FRANK LANE INTERVIEW
Bob Brundage: Well, good morning again and this is Bob Brundage. Today I am at Estes Park, Colorado. Beautiful setting in the mountains and I am with Frank Lane. Barbara had to leave a little early this morning but will be back and I might try to get her on tape a little later on. So, Frank, here we are, and I am anxious to find out about your life of square dancing and let’s start by telling us about where you were born and brought up. Take it from there.
Frank Lang: Well, Bob, I was born in Atchisson, Kansas, but only lived there about the
first year and a half or two of my life and moved to St. Joe, Missouri, up the river about 25 miles and grew up and went all through my elementary, secondary, and high school in St. Joe. I was at the age group that Pearl Harbor occurred in my senior year in high school so we rushed out and enlisted in the Air Force. Had to wait to be called into the cadet program so I did start college the following fall and got through the first quarter and then in the second quarter got called into the Air Force and spent the next 3 years or so training in the Air Force and going overseas eventually to the 15th Air Force in Italy. When the war ended, actually when the European war ended, we came back to the States, got 30 days leave to enjoy life and then we were supposed to go to California and pick up B-29s and go to the South Pacific Theater. As I jokingly say, the Japanese heard we were coming so they quit (laughter) but that carries you pretty much through that then I did come back out of the service and went back to the University of Kansas and graduated from the William Allen White School of Journalism in 1948. I went to work for the Hutchinson News Herald a newspaper for the Harris Corporation out of Hutchinson, Kansas. At that time, the first office party we had, our circulation manager there was a full-time square caller, and we got back into square dancing immediately. We worked for the Harris papers for about 5 years. About the end of 1953, I got the wild idea to try square dancing full time as an occupation. Actually, I guess I really had to make a choice. The publisher called me in 1 day and talked to me. He said, 00, you really ought to decide whether you are going to do news papering or square dance call because he says I am afraid square dancing is interfering with your news papering and news papering is probably interfering with your square dancing, and I think he probably thought I would drop square dancing (laughter). Wrong. I decided I would give it a try so we took off at the end of 1953 and went into square dance calling full time and it has been very good to us and we have tried to be good to it.
BB: Yea. Before we get too far away, did you come from a musical family?
FL: No. In fact, I always joke about the fact that I couldn’t make the boys’ glee club so I had to play football, so, which is not entirely true but that is about the truth I really had no, no talent at all. I played the trumpet. It’s hard to call and play the trumpet at the same time.
BB: Yea, hell, I had to the same trouble. (Laugher) But I read in your bio that you were a member of an exhibition group.
FL: Oh, Yea, when we got back into square dancing out of Hutchinson, there is a lot of story there, we got back into it very full, and at that time there were a lot of square dance contests going on sponsored by local Chambers of Commerce and fellow committees, and county fairs and stuff, and actually you could win some pretty good merchandise prizes and, being a young married couple, we could always use new merchandise and money. And, so, there were four couples that I organized into an exhibition group and the same man I mentioned before who was the circulation manager at the newspaper, Bert Ackinson, helped us by calling for us, and I was writing the choreography and the routines and stuff, and we became pretty darned good. We won an awful lot of the contests up through the middle west and became fairly well known and got invited to go out to different places. We would go as far away as, oh, Kansas City and Denver and we, uh, ended up going to Abilene, Texas, to a big festival down there that we were invited to. It was a pretty good bunch. We called them the Sunflower Twisters, and they were not only a nice bunch of kids but good square dancers.
BB: Just four couples?
FL: Well, we later had two more couples as spares because we found that if we were called to do a show and someone was sick or something at the last minute so we actually trained six couples and we all went and we all got to appear. But the original four were still the primary dancers. But the others got their chances to dance too and it worked out real well.
BB: How long did that last?
FL: It lasted until I moved away from Hutch. I, I was at Hutch, Hutchinson for about 3 years and then I got transferred down to a little town of Chinoot, Kansas, to become the advertising manager of a small daily down there, and when I left, the exhibition group dissolved.
BB: Did you do any clogging?
FL: Never have done any clogging at all.
BB: I was thinking of your exhibition group.
FL: No, no it was strictly square dancing and we did some unusual moves, and handles, and twirls and stuff but in general, I tried to keep it pretty straight, and we did have one rule in the group and that was when we went square dancing, in a square dance floor, when we went to appear at a festival, and when we were dancing on the floor with the other dancers we were to use none of the twirls and unusual things that we did in the exhibition. I used to tell them the minute you start using those little twirls they are no longer unusual and then you don’t have them for your exhibition. So I was very proud of the gang that they danced things straight. They danced good styling, and I was very proud of them.
BB: You probably used Venus and Mars.
FL: Oh, we did a lot of Venus and Mars, and California Fruit Baskets, and of course, a lot, out in the middle west the four-hand do-si-do was great with a number of variations. And, the Harlan Rosette, and the Wagon Wheel. All those good old dances.
BB: Yea. Well, we were astounded to find folks in New England (chuckle) first learned about the western do-si-do the way we called it. We found out there is about 500 variations depending on where you are.
FL: Yea. The first time I took this exhibition group down to Abilene, Texas, was the first time we had ever experienced the southwestern do-si-do which was partner left, corner right, partner left, corner right, partner left, corner right, forever, until the caller told you to quit, and we had some long interesting discussions about what do-si-do was before Pappy Shaw resolved the problem a few years later.
BB: Yea, well, I, I think what the do-si ballanet and then there was
FL: Yep, being old westerners we called it do-si ballanet, we didn’t know any better.
BB: Yea, Yea, that’s no problem. So you went calling full time, I see my notes say 1948.
FL: No, no, I started calling in 1948.
BB: No, I mean full time.
FL: But I didn’t start calling full time. I didn’t quit the news papering until the end of ’53.
So I called for about 5 years there. Actually, we were having a discussion about that with Osgood and Herb Egender not long ago because we were talking each of us about how long we had called, and I did not call a full square dance until 1948. I called, I helped write choreography and prompted since 1939 because I had a high school exhibition group that I was just in, there’s a long story there about how we got that going but anyway, there was a high school exhibition group, and I did write the choreography and in that short period of time that I started at college I decided to start a square dance club at college, and we had two meetings before I got called into the Air Force. So I had, I had directed people through choreography a little bit and Herb and Bob and I were talking about that and they said well then you started calling in 1939. And I said, well, I guess maybe I did but I’ve always said 1948 because that was the first time I ever really called a full dance.
BB: Yea. Well, then you’ve had a very close relationship with Asilomar
FL: Yea, oh we’ve, we’ve fallen in love with Asilamar of course. I went there first as a customer, as a dancer at their second year, and I am trying to sit here and think, I think it was 19521 went there.
BB: Who was the staff then?
FL: Oh my goodness, they had more staff than you can dream of. We had, of course, Bob Osgood was running it. We had folk singers, Terry Golden, and what was the Hinton boy’s name from Illinois, then we had round dance teachers, we had Ralph E. Maxheimer, we had Bert and Judy Pasarello, we had such unknown square dance callers as Fenton Jones and Ed Gilmore and Joe Lewis and these guys were all on the staff. We had staff that was wonderful. What tickles me is the paying customers who were there that year. Bob Page, Bruce Johnston, Johnny LeClair, I think Bob and Roberta Van were there, VanAntwerps, Arnie Kronenberger had come up to visit, he, they had two sessions of summer Asilamar, and Arnie was on the other one, he didn’t call then, but he came up and we got to meet him and Jim and Ginny Brooks were there as paying customers who later became real strong leaders up in Washington state. And I am sure I am missing some others. There was T. J. Miller there from Kansas who recorded for Joe Lewis on his J. Bar L label. It was funny because the fellas who were there as paying customers that year, years later were the staff running things and the people who were starting Caller Lab and all that business so it was an interesting group of people.
BB: Manning and Nita were not there then?
FL: Manning and Nita were on the staff then, they, they worked the summer staff for Bob. Bob had, he had 2 weeks, I mean they worked the winter staff, excuse me. He had 2 weeks in the summer and then he put a winter week in and when he put the winter week he put Manning and Nita in it.
BB: Yea. That’s Manning and Nita Smith from Texas. Yea, well, and then you’ve been associated with Kirkwood Lodge or worked there.
FL: Yea, we started working at Kirkwood Lodge in 19, I have to grab this off the top of my head but probably about 1950eeee, somewhere around 1956, 1958 in that area. Les Goucher was there for several years, 3 or 4 year, I don’t know and when Les left, Kirkwood contacted me to come there and work, and I said, look, first of all, I don’t want to tie myself to one thing for 10 or II weeks. Second thing is, I said, you’ve had one man here with a good program, and you’re losing him so you’re losing your whole program. I said let me help you organize a program that if anyone of us quits it won’t even slow the machinery down one bit, so we helped Bill Haggendorn who was the owner of Kirkwood and let them organize. I think the first time there may have been 9 or 10 weeks of square dancing, and we tried to get everybody who was anybody on the staff. I mean we had a staff that if you go back in those years and look at it, it was just the who’s who of square dancing really.
BB: At the archives, I’ve run across a few programs. We don’t have complete documentation of things like that. I wish we did. Do you have anything like that back in your files?
FL: The early Kirkwood stuff’?
FL: Probably. If I didn’t I, have you contacted Kirkwood Lodge?
FL: I’ll be there in about another, I’m going back to do a weekend there in about another 3 weeks. When I get back there, I’ll, I’ll delve through some stuff between what they have and what I have I’m sure we can come up with some stuff. Because even the early day brochures and I may have some of those in my files would list who all was on the staff.
FL: I could almost sit here and take a calendar and put it together anyway because, like I say, we were the ones that did the hiring at that time and we were very, very proud of who we had working there.
BB: Yea, well we had we have in the archives quite a few Silabine and some are Kirkwood I’m sure, but I’m sure it’s not complete either. We are always looking for (? ). The archivist is always looking for a complete set you know, we have two complete sets.
FL: I’m so glad to see you guys doing this because as Bob Osgood and I have sat and talked to each other in the last years and said, you know, we’ve got to get busy and start doing this sort of thing. But neither one of us have really the time to devote to it so I’m glad to see that the Shaw Foundation has kinda taken the ball and running with it.
BB: Well, it’s been a lot of fun trying to collect these interviews but let’s go back to the beginning of Callerlab. I know you, with Osgood and Arnie, and a few other people were instrumental in getting Caller Lab off the ground in the first place. We talked about this last night, and how the original group was kind of stagnate for a while until it’s
FL: Well, you’ve got to give, first of all Bob Osgood is the one who deserves all the real credit. But even before that, I don’t know whether, I’m sure you did if Bob probably mentioned to you that we made an earlier effort to start this probably about 10 years prior to that.
BB: Yea, he mentioned that.
FL: Ed Gilmore had a session that he did over here in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, each summer, and through Bob and Ed, they got about, we only had about 6 of us at that time, and I probably can’t even remember who they all were. I remember Jim and Ginny (?) were there and Drew and Ed Gilmore, and Bob and Becky Osgood and myself and Barbara. it seems that Lee Helsel was there or Bob Van but I can’t remember which one.
BB: I think it was VanAntwerp.
FL: It was Van?
FL: And, but anyway there was about 6 of us. We did that for 3 years and then we passed the chairmanship around each year, and I think it was ready for about the next year and Jim and Ginny Brooks up in Washington were going to be the chairman for the next year, and Jim had a change of job operation. He had been a school administrator and he went into the state board of education and got real wrapped up in things and just didn’t have time to devote to doing what required to be done to get this thing keep in rolling so it died on the vine after about 3 or 4 years. And then when Bob Osgood started the Square Dance Hall of Fame through his American Square Dance Society, he decided to have the original initial 17 inductees together for an induction service, and a banquet and all the big stuff and present the portraits and all and it was a real nice festivity. And at that particular time, he and Arnie had been working in the background, Arnie Kronenberger, and they presented the idea of this callers organization that we would, at that time we decided on the name of Callerlab and that’s where it all got started there was the original 17 that were there.
BB: Yea. I’m sure we documented it. Do you remember what year it was approximately when you finally started to branch out into (? ).
FL: I wish I did, Bob, but I don’t really. I’d have to go back and look into my notes.
BB: Well, I’m sure it’s in Osgood’s tape.
FL: Well, I’m sure it’s in Bob’s stuff. He knows all the facts – ha – he’s a wonderful person.
BB: Yea. Well, after your original mentor got you started in square dancing, who were some of the people that had an influence on your career?
FL: Everybody I could dance to and go to seminars with. I, at every opportunity I attended seminars. I attended seminars with Ray Smith, I attended them with Joe Lewis, I attended them with Fenton Jones, I attended them with Ricky Holden, Jimmy Clausen, and some that I’m sure I’m missing. Oh yea, lots of them I’m missing. Bob Osgood. Every time we had a chance to go to a seminar or even just go to a dance to dance to these people. And of course, as you all remember being in at that time in those days it was really kind of passing material around because we called a dance the same way. I mean you called Texas Star, you called Texas Star. You called Arkansas Traveler you called Arkansas Traveler. So it just became a matter of technique because we were using the same figures. You were calling the same figures as I was calling.
BB: Yea. With a little exception. In New England we didn’t know the western stuff.
FL: Well, that’s what I say. And that’s what the original traveling caller, the Ed Gilmores, the Fenton Joneses, those guys, they helped spread and disseminate the material from area to area. That we, without them we would still be doing things probably entirely different in New England than we are doing them in California.
BB: Yea, well of course, in New England we credited Sets in Order
FL: Yea, Sets in Order was a great influence.
BB: We couldn’t wait for the next issue to come out so we would have another figure to show.
FL: Yea, it was a great influence.
BB: Yea, and all of our all of our activity back there was kind of based on Sets in Order’s new issue coming out every month, but I know that you attended a lot of festivals around the country and you traveled overseas on a few occasions. What are some of the real big events that you (?). I mean now we are talking 100 to 200 squares or something like that.
FL: Of course, we we’d missed the first National Conventional at Riverside but then from that time on the next one the next year was in Kansas City. And we attended all of them that were all the early festivals, National Conventions, were held in April and as long as they were in April I never missed one. Actually, I blamed Colorado for moving it out of April because I think the first convention that wasn’t in April was in Denver, and I think they moved it up into May or somewhere to get it away from possible winter weather probably. From that time on, our attendance became a little spotty because of our travel commitments and having to operate our own operation out here in Colorado in the summer time so actually we cannot attend Nationals any more unless they are just right in our own backyard because of our commitment to manage the Dance Ranch here.
BB: Yea. Well tell us a little more about the Dance Ranch. That’s the next topic.
Oh, we lucked out in the early days back here, I don’t remember the exact years but it was like 1960, about 1969 I think when Ted Grovener a large contractor from Denver built a square dance hall down the Big Thompson River up here in Estes Park and we managed it for him for II years before he shut it down and so that got us in the square dancing business of managing a hall. Well, the year that Ted decided to shut down, I had also decided to build a house so here I was with a new house and the square dance hall that I had been operated was being closed. So I had to make a decision either to move somewhere else and sell the house or to travel in the summer time which did not appeal to me going out through all the hot and humid country in the summer time, or build a hall of my own. So we made the decision to build a hall and that’s where the Dance Ranch got started. We opened it up like I say I think it was 1969. And at first we worked real, real hard at it and we had 5-day programs going all summer long, we had square dance and round dance seminars, we had square dance teachers schools, had round dance teachers schools that brought (?) it was a busy operation. Now that I’ve gotten old, we operate it 3 days a week, it’s open dancing, if some of my younger caller friends want to come in and have weeks, we say fine we’ll help you any way we can, we’ll either call, or we’ll stay out of the way, or we’ll keep the rest rooms clean, or whatever you require. But I don’t want to work that hard any more.
BB: Yea. I hear you. Well, I’m anxious to get down and see the hall.
FL: We’ll do that when we finish our stellar golf game here.
BB: Oh yea, okay, right. I’ve been trying to talk Frank into giving me a few strokes for our upcoming golf match, but I haven’t made out yet. Well, how about other hobbies? Have you, besides dancing I know it’s a full time thing.
FL: I’ve always been interested in any activity. We aren’t doing as much of it any more but we did a lot of hiking here in the mountains, that’s one of the reasons for moving here, we love this country, love hiking in the mountains, photography has been a bit of a hobby. Of course, golfing is my other vice. In fact, at one point in time when we were at an institute somewhere, in standing up and introducing each other, and at this particular institute the wives were introducing their husbands, and Barbara got up and said I was an itinerant golfer who stopped and called square dances along the way (laugh).
BB: I understand.
FL: And, then later years I’ve gotten involved in doing some Indian style bead work, and I’m kind of proud of some of the work we’ve turned out there. So it’s just, oh lots of little hobbies.
BB: Yea. I did some bead work way back years and years ago on a little loom. I designed a few things and made a couple of belts, and
FL: We have a uh, a friend who is an Indian lady who, she and her husband own a trading post down south of town here, and she is one of the finest beaders in the country. She is great. So one summer I talked to, I said, Anne why don’t you come down and run a bead working class down at the square dance hall. I said I’ve got a hall sitting down there that’s a beautiful spot, well lighted, we’ve got nice tables and everything, and it’s not being used in the afternoons why don’t you, so I talked her into it, and she came down and did a class and I got interested in it and made some pretty, pretty interesting pieces.
BB: That’s interesting. What did you find was the appeal to square dancing for you personally, for calling I mean.
FL: I had no intention of being a caller, in fact, I got trapped into being a caller. Square dancing was just another form of dancing, and I always loved dancing. The town I came from is very unusual. St. Joe, Missouri, was a very social town. If you were on the in, it was a great place to be from and to live. If you were on the out, I can, I would have thought it was horrible. Luckily, I was on the in. But, we had high school, we had big name bands for high school dances. We had a dance almost every weekend. We had high school fraternities and sororities which are just undreamed of. I used to wear out tuxedos at the formal spring and Christmas dances. We had a dancing academy in town run by an old German dancing master named Edward Prims, and the name Prims might strike a chord with you because back in the ’30s and early ’40s Leroy Prims of Hollywood was the one who directed all the big musicals of the year of the George White scandals and, I forget all the names of those, musicals were a big thing in those days, and Leroy Prims was the one who won the Academy Award every year for dance productions, and so we got to study under his father. And so I was into dancing and so then, actually the way I really got into square dancing was unusual. One of the teachers at our high School, Madeleine McDonald, came out to Colorado to summer school and took a short course from Pappy Lloyd Shaw, and she came back all enthused about American square dancing, American folk dancing. Our high school at that time put on a musical production each year called the Capers, and I guess as you look back your viewpoint probably is a little bit slanted, but it seems to me that it was a really good professional production that they put on it really, you know, it was a full dance band and chorus numbers and individual numbers and comedy routines, it was a great show. Well, this particular year when she came back she got all enthused about folk dancing, she worked American square dancing and some folk dancing into the Capers program, and she played it kind of smart. She went out and got about 8 fellas off of the football team and about 8 of the most popular girls in town and they were her group. Well, as such it became the thing to do because the right people were doing it and after the show and after the initial introduction of square dancing and so forth, they made it available to all the students and had instruction periods and we used to square dance during the lunch hour on the stage at the high school. I mean square dancing became a real big thing in our high school, and our little exhibition group, the original 8 couples got invited to go out to other schools, small colleges, and so forth and demonstrate and introduce square dancing to those schools and so. I got into it early. And, it just appealed to me, but like I said, I, I helped direct some people through things so maybe that’s when I started calling. But, actually I was trapped into calling, and it’s kind of a funny story, and I (laughter) probably shouldn’t tell it, but I think I will. Uh, they used to have this large contest out in Kansas that was run yearly. They had quarterly finals, semi-finals, came down to the finals and there were about, I think, the top two out of each quarter competed in the finals. Well, there were two exhibitions sets, one of which was going to win this thing. And one of them was our Sunflower Twisters, the set that I mentioned before, and the other one was a square, I forget the name of the exhibition group, but their leader and caller was a fella named Ed or Eddy Watts who later moved to California. Moved down around (?) lived out of East of LA. But anyway, out in that area. And Eddy was the best caller in our area. He was a good caller. And when the contest was held it, it was on a Wednesday night, and my group happened to win it, and this did not sit too good with Ed (laughter). And the next night was his dance out at the fairgrounds, and we always went, and we went the next night, and we’re having a ball. They had live music, the whole bit. And somewhere in the middle of the evening, out of the clear blue sky, Eddy had the squares squared up and he got up on the microphone and he said the next tip is going to be Texas Star and it’s going to be called by Frank Lane. I had never called before any group of people in my life. I think he thought probably that he would embarrass me, that I would say oh no, no, no, but he shouldn’t have called my bluff. I don’t like to be bluffed (laughter). So we got up and we called the square dance, because like I said, I had directed our exhibition group through it and I knew what I was doing but I just had no ambition of being a caller. The rest of the story, like I say, is the part that I probably should shut up about. A year later, I had the job of calling that dance, and he was out of a job (laughter). So, I say he shouldn’t have called my bluff that night.
BB: Well, that’s very interesting.
FL: You know you and I are going to have to go here and come back and continue this later.
BB: Here we are again this afternoon after a thrilling golf match, and Frank was kind enough he gave me a stroke a hole, and he still beat me by ten. But then we took a trip out to the Dance Ranch dance hall, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful facility. Beautiful floor and plenty of seating arrangements, and I’m sure it’s good sound and all that. And it was just beautiful. I appreciate taking a look at it. Right on the outskirts of Estes Park. So getting back to some other things, tell us a little bit about your trips overseas, you went to Australia.
FL: Well, we haven’t done a lot of overseas things because Barbara doesn’t like to fly and she can’t go by ship because she gets seasick, but I’ve taken her on a few. We’ve done, of course, a couple or three Hawaiian cruises, either flights or cruises, we’ve done Mexico, we’ve done Cuba before Castro came in, back when Batista was there, and we’ve done down to Bermuda and those islands, Nassau. We did go down to New Orlean, to New Zealand and Australia and do 2 or 3 weeks of callers schools and dances. Really enjoyed it. Great people down there, great dancing, great dancing, beautiful country. And the square dance leadership down there I think is exceptional. We have over all these years we’ve called in all 50 states and all of the southern tier of providences of Canada. We haven’t been up to the northwest territories, the Yukon, up that way, but we’ve done everything else in Canada, I think. Uh, that’s about all I can think of. Oh, we were talking about one of the things that was kind of interesting that we got involved in at the National Convention at Oklahoma City, probably the first time it was there. NBC had never done a nationwide color telecast. They had done color telecasting in local areas, but they decided to use a program from Oklahoma City at the National Square Dance Convention as an experimental program for that, and we were fortunate enough to be included in that. It was quite an experience, and uh, we were thrilled to be involved. Uh, we’ve just done the normal things that most traveling square dance callers do. Just called every place and every where from big dances to little dances, hot weather and cold weather. With other callers or all alone.
BB: Yea. Now, I wanted to be sure you tell us about your experience with recordings.
FL: Well, our first recording experience was with Black Mountain for Les Goucher. We worked with him for a number of years, and then we had a little hiatus where we didn’t record for a few years. Then we went with Scope Records which was actually a part of Sets in Order at that time, and then when Scope kind of faded out, we picked up and did record for Sets in Order for a few years, and at about that time we were building the Dance Ranch and so Norman Merbal was a good friend, and I talked Norman into having a Dance Ranch label that uh we did not own, Norman owned it, but we controlled the artists that recorded on it, and we thought it might attract a little bit of promotion for our dance facility called the Dance Ranch. And after doing that for a number of years, we finally just faded off into the sunset and quit making records. I think we got plenty of people making records. And it certainly is not a get rich quick scheme.
BB: I’m sure it’s not. I talked to Wade Driver about that and golly, but anyway, who were some of the people you recorded on Dance Ranch?
FL: Not very many really. Ron Schneider worked rather closely with me for a few years, and then Ron recorded several things for me. There was a caller in Indiana named Bill Schutz who recorded for us. Probably a couple of others I can’t even think of. Like I say it was mostly just a device to, but Norman wanted me to go on Blue Star, and I said I’ll be glad to record for you but let’s don’t go on Blue Star let’s put it on a special label called Dance Ranch. So really it was just kind of our own at first and then when we quit, we turned it back to Norman and he’s kept it going all these years. Changed the looks of it. Originally the label of Dance Ranch was the same as our logo, with 3 mountain peaks. After we left it, he changed it to another logo.
BB: I don’t know if you noticed but the City of Albuquerque has stolen your
FL: Have they stolen our
BB: Your logo.
FL: Our logo? I’ll have to have a talk with them.
BB: It’s almost exactly
FL: I think, I think everybody in this part of the country uses a logo with three mountain peaks.
BB: But, Okay, to wrap this up, I’d like to have you to take about 2 hours and give us your idea of where we’ve been, where are we, and where we’re going. Of the Hall of Fame people, you’re one of the few that’s still working regularly even though your schedule’s cut down from what it used to be.
FL: Yea, we try to call 2 or 3 nights a week just to keep proficient. I’ve gotten to where I still calling as much as ever, but l just don’t want to work as hard at it. I used to like to call 6 and 7 nights a week and now 2 and 3 is perfect. I don’t know. Where we’ve been and where we’re going I wish I knew. I know where we’ve been I was there. We’ve made a lot of mistakes but we’ve done a lot of good things too. But I thing, I think our major mistake was that we got too complacent. Everything was going so good. The crowds were big, the halls had gotten to where the clubs couldn’t even hold any more so we quit worrying about classes. We skipped about three generations. And all of a sudden we tried to back track and pick up some younger people and really the younger people, I think they enjoy the activity except that when they come into the activity, they find themselves with a bunch of us old folks. We’re not their people, we’re not their group, and after they are in it for a while, they seem to find other activities that they get involved in with people of their own age group. So I don’t know. I don’t really think we’re ever going to see square dancing again as you and I have watched it. But I think it is in a valley, and then in some areas it is starting to climb it. We still call in some areas that I think square dancing is doing great. I look and see what’s there. What is there is that they’ve gotten some younger people and some younger callers and they’ve quit worrying about trying to do all the fancy things in the world. I think we made that mistake. We tried to get involved and we let the people in the Advanced and Challenge movements govern a lot of our thinking. And what we really have to concentrate on now, and I’ve gotten into doing a lot of 1-night stand work. People love to square dance. They don’t want to work at it. They don’t want to get fancy, and they don’t give a darn about a Motivate or a Cast a Shadow or a Relay the Deucey or a Spin Change and Exchange the Gears. They want to circle left and circle right and make a star and learn how to swing their corner. They have a ball. They have a great time. I think if we open our eyes and really see this and then start to work hard on developing not only the Mainstream Program because what many areas are doing that. I think we even have to drop back one more notch we’re talking about the length of time it takes to enter our activity. If we’re going to get people in our activity every 13 weeks, we’ve got to drop back and develop a basic program where they can dance when they come out of the basic program. Some place where they can stop and dance there for a while and they gradually, if they want to, become Mainstream dancers, and then gradually, if they want to, become Plus dancers. And then, as much as I love Advanced dancing, I wish this Advanced and Challenge would go away or become a separate movement because I think it has hurt the activity overall. And unfortunately, Callerlab gets blamed for establishing levels. Levels were not established to be something to work at and gain further knowledge into the program. Levels were established to protect the dancer. Because as you and I remember, there was a period of time when a square dancer could go to a dance, and they had no idea what was going to be called. You had your favorite calls, I had my favorite calls, Joe Lewis had his favorite calls, Earl Johnston had his favorite calls. They didn’t know what was going to be called. So the reason those lists were established was not as a stepping stone program, it was a established so that when a caller was hired to call a dance and he was told it was going to be a Mainstream program, he was limited to at that time, those 68 or 69 basics. And he couldn’t call anything else without showing them to the people. And that’s what it was intended to be. It was not intended to be a, oh I’ve got to be a Mainstream dancer this year, and a Plus dancer next year, and an A-I dancer the next year. I’ve got to keep up with the Joneses, and so I don’t blame Callerlab, I blame the, excuse me dancers, I blame the dancers for making it a keep up with the Joneses sort of thing. The callers did not have that in mind. The callers had in mind those programs to protect the dancer so that when he and she went dancing they would know what would be called, and if they knew Plus program they could go to a Plus dance. If they knew the Mainstream program, they could go to a Mainstream dance. If we could ever get it to where that, what it was used for, the levels or the programs that we’ve established are good programs. And, we don’t need to fool with them. And that’s another thing that bothers me a little bit is Callerlab fooling with all those levels. I don’t know, you were there, of course, and Al was certainly there right in the middle of it all, but that first Mainstream list that we came out with, that thing took 7 years, it took 13 drafts. I mean it just didn’t happen in the back room of a bar some where.
I mean, I sometimes feel that some of the other organizations have developed a list, but 1 think they took a bottle of beer and went in the back room and lit up a couple of cigarettes and when it got smoky, they said well here’s the list. And that’s about the amount of sense some of those lists make. But those lists that we started with, the Mainstream list that John LeClair and Jack Murtha, and all the boys on that first Mainstream committee came up with, that was a very viable list. It was a workable list. It was the things that people were dancing. It was the things that you should know to be able to dance in California, Maine, and Connecticut and Colorado. You probably didn’t want to hear that much.
BB: No, that’s right. I did want to ask you how do you feel the community dance program fits into this picture.
FL: You know, I’ve never gotten involved in it, but I think it is very much a really viable program, and I am seriously considering seeing if we can’t maybe start it up here if I get to where I’m going to be home more, and we’re trying to be home more. And the people up here in our little village up here in the mountains could really profit by the community dance program. Because we’ve got a lot of ex-dancers up here, and they’re ex for a number of reasons and a few of them couldn’t dance because they’re ex because of health reasons, infirmities. But some of them are ex because they got disenchanted with what was being done.
BB: How do you feel about ACA, the American Callers Association? Their theory that we should, there should be a wide gap between Mainstream and Advanced? And keep one program and the other one to be a real goal or a almost unattainable goal to get into the higher levels. That seems to be what they’re talking about.
FL: Well, I don’t interpret what they’re talking about that way. I mean what you’ve just described I have no problem with at all. Because we’ve done that around here. We do not have an A-I program in Colorado or around this area in Colorado because we have tried to establish a big gap between Plus and Advanced because we’re, I personally, and many of my colleagues in the calling business around here we, we feel that as much as we enjoy, selfishly I enjoy Advanced immensely, but of course I’ve been dancing 50 years. I’ve had a lot of time to learn those words. And all those words came up years ago. We danced them at open dances. but I don’t think Advanced is helping the square dance movement, I really don’t, and so we have taken the path of saying okay there’s no way one program. If you want to become Advanced it’s not a required subject. If you really want to work that hard and learn it, you’ve got to learn the whole program, A-I and A-2, and then you can become an A dancer, and we have good Advanced. I like to call Advanced in this area. We’re having the same problem, actually magnified that I mentioned awhile ago. All the people that have been dancing Advanced are older people, and I’m losing them right and left to physically cannot dance anymore, and I’m afraid it’s going to really affect our Advanced program which, like I say, selfishly, I’m going to miss it. I don’t think it’s going to hurt. If anything has got to go down the drain, I hope it’s the Advanced and Challenge program and not the Mainstream and the Plus.
BB: Right. Well, I think the degree as we were talking last night, an awful lot of callers are not capable of calling 2-1/2 hours of basic or
FL: Yea. You’ve got to know a little more about square dance calling to be able to call a 2-112 hour dance at the basic program than you do to be able to call at the A-2 program. I mean if you run through the list from Mainstream through A-2, you can’t run through just calling each basic one time in 2-112 hours you’re through. You pack up your equipment and go home. If you’re going to call 2-1/2 hours with 29 or 30 basics, you’ve got to do a little thinking. You’ve got to do a little creative choreography.
BB: Yea, that’s right. Well.
FL: The other thing too, Bob, that we haven’t talked about and you asked about my feelings on it, I think if we really want to try to improve our program and try to work toward something that’s going to make it succeed down the line, we’ve got to improve the quality of our teaching. Square dancing is being taught, and excuse me for saying so fell as, but square dancing is being taught by a lot of fellas who don’t even know how to spell square dance let alone know what it’s about. We’ve got to get teachers who are willing to really study and work and understand the program, understand what you can do with the Basic program, what you can do with the Mainstream program. And accurately tell the people how to do a right and left through, a square through, a swing through. When you teach caller schools and find callers that have been 10, 14 years that cannot adequately describe a Spin the Top or Bend the Line, there’s something wrong with what’s going on out there in our teaching. So that’s my strongest feeling, and I’ve said this at Callerlab for years, and I don’t think anybody listens, but I still think at some time we’ve got to start training teachers to bring people into the program so that when they arrive at the program, they’re comfortable. They don’t come out of a class and walk into a dance and suddenly they’re confused and they’re frustrated and they’re not going to tolerate that, they’re going to leave. They’re going to go back to bowling, they’re going back to Country Western, or you know.
BB: You yourself don’t teach any Country Western?
FL: No, I do line dances at our one-night stands. And, you know, I do Texas Step and stuff like with the one-night stand people, but as far as classes in Country Western, there again, Country Western is nothing but just, it’s just dancing like we’ve done, like I said, I grew up dancing and as soon as you learn to go slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, slow, quick, quick, you’re country dancing.
BB: Right. You’ve got it. Right. Well, I think we’ve covered the subject pretty well, Frank, and I just want to say thank you very very much for taking the time.
FL: I’m thrilled that you and the Shaw Foundation and the fact that we’ve got Bob Osgood in here too, because like I say, Bob and I talked for years, we’ve got to get this done and now you’ve taken it and are doing something about it. We really appreciate it. And we enjoyed having you with us last night. Hope you enjoyed your stay here in Estes Park. Hope you come back and do it again.
BB: Okay, I promise. Thank you very much.
FL: Bring your golf clubs and a pocketful of dimes, and we’ll do it again.
BB: All right. Well, thanks very much, Frank, and we’ll call this a day, and we’ll be looking forward to seeing you around the square.