Before the war, after Cheyenne Mountain Dancers had their first east-to-west tour he was invited back to a lot of these places and the next year in 1940 after several of them the teachers who were there to learn came up and said, “ We want you to start a school for callers because we need to know these things that you do – we need to know more about dancing and calling”. So, the insistence was so great that in 1940 he started his first caller’s school in Cheyenne Mountain and he had – I don’t know how many – I’m guessing there were about 40 in attendance – that would be 39 women and one man. Henry Gray from the Chicago Parks Department was the lone male and in 1941 they had it, again, a little bit larger but still as I understand it just women and Henry Gray – then the war came. The war changed a lot of things but as I understand it the year after the war in 1946 they resumed the class. I don’t know anything about that first class but the 1947 class was filled to capacity and that was the one that we were talking about. From the auditorium we went into the cafetorium and we – ready to get into squares and start going and he got us into a big circle and he taught us how to walk. That’s the first thing I remember. He taught us how to stand tall and for the tall man to take his lesson from the short man who would stand tall and stretch as high as he could and the tall person, man or woman should take advantage of their height and not slump over and little things that, after fifty years is just as inhibit today as they were then. In standing tall suck your dining room in, suck your sitting room in and when you walk lead from the chest as though you were drawn from a string up to the ceiling and pulled. At that time we had a few things that we did differently. We put our hands on our pockets in the back, palm out, fingers down. A lot of these things were things that he used with his kids. The kids were his guidelines to what to teach to the leaders. The first session was amazing. I had heard of a few of the people – I had read books of some of them. Herb Greggerson was there. Let’s see, I don’t know if Rickey Holden was at that first one. Raymond Smith was at the first one. Manning and Nita Smith. It was later to – for me to realize that was indeed a Who’s Who of what was going on in the leadership in square dancing at that time. Anyway, it was a tremendous, a tremendous week and we all hurried home to start putting into practice some of the things we learned. Now, at home all dancing was being done as much probably in most of the country in this one-night-stand type learn-as-you-go type of deal. It could be that if you did ten dances over a period of several nights each one would be essentially the same. You wouldn’t really do much in the way of progression because you always had new people. Classes – we had no classes – we had no caller’s schools – we had no dancer clubs as we know them today and consequently no dancer associations. There was much – we were very primitive that’s probably the best way to put it. When we came back – there was Ralph Maxheimer, Jack Hoheisel and a number of us in this area – we all went in with a vengeance to sort of get things growing and we all started classes.
The first classes that I had were held at Beverly Hills High School and they were six weeks of lessons in which time you learned all there was to know about square dancing. The thing was advertised locally in little throw-away papers here in Beverly Hills but I don’t remember for that first class – that it was to start at 7:00 – that by 6:00 the class was filled. There were – there was a lineup around the corner of the school building starting an hour before registration opened. So we had a many as the gym would hold and this was the start of our beginner classes. From these classes which we tried to do the way we had – the things we had learned and teach the people how to dance first. We didn’t teach basics unless they came in with a particular dance. We taught movements – there were only a certain number of movements as such like facing right or left or forward and back, walking, swinging, turn-unders and things like that. There were only a number of these things that would be involved in all the stuff we’d be doing in dancing. Our goal was not to just teach the people dances but to teach them how to be good dancers and teach then something about attitudes and allow them to have some – we had live music – we had a three-piece band in all the classes. By the end of the classes we formed our first clubs as we know them and the only way to get into that club was to go to a class or already know the dancing well enough to come in.
BB – I don’t mean to break in here Bob but tell me more about the really, really early beginner classes. You were not really teaching basics as we know them today. In other words, you start out with, the first night you’re going to teach the first ten basics and this is less than perfect, right?
BO – No, I don’t think Bob that we really had basics in mind back in those days. A basic was just another call and you did a certain thing – just like if we said, “Turn left” you turned left and the first time we ever turned left we had to teach people how to turn left but doing a Right and Left Through was just taken in it’s course because we did a dance and it had a Right and Left Through in it. We also had a Turn Left and it had a Forward and Back and all those things were just part of a dance. I think one of the main things that we hoped to accomplish by continual dancing and a degree of repetition and I’d like to point out that repetition never bothered the dancers. Sometimes it bothered callers because they heard themselves calling the same thing over. The dancers would enjoy “Oh Johnny” or they would enjoy “Cutting Down The Old Pine Tree” over and over. You’d never find them tired but what we were really trying to teach in addition to attitudes and stuff was automatic reaction. In other words, the difference between a brand new dancer and an experienced dancer was that one would react automatically, not step on the calls but to follow comfortably and dance with the music. We spent a lot of time in just moving to music – doing mixers and things in a big circle that required some of same circle deals that we had found an advantage to us back at Shaws. We used it in the classes and when I say “we”, because out here in Alhambra was Jack Hoheisel, over here in the main part of town was Carl Myles, over here was Ray Shaw, over here was Ralph Maxheimer. We were all doing the same thing with the result that the new classes were forming and an interesting thing with the formation of things like classes things become evident that are problems or could be problems. One was that the professional ballroom dancers – dancing teachers were trying to get legislation through our Senate in Sacramento, California to make everybody who teaches dancing, that would involve square dance callers to join their association or their league or union or whatever it was and everything would have to go through them which could be quite a problem because they would have a toehold on places where you dance. So, representatives from a number of the newly formed clubs who turned out to be, one was a lawyer at NBC, another was on the police board up in Sacramento and stuff like that. They got together and as the first of our associations set out to beat the lobby against this thing so there was a purpose in square dancers working together and they did defeat the thing. Out of that we, about, at that time about four associations were formed. I mean, it was a purpose. Associations were not formed just to perpetuate themselves they were formed in order to help the square dancers. We had the start of clubs growing out of the classes which were brand new. The new clubs were absolutely heavily involved. One of our biggest problems was we just couldn’t find enough live music to satisfy them. That eventually brought in the need for companies to breed new records. Callers were anxious to learn and still, at that point, up until we went back to Shaw’s most of it was just attaching itself to another caller and learning that way. But now the first caller’s schools in our area were showing up. There were three caller’s schools in the later part of 1947 patterned a lot after Pappy so all these things were happening so fast. The Los Angles Mirror, one of our large newspapers at that time ran a daily picture column across the front of one of one it’s lead sections on how to do the basics.
BB – Is that right? Huh.
BO – We got a call from one of the local channels. Remember we’re all wet behind the ears. We didn’t really know much what we were doing but still, we knew more than anybody and so, we were asked to do a television show just to see what it was like. Well, that one show worked into a regular series which, we got tons of mail. You wouldn’t believe it but the station was kind of amazed. One of the interesting sidelights Bob, on that was that they, one camera operation in this little station so they’re doing head-on and we watched it on, they didn’t have kinescopes then but whatever it was we got to see a replay. It’s interesting that we had occasion to stop this tape for a minute and listening back and obviously it would indicate that things were happening so fast there that in trying to think about them they all come splurting back at one time. Now it, I hope it will be understandable what, who tried to cover. Let me just tell you this TV thing because this was the beginning of quite a number of TV shows that worked out here. The one camera operation that, let’s see, this one channel, they couldn’t get high shots and they just got head-on and you know by watching square dancing that you don’t get the real beauty of it unless you get a little bit away or look down on it. So they rigged up, for our second show a mirror to a pair of standards and they put a large mirror aimed down and the camera then would simply shoot into the mirror and then down onto the dancers to get a high shot. That was fine except that it reversed everything. You’re looking into the mirror then all the dancers were just exactly backwards. So, the next time that we tried it they made a double mirror, one that went about ten feet high and aiming down and then one about 2 or 3 feet below that at an angle aiming up so that the shot into the lower one which then reflected from the upper one which shot down in the double process put us in correct view. Anyway, we did get a lot of response to those early shows and I think that helped recruit in our early stages. I know that in the second series of classes that we held at Beverly Hill High School we had such a surge of interest that another caller, Arnie Kronenberger and I joined up. There were two gyms side by side. Each would hold between 15 and 20 squares. We got two orchestras and we announced in the paper and long before registration opened the lines went way around the block. We filled those two classes with a lot of people that didn’t get in also waiting for the next session in a few weeks. This was the interest. Now, with the start of the associations and with the start of clubs and with the getting together of callers in our own area. We had a caller’s powwow which was sort of an unofficial caller’s group. We thought, “Oh, we can do anything.” So, one of the things that the callers wanted to do was to subject their dancers to what we had that enthused us so much. That was the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers and Pappy Shaw. We thought if we could bring him and the dancers out to California that we could assure ourselves of a future of enthusiasm. We’d get a great deal of interest and it would be a way of our saying thanks to Shaw for the door that he had opened for us. Well, through Lloyd’s brother Ray and with all of us supporting it we asked Shaw to come out the following year in 1948. The clubs were ecstatic over the prospect of meeting this gentleman who they had heard so much about. He said that they would use their spring break and come out and that they would do a workshop at, let’s see, they would do a performance followed by a weekend workshop followed by a second performance in two different venues. Venues? Is that what you call them? So we went ahead and started our planning. For the first time we were discovering what square dancers – callers and dancer leaders could do when they work together. We – at this time our ideas for a square dance magazine were really jelling and we thought now this would be really great if we could come out with our first issue of the magazine simultaneous with Shaw’s arrival. We – I talked to our – to Dillenger who was on the payroll really at the Squirt Company and doing work for us there. So, he did a mockup of a magazine and we called it Sets In Order because that was the call that every caller in our area anyway and most of the areas called when we wanted the squares or sets to get up on the floor in order to dance. So that was our beginning. So he did a rough and with it we went out and sold some advertising – just on the basis of the rough with the idea that the first issue would come out in November, 1948. Well, all these things were happening at once. I was still working for the Squirt Company full time and doing travelling for them and in conjunction with this I was doing my first travel calling. I had gone to New England and called and met Charlie Baldwin and Ralph Page and others and much of my touring was done in connection –
Much of my travelling was being done in connection with my job at Squirt but I did get a chance to get encouragement from the different callers and dancers that I met for this magazine that I was proposing – tape clicks – in thinking back, so many things were happening at one time that, although some of the things may at that time have had little to do with square dancing they had to do a lot with me and my education in the world. My four years in the Navy by this time had pretty much quieted down to a time of working for a soft drink company and the great avocation of square dancing but I kept getting more responsibilities with the Squirt Company. The little magazine I had turned out which was the house organ put me in touch with the industrial editors – the largest international association or national association of industrial editors and I became a part of the southern California branch and eventually the Chairman of the Southern California Industrial Editors and then eventually a regional head and as such I got an invitation from John R. Steelman who was President Truman’s top White House consultant asking if I and the other regional heads could come back for a 4 day meeting in Washington, D.C and meet with the heads of the different government agencies and hear their request for promotional lists of government activities in our little magazines. So I checked with my boss and said, “Is there any chance that I can get an OK to go back because if I do I would take promotional material on the fractional coinage”. He said, “Sure. If you think your time would be put to good use and you wouldn’t be just shuffling around we’ll be glad to foot the bill”.
BB – Well, tell about this fractional coinage amounts to.
BO – All right. Fractional coinage – after the war was over for several months – maybe perhaps a year – the restraints on prices were – they still were fixed. Sugar was a certain price and tires and things of that nature – prices were fixed and you’d get them at war prices. We knew that wouldn’t last and the thing that we were worried about is that if they suddenly took the restrictions off that prices would zoom rapidly. While, if they came off and –
BO continues – Because of the fact that the cost soft drinks could go up a little bit but because of the machines only taking nickels, dimes and quarters it looked clear to us that the soft drink would immediately go up to a dime. Candy bars would go to a dime and things like that. They couldn’t stay at a nickel. They didn’t have to go up to a dime. They could go up in between there but there was no way that could happen except that – my boss decided that there was a solution and that was fractional coinage. For instance, a quarter is – call it two bits. If you turned out one bit that would be 12 and a half cents so you’d have a 12 and a half cent bit coin. Between the nickel and the dime you might have a ‘Ben’ – that for Benjamin Franklin – and that could be worth 7 and a half cents. So your dispenser machines could break it down by adding different slots in between the nickel and the dime, etc. He was putting on an all out campaign and he had me working – talking to service groups – the Rotary and stuff like that about the fractional coinage and when I got this invitation from John R. Steelman I felt maybe this would be an opportunity to do good for that cause. So I told Ed Marin and he said, “Sure. If you think you might get an opportunity we’ll be happy to pay your bill for going back to the meeting”. At that time I had an artists painting – among other things, neckties – real silk neckties – with a picture of 7 and a half cent and 12 and a half cent coins. He said, “Take a couple back and give one to the president”. You know, nothing was impossible to a youngster at that stage of the game.
So anyway, I sent a telegram back to Steelman and I said that – here comes the gutsy part again – I will be happy to come back to the meeting if I can have a chance to see my White House and that’s guts. I got a wire back – “I’ll see that you see your White House. When you get in town call me at such and such an extension and I’ll see that you get a pass and you come in and I’ll take you through”. So, I thought, “Oh heavens. This is really something”. So anyway I went back and I did have an opportunity to get through the White House and meet some people but the President unfortunately decided to spend that week in Los Angeles.
BB – Right
BO – Anyway, while that particular experience was a great one in my life it only seemed to slow down the progress of planning for the Shaw visit and all the things that were avocational – is there such a word? – and my business – I don’t really think that the Squirt Company business suffered at all but I was – I was away from the office perhaps more than I should be. I’d like to just mention that in out early classes the people who came to the classes always had bottles of Squirt as a refreshment and were often asked to fill out a little deal of how they liked the drink and stuff like that so the business worked in with square dancing and visa versa.
BB – Right
BO – All right. Here we are in the beginning of 1947 – everything is going great guns – we’ve got the dates for Shaw and the kids to come out – we’ve hired the Hollywood High School auditorium which I think holds around two thousand for Thursday night, the Hollywood High School gymnasiums – the large gym holds about 200 (?) people for Saturday, let’s see for Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday morning – I think that was the way it went. Then we – Monday at Pasadena Civic Auditorium which holds about 3000 – all tickets for the two main shows were sold out. The two major associations in southern California they were going to get – to divide among their dancers – pairs of tickets for the workshops for the dancers. Everybody wanted to go and the way it turned out was even the President and his partner or Vice President and his partner of each one of the existing clubs were all that were given tickets. That was all the tickets there were. It was that much in demand. So we were ready and in one of my classes at Beverly High School, in the square dance classes I would note from time to time during the first few sessions the guy sitting on the side making notes and I thought, “ That guy’s really something. He’s either going to learn to be a caller or something.” So one time I went over to look and see what he was writing and he was drawing pictures and he was drawing the funniest darn pictures I ever saw of square dancing. This was the first time I met a man called Frank Grundeen. I said,” Frank, there’s a chance that I might be putting out a magazine. Would you do a cartoon for my first issue?” To make a long story short Frank, only did the first one he did all four hundred and forty four and the last one he did he turned in for the December, 1988 – ’85 I guess it was and it ran in the December issue and he passed away in January never having ever missed a deadline.
BB – Is that right?
BO – So, anyway I never have felt so strongly that square dancers could work together – tickets were sold to the various events – tickets were only compted – I think we only gave a few comps away – one to the Mayor of the City, one to the Chief of Police, one to the head of the Sheriff’s Department, one to the supervisor of Schools – School district and all the rest were sold – it was a complete sellout. Well, the day came. We were ready. Everything was in place and I had signals – Ralph Maxheimer and I were working pretty close together with Pappy and the group – Ray Shaw was taking care of housing for Dorothy and -–no, we were putting them up at a hotel that was right but he was in charge of that. So, the kids came – this particular scurry – you can take hours to tape it all – I’ll do it – I’ll give you the capsule form. The kids were on – I think it was Tuesday night in Phoenix, Arizona then they came in and spent Wednesday night in San Diego. I don’t know that they gave shows at those two places. Then, early on Thursday morning, the day of the performance they started their drive from San Diego up to Santa Monica where they would be housed and they stopped in La Hoya so the see the kids could see the beautiful surf. It was the first time most of the kids had ever seen the ocean and they all went all went over to the place to look down and three of the boys went down the walk – Tommy Collins and Bobby Jones and I forget the third one although I know him real well – he walked down to the water’s edge to watch the waves beak and a huge breaker came in and took two of the boys into the surf and it was a wild surf. One of the boys pulled himself out and the other one drowned and this was a horrendous thing for the group. The Life Guards and the police and everything they could not find the body so the kids got in the bus – Shaw called me and said, “ Bob, we just had a terrific thing happen.” He explained it and I said, “ Pappy, we’ll be prepared to turn back the tickets to everybody. We’ll be at the box office so don’t give it a second thought and let us know if there’s any way we can help.” He said, “ Don’t turn them back yet.” He said, “ I’m trying to reach Tommy Collins folks in Colorado Springs and tell them what happened and we’re heading back to Santa Monica now and I’ll call you in a little bit and see if I can reach them.” Then he called about 12:30 – all this time Ralph Maxheimer and I decided we wouldn’t tell anybody at all. We would just keep it to ourselves and we would play the ting by ear but we knew what order we’d do it in if we had to return tickets and cancel the venue. About 1:00 he called and said, “ I’ve reached Tommy’s folks and they said, “ We’d like you to go ahead and do the show for the number of people that are expecting it. We’d like it if you to dedicate it to Tommy.” So, Shaw said, “ Then I took the kids – we were at San Juan, Capistrano – we went in and we spent about 15 minutes in the chapel of the mission there and we let everybody do his own thinking and we talked to them in the bus a little bit and Dorothy Shaw in her excellent way talked to them.”
He said, “ The kids all decided that in honor of Tommy that they would do the show.” So he said, “ Go ahead and don’t tell anybody.” We decided that just Ralph and I would know and nobody else. They came on in – one of the challenges was, Lloyd told his brother Ray and said, “ We have two of the dances that require all our people and we need somebody that can fit into Tommy’s costume that can do this ?? and one of the others. They immediately got in touch with this professor from USC, a Jack Reinhart who’s a long time square dancer and a dance professor who had danced with the gypsies in Spain. They talked it over and Jack had been back and had seen the kids work in Colorado Springs but had never done these dances. He was 68 years old and he could fit into the costume. So, with a little talking and stuff – probably just a dry run he did it and you didn’t even notice that it was an old timer. Well, there was tremendous feeling throughout the auditorium at Hollywood High School that night. The people, many of them coming early – everybody dressed up – it was really a fancy deal. We had half a dozen square dance couples dressed to the hilt at the entrance handing out free copies of the first issue of the new magazine. We had the press there and there wasn’t a seat empty and when it came time the lights dimmed and the curtail opened and Pappy stepped through the slightly opened curtain and said, “ We’re dedicating this show tonight to Tommy Collins”. The curtain opened and the music started and the show went on. Jim Fadler, our photographer for many years, he was told about what had happened – he was back stage and was up above shooting down on some of the show and he said, “Those kids never touched the floor all evening. They danced a good foot and a half off the floor.” The audience, you know just raved about it and at half time – when there was an intermission the word got out that what had happened so the rest of the show they were aware of it – of Jack Reinhart dancing in the place of Tommy. Great success. The show – the dancing on the workshops was superior. The people who were put through the kind of things that we had been put – had been part of what he was putting them through – if any of them had thought any of it was silly then they had Shaw doing the same things – the posture and the smoothness and all these things – both couple dances and squares and contras and the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers dressing – dressed in regular clothes were doing the demos which gave an added impression. So the long and the short of it was a tremendous boost of square dancing in southern California.
BB – We’re getting into the time of Sets In Order now. It must have been quite a chore just to accumulate that first issue and get it – because I know it was professionally done all the way through.
BO – I didn’t have any money to pay for the printer. I think – I think that he trusted us and he liked the idea of being the start of a magazine that might last a year. You know, we told him that we’d be lucky if we could go for a year because we had no president. So we turned out 5000 copies and gave them away at the two performances and we also mailed out to dance leaders in different areas that we knew – sample copies – so that they could see what we were doing. I think after the – something like – oh, I would be wrong if I said 1500 subscriptions sold – that was at those two shows. So I think that I had enough to almost pay the printer who didn’t care too much because he was still being paid by my company – the soft drink company – where if anything had happened I think that he was assured that he would get his money back one way or another but we were very fortunate in him. He was our artist off and on until our very last issue – 444 magazines later. That was the start of the magazine. That was the big kick in the pants for square dancing if we ever needed one because square dancing was going great guns anyway and everything had fit into place. The big boom was on. The boom itself sort of indicated that everything was happening. Classes were filling as soon as they were up. Newspapers were carrying stories. We had worked for I think about 15 weeks at this first television station and had a lot of fun with it. I think we got paid an astounding amount – something like $10 for the whole square and a half of us. The orchestra of course got union scale but we had a lot of fun and we learned a lot. We did get a lot of mail on those Irv Beverly shows. Then NBC decided they wanted to run this other series with the possibility of network run and as that season began there was very little network television. I think this was going to be our first color television show.
We ran this for I think another 13 weeks – maybe a little bit more – right between a Dennis Day show and a news broadcast so the location was good. We had good payout and they did get a sponsor for part of the time but no great interest in a sponsor. We learned something early in the game to us – variety in square dancing is doing a singing call then a patter call and then maybe another patter call and that’s variety. But variety to a viewer we discovered was different forms. In other words, if we did a half hour show on television and hoped to get our audience we certainly wouldn’t do it by doing 5 or 6 different square dances because to the viewer who was not a dancer the thing would – was just repetition. You’d be doing equivalents – things like Right and Left Grands, Ladies Chains and hand pull-bys and stuff that would look the same in all of them but if you were to do a square and then you were to do a dance – maybe a couple dance and then you were to do a contra and then you were to do a dance done in fours like a mescolanza or something like that that would hold interest. I had a – one of the men – I’m trying to remember his name – he was a radio personality just getting into television that came up with a great idea but it never sold. It was a combination of Americana and American dance so that in the course of a half – hour show you would have several different spots of different types of square dancing – you would also do things that were part of American heritage. It might be how to spin a top – how to bake a cake – everything goes back in time – things we used to do – games we used to play – marbles and things like that and the dance of America keeping it sort of traditional. After NBC it was ABC picked us up and they hoped to go coast to coast and this was a western format. The producer of it was a friend of Merle Travis’ so he put the show together as a vehicle for both Merle Travis and for me and by that time we ran into our first taste of union. The unions were just becoming aware of the square dancing and the whole idea of television being an outlet financially – or inlet for them. We discovered that – we started out by having the same square or two squares that we would put on our regular programs. We couldn’t do it unless the people belonged to the union and then we came across the Taft-Hartley law which would allow us to have amateurs on the program if they were paid the regular rate but they didn’t have to belong to the union and they could only be on once. So, in our ABC television series with Merle Travis we opened with square dancing and we closed with square dancing and we had two spots in between with a visiting club. The visiting club would not be paid. We got by by making it a contest – not in dancing. We were very strong as was Shaw, as was most of the devotees against having any competition. Square dancing being a cooperative type of activity but instead we had – at one time we had a greased pig run through the deal and it was a – the prize was the pig itself going to the person who caught it. We had different word games and stuff like that. We had very little time involved in the competition and square dancing and calling. It was fun to watch and it did get us through the Taft-Hartley deal. So, there was a different club every week and each week we announced who the next one would be and a guest caller that would call one of the tips in the center. So, those were our three major experiences in the realm of television. About this time or two the television shows were picking up interest and because square dancing was so big – the movie industry people were having dances in their home and regular square dance clubs made up of movie people. The movie industry decided that they would do some pictures. Selsnick had done Duel In The Sun with Shaw and Les Gotcher had done Copper Canyon and several others and Jonesy had done some. Many of those except of course the Selsnick picture were ‘B’ films but the studios decided – MGM decided that they would go first class and with a top notch picture include square dancing in it. I got a call from a man named Nick Castle who was a choreographer and he said, “ I don’t know diddle about square dancing – (tape clicks) – what I do know about” Nick said “was choreography of almost any other type and my question is, would you be willing to come in and train our dancers for a picture we’re about to do?”
I was calling at nights and by that time – well at that time I was full blast into square dancing and I had given up my job with the Squirt Company and I said, “ Sure, I’d be interested. I’d like to come in for an interview.” I went in later that day and Nick was one heck of a nice guy and he said, “ We’re going to do a picture with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly” and he mentioned some of the other actors and actresses that were going to be in it and he introduced me to the director whose name I don’t remember right now and he said, “ This picture takes place in New England in the late ‘40’s and it’s a group of amateur actors going to do summer stock and they found a place with a barn that they could use and it’s a ranch or a farm run by Judy Garland and the head of the actor’s troup is Gene Kelly” and he said, “ This barn is under long contract and essentially has an ongoing habit every Friday night the local people come in and have a square dance. Even though the show is in full rehearsal and everything else everything is kind of stuck because the people must have their square dance.” He said, “ The thing is we would like dances that would be done in that era at that time. Can you help us?’ I said, “ Well, being a southern California western type of square dance caller I haven’t done a great deal in the eastern stuff but let me take a crack at it. I know some dances that would have been done at that time or before even and we talked and he says, “ OK”. So, I went – I guess it was the next day and the way they work they have their principals that have to do with the dancing and then they have two lead couples that are professional dancers. These people don’t know diddle about square dancing but they learn the dance action and they work it out with the choreographer and then they bring in the extras. Those extras are selected and then they are taught. Anyway, with them we worked out a Portland Fancy and we also – I showed them a half a dozen things that I thought might have been done at that time in the way of couple dancing and I learned later I wasn’t too far off but they were the things that we would have learned at Shaws. It might have been the Boston Two Step, Laces and Graces – a couple of those. I showed those and they decided that – I think it was Laces and Graces they thought would be great. We taught these people and a piano player – the piano player went with the orchestra- they recorded the music and It was interesting – in Portland Fancy they did figure that it was a public domain so they had no trouble to do that exact and in doing the Laces and Graces it was too much like the copyrighted tune so just used the counter melody in it and they under played the strong melodies so it doesn’t sound like the music we used but it had the exact tempo. It was great music. So, we went ahead and worked with the lead extras for a day. Then they brought in all the townspeople – all ages you know but mostly older people who would be typical they thought of the old timers in the community. We taught them the Portland Fancy and we taught them the Laces and Graces. Then I had to teach one of the actors to call and one of the leads was a guy named Ray Collins – he was to be a judge that was part of the dance group and Ray Collins – I don’t know if you recall the name but he was Lieutenant Trang in the – they – what do you call it – the murder series that was on for so long – oh, I’ll think of it and come back. So I taught him to prompt the call and did a good job.
Anyway, the long and the short of it was it was a very successful deal and it came up and in watching the thing now you’d think these people had been doing the Portland Fancy all their lives. An interesting deal at one time watching them move the sets around and changing the electrical and everything I was sitting on a bench and Gene Kelly came over and sat down and he said, “ I just wanted you to know that I just think it’s so great – our family watches the television shows you’ve got on” and he said, “ America is made up of a lot of people who spend a great deal of their time watching 22 people bash their heads in football or a bunch on the basketball court or whatever it is and we’re a nation of spectators” and he said, “ Square dancing is allowing people to get out and do it and find out what fun it is to be a dancer. You don’t have to be a performer just a dancer.” Anyway, it came off and all and I was invited to the sneak preview and enjoyed seeing it in action. We did have two other experiences within a short time of each other in the movies. The reason these things might be important is because they didn’t say – when the motion picture industry picks up on an activity they do indeed help to – help the interest – the public interest in it as long as things are not kidded or made too much fun of or done improperly. The second one I got a call from Nick Castle again and he said, “ I don’t know if you want to tackle this – it’s going to be a little bit different from the other but Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis are doing a – Dean Martin was a true gentleman and fun although he seemed more subdued than I expected him to be seeing him in performances and everything and then discovered a short time later that this was the last picture that he and Jerry Lewis did together. They had their breaking up and I guess didn’t see each other for twenty years afterwards but the experience was fun and here again we – let’s see – how did I get our dancers on that – oh, they had selected all the extras so it was a case of teaching a lead couple or a couple of couples and then in turn having them show it and then integrate with the rest of the extras. It was all done in a large – a large old – oh no it was a saloon or whatever it was but there was all these cowboy rough types and the pretty bar girls and everything else and Martin and Lewis each took a turn at calling and Martin got mixed up – or Lewis got mixed up in one of the squares with a star right around his neck. It was ridiculous but it fit into the style of the two guys. At the preview it showed up quite funny but somewhere along the line the powers that be decided that (scratching noise) a certain amount of time had to be cut out of the picture so, although it was shown in the sneak preview it was cut from the final version so very few people ever saw it. That’s what you call heartbreak.
BB – Right. By the way, I should interject here that as I’m sitting here in your office I see on the wall several pictures taken from this particular film and one showing the scene that you’ve just described and others where you’re helping Dean Martin in one picture and Jerry Lewis in another sitting on the floor by the way in one picture. Very, very interesting and this really goes along with the rest of your museum here that you call your office …
B0 – Chuckles
BB – …but we’ll get into that some other time.
BO – Well, I did – you know Bob, I feel so fortunate. These things -I might have been at a different place when the phone rang or I might not have gotten the calls or I might have been ….
BB – True
BO – … in the Navy for another year and these things happen but they do happen and they just have a way of happening right and they were fun. I did get one more major call on a motion picture. That was for the movie ‘Giant’. One of our square dancers, Hal Finley was one of the top dogs in the music department of Warner Brothers and I knew him quite well and he called me in and wanted me to come over and be interviewed by the director and they did not have a choreographer, they wanted me to do the square dance choreography. It was explained that I was to train a caller, to write the calls, to train the dancers and set it for the camera and I that was prepared to do – the picture ‘Giant’ was – let’s see, who was it? – it was Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and – who was the great young actor that killed in the car?
BB – James Dean?
BO – James Dean. They were among the a fantastic cast. The lead people did not get in the dance part of it but the ones we were to train or to get in it and I wouldn’t – if you remember the picture – it was set shortly after the war and in Texas and so the dance should not be unlike a Texas dance. So I said , “ Sure, I’d like to take it on.” Before we got going very far they wanted to set the music for it and the Dimitri Deompkin (?) I guess – the guy that came on – the first thing he did started calling me Poppa and I told him three tunes that I liked that would be very good for this type of thing and he said, “ No, I’ve got three others that I like that I wrote”. Well they sounded just like Rag Time Annie and two other well known ones that he said that he originated and one of the cast or one of the crew members said, “ He claims fame to have written the Stars Spangled Banner” …
BB – Right. Chuckles
BO – … so it was a very interesting experience. They called in – they wanted about – oh I guess about forty dancers – they called in – I’m trying to remember whether it was 60 or 70 who were listed in Central Casting as being – as knowing how to square dance. We got them in a big circle. I had really two extras that had been called in extra that we knew square danced so I did work with a couple of pilots and I worked with the man who was going to do the calling who nothing about square dancing. I got this great big circle – maybe there were 60 – maybe there were more – and started out quite easily you know, Bow to your Partner, Bow to Your Corner. Well, half the people were swinging, some were bowing, some were doing a do sa do and I knew that I had a problem. So I figured – let’s – I tried something else. I tried Promenading and most of them got walking you know but they didn’t know what a couple was and they were on the wrong side and everything so I figured, OK, let’s select 40 or whatever the two of them wanted to select and let’s just select the ones that look like square dancers which is ridiculous to find so, I got these – this group selected and the others all trounced home and with this group that looked like square dancers I taught them from the beginning the pattern – nothing but the pattern that the were going to have to learn. I figured that after I got them going on it I could teach a little bit of smoothness and stuff like that. At a party – this was going to be set in the back yard of Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. They were going to announce the engagement of their son to this lady and at this thing a square dance was being held and the square dance was right next to their big swimming pool and it would be filled with people and everything else, So, we did a Texas Star. I called Bertha Houlk, one of the – Bertha and Martin (?) from Lloyd Shaw’s summer deal – people that were from – they were from Austin, Texas. I figured well, if anybody knew what would be typical for that time you know, they would – so they were Texas Star would just be great because it’s sort of an International first time for a lot of people and they learned it and I was – this one day – the next day we would do it on the set but we would have this day to practice it so I taught them the routine and they did it a time or two and we showed them again a little bit more and they did it once or twice. I figured that by the end of that day they’re have it – they’d look like real Texans. Well, before noon after we’d been at it two hours the – over the PA system they said, “ All dance extras we want you on the set in 15 minutes. We’re going to start setting up for the shoot.” That’s all the practice we had until we got them on the set and then I worked them a little bit whenever I had time. They got it – he was practicing to be a caller and the orchestra that had come in that was going to be the western band – we finally got a chance to try all of them together once or twice. Well, it looked pretty good. The only problem with that – the biggest problem was that the whole thing was shot 2 or 3 times – not from different camera angles because a lot of shots were out anyway but just because to get complete coverage. Then what happened they began to do the close-ups so they started the dance then Liz Taylor did her thing and then somebody else came into the deal with the dancers all up in the background but what they lost completely was that the caller was saying what the dancers were doing. On any long shots it worked fine but when it came up close to the interaction the dancers were doing something entirely different. If you were a dancer you would have noticed and if you weren’t a dancer you might have been, “ Oh, that’s fantastic.”
BB – Right.
BO – That got through OK. That was on ice. I’m trying to think of the guy that did the movie, ‘Tora Tora Tora’. He did the expert editing on the picture ‘High Noon’ and salvaged it from an almost sure disaster and made it into a 4 Star Academy Oscar picture. He called me one time and he said, “ I’ve just have finished a semi-documentary” – I think it was in New Mexico – and he said, “ One of the deals was an outdoor square dance on a large slab”. He said, “ I do not have a balance with the music and the calls. I can’t use it unless I can do – can you come and look at it and see if you can write the calls. I don’t know what the guy was calling.” That was fun because I watched the dancers – I don’t know that I knew what dance they were doing but I could figure out enough that I could write a call to it – then brought in a band and recorded to the tempo they were dancing then I synced a close up on the caller so that I wouldn’t have to do any lip sync and I never saw that until about 6 years later on a late, late, late, late night show about 2 or 3 in the morning I heard this danged voice – sounded a little familiar and it was me calling for this bunch of New Mexicans or whatever. OK, that – most of that took place between the 40, 50 maybe a little bit afterwards – we began through the magazine getting feelings that people were interested in certain parts of it like the calls so early in the game I turned out with Jack Hoheisel a series of little books that sold for $1.00 each on calls. They were the first call books that we had turned out and these went like hotcakes. They would fit into your pocket – they were about 10 inches tall by about 3 inches wide and they were the first of our publications. In time we branched out – we began putting other books together. So many callers that were doing the classes and things like that had little time and all they had to teach to tell the dancers much about square dancing so we turned out an indoctrination handbook which told a little bit about the history – a little bit about what calls are for – that you don’t use all of the different calls all the time but they are there on the shelf if you want to – it’s like a pantry deal – you can select – you can do a little bit on the history and the points of being a good dancer, a good listener and that is still selling today.
Eventually, working with Dorothy Shaw we were fortunate enough to put out a history of square dancing that included the family tree of the activity and traced it to the Morris dances up to the present time. That book which is now handled by the Lloyd Shaw Foundation continues to sell and be a source of information that it not available in other places. Eventually, when we came to it and people began to hone in on basics we turned out a Basic Movement Handbook which was not a very large book but it was the same size –page size as the magazine and appeared first as the center section of the magazine and then began to repeat and I would (not) be exaggerating to say that we printed over two million of those separately in maybe 50 different additions. We eventually got an Extended Basics and then Mainstream and then a Plus. I think Plus was as high as we went. But those things – when we printed them in the center of the magazine they form a whole segment that was more or less printed by itself and was just part of several segments.
But when we did it we just had the press keep running and it might run 100,000 additional copies which allowed us to sell the books for a dime apiece. They rose to a dollar which is what I think they are now. We had that advantage. OK – in the years that followed our first Assilomar – our first Lloyd Shaw experience – and seeing the fun that we had and then going back again – we went in 1947, ’48, ’49 and ’50 and I’m not sure how many of them but we got the idea that we had so much fun that why couldn’t something be done like this for dancers. People in the clubs and classes that we taught were taught the way we had learned at Shaws and we kind of had the feeling that many generations moved away from Shaw’s classes and some of us were now teaching classes and were not maybe doing all the things that we did that we did with our classes which we thought were important like how to dance – dancing smoothly and the fun of after parties and the fun of couple dancing mixing with it in contras and the whole ball of wax.
So, in my college years when I first met square dancing in 1938 I decided that maybe we should look into Asilomar. We went up there and talked with the people and decided that in 1951 we would have the first dancer weekend vacation. Now it turned out it wasn’t the first. There were others that Ralph Piper and some of the other people had done with the New England Caller. Some of the eastern areas had them but in the west it would be a new experience for us. We didn’t have any guidelines to go by but knew that it was going to be important to have a good well rounded faculty and unlike Shaw’s situation for callers ours was going to be a staff situation with callers from different areas that could give a broad aspect of square dancing and round dancing.
BB – Excuse me Bob. Would you describe Asilomar as a school, a college, a convention center?
BO – Asilomar I think was originated in 1909 as a facility for the YWCA and was used – oh, I forget the kind of camps they used to have that my mother used to talk about. They used to bring in entertainers and things from all over that used these facilities and the YWCA would use them for summer camps. It was largely a tent city in the summer where YWCA leaders would come and train. In about 1910 or a little bit after that leading architect who did the buildings for Herst Castle – and I’ll think of her name later too – she designed several of the major buildings – Merrill Hall, the Crocker Dining Hall. the Chapel and the building where the – the Administration Building. Then there were class rooms built so it was geared up for the kind of thing where you could have any kind of a meeting business or educational or anything like that. It happened to be just perfect for us because it had the large auditorium and then it had meeting rooms that we could have classes in for anybody that wanted to talk about square dancing. It’s location was in mid-California right at Monterey, in from Salinas, right at the north end of the 17 mile drive and some of the most beautiful ocean shore line I’ve ever seen.
BB – And you mentioned Pebble Beach.
BO – Right north of Pebble Beach Golf Course. In our early sessions we used to go over sometimes and watch Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and some of the ones that they – because I think it was in February that they had their big – they had some of the big matches then so a lot of the illustrious people were there. But this is what Asilomar was and we made arrangements to – for, I think 150 or something people and including all the meals and all the housing and everything – it was not expensive but it was good. It was top notch and the YWCA ran it. Our first session we were very concerned how to do this because we knew that when we came into one of our clubs or classes the people were already friendly but we were getting reservations to come to this because we announced it the magazine not only from California but from Oregon and Washington and Canada. We knew we would have one problem in getting these people friendly with each other. Well, we spent time figuring out mixers and everything else but we didn’t really – we really didn’t have to worry – they took care of themselves. Before we could do anything the people were going around saying, “ My name is Smith or Jones or whatever” so we were off to a good start. We had friends of our – part of our club – Chuck Jones and so many of the old timers were part of this and we just set up the camp in the way that we figured might work and that we could change it later if it went the first time we might have another one. We had – we had the first thing in the morning after breakfast we had one hour in which we taught styling so we got them off the boards dancing smoothly and that reflecting during the whole balance of the day. I’ve got to admit that I don’t know what I would have done if we hadn’t had Shaw’s background in that because this made them feel sort of proud in dancing. They weren’t just getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘C’ they were doing it and enjoying their route as they went.
BB – Right. Who was your first staff there …
BO – I was hoping you wouldn’t ask. I try to remember. Jonesy, Raymond Smith, Arnie Kronenberger, Ralph Maxheimer on rounds – ahhh – I was on it too. If I think of others I’ll mention it but it was a very popular staff for the day. They all had followings. I think we had 180 people for that first session. It was – the first of anything is the greatest. I know you know that. When you start a beginner class that first night is great fun. When you go on a trip or something the first trip is fun. Well, this first Asilomar we didn’t know what to expect and we got it but it was fun. We did lots and lots of things that became a permanent part. After Asilomar it became a regular thing. By the second year we were doing two summer sessions and a few years later we were two sessions in the summer and one in the winter and a mid-winter weekend. Eventually down the line it all boiled down to one winter weekend and a winter week-long. Those camps are still going with Frank Lane. We stopped them in the 1980’s after doing them for almost 40 years. So that session of our life was over. In 19 – we were doing so many things at that time – but interesting things were happening. Ed Gilmore was one of our fun people to get together with and there were so many wonderful personalities out there. I know I’ll be thinking after this tape a slew of ones that I would like to have added. I’ll just say that they were all very inspiring and a very big part of the importance of growth of square dancing. Ed Gilmore was something else. He was a tremendous leader. He had a knowledge of the activity that was very special. I think he started at Lloyd Shaw’s about 1948 and then attended quite a few. He taught some if the great caller’s schools that were held and he held them all over the country. He traveled – I think he was on the road a good part of the time although he managed somehow to keep his home club going because he wanted to be known as a club – home club caller because it was important that callers maintained continual input of new dancers and well trained ones.
BB – Wasn’t that what, the Yucaipa Twisters.
BO – The Yucaipa Twister was one of his calls and the Yucaipa Square Dance Club was one of the oldest clubs that he actually created in the area. Ed’s great hobby, in addition to square dancing was bowling. He was quite good. His business before becoming full time calling and teaching was a paint store he ran in Yucaipa but in thinking of him and his teaching at the different sessions he did many of them in connection with weekends by him and Al Brundage and a number of the other top leaders across the country and in the east. He would travel back to some of the same areas each year to teach new callers and also to pick up some of those who had been in previous ones and sort of give them an update – see how they were doing and help them. I forget – it was 1971 and he was doing his sessions – his tour and he got into – and I’m probably going to be wrong in this – I was going to say Montana but it could be another state and I can’t remember the city right off but he was scheduled to do a caller’s school and the enrollment was all full and he had to go to the hospital to get something checked up. All the callers who were scheduled came and sat in the waiting room and one couple at a time came in and he instructed them. Then, they went out and another couple came in. He was only allowed two visitors at a time. Within a week after that he had passed away. Ed Gilmore is a whole tape in itself and if there’s time before we’re done I’ll tell you a couple other great things about Ed. The National Convention – Ed was certainly a key of it and he would like to be thought of as one of the keys. One of his dancers, Carl Anderson and one of his caller colleagues up in the Yucaipa area, Bauhman (?) – I’ll think about Bauhman’s first name in a minute. Anyway, the three of them called me one time and wanted to come up to the office and this was just a year after we had had the Diamond Jubilee and they said, “ One thing that is happening” – not the Diamond Jubilee the year after – let’s see, when did it come in – we hadn’t had the Diamond Jubilee yet – …
BB – Not on the tape, no.
BO – … you, listening to the tape we’ll come back to the Diamond Jubilee – but at this point – well, I’d better go back to the Diamond Jubilee. Leave this on the tape because I’ve said that much anyway. In 1950 after Asilomar had gone for a year and was going well and all these other things were going great guns I was doing a lot of travel calling in addition to putting out the magazine and doing classes and all the great things that were going on at that time. I happened to hit – I don’t remember what city in Texas it was at a square dance that had – claimed to have 2000 people dancing at it. It was a huge crowd – it was a huge event. Many things stood out to me as being very special but that was the largest dance I’d ever seen and the largest one I’d ever heard of. So anyway, when I came back to California I got a call one day from the Chamber of Commerce – the Junior Chamber of Commerce in Santa Monica and the guy introduced himself and he said, “ Can you tell me what the largest square dance ever held was?” and I said, “ Well, I don’t really know but what I’ve heard of through the magazine and what I’ve seen I think about 2000 would be about the largest.” He said, “ Well, what would you think would be the most feasible thing of having a square dance that would be the world’s largest.” I said, “Well, probably anything over that – maybe 3000 if you could have that.” They said, “ Well, we’re interested.” and I said,’“ Well, how large a place do you have?” He said – I forget what he said then but he said, “If you’ll come down to Santa Monica we’ll show you.” That was the essentially it. So, I went down and met him in the – we walked down onto Wilshire Boulevard and he said, “ We want to hold it right here on Wilshire Boulevard.” Well, Wilshire is a street that runs about 18 miles from Los Angeles west to the ocean and it ends at Ocean Avenue. He said, “ What we would like to do is to take four blocks on Wilshire heading east and two blocks forming a ‘T’ on Ocean Avenue where it ends and set the band stand right at the top there – the top of the ‘T’ looking right down Wilshire and have dancer there and I said, “ Well, it’s a good idea but you know, you can’t dance on this surface. It’s all ruts and on Ocean Avenue it’s street car tracks.” He said, “ That’s all right. We’ll fill all the holes, we’ll take out the streetcar tracks, we’ll repave the street and we’ll go for it. Would you be willing?” We said, “ We’ll give it a try. When do you want to do it?” Well, I think they wanted to do it in something like 4 or 5 months from then. Well, at that time there had been no national conventions yet so we didn’t have any forerunner, anything to go by. This is the first mammoth outside dance. We had danced outdoors in parks lie Acatia (?) Park in Colorado Springs but this was going to be on a street.
BB – Yeah, you’ve got an amplification problem there too.
BO – We’ve got amplification – we’ve got lighting – what are you going to do with crowds – where are they going to park their cars? When we began asking these questions and they said – they started out by saying, “ Well, we’ll repave the street – we’ll put up this band stand – we’ll get the local anti-aircraft battery still stationed here to furnish the lighting – we’ll go to the studios – we’ll get them to set up the speakers – we’ll bring in portable rest rooms and put them around – we will bring in bleachers for any people that don’t dance and want to see it – we’ll block off all the public parking – we will have posters all over the residential area – no parking between noon and midnight of that day – no parking of residents unless you have a square dance sticker on your windshield. What else did they do? I know that they said, “ You’re going to need music. What will we do?” and we realized at that time that we were getting so many square dance groups that we were surpassing the number of live musicians by far so we were using records – but the records – anything as large as 4000 or 3000 or whatever they hoped to get wouldn’t really be suitable and we said, “ We should have live music” and they said, “ OK, you name it and we’ll get it.” We said, “ OK, we’ve got two good large square dance bands. Lets have them and we’ll have them alternate.” And they said, “ Fine,” and they said, “ Who would you select to call this?” We had about 200 callers by that time and we said, “ Well, why don’t we figure out how many can get in and then have the callers in the area themselves select the ones who will call” Well, it turned out – I think it was 35 that we could get into a 3 ½ hour program so, that we decided on. We had the two bands – the two top bands we got signed up and the 35 callers and we said, “ What about promotion? It will take a lot of that.” and they said, “ Well, we’ll handle all the newspaper, radio” – television wasn’t that big then – but if there was going to be any video they would handle that- “ if you will handle the square dancer deal we would like to have square dancers throughout the state come. How can we get them?”
I said, “ At this point in time we now have six associations and I can call them all or I can write them a letter but what would be great if we could get all the leaders – the Presidents of each association to come down here and see what you’ve got in mind and have you describe this thing and have us tell the people how it’s going to be handled. That would be the best” and he said, “ OK, let’s set a date. We’ll treat them to a lunch at the hotel here and if they can all come down we’ll have them see the whole thing.” Well, the Presidents – not Vice-Presidents or anything – the Presidents all came with their wives and we took them down and showed them where it was going to be held – how it was going to be handled – the Police Chief was there and he said, “ Bob has told you that square dancers don’t need supervising but it has been our experience when we have anything that’s large we’ve got to have a lot of security so we have asked the police departments of each of the six cities going down south down the coast if we can get a team from each one of them to take care of the rowdies and the pickpockets and all those bad things that happen” and I think they thought – the dancers felt the same thing – you’re not going to need them but that’s fine. So anyway, they said, “ OK, we’ve got the sound, we’ve got the music, we’ve got the lights, we’ve got the street fixed, what else can we do make that street even smoother” because asphalt and we told them that the girls wore mostly ballet slippers at that time and dancing one hour on that pavement would just wear through shoes and they said, “ What can we do in addition?” and we said, “ OK, why don’t you let us get powdered talc – powdered soap stone which is called “Spangles” – order that by the bag and we’ll get our dancers in the afternoon – a crew of them – to sweep them on the street if you can get us the street brooms and then – let’s see, that wasn’t “Spangles” that was powdered Borax – “Spangles” was a Borax product – “Spangles” – that was “Spangles” but also the rubber little ball bearings that come from the treading – the re-treading of tires…
BB – Right
BO – … that poured on top of it spread out that would make a pretty good surface. They said, “ OK, we’ll take care of that if you can help us spread it” and they said, “ OK. now we’ve got California dancers, we’ve got all these things happening, you’re handling the publicity in your magazine, we’ve got publicity all scheduled from ours what can we do to really be the crowning touch?” We said, “ OK. if you really want to go for it bring Lloyd Shaw in.” They said, “OK, we’ll do it.” We sent an invitation and within six days we had the OK back. Shaw would be here. In addition, the governor of the state – future Supreme Court Justice said he would be here. He could come and he could drop in for ten minutes, wave and then go. Andy Devine said he would be there. Life Magazine said they would cover it so we were off and running. That takes us up June 13th – whatever the date was – that took us up to the day of it . Shaw arrived a day early. We had a big banquet for him in one of the big main beach clubs and the callers were there. The lights were tested out, the batteries were all set up, the speakers were all set up and we were – teams were made up of our people and the team that was responsible for the lighting checked that and the team for the sound system checked that out.
BB – Yeah, the lighting – the sound was held to the palm trees?
BO – We hung the speakers from all the palm trees which were on each side of Wilshire Boulevard for four blocks and each side of Ocean Avenue on each side.
BB – What king of an amplifier did you have to drive –
BO – They had a mammoth portable studio arrangement that I have no idea. All I will say in looking back it was perfect sound. We never had one complaint. So anywho, we were ready. At noon our workers started coming in. We had, in addition to police we had some of our people that were monitors. Everybody – every square dancer had been given markers for their cars – tags and stuff like that so the street committee they were there – there were a lot of people that were going to spread the stuff on and this was all done in early afternoon. Wilshire Boulevard was closed at noon. That’s the busiest boulevard I think in California. The bleachers were all set up and everything was ready and along about – the thing was to start at 7:00 I think it was – 7:30 and along about 6:00 or a little bit after the fog began to settle in.
BB – Chuckles.
BO – It wasn’t unusual. There wasn’t anything we could do about it. If people couldn’t see each other that was the way it was. We’ve had fogs come in late in the afternoon and clear out so we thought, “ No worry”. The dancers began to gather. The Drum and bugle Corps – no, it was just a flag, flag – what do you call them – color guard…
BB – Color guard, right.
BO – … came – I guess Boy Scouts and American Legion and we had a whole troop of Santa Monica Boy Scouts all geared up with American flags and they would race out wherever a couple was needed in the square so we didn’t have to keep calling for extra people. And incidentally, in the pre-planning the program was set a full two months ahead. The callers had been selected and when we selected the dances through what they wanted and then that whole program – 35 callers – 35 calls – were circulated to all the callers in the area so they called all those dances over a period of two months so there didn’t have to be a single walk-through in the whole deal which worked out well. It came 7:30 when it was to start – right at that time, just as the Drum and Bugle Corps was coming down and the two bands playing together – a Sousa March – the fog lifted and the people who had already started getting sets left room – an alley for the Drum and Bugle Corps to come down – we did the Stars Spangles Banner and we did Sets In Order and we started. Looking out there and seeing this maze of people out there was you know – I’m used to seeing six squares or maybe twenty at one of our classes or whatever it was at different places but here, looking way down – looking this way – I was at the head of that cross – long laugh – and the first caller was Ray Shaw – I forget what he called but it was spontaneous electricity. The thing went well. The bleachers were full. The place was full of dancers and as they started that first dance a big cloud of white smoke went up from the powder that was on the ground – both laugh. People to this day still say that they’re washing off white powder with the talc. Well that settled down in about ten minutes. The problem – and surface worked very well. The dance was off and running. We were right on schedule. On the callers stand we had three lights – a white a green and a red. One went on when they called one minute, one went on when it was two minutes, the red went on and flashed when it was time for the guy to finish. We threatened to have the floor open and he’d drop through if he passed that. The long and short of it was at the end of the program we were 30 seconds over…
BB – Is that right?
BO – … it was that close for all of them. At 8:00 down there on Wilshire Boulevard – looking down – red lights – about 15 or 20 motorcycle cops…
BB – I’ll be damned.
BO – … and a white convertible coming down toward the stand. The dancers all moved out of the way and all surround it and I – I’ve forgotten exactly but I figured every time I’d see it I’d tell it different – I would say it took close to 15 minutes for that convertible to go 4 blocks. The dancers were swarming it and shaking hands with Shaw. They had seen him or had heard about his performance two years before. All of the callers that were there knew about Shaw. Many of the callers had taken the summer school (?) so he was the hero and he should be. Well, he finally got up to the stand. He got up and was introduced and he said a couple of words and then he was co-MC with me for the rest of the evening and the program went on. No hitches anywhere and about a half an hour later lights went on and the sirens and everything – here comes the Governor of the state and he comes up. By that time a couple of the movie people had come – Andy Devine couldn’t make it and Time magazine – or Life magazine couldn’t make it but the Governor got up on the stage and we said, “ Now the Governor of the State” and this guy – he got up to the microphone and he says, “ I’m not about the ruin and absolutely fantastic event with a lousy speech. Thank you for coming.” He didn’t stay ten minutes. He stayed the whole evening. His whole family was with him. Big sigh – shut it off will you? We’re talking about the mid-1960 leadership – Caller leadership Session at UCLA. The leader that was chosen that we accepted was suggested by the University was Ether Shindlen – Ether Shinder Raven (?) who did a great deal of work with labor unions and with state conferences of teaching people how to get along with each other – and I forget the other criteria for which he was perfect for us. It was our first experience for many of us in having mini –sessions – having a whole group of 100 or so breaking into small sessions and tackle the same problem and then come back. We did learn an awful lot that was helpful to us at that session and we got good feedback and decided that we would have another one again the next year. We did – it was not as large – it did not have the pull of having the national convention at the same place but some our callers at the 60 – at the first session gave papers. We did have debates and had many things that did provide us with some very good direction. We had other things for callers – some for local callers about that same time. One had an athletic club downtown where callers were all invited to come and dress up and wear coat and tie and we had a speaker from the Dale Carnegie Course. That was a powerhouse but we were learning from these different – from Steamboat Springs, from UCLA, from the local caller’s things but it was needed in the way of having a caller’s group that was – that put the callers in a position not just of leadership but of continual training. In the ‘50’s we started a recognition program which had been going on now for – let’s see this – 20 years maybe and we called it the Square Dance Hall of Fame. The first person indoctrinated was Lloyd Shaw. There was Gilmore and quite a few of the ones had been indoctrinated up to that point. When the group of us got together after the last of the other meetings Van – let’s see – Helsel, VanAntwerp, Kronenberger and I met up in our office and we said, “ why don’t we try getting together a group of people and see if we could begin the start of something that was needed and that would be a caller’s organization. We knew that if we wanted to get anybody to follow us that we should start out with the top – the top known people in the business. So we listed our list of 14 or 15 who were members of the Square Dance Hall of Fame and we said, “ OK, here is a group that can start such a thing.” So we set a date and the American Square Dance Society paid for everybody who could get to the meeting at Asilomar in February of 1971 and we told everybody that this was going to be an Honors Meeting for those people who are in the Hall of Fame so that we can recognize you openly and not just through mail. Well, out of the fourteen entrants or whatever it was eleven could come. They came from all over the country. We started with a session in the afternoon just saying, you know we’re here, we’d like to discuss several things including the possibility the need of starting a type of group that might be helpful to the rest of the callers in the world and tonight we’re going to have a banquet. Joe Lewis is going to be the Master of Ceremonies and we’re going to have a roast. We had brought all the old paintings from the Hall of Fame and they were all in the dining hall and just the eleven of us had a great dinner. Joe Lewis then took off on a lot of the members and by the end of that dinner we were a pretty laughing, good friendly group. I think we were geared up for anything that might happen. The next morning we got together and we told the people we had eight points from which, if the group agreed – eight or nine it was – that we might have reason to form an organization. Each one was given copies of these eight or nine. We all signed them and that was the beginning. These were the nine points and we said , “ OK. What do we call ourselves?” and I think it was Kronenberger that said, “ Let’s call ourselves Callerlab.” That was the beginning and we had several bullet meetings and out of it, by the time we left – no meetings were drawn out but we did sit down and talk about what the needs were. We decided to meet again that summer at the same place – at Asilomar and that each one of the eleven of us could invite one other person that we felt had the qualifications in what we were looking for in the beginning and that would be as far as we were planning at that moment we take further times when we met in the summer. We, of the three who couldn’t come, LeClair and Armstrong and – I forget who the other one was invited and couldn’t make it – they were automatically in if they came they wouldn’t have to get one of these invitations. Summer – between then and the summer our little group worked like mad – they were all given assignments and stuff for a callers school event. Things were different things that we could unify, in other words all caller’s associations had posed the message but we took all that we had and tried to combine them into one that we thought everybody would go along with. By the time summer came and each we had each invited others – I think that they – I forget what the counts are but we picked up another bunch. Then we had the next meeting in February of ‘72 and another bunch were added. At no time was everybody able to come but the group became – it grew and we able to say that each one of the people that is a member had attended once. By 1973 the group was kind of split on whether to continue the slow growth invitation one-for-one or whether we should stop fooling around and really get to the heart of it and open it up – not get away from the one-for-one but really have a convention – maybe have each person who is a member invite three or four. So the first – it was about – I thought maybe we needed to grow a little bit quietly before we extended it but we had our first session. I think it was in ’74 and I think we had around 200. Arnie Kronenberger had been our interim chairman and all of the people that made up the members up to the end of ’93 (’73?) were our Board of Governors and we had elected Jim Mayo as our first President and so, with that we went into our first meeting. Now, a lot of this is repetition but there’s a lot on the formation of Callerlab in the issues of Sets In Order but also in the recent issues of American Square Dance. So, to avoid retelling the story over and over I would prefer referring you to that.
As Callerlab was being formed the – several of us were thinking about the picture as a whole and then – square dancing was painted a jigsaw puzzle – something like thirteen or fourteen pieces that fit in. It wasn’t until all these pieces were fit in that you made the full picture of square dancing. There were caller’s groups, dancer’s groups, there were suppliers that produced the records and the books and stuff like that and there were the Lloyd Shaw Foundation, American Square Dance Society. The main moving deals were all part of it and we thought of all of square dancing as it might be if it were a corporation and the corporation had a product. This product was square dancing. We had – a corporation like that needed a sales department, it needed a parts department, it needed a training department – it needed all these things. Well, all these units put together would be the complete thing and everybody working with everybody else – every – for instance the department called National Convention was our showcase for our activity. The department called Callerlab was the stimulator for all the local area caller’s associations. The same thing – or everything that existed at that time. The thought was because many of these groups were organized – Callerlab was organized – just recently Roundalab was in the process of being organized – the suppliers of square dance goods had officers and were organized and they all had things to do. Publications were not necessarily organized but they got together at the national conventions on a regular basis and saw the advantage of working together. Maybe working together they could be more solidified. So you said if there is any way we could bring the Presidents of each one of these – the Chairman or the top dog of each one of these segments together and sit down and work out a program that would more or less impress upon the them the importance of what the activity as a whole – how it fit with what they were doing. Then maybe we could match what we were doing a year or two after Callerlab was started. In importance Callerlab would be one of the record ones represented in this. I got together with Stan Burdick and Charlie Baldwin, the three of us who had the largest circulation of publications, felt we were probably in the best position to sell an idea like this. So, we had our first meeting in about two years or so after the first Callerlab meeting and every one of the groups that we mentioned showed up. The idea was that each one of these would be a trustee in the organization called Legacy. That was the way Legacy started. So, now we had a callers organization and these other organizations were beginning to work and, more and more we were trying to work ourselves out of the magazine publishing deal because we didn’t want to be in that position other than maybe for a few years of passing along what was happening. We didn’t want to be thought of as directing or outlining for the other people. We could see down the line a ways that we would retire – pull our magazine out – as long as all these other things were fitting in. Well, lots has happened since then. That was the theory – we had all these different groups now organized and – Tape clicks off. An interesting thing was that from the forming of Legacy and the other things a lot of our plans were out of the way and it was just a case of carrying on with what we’d been doing with Asilomar and with the magazine and with the tours but pretty soon along about 1983 or ’84 we could see that if we – if we ever really wanted to retire we ought to plan about it then. It was a good time for us in many ways but in 1985 we announced early in the game that by the time we hit the December issue we were going to close the magazine. We were not going to sell it anybody that, I probably mentioned a number of times would be kind of like letting go a child and putting a child of yours up for adoption. We just thought it would be better just to fold it. We made an arrangement with Stan and Kathy Burdick for them to take over the unfulfilled subscription list in exchange for taking out entire mailing list and hoping as we did that they would convert a lot of the people to be their subscribers. So, the last three issues of the magazine were – concentrated on our final statements and things that we wanted to say at the end about the different projects and then we just closed with the December issue.
BB – Well Bob I know that Sets In Order and the American Square Dance Society were very big in the recording business and I’d like to hear more about that.
BO – Well Robert, being an old timer yourself you know how scarce records were in the early days and that’s why we almost all depended upon live music. There were only a few record companies. Some of the major labels like Capitol and Victor and Decca and some of those produced a few records but it was up to the square dance industry itself to put some out and Sets In Order started a label probably in the late ‘40’s and we put out quite a number of records and they were pretty good. They were patter calls and singing call background music and round dance music and a few specials like radio special announcements that people could use on the local radio channels if they wanted. We had quite a few different things that worked out well that were good experience – first in 78 – those large ten inch records and eventually into the thirty-three and a thirds. We did a couple of other unusuals. I don’t remember the name of the record company but if you remember the old Jack Benny shows when Mr. Kitcell (?) was on he was a pickle in the middle at one time.
BB – Right
BO – The record company had a contract with him and they wanted to put out two sides of a record of him calling a square dance. So, I wrote a square dance with patter that would fit his type of call for each side. I remember ‘Life On The Ocean Wave’ was one. He did a very interesting job. I – somewhere I’ve got the record and I forget what the other one was. Perhaps the grapevine was working for Capitol Records. I had been called in for an interview and talked to them and they had no records – I don’t think – maybe they had some with Cliffie Stone and that but they wanted to have a program and asked me if I would handle it. So I took on doing a number of music only hoedowns and supervising packaging a few of their round dances and singing calls and then bringing in Herb Greggerson, Paul Phillips and Raymond Smith at different times to record typical dances from their areas. That was fun too. An interesting thing about the early records on Sets In Order and Capital. We didn’t have the background knowledge or had tried recording the music only and then letting the caller work with it a while and then going in to the studio and using the tapes – just record over them. We did all that stuff live and I remember one of the early records with Ed Gilmore and Jim York and I it took me eighteen takes with live music and the bass fiddler’s fingers bleeding to get one of the sides done and that was a session that took I think about six hours. We learned it. In Capital we had – we used live dancers too and I think we used four squares of dancers and live music at the same time. We were fortunate, the guys had studied it pretty well and were ready and I don’t think we had too many takes. They danced and then were fed – Capital Records put on a good chow for them and it was fun. It was real good. So that’s (?) experience on records.
BB – Well then you did a lot of promo – you know, long playing things – the premium records is what I’m trying to say.
BO – Right. One of the things Bob that we found at early in the game that not only helped our circulation but boosted the morale of callers and other people and teachers and – but it also made good reading in the magazine. We started out by doing a Caller-of-the-Month every month by honoring a different caller. Then we did the same with round dance leaders and eventually we did some with dancers that were unusual and that we spot lighted and this was our way of sort of publicizing the names and photographs of a lot of the people who were the hard workers. Then we began to see the value of having articles written by other people on their viewpoints and on special deals. We had so much talent out there. It just had to be tapped and I think there wasn’t a caller that we asked if he’d do a column who didn’t do it for us. So, in that way we publicized a lot of the individuals who may have benefited from the publicity but we certainly benefited in the magazine from what they had to say. In that same line, we had the Hall of Fame or we could spot light outstanding leaders in the field. In addition we did a – we got a special type of award which we called ‘The Silver Spur’ which was not just to callers and round dance people but it went to many people who for their contributions in a special way that differed from the Sil – Mile – chuckles – Hall of Fame.
BB – Right.
BO – It’s easy for you to say. Then we decided that among the things – the articles we had – Sets In Order was becoming an ongoing history of the square dance activity. In addition to spotlighting the various people and their viewpoints we were sort of an ongoing record. So at anytime in the magazine you would find what was being called and who was writing the calls and things of that nature. Then we decided to go one step further and we’d get a number of the callers who were well known caller-leaders in the field and ask them to do one tip. We would usually furnish our music for background and they would go into a studio or do it for their own tape recorder and they would send us a call that we would use and each year we would have patter calls that were typical of that particular point in time. So, you look back on these records and you would see just exactly how the caller sounded, what music they were using and the tempo that was being used and things of that nature. When we put these things together they were also a promotion piece for the magazine and in order to have a high re-subscription renewal rate we would offer these records free when people sent in a subscription. So many of these over the years were not – you couldn’t buy them but they were given out as premiums. We also put out hoedown records using our hoedown music that we would give to callers who sent in subscriptions. So it was good because they’re out there now and people who have them can look back and trace the history in sound just as they can trace it in writing in the magazine itself.
BB – All right. Well, getting back to Silver Spurs just for a moment. I think there were twenty five recipients of the Silver Spur Award. That covered quite a span of years – 1956 to 1985 I have down in my notes. There seems to be as I look through the order in which they were presented a fairly long gap between one and another perhaps. Any particular reason for that?
BO – Well, it was when a person came to notice. Maybe somebody sent us information on a person who was doing an outstanding job or maybe we just ran across it ourselves but I don’t know any other reason why they were spaced out like they were except we may just have come across worthy recipients. Since ’85 we’ve given several others. To Nita Page for pioneering American square dancing on mainland China and several others. Doc and Peg Tirrell got it not long ago for the work they were doing in the round dance field and in other fields just out of the goodness of their hearts for years and years of dedication. And I know that there are others but those two I think of and we still, both with the Hall of Fame and with Silver Spur we are still are in a position where there may be other people. We’ve held up a little bit on honoring people because both Legacy and the – and Callerlab have their own awards and we’re trying to avoid duplication and taking the steam away from them.
BB – Sure. Well, there’s one other subject I want to cover with you Bob. I know that you’re a philatelist…
BO – Laughs.
BB – …and you spend a great deal of time trying to get square dancing on a stamp and you’re quite a collector yourself as a matter of fact.
BO – Yeah. My dad was a collector and I inherited his enthusiasm for it plus his collection and staying with it. One of the things that was fun for me as a collector was to find that in having the publication with a 25,000 average circulation that a lot of our subscribers were from overseas.
I think we at one time had fifty countries represented in our subscription list. So that was stamps and a number of times people in different countries – I can think of Australia being one and England another and Canada yet another where people were stamp collectors who would send me new issues as they came out. So that was quite an incentive. Early in the game, after watching everything under the sun being honored by our postal department including chickens and truck drivers and …
BB – Actors.
BO – … yeah, actors and so many things that we felt were that’s fine but we couldn’t see square dancing being left out of it. So, a number of organizations – dancer associations and things like that started getting the word out – let’s get petitions in to the Postmaster General and the department or the committee in charge of selecting subjects for postage stamps or commemorative stamps. We picked it up then and publicized it in the magazine – sort of not really shamed our postal service for honoring all these other things but noting that any number of countries like the Philippines and some of these other countries – Stan Burdick has a great collection of dancing on stamps but if these countries could all have stamps on dancing why couldn’t we have our dance on stamps. So we, over a period of time – I understand there were several hundred thousand signatures sent to the committee and eventually we were notified that we would have a stamp and on April 26, 1978 at Lincoln Library at Lincoln Center in New York the square dance stamp, along with stamps with other dances – ballet, ballroom and tap I think they were or show tunes or whatever it was. They came out with the four different stamps and Becky and I had the fun of going back there when the thing was presented and we had the opportunity to be given the binder that went to square dancing for – sort of in celebration of the thing. It was quite fun. Anyway, that’s why the stamp – Continuing on with the – in retrospect – looking back at the things that have happened to me and the things that have been funny and the things that have been important I think one of the significant experiences was being called by – to come to UCLA by the folks who were leading a group there in preparing Peace Corps volunteers to go overseas. When I went over there we got into a conversation. Their idea was that no matter what they teach them, what different skills and everything else that if they could offer them something in the way of American folklore or something that would be truly American – not necessarily current day but something that they could relate – it might be a good – I was going to say public relations tool but a good tool to use. So I was asked to come and do several sessions with a group of Peace Corps volunteers. I worked out a program – I found them exceedingly interested in – perhaps it was just because it was getting away from sitting down and listening to lectures. We did some very simple squares and simple circle dances and a couple dance or two and things that could be done simply by pulling (?) or just doing so that people would copy. It didn’t need a lot of language and I furnished written instructions in a very simple form to be handed out to all the volunteers. It was very successful that particular session with them and also in hearing back at some time later in some of the reports they got from the volunteers that these things had come in handy. That – in one place and I don’t know what country it was but I think it was South America that the volunteer got up and did something that he had learned from us in dance and that some of the people that were in that country – that belonged in that country – got up and they did a dance and they began exchanging dances just on the spot and that seemed to me to be the kind of thing that maybe ere looking for and it was fun.
Every once in a while I will see notices – advice to Angels to come you know and help with the new beginners. I may be one of the rare ones who doesn’t particularly like to have Angels.
Angels sometimes tend to be teachers and I found that I could do – if I had a fairly large class and that there were times where some of the dancers had to sit out – some of the classmates – that if I had three – let’s see – three and a half couples – seven people that could – if I’m saying that right – there never would be a class member that had to sit out but the Angels would only dance if they were needed to make it so that one of the class members would not miss out in the dancing. The reason I brought that up _ I think one of the great experiences too that I had – and this was quite a number of years ago – was to call in and teach and call for the blind. Now, there had been – some were being done and in the first session that I attended and called for and taught there were a few sighted helpers. I soon began to notice that the only real problems were the helpers – the sighted helpers were leading the blind people the wrong direction – that it was up to the teacher – it would be up to me if I was going to work with the blind to carefully think exactly what words I wanted to use so that the blind could follow me. I didn’t want to throw them and I didn’t want to be vague in what I said but when it came right down to it the blind people were exceptionally alert – turn right – turn left – go forward a step – go back a step – stop – whatever it was. They trusted me and so I got by – I think I had one person that helped and I called that person an untangler which is simply when two blind people met and they didn’t know exactly which way each one should go my untangler would be there to help. That was – that was just one of the experiences. Those of you who know me know that I wear an eye patch. This is the result of an experience during the war and I’ve gotten very used to it and it would seem strange without it. It’s very easy for people to recognize me. As a matter of fact, a year ago I went to a Legacy convention in Arkansas and afterwards a couple of friends from our area who had moved back to Arkansas picked me up and took me out to one of the Civil War battlefields in the area. It was the middle of the week. There were very few people – I think there were one or two cars in the parking lot. There was a lady sitting on the bench and outside of that nobody and we were walking up to the ranger station which was typical of all the battlefield monuments where they would be to answer questions and as I passed the bench where the lady was she said, “ Well, hello Bob. How’s contra dancing going?” I looked and she said, “ You don’t recognize me” but she said, “ I can’t miss you. You taught our group in Oxnard, California contras twice.” And she said, “ What a nice way to have you come out and greet us here in Arkansas. We just moved here.” One of the advantages – an interesting thing – one time I was calling a dance somewhere in the mid-west and there was a pretty good turnout and I noticed a couple of young people – maybe just a little bit less than teenagers – they would look up at me and then they would talk to each other. The dance ended, the music stopped and I had an opportunity to hear one of them say to the other, “ There’s nothing wrong with his eye. He just can’t remember the calls and he has them printed in the inside of that patch.
BB – Laughs – Oh dear.
BO – Isn’t that weird? OK, I’m running down these things. In the early days of teaching classes I used to tell the callers – the folks who aspired to be callers who were in the class – right at the beginning – be sure that you are doing this as a result of having talked it over with your partner and that you both agree that this is the route you want to go. I also said, ““Once you become a caller you can never become a dancer again.” I’ve often thought back on that. Eventually, at about that we quit the magazine and stopped a lot of the things I stopped calling. The people that were my real friends were among the dancers so I thought, “ OK. Let’s see if this thing holds” and I became a dancer but the people that I was dancing with were people that had known me all the time so there wasn’t much of a change but when I went to a camp or two or visited a club where I didn’t know anyone and most of the people were maybe two year dancers or something like that I was just another dancer and if I goofed in my dancing – as I am prone to do – that was what they judged me by. Not what I had done thirty, forty or fifty years ago but how well I could handle a square right at that point in time. This last thing – I think among the honors that really mean so much to me – there’s so much that means a lot without them being not necessarily honors but Legacy, the group that I had the opportunity to help form honored me a number of years ago – honored Becky and me with their Heritage Award. That is very special. A real unusual kick in the pants was – a number of years ago our little old high – Beverly Hills High School where, after I had graduated from school, finished the Navy and everything else had invited me to come back and teach square dancing in their adult education classes. After some time of that their alumni awarded me the High School Alumni Hall of Fame Award. With me was Sherman Melenkof who was Dean of the School of Medicine in UCLA, Betty White, the actress – I forget the name of the man who was US Ambassador to Germany – there were a number of deals but to see a square dance caller acknowledged with those other people was very flattering and I count that as a real fun thing to receive.
BB – Well, there’s one other thing I’d like to ask you Bob and I hope to interview this gentleman who is a very prominent American and perhaps best known for his cartooning. That’s Chuck Jones of the Disney clan.
BO – Well he was Disney at one time early in the game. Then it became Warner Brothers where he still is today. Everybody at one time or another has come in touch with Chuck through his cartoons and they know him as being one of the creators of Buggs Bunny but the sole creator of the Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote and …
BB – Peppy LePew.
BO – Peppy LePew was one of his – the skunk and they have noticed in recent months that he got a Life Time Award – an Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He’s been honored around the world in Life Time Achievement Awards for the things that he has done. This is kind of fun for us because most of this stuff – most of the great cartoons and so much of the stuff that is now being recognized was written before we ever knew him and we met him and he became a part of square dancing with us about 1948 – yeah, about 1948 or 1949 and he and his wife, Dotty became Presidents of Rip and Snort and we soon lost the Constitution so we could never get him out of office but we knew that in the years during the war and before that he was the one who created these characters and put out these cartoons – six minute shorts which everybody enjoyed – we acknowledged that we had thought and once in a while we would have a party at the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Theatre which right nearby and he would have a whole evening of his cartoons. That was great but Chuck was a person to us. Chuck was a square dancer and he used to do after parties for our club and we might have six squares that were listening to him and he would draw these things and talk about them and I remember he did the one of the Red Breasted Fly Catcher who was caught with his – had his fly caught. I remem – that didn’t come out quite the way I wanted – but it was very funny. So, these after party deals with out little group – eventually when we started Asilomar he was one of the first ones to sign up and he was very present and he talked to our group of 180 or 200 whatever it was and did some of the same things but with a little larger group and from time to time as square dancing grew and as people began to know that he was a square dancer he would be invited to talk to – at some of the square dance conventions and festivals and things like that Well a year ago Becky and I went to the Hollywood Bowl – there were 17,000 of us in the audience and there was a huge screen up over the music – up over the orchestra shell and they showed Chuck’s cartoons with a full Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra playing the background music and a sound effects man doing the sound. Half way through after we saw about half the pictures Chuck came up on the stage and the Chuck who talked to six squares of us about the bird with his fly caught and the different things at Asilomar about how thin the walls were and about the other things that were so funny and so timely talked to the 17,000 who raved and whooped and hollered – this man who had given so much pleasure. So, in our minds he’s still Chuck, the character. To other people he may be the creator of these people who had given them pleasure. So this is one of the highlights – there are probably in square dancing many, many people who have made fame in other ways than square dancing but we always remember them for the part they filled in one of the squares with us.
BB – Well he also contributed to your magazine too.
BO – Yeah, he did. In our early days we appreciated any help we could get. One time Chuck asked if he could do a cover for us. Imagine Chuck asking if he could do a cover for us. So, absolutely. So he did one and everybody enjoyed it and I appreciated the fact that we had such a cartoonist on our staff. Eventually Chuck said, “ Would you like some of these things that I talk about at the after parties put into a column?” The outcome of that was, “ Of course” and he began doing one every month…
BB – Right.
BO – …and they are funny so if you get any back issues of the magazine going into the 50’s dig them out and read the Chuck Jones parts.
BB – Right. One I told you about earlier in the day that I remembered from his column – I told every square dance class that I ever taught was – back in the old days before deodorants and things like that they used to use a bag full of pine needles and these were used to sweeten the sheets because of the shortage of soap powders and water and washing facilities they didn’t clean – wash the sheets as much as they used to so they used these sweeteners. As the beds got down to a smaller size they found out they didn’t have to use a big bag of pine needles or whatever (??) or whatever they used. They finally came out with the Murphy bed and the Murphy bed evolved into a portable bed which you could roll around on rollers and they found out that they could get away with just about half the size and this was the origin of the call Rollaway With A Half Sashay.
BB – Loud laughter. One of the ones that comes to mind that Chuck did for a crowd of us was the story of – Jerry Tates who was an inventor that not everybody has heard of certainly you folks have heard of – of him – but he was quite famous. He did a number of fantastic conventions but the one he worked on so long was the compass. He had an idea for a compass that went like this. If you look at the North/South Poles that you have on the hands that – the marks on the compass – he just mixed them. He just turned those two around and then on the East/West he traded those two and the in between things he changed them for the benefit of this theory that he had. Well, the thing didn’t really go too well because the idea was ‘He who has a take – he who hesitates is lost’.
BB – All right.
BO – You could have done without that.
BB – All right.
BO – Chuckles
BB – Bob, this has really been great. I know we have spent a lot of time discussing these things and I’m sure probably tomorrow we’ll think of something we wish we had put on the tape. I’m not against coming back some time and filling in the gaps so to speak. One thing I’d like to do while the tape is still fresh is to have a talk with wife Becky.
BO – Becky? Becky who? Why don’t I see if she can do it. It’s only a quarter after six. Let me go get her. Tape shuts off –
BB – So, Becky. First of all let me say thank you very much for your hospitality. Letting me join you folks for a little while. I know you’ve been a very, very integral part of Bob’s life and it’s been a lot of work in a lot of ways and probably trials and tribulations in the past but – all of which need not be necessarily mentioned but tell us about some of your experiences with the magazine, etc.
Becky Osgood – OK. First of all let me say that probably it’s good to be asked at this vantage point because hindsight is always a kinder thing sometimes than when than you’re going through as any family member knows but I started doing what most caller’s wives do and that was working with Bob as far as teaching classes. Of course, I was learning to dance at the same time so it was an interesting right hand/left hand situation and there’s where the beauty of the square dancers come in who were also so wonderful particularly in those early days that I did the normal things that a square dance caller’s wife does as far as teaching classes and handling club duties. We had our own caller run clubs and handling square dancers teaching it. Later on in the prime kind of an equal partnership with the many square dance tours that we did for over twenty years. In addition, of course Bob was still active with his publication, Sets In Order, later known as SquareDancing magazine and I found that I was able to fit in there in a natural adjunct to Bob because of my background in majoring in English in school. So I did not only normal secretarial work for a while but them did a great deal of proofing for the magazine. As a result – I can’t read any square dance publication or any publication today without …
BB – Without proofreading.
BeckyO – … without proofreading. Laughs. Which is not always a kind thing to do but then eventually wrote columns for the magazine from the woman’s viewpoint and from the club viewpoint.
BB – You never into selling necessarily.
BeckyO – Ah, sorry to say I was not. I was always able to find those people who were talented with that and interview them and get them to write articles or to suggest the articles and I could write them for them and they could proof them.
BB – Right. I forgot to ask Bob and you can tell me. He’s not calling at all now.
BeckyO – No. An occasional guest call with contras…
BB – Yes.
BeckyO – … and that’s about it
BB – That’s about it.
BeckyO – He gave that up – he gave his club up a little over a year – year and a half ago.
BB – Well, Becky. Again, thank you so much for your hospitality. Is has been a very interesting learning experience for me and for any of our future folks who might be interested in this tape. So, thanks again. We’ll be seeing you real soon.
BeckyO – You’re welcome. It’s been a real joy having you here.