Brown, Ginger (husband Lou deceased): SDFNE Hall of Fame

Photo Brown,Ginger

March 29 1997 in Morgan hills, CA

Bob Brundage (and Al Brundage) and Ginger Brown

Ginger – Born and brought up around Newton Mass. Well when I was young I took ballet and tap dancing and loved it, always loved it. My uncle used to dance with me when I was very little and taught me how to ballroom dance when I was still young and I just loved it.  When I was young, enough  to go out on chaperoned dates and somebody’d call I’d tell them my mother wasn’t home and to call back in a half an hour and then I’d find out if they could dance.  If they couldn’t, hey, I wouldn’t go out and my mother was very put out about that. She said I’d miss a nice young man sometime because he because he couldn’t dance, and I said that if he couldn’t dance, who cared?  Then when I was quite a bit older I was accepted at Wellesley College, that where my mother wanted me to go. Then I’ve been in a lot of plays, for the women’s club and in Watertown, then the kids at school said why don’t you try for the scholarship at the New England Conservatory, come on Ginger, try, try. So I went to my mother with a proposition. Mother I’ll try for the scholarship and it I win, I’ll go to the New England Conservatory which by the way I’ve been going to since I was seven and had done concerts on the piano with the Boston Symphony.  So I tried out for that and I won the scholarship, which I think in retrospect broke my mother’s heart since she wanted me to go to Wellesley. But I was mad a Wellesley since they wouldn’t let me major until my senior year, and I wanted to major in chemistry and journalism, and I though three years wasted and one year of major and that was no good.

Bob – So this led you into the theater, right?

Ginger – Yes, went to New England Conservatory, studied opera, and drama, make-up, the stage, and then I went from there to the American Academy in New York City at Carnegie Hall. And when I finished my second year there, I was hired by a company before I even finished. I was hired by this theatrical company and we went to Cape Cod in the summer and Coral Gables in the winter, and Flat Rock, North Carolina in between seasons.

Bob – How did this evolve into round dancing?  How did you and Lou meet?

Ginger – Lou was District Governor of the Lions Club, upper Washington, Maryland, Virginia, etc. and he was instrumental in putting up stocks for the veterans to get on, the soldiers and sailors. They were all glassed with benches where you could sit and then people of the Lions Club would pick them up and ‘take them where they were going. And so one day I was headed into one of those and Lou came along and asked me if he could give me a ride and showed me his identification and so forth so I did.  The next day he showed up and I kept walking and he kept saying how lovely it was out at the club and that we could go and have a nice dinner, so finally since it was so hot; I just got in. So that is how we started going together. I fell in love with him during a rhumba in the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC.

Bob – So how did you get into Medway Massachusetts?

Ginger – One day Lou came home and his face and hands were all swollen up, and the doctor told him it was allergy from the heat and he couldn’t work there any more. So he eventually sold his business and moved up to West Medway and we bought a lot of land, about 150 acres, and he build our house. We enjoyed that and then one night, we had some sheep way down in a pasture, and we took some wool over to this barn and people were dancing, and the next thing I new I was dancing with them. And that was my first contra dance. And it was Mony Musk which has been my favorite ever since.  Not long after that I had a. troop of girl scouts and a troop of boy scouts and we were having them learn, Hal Matson – he is living on the Cape now – he was calling for my girl scouts and they were just learning. So they learned quite a bit and we heard about going up to Amherst to Lawrence Loy to a festival, so we took them up there. That’s where we met you (Bob Brundage) and we met Larry.  My girls started dancing. They danced in New York. They danced all around Massachusetts, New Hampshire.  Had exhibits with the boys, they had pretty costumes and they had a lot of fun. And then we took them to New York and Washington DC. They had a lovely time. Some of them had never been on an elevator, never been in a shower, and never been out of Milford Massachusetts. So it was a remarkable time for them.

Bob – So when did you start square dancing?

Ginger – Well then Lou and I started – I’m trying to think -the first one after Larry, I remember we has a record called Buffalo Boy, go round the outside. We’d played on the turntable and started doing that and the next thing I know I think we were going down towards Bridgewater. It was before Howard Hogue built the barn, and so we started dancing. In those days there really weren’t a bunch of lessons like they do now of days. You didn’t have that opportunity. You just went in and got your feet wet and watched what everybody else was doing for a while and then got in the next square and hope you knew what to do. And that’s how we started square dancing. And that generally how we started with Larry in 1945.

Bob – When did you get started in what we now call Western Style Square Dancing?  Club style? When things started to get more complicated with western figures.

Ginger – I think it just sort of evolved and then Howard built the barn and we started there, and then there was Charlie Baldwin was changing over.  Dick Doyle, I’m trying to think, Charlie Lincoln, and they were all calling and then pretty soon we started traveling states, and then we bumped in Al (Brundage) and then we started going down to Connecticut and coming back in ??????? to square dance many nights we did that, and then it got to be wherever Al called. Then Ed Gilmore stared to come into the area and then Joe Lewis started to come in and Bruce Johnson started to come in. Then we booked them so that they would be there for five nights because we were equal distance from Providence from Rhode Island from New Hampshire from Western Massachusetts. So they could come and stay in one place and get a little rest and still call each time.

Bob – I know you were primarily responsible for starting the Atlantic Convention in the North-East and it played in a couple of places and eventually wound up in Washington if I remember rightly.  Why don’t you tell us a little of your experience in getting organized with the Atlantic Convention. I think you just said a minute ago that there were eight couples got together to start this thing.

Ginger – Well it was the nucleus .of the Contraband actually. Lou and I went in to look at Mechanics Hall which was a big huge three block long building in Boston, and we checked out the acoustics and so forth in the different halls. Then we got a hold of John Kobrock and took him into meet the head of the Mechanics building.  In the meantime talking to John, saying we can do this John, John we can do this. So the eight couples of us got together John asked all the engineer questions that he wanted to ask the owner and so forth. So when we all met together down in our game room and sat down and figured out we could do it and who would do what, and each one. . . I had the program with the different halls and get the callers and the round dance teachers and .Lou had to do the printed program and sell the ads and do all of that and Carl and Virginia have something else.. Everybody… everybody had to report back to John on a certain time as we went along and as things were accomplished. It was very well organized. John was an excellent organizer. It just went along.  We got a call from the owners of Pepperidge Farms bread who were just really getting onto the market with their breads and rolls, and they asked us to come to Westchester to come to their house to talk to them. They had a proposition regarding our upcoming convention. So they had us drive down to Westchester and they’d like to furnish sandwiches and refreshments and a bread line for all of the dancers, and wanted to name all the sandwiches after different square dance terms. And then they’d run a contest and send the winner, who was to be voted on by the dancers present, they’d send the winner to the 1956 convention in San Diego. It’s what we did.

Bob – Well then you had a very comprehensive program so you said. You hired a very nice band, if you don’t mine mentioning, and that was the band that played at the Country Barn in Stephen Connecticut, that was Al’s band, he and I worked with it many, many years in fact, just before I moved to Albuquerque, we had a live .music dance in Woodbury Connecticut and that same three piece band.  That same three pieces have played together for 58 years.  You had a very comprehensive program – do you remembers some of the callers that were involved in calling that first..

Ginger – Earl Johnston, and Al was there, oh gosh I don’ t remember, there were about 15 or 20 callers [Bob – I was there] yes, Howard Hogue and Charlie Baldwin and Dick Davis and Dick Doyle and Joe Casey and another one from New Hampshire, Mal Haden, and another one from Rhode Island Lloyd and Marge Platt and Dick Leger. He was just coming into good prominence at that time. He did a nice job.

Bob – OK now tell us what happened after the first one. You had two or three in Boston in the same facility.

Ginger – Yes, and we had three in Boston then we said hey we aught to move this around so I think the next one, I forgot the order now but I know we ran two more in Atlantic City.

Bob – Didn’t you do one in Worcester?

Ginger = No. We went to Atlantic City. There was a woman that was in charge of the two hotels, the Chadburn and the one next door to it, both owned by Quakers, and that was the best convention manager I have ever worked with of all the hotels in all the places and all the institutes we ran and she was top notch. Every hall was done exactly what was supposed to be done when I got there.

Bob _Then you moved into Washington?

Ginger,-Then we went to Washington and we met with Amanda and Jack Hess. Amanda’s name is Rivlet now and she lives Indianapolis. We took Dick Anderson with us and he was at the first Atlantic Convention also. He was from the Cape. He went to Washington with us. We met with. a group there. In the morning we met with the people that would work on the convention, some of them were teachers, and some of them were people that were heads of clubs and so forth, and in the afternoon we met with callers and so forth. Then they wanted to think it over for a while and then we went back home and then they called us again and we came back to Washington and they subsequently did it.

Bob – And then you went to Toronto?

Ginger – Yes. Then we went to the Andersons in Toronto and we had the Royal York and that had very good halls. Excellent acoustics, really good. And so then we met with them and then each one we helped to outline and show them how we did it so that it didn’t take a lot of people, instead it took more that were channeled into specific.  And the more specific you got the more it was easier to handle.

Bob – I think we should add at this point that those Atlantic Conventions were the forerunner, because when you moved, for instance you were in Washington, when you moved to Toronto the Washington people wanted to continue the festival. And it’s still going today. When you moved out of Toronto, Toronto people wanted to continue and it’s still going today. It’s in Hamilton, but never the less the festival has kept on, I think .that’s an important point. And now we have four or five big festivals in that section of the country for which you were originally responsible.

Ginger – That’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to see it go on and. on. We wanted it to perpetuate itself in each area.

Bob – Let’s go back a few years and talk about Contraband.. How did that all get started.

Ginger – well Lou and I started teaching rounds and as we did this one day I just thought that I’d like to it with the adults what I had done with the girl scouts. And I had this grout that would be eight of us, that had done a convention and we were very close, we were all like family. And then there were some that were farther away. There was a couple in Connecticut, there were some couples from up – we had a club, we had round dance clubs by that time, and round dance classes in New Hampshire and Western Massachusetts and southern Massachusetts. So we asked different ones. And so they all agreed. So I called Al and I talked to him about it. And asked him whether he thought I could do this. Because I wasn’t sure, it was a big undertaking. Because my visions were a lot farther on than I had let anybody know.  So Al came up and met at this church in Framingham.  Of course you can do it. And I said “I don’t know”.  Of course you can do it, do it. So that was the beginning of the Contraband. And I called them the contraband because I said that we were smuggling contras out of New England.

Bob – I didn’t realize that was why.

Ginger – I had one man in the group named Walter. And Lou took old fashioned close pins and put them on squares, on wooden squares. And they had slits in them, the old fashion close pins; and he put paper skirts around them and made half of them silver and half of them black. So I could tell from the skirts which were the women. And then he put. a cover on our pool table, and that’s how. I did a lot of our choreography. I did it in my mind-and then I’d work it with the close pins. And then I’d get them in the hall, and try this out. And I always watched Walter, because, like me, music comes sort of through the floor into you, and you just feel it. Like when a caller has an electric night and everything flows. You just get this electric feeling, that’ s just sheer heaven. And so to do that.

Bob – You mentioned a figure. Not many people would remember how to do triple allemande, outside the three of us you know.

Ginger – Probably not. But that’s why I said any caller can throw any floor.

Bob – Well this is just following CALLERLAB 97 of course, CALLERLAB is just dedicated itself to trying to improve the quality of square dancing and going back and spending much, much more time with the Mainstream Program,

Ginger – Did they really?  Will they bring some contras back maybe?

Bob – We would hopefully wish that that would take place. We never really know.

Ginger – I wish I’d kept calling those. Because it’s a shame to lose them.

Bob – And you’ve had a long association with them Ginger, over the years and why don’t you give us your overview of

Al – I’ve always admired Ginger and Lou and the work they’ve done not only as dancers originally, but as leaders and eventually as cuers and choreographers and the whole thing. I think that they’ve added a great deal to our activity over the years. Much of it has been past by like many of the things that I’ve done, and Bob’s done, and many, many of the early callers that made the activity kind of what it is today. But it’s nice to hear your story from you it’s our privilege, Bob and I, to come in and be able to get the story first hand. We certainly have admired your work over all the years and we’re pleased to have you as part of this historical document which Bob is going to be putting in the archives of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation.

Ginger – It’s quite an undertaking.

Al – It’s a big undertaking and we want you to know that you are part of it and we love ya. You did a great job all these years.

Ginger – Well you know you both always seemed like family. Having known your mother and father and both of you for all of these years. You always feel like family to me, and Lou too.

Bob – Well Ginger we thank you very much for taking the time to sit down just for a few minutes. I know you have another appointment very shortly, and Al and I do too. So we’ll stop the tape right now.

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