Herb Egender Interview
March 25, 1997
Bob Brundage – Well, here we are again. This is Bob Brundage. The date is March the 25th. We’re still at the Callerlab convention in Los Angeles and the year of course is 1997. Today we are fortunate to be talking with a gentleman who has been involved in the square dance business for a long time, Mr. Herb Egender from down in Green Valley, Arizona. So Herb, let’s find out a little bit about what life was like before square dancing for you.
Herb Egender – Chuckles. That was a long time ago.
BB – Yep.
HE – Well Bob, I was born in a little town in Colorado, Salida, Colorado. I was born in Room 10 in the Palace Hotel which was a little hotel that my grandfather had built in Salida. We moved away from Salida – my mother and father ran that hotel – we moved away from there to Denver, Colorado for a short period of time, and then we moved from Denver, Colorado to Colorado Springs, Colorado which is where I grew up. I started kindergarten in Colorado Springs, but in first grade I was fortunate that we moved out to the other side of town. I entered Cheyenne School in first grade and went there for twelve years so that was quite an experience. It was at Cheyenne School, that in my high school years or junior high school years and high school years, that we brought in a new principal by the name of Lloyd Shaw. For many years the high school did have a football team, but then the school was so small that it could not be competitive so they dropped football. Some of the early articles about Lloyd ‘Pappy’ Shaw it said they dropped football and took up square dancing. Both laugh. The fact of the matter was that the school was just too small to support a competitive football team. We had track and we had basketball, but we had square dancing. That’s what the school became mostly noted for was the square dancing.
Pappy Shaw was first and foremost an educator. He became interested in square dancing partially looking for an activity for the kids at school but also very much as a historian. He taught western history in the school and was very much interested in all facets of western history. He was a hands-on kind of guy; in his western history class he would not simply stand up and tell you about Bent’s Fort he would load you in the old school bus and take you down to Bent’s Fort and show you where the pioneers stood and all that kind of business. It was that kind of background that he brought into his work on square dancing. So, as you know, he became very interested in the background of square dancing. He was very interested in what Henry ford had done and began he travelling around the western United States researching and talking to old time fiddlers, old time musicians, old time callers, researching their old patter – such things as “Here we go in the old mess wagon, hind wheel broke and the axle draggin’.
Meet your honey, pat her on the head. If she don’t like biscuits give her corn bread”. Chuckles. Do you remember some of those?
BB – Yeah.
HE – He became very interested in that sort of jargon and how it came about and how it changed. At the same time he started introducing square dancing to his kids in school. Not only square dancing but early American dancing.
BB – And some folk dancing.
HE – Yeah. The first – I know the first exhibition team I ever danced on I was in eighth grade. We went into Colorado Springs and did an exhibition at a place there, and the exhibition we did was quadrilles. We were dancing – we were dressed in our version of frock coats and that kind of business. That had to be about 1936 I think. Boy, that sounds terrible. Both laugh. So he was interested not only in western dancing, but he was also interested in the early folk dancing. He looked upon the dancing as a folk activity. So from there then he introduced square dancing into the school as an activity for the kids. I need to tell you that our class graduated twenty seven. You can see it was not a very big school. During the lunch hour – noon hour break in school one of the activities quite often would be square dancing for the kids. That evolved to the point where he developed an exhibition team of dancers. In about ’37, ’38 he started this. The first out-of-state cross country trip that the team took was in 1939.
BB – Is that right? Really?
HE – We were invited to the National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C. …
BB – Oh yes, right.
HE – … so we crawled in our old school – it was a new school bus – Ford school bus and took off cross country for the National Folk Festival in 1939. Before that there was competition for the team just as there would have been competition for one of the sports teams. You had to attend a certain number of practices. You had to compete and you had to be chosen for the team in order to go on that trip. You had to have certain grade level. You had to complete all of the work that would be due while you were gone. So, there were a lot of requirements you had to meet besides dancing on the team. Pappy insisted upon maintaining academic integrity. But in ’39 anyhow we took off and headed for the National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C.
Travelling with Pappy was a very interesting experience. I’ve always said that Pappy was a man of mettle (not necessarily mettle, although he was,) but metal because we always said he had iron kidneys and a lot of brass. Both laugh.
Any place we went that had anything of a historical nature he would stop and make sure that we saw that place. He thought nothing of, on a holiday or at night or anytime he thought nothing of going up and knocking on some curator’s door or somebody’s door to open a closed museum so that his kids could get in and see it. So the trip, in that sense, was very educational as we went across country. Anyhow, we made our way to the National Folk Festival in Washington, D. C… I believe on that trip we went to New York. We taught I believe at New York University. Pappy took us down to one of the cafes in New York – it was a restaurant café – and let us buy 25 cent hamburgers I think. I still have the menu from that place.
BB – Is that right? I’ll be darned.
HE – Prices are pretty interesting. We went up to Vermont, Bennington School in Vermont – danced up there. I think it was on that trip that we came back down through Detroit, and we danced with and for the Ford Dancers. They danced for us, we danced for them.
BB – That was at Lovett Hall?
HE – In Lovett Hall. It was quite interesting because the Ford Dancers were very formal, decked out in frock coats, white tie and tail and all that business. Beautiful dancers. Of course, Lovett Hall was beautiful. Of course we were decked out in our cowboy uniforms, you know cowboy shirt. In those days we danced with our pants tucked in our boots. When we came in to dance with the Ford Dancers in Lovett Hall, we came in with a grapevine twist. You probably remember, whooping and hollering.
BB – Sure.
HE – We were – the old expression ‘ Bootheels kicking up splinters in the floor’. I thought they were going to die – both laugh – about gave them all a heart attack. But anyhow, that was a wonderful experience and, as usual, Pappy made sure that we got a tour of the manufacturing facilities and the Museum and all that sort of thing as a part of our visit to the Detroit area there. Dancing in Lovett Hall is something I’ll never forget.
I think on the way home we stopped in Kansas State University and instructed there. Our program that we danced was about a two hour program – our exhibition program. We started off with the New England quadrilles – Waltz Quadrille and so forth. Rather soft kinds of things. The second portion was European dances, ethnic dances. We did the Russian dance — Danish dance where you sit on your heels and kick and Danish style dances.
Then the European dances. The third portion was Mexican where we did (??) (a variety of dances whose names I cannot spell), the Mexican Varsouvianne and some of those things.
BB – Mexican Hat Dance?
HE – Yeah, (??) Both laugh. Then we wound up with western square dance. We normally carried a fiddler and a piano player with us.
BB – Oh, did you really?
HE – Yeah. I remember Nick was the fiddler and our pianist was our study hall teacher. Teach Johnson traveled with us quite often with two squares of kids…
BB – OK. That was my next question.
HE – … and Pappy and Mrs. Shaw. Thank God for Dorothy Shaw. Pappy was a task-master, and he thought nothing whatsoever of having you practice for hours and hours and then go do your two hour exhibition. If it hadn’t been for Dorothy Shaw I think, especially some of the girls would have expired on that trip. She took good care of us and put a rein on Pappy once in a while.
Anyhow, I have to say at the National Folk Festival we were scheduled for one short appearance and ended up doing several because, not necessarily we, but the western dancing was the hit of the show. We had, as I recall, we had to substitute one of the girls there. Do you remember the figure ‘Eight Hands Over,
Let ‘em Flop and Go Like Thunder’?
BB – Right. Right.
HE – With the two squares we were doing the flapping part and two of the girls hit ankles and one broke an ankle …
BB – Oh dear.
HE – … so we had to I think dance without a girl or make a substitute. But anyhow, then on the way home we stopped I believe at Kansas State University. Wherever we stopped we usually stopped at a University that had some sort of program and did the exhibition, and also we taught. When we taught, we would just – either we would work with teachers who were interested in learning the craft or we would just simply get dancers on the floor as you would do in a one-nighter and get them to dance.
So, by the time you did a two hour exhibition with those kind of dances and then another hour or two of that sort of thing, it was a pretty good workout.
BB – I can imagine. Right.
HE – In 1940 we went out to the University of California for a week and did essentially the same thing. A lot more teaching there because we spent a week. Those were the two trips that I participated in because I graduated in 1940. They continued those trips after that for, I think, another three or four years that they had teams go out. I think Bob Osgood and some of the old timers would tell you that , particularly on the west coast those trips and the Cheyenne Dancers are what lit the fire for square dances out here. After people saw those dances, it seemed to take off like wildfire. That was really a growth period.
BB – I’m not sure it was your trip that you’re talking about to the Folk Festival in Washington but perhaps one of the later trips that had a big inspiration to the leaders in New England.
HE – Well, the other thing that – about that time, I think in about 1939 or perhaps ’38 Pappy started holding schools that – today we would call them caller’s schools. He’d hold those schools during the summertime, and he taught calling to a lot of our leaders – Manning Smith, I think Bob Osgood went to some of his classes …
BB – Sure he did.
HE – … but he taught a lot of leadership too. In those days, as you well know, as far as calling techniques were concerned, we were pretty much in our infancy. He held these schools, and obviously some of the people that came out of them became pretty good.
Anyhow, that’s where my dancing started was, like I say about 1936, ’37 in eighth grade and working through that …
BB – No, I didn’t realize that the Cheyenne Dancers had traveled that early. I didn’t realize that. Didn’t they – you were talking about how they had to keep up their school work or your school work while you were gone but I was under the impression that they took these trips in the summertime, during the summer vacation not necessarily …
HE – No, not necessarily.
BB – I see. OK.
HE – There were shorter trips also. There were a lot of short trips within the state, but the first cross-country trip was in 1939. They bought a new bus as a matter of fact, so they could go. If you see pictures of it you’ll see those seats were pretty hard.
BB – I know how far it is to drive across there because I’ve done it myself several times.
HE – I think we got a dollar a day for expenses for the kids.
BB – Is that right?
HE – But it was an experience, a growing up experience I mean and a very educational experience.
BB – So most of the kids that were in that dancing exhibition troop that traveled really only got to do it like twice when they were a junior or a senior?
HE – In that group yeah but there were others coming behind us.
BB – Sure.
HE – They did that for several years after that. I’m not sure how many years but …
BB – Well, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Silver Spurs from Spokane, Washington …
HE – Oh yeah. Absolutely
BB – … and Red Henderson. He followed that same format primarily. He was talking about the whole Spokane, Washington school system and he finally – they had a very comprehensive program I understand. I’ve never got to go and see it.
HE – They were a wonderful group.
BB – Yeah. No, I sponsored them when they came east several times as a matter of fact but I mean I never got to Spokane to see how this worked. I understand they really started in the lower grades and with their te – beginning to learn and the ultimate goal was to become a member of the Silver Spurs so that they could get the trip to the east coast one year and to the west coast the next year or southwest they would be. Well, that’s really interesting. Now, when you were at the National Folk Festival – I’m trying to remember the Director of that …
HE – Oh, I don’t remember.
BB – … I had met her a couple of times but be that as it may. But while you at the Folk Festival did you actually do some of your ethnic folk dance routines at the Folk Festival or did you stick strictly with the …
HE – No, we did primarily the western square dancing, right, but as I say we were supposed to do just one short part and we did several because the audiences called us back. It was a big gig.
BB – I’ll bet. Well, I’ve never had the opportunity to stop at the Lovett Hall or the museum there. I’ve got to do that some day. Can you tell us a little bit more about Lovett Hall and the museum?
HE – Well, the only thing I can tell you is the impressions. You know, we were – I speak for myself, but I was typical of the people on the trip. We were just a bunch of hick kids from Colorado you know and – coughs – excuse me – you know, we got back in these places in like New York City and here we are with our pants tucked into our boots and cowboy hats and walking down the streets of New York City. People staring at us and Lovett Hall, the impression was that here is really a beautiful place, you know, well maintained, sparkling with dancers looked so pretty. I guess we were too young to actually realize the significance of that village, but we were old enough to appreciate it. I remember the exhibits of some of the old records, the Edison records and musical instruments that Henry Ford had bought – priceless musical instruments. My main impression is the shock that we caused when we came in with the Grapevine Twist. Of course, we thought that was fun.
BB – Oh yeah. That’s how the Silver Spurs entered too.
HE – Yeah, It was I guess. After these many years it’s just hard to go back and conjure up the impression placed upon me.
BB – I’ll bet.
HE – Of course we knew who Henry Ford was. At that time we didn’t appreciate the impact he had had on square dancing, but it was a great visit. I’ve always been pleased to say, “Yeah, I danced at Lovett Hall’.
BB – Do you remember when Lovett Hall was built by any chance?
HE – No, I sure don’t.
BB – Of course the story of Henry Ford and the way he got Benjamin Lovett to come to Detroit was interesting in itself. I’m sure it’s been told many times.
HE – I guess that was in the early ‘30’s.
BB – Probably, yeah.
HE – It was not long thereafter that Henry had Lovett Hall built because he established a big square dance program in the area with radio programs, and pretty much whatever Benjamin Lovett wanted he got.
BB – Yeah. I understand he worked ten, twelve hours a day teaching and of course, Henry Ford put a notice on the board that said, “ We think it would be nice if you appeared at the dance tomorrow night at 7:30” and sure enough they were there.
HE – They tell the story that, in Lovett Hall that if you were on this side of the floor, and you wanted to see somebody on the other side of the floor you did NOT walk across the dance floor. You walked around, and when Henry and Mrs. Ford stood up to leave, the dance was over.
BB – Yes.
HE – You know then that it was over.
BB – Well, I was taught that same thing that you were not supposed to walk across the floor in my first ballroom class.
HE – Yeah. I think it was Dave Taylor who did an interview with Benjamin Lovett’s successor.
BB – Oh, is that right?
HE – I have a tape of that …
BB – Do you really?
HE – … they talk about some of these things.
BB – Well, is there any way I can get a copy of that for the archives?
HE – Sure. I’ll send you a copy.
BB – Yeah. I’d like to have that for the archives.
HE – I’ll send you a copy.
BB – OK. That’s great.
HE – It’s very interesting.
BB – I haven’t talked to Dave yet. I’ve got to get down to Florida to see him.
Well, that’s really interesting.
HE – I’ll get your address while you’re here and …
BB – Yeah. I’ll give you my card before you go.
HE – I’ll just make you a copy.
BB – Yeah. I’d really appreciate it. I’m gradually – I’m gleaning – through these interviews I’m gleaning historical things. Someone told me yesterday they have tapes of Ed Gilmore’s first caller’s school and they’re going to send me a copy.
HE – I’ve got a tape of a clinic that Bruce Johnson did for us in Hawaii I think about 1960. It’s interesting to listen to it because it’s just as apropos today as it was ……
BB – Sure. Gee, I’d love to have a copy of that too.
HE – The subject was, “ What’s the Hurry” and he was talking about, I think, what we had at that time, maybe sixteen basics, you know. He said, “Look at what you can do with sixteen basics. What’s the hurry to move on and get more?” And, like I say you put it on today and it’s just as applicable. You change a few words, “What’s the hurry to get to plus?”
BB – That’s – I’m sure this is true. Well we’ve got a couple minutes left on this side of the tape. OK, we’ve been through the experiences you’ve had with the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers. Really, were they called the Cheyenne Dancers or the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers?
HE – Cheyenne Mountain Dancers. The school was Cheyenne Mountain School.
BB – School. Right. That’s what I thought. So you’ve danced at the Broadmoor and … laughs.
HE – Oh yeah. We had waltz night up at the Broadmoor because we did, not only square dancing or our ethnic dancing but we did rounds too. We did Varsouvianna, Schottische, Mazurka, Waltz – the things that were popular of that day and when we went to these places and did teaching we usually taught Varsouvienne and the Schottische – variations on it.
BB – Cotton-Eyed Joe?
HE – Yeah. Cotton-Eyed Joe.
BB – There you go. Well, that’s interesting. So we’re going to make the transition from your dancing experience at that age to your calling experience. Why don’t we do this. Why don’t I stop the tape for a minute and we’ll turn it over and we’ll start again. Tape clicks.
HE – All right.
BB – OK. So we’re just about ready to go from the transition of dancing at your young age into when did you get into calling?
HE – Well. I went from high school to the University of Colorado. I went on and academic scholarship which, unfortunately didn’t pay very much, but I was at the University of Colorado – a side light, I always thought I’d like to play football and so I went out for football at the University of Colorado and they beat me to death because I was up there with a bunch of All-State football players and I’d never played anything but sand lot. I very quickly turned in my uniform and pads.That was a bad one.
I was poor as a churchmouse up there and, as a matter of fact, I had already hocked my saxophone. The faculty – some of the faculty up there had decided that they’d like to learn to square dance and perhaps form a club. Somehow they found that I had danced with the Cheyenne Dancers and they got in touch with me and asked me if I would teach them and call for them. I hadn’t ever called except imitating Pappy or something, you know, but I knew I could. Laughs. As you probably recall this is, you know, you get the fourth couple off the street – teach them the Northern Do sa do and you had a square. But anyhow, of course the motivating factor was that they offered me $10 a night, and that was more money than I’d seen in quite a while at that time. Chuckles.
BB – What year was this now?
HE – This was ‘40 – this was probably in the fall of ‘40 or the spring of ’41.
BB – Yeah. You were in the big money. When I was calling up at the University of Maine I took a piano player with me and the two of us got $5.00.
HE – Well, that’s what I say. That was a big motivator. So anyhow I said, “Sure, I’ll give it a try.” So, I did and I taught them to square dance as we were doing it then, visiting couple sort of thing, and called for them. I also taught them to round dance, the Varsouvianne and the Schottische and they formed a club. So, that’s where I started. I was with them for, I guess maybe a couple of months is all, maybe three months. Then the University and I came to mutual agreement that it might be well if I departed. Chuckles.
One of the instructors and I had a disagreement and I was stupid. But anyhow. So I left the University. I went to work for a while at various jobs and then I entered – I enlisted in the Air Force – Army air Corps and went into the cadet program. That was the end of square dance calling for a while.
BB – Do you remember which class you were in in the cadet program?
HE – Yeah. I graduated from Albuquerque Bombardiers School 42-16, November 21st, 1942.
BB – Well, I was in the class of 43J. They went by alphabetical designation.
HE – Yeah. That was my first experience in how the army works. I enlisted in Denver and that was $21 a day, once a month as you recall. We got on the train in Denver and headed for Kansas on our way to Santa Anna. Both laugh. OK, if that’s the way they want to do it that’s all right with me. So we went to Santa Anna. Went through cadet training in Santa Anna. From Santa Anna to Albuquerque, went through bombardier flight training and was commissioned, graduated 2nd Lieutenant November 21st, 1942. Went from there to Salt Lake City to a Replacement Depot – Reple Deple.
BB – Reple Deple.
HE – I was in Salt Lake City a couple of weeks praying most of the time they wouldn’t send me to Wendover. Then went from there to Boise, Idaho, Gowen Field where we assembled a crew and where we were going through phase training – that was primarily for the pilot at Boise. My long time dance partner and high school sweetheart , Erna came up from Colorado Springs to Boise and we were married in the chapel at Gowen Field on the 2nd of January, 1943. We were married about nine o’clock at night in the chapel there, and at six o’clock the next morning I was in a B-17 heading for Walla Walla.
BB – There you go.
HE – Short honeymoon. We did phase training at Boise and over to Walla Walla for further training. We were there only a short time and they decided the pilot needed more training so we went back to Boise. We were there a short time. Then we went back to Walla Walla. All four of the officer crew members on the crew were married, and so our wives were frantically chasing us across the northwest in old trains with wicker seats and pot bellied stoves for heat in those days. All except one of the wives – the pilot’s wife was Mignon Hills – you’ve perhaps heard about Hills Brothers Coffee – she was of the Hills family. She traveled sometimes a little bit differently than the other three wives. Although a sweet gal. She never flaunted her affluence at all. So, further training in Walla Walla. One of our unusual experiences there was when we took off one day for the Boardman Bombing Range. We got out to the range and before we could do anything one of those thick northwest fogs that blanket everything moved in and as we turned around to go back to base we lost all of our navigation equipment and everything.
BB – Oh, great.
HE – So we were in this thick fog bank, not even knowing where we were.
BB – I’ll be darned.
HE – Unfortunately we turned the wrong way and just got deeper into it. We chandelled off of various mountains in the northwest for seven hours after which time we were reported down and lost because people back at the base knew we’d be out of gas and they were right. We finally broke out – saw some lights down on the ground. Went down and buzzed what turned out to be a little bit of a town. Fortunately a highway patrolman was there and had sense enough to round up some of the residents. They lined up their cars on both sides of a pasture there and we landed wheels down in twenty one inches of snow in Poison, Montana….
BB – Is that right? I’ll be darned.
HE – …. on the edge of Flathead Lake. We were very lucky because, as we were rolling to a stop, the engines began to die from fuel starvation.
BB – It’s interesting you didn’t slip over there landing wheels down. But well, OK.
HE – I almost changed careers there. Of course the Norden Bombsight was top secret then. We took the Norden Bombsight out of the airplane, took it downtown, got the banker out of bed, put the bombsight in the vault, and there I am, standing in the vault with a loaded forty-five – laughs. If you ever think to changing careers – … But anyhow, that was a kick.
BB – So then you finally went to Europe.
HE – Went to Europe, yeah. We went ….
BB – Flew out of England.
HE – …went from Walla Walla to Pierce, South Dakota to Salina, Kansas. We were assigned to the John Provisional Group but the group had already gone so there were only three crews of us left. The three crews of us left Salina, Kansas on the seventeenth of April ’43 to go overseas – just the three of us. We flew from Salina to Selfridge Field in Detroit. We were carrying tow bars, etc. overloaded. We blew a tire. Finally got that fixed. Went from Selfridge Field to Bangor, Maine, from Bangor, Maine to Goose Bay, Labrador, Goose Bay to Keflevic, Iceland, landed under a red alert there so they kicked us out pretty quick. We flew from Teflevic to Prestwick, Scotland then went down to Watford, England which was a depot. They took our nice airplane away from us, and we went on down to the 91st Bomb Group at Bassingbourne, England. In those days, when a new crew came in they broke the crew up so as to give various crew members orientation. Our pilot, Jim Breeden went to Kiel, Germany on his first flight orientation. He was shot down. A couple days later our navigator, Morris Floyd went to Willhelmshaven on his first orientation flight. He was shot down. I said, you know, “ Don’t call me, I’ll call you”. The rest of the crew flew with a different pilot and a different navigator. On the seventh mission I moved into squadron lead, being the most experienced after seven missions. We flew to St. Nazaire. The rest of my crew on my left wing they were shot down so I was the only one of the original crew. But I did eight more missions. I was shot down on the seventeenth of August, 1943 over Schhweinfurt, on the way to Schweinfurt and then was a POW until liberated by one of Patton’s units on the twenty-ninth of April of ’45.
BB – Hmm. Long stint.
HE – Yeah. Twenty and a half months. Stalag Luft Three to begin with. As the Russians approached Stalag Luft Three which was at Sagan about eighty miles southeast of Berlin. As the Russians came close we evacuated camp and we marched eighty Kilometers across northern Germany in February in freezing rain, snow, ice, etc. I think it was Spremburg. They put us in box cars and took us down through Checoslovakia and on into Mooseburg, Stalag VllA, which was not far from Munich and Patton liberated us down there. So there wasn’t much square dancing from ….
BB – You were a little busy.
HE – …. The 21st of November of ’42 until that time. After the war I was stationed various places in Texas, and when we were there long enough why I usually managed to get just a small group together to start them square dancing. I could never say I had a club as such except for a short while in San Antonio, Texas. I had a group which I think eventually would have turned into a club, but we moved from San Antonio to Mather Field in Sacramento, California and started a group out in Sacramento, We had them going when we went to Taiwan. People talk about teaching Chinese to square dance. I had a group of Chinese – Taiwanese Chinese dancing at the Grand Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan in 1954. They spoke very little English and I spoke very little Chinese. It was kind of an interesting experience….
BB – I imagine.
HE – …. you’d have these Chinese ladies dancing in their long Chinese dresses. But it was fun. We had, we started a small group there in Taiwan forty-two years ago – good gravy. We came back from Taiwan to Montgomery, Alabama to Command a Staff School there. We started a club down there, the Beaux and Belles. We started the club with three couples and literally went out on the street almost and grabbed the first couple we saw and, as we were apt to do in those days, we brought the fourth couple in, taught them how to do the Northern DoSiDo. Put them in fourth couple and taught them to square dance. They became class members, club members all at the same time. Anyhow, we started that club in probably ’55 – may still be going I don’t know.
That was probably the first time after the war where I really got back into teaching, calling pretty much on a regular basis and doing some traveling around the Montgomery, Alabama area. We left there in 1939 and that’s the first time I got into the caller/coach business because they needed a caller to replace me. I convinced the very reluctant non-caller that he should learn to call. So, on a one-to-one basis in the rec room I taught him to call, you know, in quotation marks but enough so that he became a successful club caller and a successful area caller. His name was Jack Austin. We went off to Hawaii and shortly after we got to Hawaii I replaced Butch Pritchet as caller for the Hickham Promenaders and later for the Barber’s Point Coral Kickers. So I had two clubs, two classes going there all the time plus a round dance class. The biggest class I ever had was in Hawaii. It was just a lot of fun. We just really had a good time dancing over a period of several years. We left there in 1963. Went to the Pentagon. In Hawaii I was on CINCPAC (Commander-in-Chief Pacific) staff so I worked for the Navy. Transferred to Air Staff in the Pentagon. We round danced with Blackie and Dottie Heatwole in that area. Shortly after we got there some people thought they’d like to form a square dance group so we formed the Cavaliers Square Dance Club which I think is still active. So, we taught classes, we called for the Cavaliers Square Dance Club until we left that area in 1968. We went to Denver. While in Denver we taught rounds and eventually developed two round dance clubs, an easy level club and an intermediate club. We called for various clubs. I was permanent caller for a couple of them but usually it was – clubs in that area would most often hire callers on a one or two time basis rather than having a full time caller. So, I just bounced around a lot of clubs there. I started a Plus club in Denver, the first Plus club there. That was when we had Plus One, Plus Two. Then when we left to Denver area in the 1960’s we went down to Green Valley I decided fifty years was long enough so I pretty much hung up the microphone as far as calling was concerned.
BB – Well in the interim there somewhere Herb you were Executive Secretary of Callerlab.
HE – Yeah, I became Executive Secretary, Assistant Secretary of Callerlab I believe in 1980. It was the Miami Convention. There was one funny story. I remember it but if I can tell it.
BB – Sure
HE – They were having interviews at that time for Secretary and Assistant Secretary and I was being interviewed by the Board of Governors. Marshall Flippo was leaning back – he always leaned back in his chair you know – was leaning way back in his chair. They were asking me questions. I’ve always been primarily a local caller. I had not been a travelling caller and never had any desire to be. So, Marshall’s question was he said, “ Herb, you don’t travel very much do you?” and I said, “ No, Marshall I try to call well enough that I don’t have to leave town the next morning”. Both laugh. He fell over backwards in his chair.
BB –That’s great. I’ll have to remind him of that. Both laugh.
HE – Anyhow, in 1990 when we first went down to Green Valley I said, you know, “ This is a nice clean point off – I’ll finish up my calendar and that – so I did. I gave my records away – gave a thousand round dance records to another cuer up there. I’m now buying those back at $6.00 a copy, those records I paid ninety cents for back then.
BB – Were you dancing at all then?
HE – Oh yes. Last year the cuer of the round dance club down there decided that he’d had enough for a while. The club was about to go down the drain which was too bad because we have a recreation center down there that was built specifically for dancing, has a floating wood floor and everything. So they asked me if I’d cue for them and the old war horse said, “Yeah, I’ll do that”. We square dance Monday nights with the club down there. Once in a while if the club caller gets stuck or something I’ll fill in for him on squares – not too often. I cue on Tuesday night. Wednesday morning we have a class teaching classic round dances – Phases 3, 4 and 5. Saturday morning we have an open end round dance workshop. Once a month we have a dinner dance, round dance at the Elks Club down there. That’s considerably more than I had intended to do but, yeah we’re pretty active.
BB – That’s great. That’s great. That keeps you young, right?
HE – Yeah, It does and both physically and mentally trying to remember dances, etc. Sometimes I wonder but …
BB – OK. Well, let’s step back a little bit Herb. You mentioned the saxophone earlier. One of the questions I was going to ask you was, “Did you come from a musical family and did you play musical instruments”.
HE – I did not come from a musical family but I played saxophone as a kid. I never pursued it, something I really regret. As I say, at the University of Colorado and boy, I was broke. I hocked my saxophone. I never did get it back. Funny thing – when we got to Taiwan in ‘53 there was no kind of an officer’s club or anything over there so we built our own. We scrounged around and we found that there were some old musical instruments laying around. We added a dentist, Dr. Bean who played a little bit of clarinet. Our staff pilot, Dick Jaeger was a nice pianist, fine pianist. We had a pilot, C. D. Lewis who never played anything but thought he’d like to play drums. I found an old tenor saxophone and who else did we have? We had drums. Oh, and we had an Army Colonel that played trumpet so the five of us got together and formed a band. It was God awful but it was the only thing that was available. So we played for dances there at the club quite often. I found that I was able I was able to get my hands on some simple orchestrations like, “ Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbing Along” and that kind of thing. We played for several dances there and finally I flew over to Hong Kong and hired a Philippino orchestra. They came over and became permanently established in Taiwan and became our band at the club there.
BB – I hope you didn’t have to use them to call square dances. That’s not quite the right instrumentation. Both laugh
HE – No, but my musical background is very, very limited and only used in dire emergencies.
BB – Well, I’ll tell you Herb, I’m going to stop this tape again and take a little break because I want to continue on. There’s a lot of other things I want to ask you so let’s just relax for a minute.
HE – All righty.
BB – All right. So we’re continuing with Herb Egender from Green Valley, Arizona. So, we just lightly touched on your experience with Callerlab. I know that’s an important part of your career and obviously is an important part of our dance history so tell us a little bit more of what went on with – what things were you working on at Callerlab, etc. around that time.
HE – I was lucky to become a member of Callerlab at the first convention, the reason I was – at that time you became a member by invitation. As you know, the first small group, each one invited somebody to come in.
At the 1974 convention it was still pretty much invitational – people invited you to come in. Last night they said that the first Callerlab Seminar at National Square Dance Conventions was in Milwaukee in 1979 which is true, but the first time that seminar was done by three Callerlab members was in 1974. Jon Jones, Jack Lasry and I did the seminar at the 1974 National Convention in San Antonio, Texas. I tell you that because I had not been invited to Callerlab and Frank Lane and Vaugh Parrish said, “Hey, this guy’s with Jon Jones and Jack Lasry doing this seminar at the National and he’s been around a little while. He certainly should be invited to Callerlab.” I take every opportunity that I can to thank those two guys for that and so I was invited to first convention of Callerlab. I went and I was just – it just blew my mind. I was so excited, so enthralled with that experience and what was going on and what the future looked like. I didn’t take Erna, my late wife Erna to that convention and when I got home I was so pumped up she said, “ You’re never going to another one without me.” I was just really excited and grateful about the whole deal. So I started going to the conventions and getting interested in it. When they started looking for an Executive Secretary, I thought, “Why not?” I’d had some command experience etc. So I applied and I was interviewed. John Kaltenthaler was selected thankfully. He was a good choice. Better than I would have been at that time. Later on they decided that they needed an assistant, I guess primarily to put together some kind of an in-house publication which became ‘Direction’. That was one of the things they told me I needed to do. So, at the Miami convention they had interviews with several of us to be Assistant Executive Secretary and I was fortunate enough to be chosen for that job. At that time the job was to be Editor of Direction primarily and I did – if I’ve made any contribution at all it’s in the writing phase. I put together a lot of pamphlets for Callerlab at that time originally – ‘ You Are Callerlab’, ‘What Is Callerlab’ and some of the history of Callerlab and a lot of written material in addition to Direction. That, of course was primarily to help the conventions, to be a gofer for John and work on the conventions. I did that for about I guess seven years, eight years. John said he was going to retire so I thought, “ Well, if John is going to retire the best thing I can do is step down and let somebody else get into this job and become prepared to replace John.” We both quit at the same time and (??). So, that’s what I did. I submitted my resignation and ran for the Board. I served a couple of terms on the Board of Governors and on the Executive committee which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a lot of work. People don’t realize how much work goes into that. Really a lot of work for those guys that do that. After two terms on the Board I decided that it was time for some of the younger fellows to get in there and I wouldn’t run anymore. – laughs. Cathy’s good sense prevailed when I mentioned it. That’s about it for Callerlab. I’ve been to every convention and if I’m physically able I don’t intend to miss any – as long as I’m financially able. I’ve always supported Callerlab. I became a caller/coach. I forget what year it was, quite a while ago because I’ve always been interested in training callers. I much prefer to work with brand new callers than I do with experienced callers. I’m probably better at it. I think I’m pretty good working with younger people. So, I’ve enjoyed that. I have been on a number of caller’s schools with various people and I ran a couple, matter of fact I ran in Tucson, Arizona a callers and cuers school where I combined callers and cuers. They both got common subjects like music. leadership, etc. and only the callers got formation management and only the round dance leaders got structure of round dancing. I combined them both in our mic sessions where they worked together and it worked great. I’ve got several of those who are still successful and active.
BB – You don’t find too many leaders today who call square dances and cue rounds both.
HE – I’ve always done both because I didn’t know any better. I don’t recommend it to a newer caller, but as you well know, when we started calling, when I started calling I followed Pappy’s format which was when you did a square dance you did Blue Pacific Waltz. You did the Varsouvienna. You did the Schottische. You did the Mazurka.
BB – It was part of the square dance.
HE – That was part of the square dance. I didn’t know any better so when I started teaching there at the University of Colorado, I taught the Varsouvienna and the Schottische and I started teaching round dancing at the same time. I always did both. Made a long evening sometimes and sometimes I thought, “ This is not a good idea” because it certainly cut down the time you had to get down and meet the dancers.
BB – Right, right. Yeah, that’s true.
HE – Another thing that’s kind of funny that people call and ask me to do a dance and I say, “ What do you want me to do, squares or rounds or both?” and when we started negotiating price they always wanted you to do the rounds free. They’ll hire you as a caller but they didn’t want to pay you for the rounds, you know? It was kind of funny. Both laugh.
BB – Yeah, I often wondered how that law came about. Back when I was – when we were starting to do rounds I called and cued both until the cuers appeared on the scene. It always seemed like a double entendre`. Now you’ve got to hire two people for the poor little club. Well Herb, let’s get a little bit serious and talk about – where do you think square dancing has been, where do you think it might be now and where do you think it might be going?
HE – Boy, wow! That’s a tough question. Well again, I still go back to Pappy. He said, “ Square dancing is folk”, you know, and I kind of think we’ve lost that folk atmosphere. We lost the concept I think that human beings like to do what they do best. I very seldom pick a job that I know I’m going to fail at, and I think too often nowadays that we set people up for failure and we wonder why our classes are small and our clubs are small, etc. I’m afraid it’s because we skim off the cream. We run a class and we rush people through a class and we skim off the cream. Those that are able to – number one they have to learn to move their feet in a manner in which they’ve never moved them. They have to learn a foreign language which they’ve never heard before and they have to put those two together in some pretty complex patterns. Some people can’t do that, but we take the people that can do it and cream them off and send them on up to Plus for example. We cream them off and we send them on someplace. All of these other people that are not the cream that we have set up for failure we lose because people don’t like to continue to do what they don’t do well.
BB – That’s an interesting concept.
HE – I think we need to back off and say we need to set people up for success at whatever level. I was listening yesterday to a discussion on fifty ways to solve our problems, etc. About ten years ago, maybe twelve years ago I wrote an article in Direction and it was entitled, “ Fewer Basics or Bust”. I stressed the fact that we were making incompetent Plus dancers out of incompetent Mainstream dancers. As Casey Stengel said, listening to that yesterday, “ It’s Déjà vu all over again.” Everything I’d said in that article ten years ago we were talking about. The most fun I can remember that I ever had in square dancing, the most success I ever had in square dancing was when we were in Hawaii in 1961, 1962. We weren’t doing anything very complicated, but I had the biggest class I ever had there. We graduated 96 people from the class. We had more fun than any place. We did all kinds of – everything from dancing on an aircraft carrier to dancing festivals, you know? Very sociable, lot of fun, dancers, good dancers, smooth dancers but nothing very complicated. Not a great deal of puzzle solving. I guess that makes me an old fogey because I remember those good times. I see people today that are so intent on solving some of the puzzles that we get to give them, they don’t have time to really enjoy dancing. There are a lot of people around that have never experienced dancing a real nice smooth dance tip. One of the Brundage brothers for example. Both laugh. Smooth dancing is a foreign concept too because they’ve never been taught, they’ve never been given time to do it. You know, this swing – the swing used to be such an important part of dancing you know? Gosh, each swing sixteen counts. Now boy, if you get around once you’re lucky and on the other hand you grab some girl and start to swing her, you get her around once and, boy, she stops. Right and Left Grand used to be an opportunity to sing and say, “ How are you, etc.”
You go up and watch Advanced dancers now they don’t do any of that foolishness. No Allemande, no Right and Left Grand.
BB – Never a swing.
HE – No and the music is only background noise. It had very little to do with the dance.
BB – Well, do you think there’s any hope for the future Herb?
HE – Oh yeah. Yes. I think square dancing is bigger than all of us and so it’s a wonderful opportunity and what we say about it is true. It’s great exercise, it’s great sociability, it’s a great way to meet people you know. All of these things we say about square dancing are true if we’ll let them happen. If we’ll let them happen, but we’ve got to take time to let them happen. We’ve got to train people for success instead of training them for failure. It doesn’t mean we can’t do complicated things. We used to do Venus and Mars like the kids did yesterday. That’s a complicated figure but it’s not so technically challenging that the average person can’t do it. I remember we used to have a heck of a time teaching people Dive For The Oyster without bumping heads, you know. We’ve gone through those phases where we get – coughs – we were sitting in a callers/coaches meeting this morning. We’ve gotten so technically precise on some of these things and they’re correct. They are correct. It’s not that. I sit back and I say, “ Whew! Do we really need this to enjoy square dancing? Do we really need this to teach new callers?”
BB – Well, I’m wondering too Herb, allow me to interject another slant to this. Some of the modern day people who are so involved in the challenging aspects of, as you say, solving the puzzle, etc. perhaps they’re saying to themselves, “ Do we need people who dance to the music? Do we really need – is this what square dancing is now, the challenge or is it the music?”
HE – Well, yeah I’m sure you’re right and I think there are callers and dancers who would say, “No, it doesn’t make any difference whether you dance to the music or not if you solve the puzzle correctly.” Coughs. Sometimes, in doing caller’s clinics or seminars or school where they go on about it, I do the exercise where from a static square now I’m going to give you a call or I’m going to give you a series of calls, I don’t want you to dance through them, I want you to simply step to the ending position. You know, that’s a brain teaser and it’s kind of fun if you don’t run it into the ground. A lot of challenging dancing is just like that.
BB – Yes, right.
HE – I give a call and these people, they don’t dance. They just shuffle around and there they are.
BB – There they are and they stand and wait for ten minutes while the next call…
HE – Yep and I’m sure that those people would argue with you that that’s what we want to dance, we’re not interested in doing it smoothly or – the music is just nice music to listen to.
BB – Well, I’m sure you’ll agree that they have the right to do that.
HE – Yeah, That’s what makes the world go around I suppose but the point to me is that they’re at the small point of a pyramid, and we’re losing this big, broad base of the pyramid that you get in classes at the Mainstream level or at the CDP level where people are relaxed, having fun and enjoying it, where they don’t need to be in class for a year. I think we really have to worry about that broad base. A few years ago, I don’t know that – I heard that in southern California, I forget how many Advanced clubs or classes there were, 16, 17, 18 something like that and there wasn’t a single beginners class. I thought, “Boy, you talk about cutting off the base of the pyramid…”
BB – Right
HE – None of those people that were dancing Advanced were born into that activity. They came from some place.
BB – Yeah. People that I, you know I get the impression that – I can’t understand why people don’t understand the very basic fact that the higher the level of the activity the fewer people are going to be part of it.
HE – Same thing is happening in round dancing.
BB – Yes, it is.
HE – Exactly, and I’ve fought with Roundalab about this. They keep pushing basics down from the upper Phases into the lower Phases, you know? I fought like the devil when they put Balero Into Phase Three. I said, “ No, no, no” and I lost that fight. But the same thing is happening in round dancing.
BB – I think you can say the same thing is happening in Country Western, line dancing.
HE – I’m not familiar with that.
BB – Well, I’m not particularly familiar with the field but the people are telling me, “Oh gosh, we go to a line dance and now you’ve got to learn all these steps on cue you know? It’s no longer the simple little thing …. well, it doesn’t matter.
HE – Amos Moses
BB – Amos Moses is what I was thinking of, right. OK. Well Herb what was it in your experience in today looking back, what do you think you found, what was the big appeal to calling square dances to you. What did you find pleasing about it?
HE – Having the microphone, being in control of the situation and getting
ten dollars .
BB – There you go. OK
HE – You know, I think any of us who have ever called or cued or have done that kind of thing are lying if we don’t say we enjoy the …
BB – The ego trip.
HE – … that ego trip, the crowd appeal. I enjoy the role of getting people together and doing something together as a group. I’ve always enjoyed that.
BB – Yeah. You know, the promotional kind of thing. No, that’s a good part of it that’s for sure. What – do you have any regrets, anything that you wish you’d done differently?
HE – Laughs. You’d run out of tape …
BB – Outside of getting shot down over Germany.
HE – Yeah, that was a non-habit forming experience but I survived that anyhow. Lucky. Lucky. Oh you know, I can look back and think of a lot of little individual things where I wish I’d been nicer to somebody in class. I wish I had called a better dance you know. I wish I hadn’t tried something stupid. I guess part of the learning experience or whatever. I heard Gail Seastrom talk one day that she had a sign in her office. I’ve always remember it. It said, “ I’ll never should on myself. I’ll never should on myself”. In other words, “Oh, I shoulda, I shoulda, I shoulda, I shoulda. I think if you get into that mode most of us have made enough mistakes that that can be pretty depressing but by and large, you know, in the big picture I think I have been very lucky. I was lucky to grow up with Pappy Shaw. Very few people had that privilege. People don’t really understand what a marvelous educator he was and Dorothy too. So that I’d acknowledge. I was lucky to get into Callerlab. Two nice guys, Frank Lane and Vaughn Parrish were responsible for that.
BB – Well, you’re like a lot of others that I’ve interviewed that feel that you were in the right place at the right time.
HE –Well, yeah. In many instances, yeah. I don’t know if I’ve made any contribution. I’ve taught a lot of people to dance. I still hear from some people who danced with me more than forty years ago. I’ve never made a record, never was really interested in it so I have no claim to fame there whatsoever. Done a lot of writing. Some of it, I think has been pretty well accepted. Some of it is still used. I did a history that has been published many, many times and is still used by many people. I guess if I’ve made any contribution it’s been in the writing. I edited, helped edit Osgood’s caller’s book. I wrote a pretty good piece of Callerlab Caller’s Manual. So I guess if I have any claim at all to having made a contribution it’s in writing.
BB – Well, that’s great. Well that certainly is true and I realize that and I’m sure that a lot of people who will listen to this tape in the future will understand that by doing a little bit more research.
HE – I was Editor of Direction of course. I was Editor of Roundalab Journal for three years.
BB – Oh, were you. I didn’t realize that.
HE – I was Editor of the Denver Round Dance Council for six years. I got – I’m a member of the Denver Square and Round Dance Council Hall of Fame. Last November I was made a member of the Colorado Round Dance Association Hall of Fame. I’m a Life Member of both of those organizations.
BB – That’s great. Well Herb, I really appreciate your taking the time today to sit down and put these thoughts down on tape. I really appreciate it. It’s been an extremely interesting conversation we’ve had and I want to thank you so much.
HE – Thank you Bob. It’s always fun to tell old war stories.
BB – Right. You’ve got that right. OK. Herb let’s call it a day and thank you again very much.
HE – Thank you Bob
BB – We’ll be seeing you.
HE – Appreciate it.
BB – OK – tape clicks off.