DOC & PEG TIRRELL INTERVIEW
Bob Brundage: Well, good morning again, this is Bob Brundage again. We’re at the National Square Dance Convention in Orlando, Florida. This morning we’re talking to two recipients of the Silver Spur Award, and also the Silver Certificate from Roundalab. We’re talking to Peg and Doc Tirrell, currently of Lower Waterford, Vermont, and previously from Jersey, I think.
Peg Tirrell: That’s right.
Doc Tirrell: Right.
BB: Okay. So, why don’t you tell us, let’s start with you, Peg, why don’t we talk about how you got into square dancing, where you were born and brought up to start with, and we’ll just take it from there. Go ahead.
PT: Well, my folks were all Maniacs
BB: ‘Maine’ iacs, huh.
PT: And they moved down to New Jersey, and that’s where my Dad had his dental practice, and I was brought up down there except the summers were all spent in Maine and so I call myself a New Englander.
PT: And when it carne time to retire, we decided we would go back to New England, but we’ll start back at the beginning. My college days were in New Hampshire. I went to Colby Junior College at that time. Now it’s Colby Sawyer College. And our president of the college happened to be from the tiny town that my folks all came from in Maine. So you know why I went there. And Doc went to
PT: Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. But I never met him even though the colleges were real close until after I had graduated from college.
DT: Well, we did meet once. We did meet once.
PT: Where, dear?
DT: We met at the Green Key Weekend when you came up and you were a date for Matt.
PT: I was a date for his
PT: Roommate. There were six of us, and eventually, it turned around that, I married my friend’s date, and my friend married somebody else. And we’re all happily still together, very much so. We were married, of course, the war came in because that was in ‘4 I, ’42, ’43. That, I was at Colby. Doc went into the service. He was maybe attached to the Marines weren’t you, dear?
DT: That’s right.
PT: And so we carried our romance on through correspondence, and don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do it that way.
DT: Oh, yeah.
PT: So when he came back, we had a real date. And that was it. We
DT: What made it occur, was the fact that my folks, who at that time when we first started college, lived in south Jersey. They moved to North Jersey near where Peggy lived and her family. So, and not knowing anybody up there, I was interested in a contact, and she was a contact. And she’s been a contact ever since. So, how did we get into dancing.
PT: Well, I taught school. I taught first grade, and when Doc came home, I was still teaching. He had still his schooling to finish at Hanover, and when he graduated from there, he was accepted into dental school. And so we were engaged back in ’47, but we decided let him get 1 year of college through before we got married, so in June of’ 48, we were married, and, as I always say, I supported him for the next 3 years by teaching and then he got stuck with supporting me for the rest of my life. I got the best of that bargain. But, in our wedding party was, we had a gal I had grown up with, and her husband, and unfortunately, that fall after we were married, he came down with polio and passed away very suddenly
DT: Leaving one child and a second child on the way.
PT: And after Joan had her second child, she said to us, you know, I’ve got to get out. I just can’t stay here in the house with, I need to get out. So her Mom said, well, I’ll take care of the children and you, and Doc, and Peg can find something to do. So Joan said, I’m going to go over to the Y. They have square dance lessons over at the Y. And so, she said, I’ll go if you go, Peg and Doc. So,
DT: Well, I can understand that she did not want to just go by herself.
PT: So we had to take two buses from the apartment that we lived in to get over there, and she had to take a bus, and we always managed to meet at the Y, and we went in. And we had a marvelous time. It was a series of 10 lessons, so it
DT: It was …
PT: They weren’t lessons.
DT: They weren’t lessons ..
PT: Back then. You just went in, and we danced. We did the contras, we did
DT: Folk dances.
PT: Folk dances. It was sort of
DT: Very, very fundamental round dances.
PT: (?) program to talk about
DT: squares. It was just an all around program.
BB: Right. Do you remember who the caller was?
PT: Walt Bullock.
DT: That’s right.
BB: Oh, okay.
PT: And Walt had been calling for quite a while. He was what you’d call a one-night stander, and his wife was there, and there was, oh, probably 20, 30 couples that came. There were two single men that were there, and some of the single women, and Joan met her future husband there. And they got married the following year. And they don’t dance at all. But we have gone on forever. We danced, I can remember they did the Black Hawk Waltz, and that was so difficult.
DT: That’s right.
PT: My goodness. And Little Eva Two Step. The (?)
DT: (?) barn dance.
PT: Yes. We loved to dance anyway. We just, we never took lessons except what you do with the kids. But we loved to ball room dance free style, and dancing was just in our blood. And it was great because Doc went to school all day, I taught school all day, we needed this chance to be together and do something with people, and it was wonderful.
DT: Well, after we got out of, after I got out of school, and our oldest came along, we sort of dropped out for a couple of years. And basically because we had to get ourselves organized, and by that time, Scott and Barbara had come along, and I was getting active in our dental society, Peg was starting to get active in the Women’s Club. And we came to the conclusion that we were passing each other on, at the door every night. And, as to who was going to be baby sitting, we immediately said, we need something together.
PT: Now may I interrupt here.
PT: We left, we stayed in the apartment for 3 years, and then in ’51, we moved to Crestkill in New Jersey and bought a little house there, and Doc used to take the bus into New York City where he was going to practice, and where he eventually did practice. He and my Dad went in together. But there was a fella on the bus who was a square dancer, and you know how you talk to peop0le on the buses, and, was his name Sam, dear?
PT: And Sam mentioned that he used to, he danced once a month down at the school, and he said
DT: Which is about, oh maybe a quarter of a mile away from our house.
PT: An easy walk, just walk down. And so he said, you know, you should come on down some third Friday night and dance with us. Well, it took us a while to get everything squared out, but one night, we wandered down there on a third Friday night, and we were hooked. It was different than what we had learned back in the Y, because square dancing had come a long a little bit further then.
BB: The western influence.
PT: The western influence had come.
DT: It was still walk in, you know right off the street.
BB: What year are we talking about now, approximately.
DT: We’re talking about ’55.
PT: In May, I have it back in the diaries, dear.
DT: I would think about ’55, is that all right.
BB: Well, that’s close enough, yeah.
PT: Okay, yeah.
DT: And the caller of the club also was only about half-way between where we lived and the school. And they, he used to have little workshops down in his basement. So,
BB: It wasn’t Marty, Marty Winter by any chance?
DT: No, no.
PT: No. It was before Marty started out.
BB: Is that right.
PT: It was Barbara and Sid Scott. Sid Scott and Barbara had seen square dancing when they went back home to Massachusetts. And they decided to form a club, and they, and when they came back to New Jersey, they started in the basement, and they called there, and we used to gather at their house, and danced in the basement. It wasn’t set up for any, it wasn’t really a play room or anything, it was pure basement. And I can remember Doc down there when Do Paso came in.
DT: I had more trouble with Do Paso. I think it took me 3 months to realize what I was supposed to do with it.
PT: Well, the poles kept getting in the way.
DT: That’s right. At least somebody would grab an arm and turn you one way, and somebody would grab another arm and turn you another way.
PT: There was about two sets of us, and then in the sum, and Marty Winter lived in the same town, and
DT: He was just starting. He just decided to start then.
PT: Yeah. He was a dancer, He and Flo. And then he decided that he wanted to be a caller, and so he’d go over to Sid and Barbara Scott’s and they’d let him try a little bit. And then, that worked out well. Then he decided he wanted to do his own thing, too. So we had two callers in the town. And they each needed a lot of practice. And any time that we were free, we were all welcomed to come on down to either house and dance with them all. So that’s what really got us started. And then, this, that summer, when Marty Winter was really going to town, the Scotts had gone back to Massachusetts to visit. And then that was when Teacup Chain was big, the big rage. And Marty decided he was going to use that in a demonstration, and they only, they needed one more couple. There was nobody around but us, and so being the newcomers on the block, they weren’t quite sure whether they should use us in a demonstration or an exhibition or not. But they decided to, they made us the end of the second set. So they called us up and said, will you come on down and practice. And so we practiced Teacup Chain until it came out our ears. On the (?) they had rented a house on the Hudson River, and we used to dance out on the front of their lawn, and as boats went by, they’d wave to us.
DT: We were, their house was literally right on the river. And there was, they had a little wall out in front of it, and on the other side of that wall was water.
PT: That’s what got us started.
DT: We used to take our kids. We packed them into the car and take them up to the home of the dancers, put them on their bed, go down and dance, and the kids would go off to sleep.
BB: Yeah. So what is the evolution into teaching now?
PT: Well, we danced for a while, quite a while, and
DT: Well, the name of this club was, at that time, was Valley Promenaders. We, this is the northern valley of Bergen County.
PT: It was really even longer than that. Northern
DT: It was Crestkill Folk and Dance Club.
PT: Because we always did a regular tip, and then we had folk dances in between. We did the Little Eva Two Step.
DT: Well, there were no round dances as we know them today at that time. Well, they were all 8 measure routines.
DT: Yeah. So, we
PT: Which we loved. We loved the squares, and we loved the rounds. And then our caller was, the Scotts called, and then he had to retire back to Massachusetts because the job was such that he had to go back. And that left us with very, with Marty Winters who had his own club, and he was going his way. But the Valley Promenaders just didn’t want to die down. And we had another couple there, Jody and Joe Brownberg. They had danced before they met.
DT: And there was also one other couple, Allen Fulmers, who had been in the original
DT: Club. Of the Crestkill
PT: Folk and Dance Club.
DT: Folk and Dance Club.
PT: Yeah. And so, we got down to three couples, and Jody looked at the three of us, and she said, we are not going to die. We have a lot of people who want to enjoy this recreation, and so, she looked at Al Fulmer and said, you are going to be the caller, and you are going to learn two singing calls every month, and you’re going to call them. And she pointed to herself and said, I am going to teach a class, and I’m going to get everybody on our block, and we’re going to learn to square dance next summer. She pointed at Doc and said, Doc, you are going to be the round dance leader. And you, we had no room in our house. She said, you’re going to use our basement, and you’re going to teach rounds in our basement, period. And so that’s what happened.
DT: And it did, that club, who started, was down to us three couples, at one time, had a dance with 22 squares in a hall that actually hold, would normally hold 15.
BB: All right. Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard of a round dance teacher by appointment.
PT: Well, Jody was an excellent
DT: She taught squares. She also taught the folk dances because she liked folk dances.
PT: And we had a folk dance partner in our club. She taught the square dancing, but she did something interesting with her classes. She got everything she could find from the SIO, from the callers that she knew. She had also Good Morning America, Henry Ford’s book. She had everything imaginable, and she just pulled and picked and pulled and she said to the class, she was a dictator, “we’re going to run it this way. You will come here for lessons, we’ll say for 2 hours, but then you’re going to stay another half an hour. And every week someone else is going to bring something to munch on. We don’t care whether it’s cheese and crackers, or cake, or whatever, but you’re all going to stay for a half an hour afterwards as part of the class”
DT: Sit down and socialize.
PT: To get to know each other.
BB: That’s great.
DT: And, in fact, actually, she, within a couple of weeks of starting the class, she would choose a head of the class, and it was at any time that she wanted to get in contact with the class, she’d call the head of the class, and it was their job to get the rest, the information out to the rest of the class., so she wouldn’t have to do it. She was the teacher. And, but the main thing was, they didn’t have to eat, they didn’t have to drink, but they had to stay around enough just to socialize.
BB: Right. Well, that’s great.
DT: And when the, when a club came out of their class, that club was welded together into a solid group of people.
BB: Well, I want to get to the transcript because I know you folks are a little pressed for time, not that we still have extra time, but I do want to talk about Legacy, as I know you have been a prime mover in Legacy. First of all, tell us, for the sake of the tape recording, what Legacy is all about to start with, and then, how you got involved.
PT: Okay Well, it sort of has a background because to get, you have to be in the role of some sort of leadership, to become a member, a trustee of Legacy. We are people who get involved being in the northern part of New Jersey at that time, there was a square dance organization down in the central part of the state.
DT: Well, it encompassed our whole area. But the prime location of the leadership was in the middle of the state.
PT: And so, we would go down to their meetings to represent our area and well, they got to know us, and so they decided, this was in the 60s, that they needed a president, they’d take one from the south, and then the next year one from the north, and then go back to the south, so it would alternate, so nobody would feel out of place. And so, they couldn’t find anybody else up north, so they said, well, Peg and Doc, you’ve been helping to contribute to the brand new Grand Square that had just come out. You seem to know
DT: That was the magazine.
PT: And so, why don’t you be the presidents for 1 year, and then next year it will come down south. And here’s your vice, you’ll have two vice presidents, and that’s
DT: (?) one vice president to two vice presidents.
PT: So one vice president was in charge of classes, and one, the other vice president was sort of the administration. And it worked
DT: No, it became that way. They didn’t have any particular duties when we got them, but we gave them the duties.
PT: We assigned them duties. We no sooner took office when the editor of Grand Squares said, my Boy Scout responsibilities are so large, I will be editor for I more year while you are the presidents of the Northern New Jersey Square Dancers Association. We said, well, we really shouldn’t be presidents of the Northern New Jersey Square Dancers Association because we’re round dance leaders now. We started in 1960 when Jody pointed her finger at us. And they said, you don’t make any money. Because no one pays you for coming to cue rounds so you are not making money. Therefore, you may be the presidents. So that’s how we got to be presidents of the square dancers organization which allows nobody who makes any money from the activity to be an officer. When we couldn’t find a replacement for the editor, so we talked our first vice president into becoming the president so that we would be the editor. And for 25 years we edited the magazine. And knowing the value of publicity, we sent it out all over. Well, you get known when you’re the editors. Because of this, and so therefore, the first time, the first meeting of the Legacy, we heard about it, but we were not among the invitees to the first year.
DT: It was still very local.
PT: It was local. But in 1975, Legacy Two out in Cleveland, we received an invitation to come. And we, in fact, we used our car. We drove out with John and Freddy
PT: Kaltenthaler to Cleveland. And it was a thrill. It was Bob Osgood, Stan Burdick, all, all these people.
BB: Charlie Baldwin, probably.
PT: Charlie Baldwin was there, Dorothy Shaw was there.
BB: Oh, great
PT: What a pleasure to talk with her. It was, oh, she had more words that could be quoted than I couldn’t remember. Our pencils were flying. It was just a thrill. It was like, if you went out to meet the President of the United States, you couldn’t have been any more thrilled than we were to be there among all these names. And what did Stan and Cathy Burdick do to us? They made little old us a moderator for this panel of editors. And here we are, a small magazine of 24 pages, and here’s Bob Osgood, Stan Burdick, Charlie Baldwin, and we’re moderating this group. Wow. It was a thrill.
BB: I’m sure.
PT: And Legacy is a resource leadership communications center. It is like, we call it the umbrella for the activity, and it encompasses all the facets, the callers, the cuers, the prompters, the special interest groups, the publishers, the record producers. Any facet that
PT: Clothing, the suppliers. That year, in ’75, at the closing meeting, the, I don’t remember whether it was toe Corral, or, there was someone from the suppliers stood up and said, Legacy has given us the impetus forms, I wan to get the words right, the National Association, there was a square and round dance suppliers Organization It came in ’75 because they had met at Legacy and decided we need an organization, and I believe it was the Corral in South Jersey that the Pedersons were owned and ran, and I believe they were one of the instigators (?). I believe it was he who made the announcement. And all we round dance leaders there, we looked at each other and said, boy did we blow it. Because, here we’re meeting with, been talking together, and saying there’s Callerlab, why, and we need a round dance organization. Why didn’t we do that? So we mentioned it to Cathy and Stan, who were the secretaries at the time. We mentioned it to Bob Osgood who was very active at that time there. And 2 years later in ’97, in 1977, every buzz session had a breakout dedicated to the round dance leaders there.
DT: This was in Memphis.
PT: This was in Memphis, Tennessee. Wayne Wylie and Norma were there, Bud and Shirley Parrot were there, Clancet and Betty Mueller were there even though it is spelled Mueller we pronounced it Miller as they did. We were there. There were about 30, 32 round dance people who came to that first little buzz session.
DT: Not all were teachers. There was
PT: There was Dave Johnstone from Canada who was just a dancer. But he was a leader up there, and he was invited to Legacy that year, and he came and put his input into, Ken and Carol Goddard were there, I was thinking of the ones who got involved in some of the work. We, Hopkins, Jim Hopkins.
DT: Jim and Marie.
PT: Jim and Marie.
DT: Marie Hopkins
PT: Marie Hopkins from Canada were down. And we all met, and in that first buzz session, we agreed there is a need for an international round dance leaders organization. The second meeting, they decided, this was the one that Steve and Bud and Shirley Parrot, I got all these notes because I was the secretary at that time. And I was told to take all the notes. But by the second meeting, they had said, is this feasible? Can we do it? If we can, Wayne Wylie, how about you
DT: He was probably the, among the whole group, he was probably the
PT: Most recognized.
DT: Most recognized.
PT: Would he please lead the effort. And he said, I will lead the effort, but I will not be the Chairman because the first meeting of whatever this organization is called will have to choose the Chairman, but I will be glad to lead the effort. And so, from then on, every buzz session went on from there laying the groundwork for the formation of what is now called
DT: Charlie, Charlie and
DT: And Edith offered to find a place.
PT: And since we were in Memphis, they were in Memphis, we decided let’s have it in Memphis ‘cause Charlie, he could fly in so easily. Charlie set it up, Wayne was
DT: Wayne (?)
PT: No, no, ’cause we were in the Army dear, yeah.
DT: I know, but they changed the name of the hotel but it is the same.
PT: No, where Roundalab itself met was a different spot.
DT: Oh, okay.
PT: It was close to the airport, remember.
DT: You’re right, you’re right.
BB: Excuse me, we’re just about to run out of this side of the tape, so let me take a second to turn this over.
Side 2 not continued because of time restraints and other obligations of the Tirrells.