Don Sargent – March 11, 2011
Bob Brundage – Well hi again. This is Bob Brundage and today is March the 11th, 2011 just a couple of days after my 89th birthday and today we’re having the pleasure of talking with Don Sargent and his wife Hope and they’re residing out on Cape Cod in the little town of Mashpee, Massachusetts. So, Don has been affiliated with Square Acres and we’re interested to find out more about that unique square dance facility, but before we do I want to find out more about Don. So whereabouts were you brought up Don?
Don Sargent – Well, I stayed pretty close to home. I was brought up in the area up around Boston and married a local girl and we just seemed to settle right here locally, that seemed to be the logical place.
BB – Ah, ha. Well, you weren’t living in Mashpee when you were working at Square Acres were you?
DS – Oh no, I was living in Milton …
BB – Yes, right.
DS – … a border town of Boston and an easy commute distance, comfortable town, small town, appealing.
BB – Were you brought up in a musical family by any chance?
DS – Yes, I was. My dad was involved in music on … well a part time basis but still, he was locally involved with local fellows, did local work part time in music and just loved it. My mother, she was not as lucky. She was not talented but she got along with the music just fine,
Bo – So, were you musical yourself?
DS – Yeah, a little bit. I played trumpet in the high school band and I diddled around with music a little bit. I never made much money in it but we had a good time and that’s what it’s all about.
BB – Sure. Yeah, I remember working for $3.00 a night. (both laugh) So, how did you get into square dancing?
DS – Well, I’ll make it short. I was buying gasoline for my car at a particular gas station and noticed a cute decal on the back of a car. So I asked the fellow, I said, “What are the decals?” He says, “They identify you as a square dancer”. “Square dancing, what is that?” He gave me a local description of it and he said, “You should try it. It’s one of the best things you can do”. So we … we … every time I’d go in … “Have you gone down yet?” … he gave me directions kind of to where it was and I said, “No, no, no”. One Sunday I came home and … well, we had been newly married and not much money and I said to my wife, “Come on. We’re going to go find this place, Square Acers …
BB – Ah ha.
DS – … and, of course, she was all for it so, we went off. For us, Square Acres in East Bridgewater might have been a million miles away and, as I found out, it wasn’t that far once you got on the road and asked people, like they all knew where East Bridgewater was. So, I went down and the fellow told me, he said “Now, don’t worry, it’s always open”….
BB – Yeah, that’s what I heard.
DS – … no locks on the doors. Just go into the building. If there’s no light, just stand where you are and just holler” and that’s exactly what we did. We went in and the lights were out and it was a big barn like that. It was pretty scary. So we hollered, “Hello” and a woman answered back. She said, “I know where you are.” She said, “Stay right there” and shortly they found us and we had a nice chat. That was with Dot Trochler and she said, “Would you like to see the place?”. I says “Oh, yeah.” Well, I was quite impressed. Seven square dance halls under one roof. That’s, that’s something.
BB – Yes.
DS – So, she took us all around and showed us the different things and she said, “You’re in luck” and I said, Why?” “There’s a class starting next week. Why don’t you give it a try?”. “Well, I don’t know why not” so I said, “Yeah, all right. We’ll come down” and that’s how we got into it.
BB –OK. Do you remember who your teacher was?
DS – Oh, we got … in Square Acres there was seven callers on the staff so you started with one and after a few weeks, you went to another one and then another one and then another one. You never stayed with a caller more than four times and they gave you a new one. Of course, being inquisitive … I asked one day and they said, “Well, that’s to get you used to hearing different voices …
BB – Yes, that’s true.
DS – … and the difference in the phrasing”. You know what, that makes sense – to me it made sense. So, we went through the classes and we graduated on a Saturday night and, of course they made a big to do about the graduation of the class, marched us around the place and into the ladies room and all over the place. In the interim I had seen round dancing …
BB – Yes.
DS – … and I said to Hope, I said, “I’d like to try that”. So I went and found Dot Trochler and she said, “You’re in luck”. “Oh?” She said, ”Yes, there’s a round dance class starting on Saturday, the night you graduate”.
BB – I’ll be darned.
DS – So, there’s always class time. So we went in and she said, “Come on down and try it”. So I got my square dance diploma and in the next breath we’re in the hall learning round dancing.
BB – There you go.
DS – Yeah, and that was with Freddie and Georgie Bunker.
BB – Oh, yes.
DS – Ah ha, you must remember that name…..
BB – Sure.
DS – … and they got us into it and Freddie was pretty well along in age and couldn’t carry equipment and all that. It was a heavy job. So, he decided, you know, he’ll retire. So, the next time we went in we had a new teacher,
George and Millie Ireland, locally known, well done, all professional all the way. He was one of these fellows that was locally endowed with a total recall memory. Boy, we used to do that purposely – once in awhile he’d say “Let’s break the routine. Let’s just do some dancing”. He said, “You call out a title and, if I have the record, we’ll do the dance to it” (laughs). So, of course, the old timers that had been in and out of there, they knew, they started calling record titles I had never heard and he’d say, “Wait a minute” and he’d look up the record – “Let me listen to it a minute” and he’d say, “ OK, let’s dance” and he’d cue the dance perfect.
BB – I’ll be darned.
DS – Yep, total recall. Quite a guy and he was having health issues and it was getting along. Of course, time was passing for us. I’m getting more and more involved in it and (chuckles) he finally decided he would retire and I was saying to myself, “Oh boy”. Now, this is, you know, now years have gone by – which has a way of slopping by – when you’re not paying attention and I said, “Gee, I hope Howard finds a good cuer for us”. Yeah, he found a good cuer – me.
BB – There you go.
DS – Yeah, because he saw us, my wife and I, you know, we were always practicing and trying and learning different things and he said …
BB – So Howard talked you understood teaching, is that it?”
DS – Yeah. He got me into teaching, got me into cueing, got me involved totally. Somewhere along the line he said to me, “You are running the round dance program for Square Acres”.
BB – There you go.
DS – He said, “I don’t want to know anything about it”. He said, “I’ll help you any way I can but you’re in charge. If you’ve got anything you want me to do or change you talk to me”. He said, “You’re running it”.
BB – Do you remember about what year that was?
DS – Oh, gee, I don’t – I don’t remember.
BB – Take a guess.
DS – Oh gee, ah – oh, let’s see. I think I may – no, I thought I had the time down here.
BB – Well, maybe you’ll think of it later.
DS – We started square dancing in ’66 so it had to be right after that – let’s say ’68. Yeah, ’68, ’69.
BB –Yeah. Well, that was quick.
DS – Well, they needed somebody and I was there, and I wasn’t given much of a choice.
BB – That’s right.
DS – I said, “Howard, I can’t do it” – “Yes, you can. You’re going to do it. You’re on the stage next Saturday”. I said, “Howard, I’m not ready “. He said, “You’re ready. You’re gong to be on …”. I only knew three dances to cue really, but he said, “I want you up on the stage and I want you to do this”. He said,
“do it for me”. Anyhow, so I said, “OK” and I said, “if they throw me out, you’ll know why”. And that’s how I got started. It turned out pretty good. The people were understanding. They gave me every break they could and from there it just took off.
BB – Yes. So, was there a separate hall there for the round dancing?
DS – No, the round dancing actually, as far as the programming was concerned, it was integrated with the squares – two and two program – two squares, two rounds.
BB – I see.
DS – The other thing we did is – I asked Howard if I could run some rounds if I got there early, before the dancing started. Could I run a few rounds off to keep the people interested and let people see what’s going on. He said, “Do you think it will work? It’s your time”. Well, that little half hour, forty-five minutes turned into one of the biggest things they ever had. It was just they thought it worked good and it let the people see what could be done. It generated a lot of interest in round dancing. So, that’s what I used to do and then of course, classes – I had two classes a week at Square Acres – inside Square Acres during the week. Howard would, you know, make sure I was going to come and “What hall do you want?” and I told him and he’d make sure the heat was on in the winter and the driveway was plowed and the walks were shoveled and I always came into a nice warm hall.
BB – Yes. (both laugh) Well, that’s interesting.
DS – It was a lot of fun. It was – once I got into it I never had as much fun as I did while I was there.
Bo – Right. Right.
DS – You know, Howard was a wonderful man. You probably – I always called him ‘Howard’. He liked people to call him, “Hogie”…
BB ‘Hogie’, right.
DS – … and I just never got into the nickname business so I called him Howard and that’s why when I say Howard I’m talking about Howard Hogue – Mr. Square Dance as he called himself. And he was, there’s no question about it. When classes were going on a Saturday night he made sure he visited every hall. Saw everybody as he could. When he could he was there all night long making sure things were all right, that people were having a good time. That meant a lot to a lot of people.
BB – Right. Did he live there?
DS – Yeah. He had a house there on the property next to Square Acres itself. The house he built himself. It was a nice home – it was a colonial home – really nice. We went there for dinner a couple of times.
BB – Did you have any kind of a mentor?
DS – Oh, I think I took everybody as a mentor. Freddie Bunker was my first and I learned a lot from him but I think I learned more from George and Millie Ireland. They had style. Then of course, on the side I developed an acquaintance with Paul Merola of the Canoe Club.
BB – Oh yes.
DS – He helped me with a lot of styling and presentation. He was …
BB – Yeah, he was a great caller.
DS – He was. He was good and he just decided he liked the formal atmosphere better with ballroom and bridesmaid parties and weddings and all that.
BB – Yes.
DS – Yes, so… but I learned a lot from him – a real lot.
BB – Where was the Canoe Club located?
DS – West Bridgewater.
BB – Oh, West Bridgewater – it was that close. I see.
DS – Yeah, it was – when you knew the way it was close. When you didn’t know the way it took you forever to find it. When you come up on it you could see the Canoe Club in front of you, but there was no way to get in or appeared to be no way to get in there until you found the one road that went into his parking lot.
BB – Is that so.
DS – Yeah. It was a beautiful place/
BB – Did you ever get into any of the other square dance facilities around New England?
DS – Oh, I was in Kramers. I did work at Kramers. I did work at the Canoe Club. I did work at some of the little local halls. You know, they run a couple of dances. They wanted guests to come in. As a matter … you know, a lot of traveling. My wife and I were out six out of the seven nights a week and she was with me every step of the way. (laughs)
BB – Yeah. You probably didn’t get up to a place like Baypath Barn or …
DS – Yeah, I was up there a couple of weekends.
BB – Oh, did you?
DS – Yeah, they – we did a few weekends but it was difficult because I had to work Saturday night. Then run up there and do some, then run back home because I had a class on Mondays. (Bob laughs) I had a round dance club on Monday nights so I kind of got caught in there with real stuff. So we didn’t do too much traveling. But we did a little bit. I got onto some of them and had a ball – had a ball everywhere I went.
BB – Yeah. Shouldn’t Barbara be putting on the … shouldn’t Barbara Smith that owned Baypath Barn, were they the ones who put on the weekend?
DS – Ah, I – gee, I don’t know. I don’t remember. I remember the weekends but I don’t … no, I don’t think I saw them. I think it was somebody connected with them was running the weekend.
BB – I see.
DS – So, I don’t think I got to meet them. You know, it was one of those unfortunate things – you can’t be everywhere.
BB – Yes. I know Barbara was a great round dance teacher herself.
DS – Yeah. I remember seeing her name in the caller magazine.
BB – Yes. Well, that’s interesting. So, well, let’s see, let’s talk a little bit about the physical facility itself. As I remember it was in a grove of pine trees, was it?
DS – Yep. He had eighteen acres on the shore of that Robin’s Pond and most if it was covered with pines. He had created … he built the building … you saw the pictures (sent to me by email). He built the building physically from the ground.
BB – Oh, did he really? I thought it was probably a facility was there like a Boy Scout Camp or something.
DS – Nope. He built it from the ground. Everything he did was … Howard did it. Howard built the place. Howard laid the floor and he did everything.
BB – Is that right?
DS – Yeah. Howard was a construction guy in the Second World War.
BB – I see,
DS – So, he knew how to build and he knew how to build fast. That’s where he got it. If he decided Square Acres needed a new hall, zing – we had a new hall next week.
BB – He’d just put on an addition.
DS – Yep, he just keep putting on additions. We had seven halls and now all attached on. But it was a wonderful, wonderful place to go – really exciting.
BB – I remember there was a lake there.
DS – Yep. Robins Pond.
BB – I always thought it was probably a Scout Camp or something before.
DS – No, no, he… His wife …
BB – Marion.
DS – Marion, inherited the 18 acres.
BB – I see, OK.
DS – Yeah. And together, they built Square Acres and I’m sure it wasn’t all honey and cream.
BB – I’m sure.
DS – Everybody has problems but they were both there every Saturday night and they both there even after closing. It wasn’t a close the door and walk away. He was there … people don’t know that he had a full time day job. He worked all day, and then he came home …
BB – Is that so? I didn’t know …
DS – … pardon me? Then he would work all night to get the place going and keep it going. It was quite a facility when you walked in. It was kind of, well scary. It was so big you know. We had that big main hall. You remember the main hall.
BB – Oh, of course. It was named after … in honor of Lawrence Loy and his picture was up over the stage. Well I worked with Lawrence Loy for many … a couple of years after I graduated from the University of Maine. I went to work at the University of Massachusetts where Lawrence Loy was and he was on staff there. He was in charge of the Recreation for the Extension Service for the state of Massachusetts. I don’t know if people would remember but it was Lawrence Loy that brought modern western square dancing to New England.
DS – Yeah, Yeah. The only reason I know is because through Howard had a lot of respect for Lawrence and always reminded us that … .
BB – Well, Lawrence Loy was the one responsible for getting – oh gosh, I’ve forgotten the fellow’s name from Ruidoso, New Mexico – to come to New England and put on a workshop on a weekend.
DS – Oh, yes. You’ve got me on the name too.
BB – That was Herb Greggerson. People like Charlie Baldwin was there and my brother and I were there and I think that any of the people that wound up to be any kind of a name in New England was probably at that workshop weekend.
DS – Yeah. Yep. Those were there at that time. Workshops were probably the most fun you could have for the buck.
BB – Yes, right.
DS – You know, money was hard to come by. I know when we started round dancing I had to think twice about spending the money because of it. If I didn’t have it I couldn’t go. That made it tough but we love it.
BB – Yes. Right.
DS – We loved … and particularly Square Acres. I had a soft spot in my heart for them and I hate to see it pass into history.
BB – Right. When did it close? Do you remember?
DS – Oh, let’s see. Well, we were there ’67 add on ten – ’77 – in the 80’s I think. Don’t bet the house on it but it was in the 80’s.
BB – Yes. That was a rather long run actually.
DS – They had a 25 year run and I was there for 13 years – about half the run – the last half of the run when square dancing was huge. If we didn’t have 20 squares in the main hall we didn’t know what was wrong. You know we’d stand up on the stage and Howard would say to somebody, “Run over to the Canoe Club. Don’t go in just drive through the parking lot and see if you can see who’s there and how many cars he’s got”.
BB – (laughs)
DS – Oh yeah, we used to do that a lot.
BB – Is that right?
DS – Of course it was convenient. He wouldn’t say to the guy, “Run up to Kramers” because that was quite a ride. So, he would, you know, typically drive over and he’d be back in a half an hour and tell us who’s there and all. “Oh, his parking lot was full and things were going full blast (laughing) it was a lot of fun. I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything.
BB – I’ll bet.
DS – I learned a lot and met some wonderful, wonderful people and I had good times every time.
BB – Yes, well, of course, getting back to the facility, they had their own kitchen ….
DS – Yep.
BB …. And, I guess they … I don’t remember exactly how involved they were in serving … was it mostly just snacks?
DS – Yeah, well (laughs). During square dance time they served just, you know, snacks and burgers and things like that. But, at the time in the spring when new classes started, he used to put a chicken bar-b-que on. It was just amazing. He had a fire pit built out back that was probably, oh, twenty-five thirty feet long, four feet wide and about eighteen inches deep. He would light that up with charcoal and he would put on … he would cover that with chicken. He’d buy the chicken by the crate and set up a cutting station and make sure they were clean and sanitary and split them in half and put them on the grill. He did that every year for years and was it good? But that’s really … that and New Years was really the only time he got into food. You know, real food. New Years we had a party and he would serve at midnight if you bought the ticket. Roast beef or turkey and all the fixings, all the trimmings, all the pie, deserts and it was – you couldn’t buy it outside as cheap. But that was his way of saying thank you to the people
BB – Yeah. And, as I remember there was also a square dance shop there.
DS – Yep, the Promenade Shop, Merle and Bob Trochler – Merle Silver and Bob Trochler ran it and they had a good long run and toward the end there was a lot of competition on the outside. So, they ran it until the end though. It was there when they closed the doors. And it was a nice little shop. They sold clothes, some jewelry. They sold all the records for the callers and they had a little bit of everything in there. It was nice, you know, in was in keeping with the business. So, you know, I bought a lot of my stuff there and they sold amplifiers if you wanted to buy an amplifier or a microphone – you could buy it.
BB – I’ll be darned.
DS – Yep, they had everything there.
BB – So, was there … what was the typical schedule for a week there?
DS – Oh, boy.
BB – I suppose for a new dancer, like you were, I know you said you spent four weeks in each hall or something like that.
DS – Yeah, that was Saturday nights. You went there and you got your class and got a chance to visit with everybody in the shop. They made sure you got into the shop and, of course, the food was, I would say good. So, he had the snack bar there and all the coffee you wanted – plenty of coffee. It was just the place to go. Then you would stay four weeks with one caller and then he would announce from the stage, “next week you’ll stay here in this hall but you’re going to have a new caller” and they would put in a new caller. One of the staff and it was interesting. Actually, it was quite, quite challenging because everybody had their own style. Just like today, when you go out dancing or whatever, you have your own style. Then you stayed there and again it took place – oh, I’m trying to say thirteen weeks but I’m not really sure. The time just went by. You didn’t even pay attention. The rule was, if you were in a class, and you always got a break in the middle of the class, you could go out in the hall, in the main hall, Loy hall, but you couldn’t get into a square with the rest of the people because he would, you know, fowl them up and they would get upset and all that. So please, “if you want to have a square, get your own together”. That’s what a lot of us used to do. That went on as I say – I’m not sure of the time but, as time passed, you know, you were told, “You’ve only got three weeks left and two weeks left” and Howard had a little flare for the dramatic. He said, “Now next week is graduation week”. He said. “ We’re going to make a big thing out of it, make sure you’re here” And everybody would be there, all them faces shinning, and he would make a big deal out of graduation. He was quite a … quite a man. He was Mr. Square Dance.
BB – Yeah. He did.
DS – Yeah. He worked very hard. He worked endless hours in the place. I can’t believe that one man could do it. You know, he used to tell me … but I used to say, “Yeah, sure, sure, yeah”. But he did.
BB – I think he came from out in the mid-west somewhere like Kansas.
DS – Kansas.
BB – That’s what I thought. Yes.
DS – Yep. He came out this way. I don’t know what brought him out here but he came out and we’re glad he did. We’re lucky he did. You know, he brought a lot of interest and a lot of enthusiasm to us.
BB –Right. Do you happen to remember any of the other callers that were teaching there? You said there were seven?
DS – Oh yeah, there was a bunch there. Jack Bright, Toots Tousignant, Lou Mincone, Don Barrows , oh, there’s more, there’s more, there’s more. Oh gosh, it’s hard you know, you get old you forget all these (laughs). But there were more than that. I’ll think of them as we’re talking and I’ll let you know but those were the ones that come to mind. Those were the ones who were always there when I was there.
BB – I see. OK.
DS – When I’d go there during the week they’d be there with a class or a club. Usually they formed a club and they’d be there during the week with a class or a club – club meeting, square dancing. We had a lot of clubs down there. We had clubs going pretty near every night of the week and then we had – of course, I would come in with my two round dance clubs. I would come in on a Tuesday and a Thursday and there was quite a busy place after hours.
BB – So, you danced in the big hall then.
DS – For the most part, when the weather was good I could dance in the big hall but I couldn’t ask Howard in all fairness to heat it because some weeks I didn’t get a lot of people to pay the rent. So, he would heat what they called number two hall, Jubilee Hall and that was a little easier to heat, a low ceiling, a little better all around. It had a fireplace in it too.
BB – Oh yes.
DS – Oh they loved the fireplace.
BB – Oh, yes. I’d forgotten that.
DS – Yep. He told me one night, he said. ‘Now look”. He said, “When we get you set up, if the fireplace is going, fine. Put wood in it. Do what you want”. But, he said, “If there’s no fire in there, don’t try to light one”. I did. I tried to light one. I had the place full of smoke and he came over and he said, “What did I tell you?” and I said, “I know, I know Howard”. He said, “You get a downwind from the trees”. He said, “Now you’ve got the place full of smoke. Now you’ve got to get it out of here”. And he did. He left me, he left me there. I got it out. I went and got a couple of the big paddle fans that we had, and I turned them on full blast and opened the doors. I blew it out eventually (laughs). But the people didn’t mind. They were dancing on a good floor. That’s what we were looking for.
BB – Yes. Right.
DS – We liked to dance on the main hall floor. That was one of the most beautiful floors to dance on. There was no finish on it. It was just the raw wood …
BB – I remember that, yes.
DS – … polished by years and years of dancing. They were speculating on how much longer it was going to last if he had stayed open – what they were going to do. They figured they’d wear it right out … the floor right through. That was a lot to be said, to wear a board through three quarters of an inch. That’s a lot of wear. But it was fun. It was fun.
BB – Didn’t they used to … Howard … didn’t he used to advertise you could start square dancing almost any night of the week?
DS – Yeah. He used to say that and you’d be surprised. People came in and were looking and wanted to know what was going on and that’s how he got the people you know. I think that was part of this plan. He’d sucker them in so to speak, and get them interested and, the next thing you know they’d be dancing – and have a ball too. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun.
BB – Now, how about any of the callers – did you remember that came in. – thinking about national callers.
DS – Oh sure. You know John Hendron, Ken Anderson, Red Bates, Dick Jones … he was everybody’s favorite, Dick Jones. He was quite a caller. Lee Kopman – oh, you name ‘em we had ‘em coming in. We had them on projection (?).
BB – Bob Brundage?
DS – Yeah, oh (laughs). Who’s Al Brundage, who’s he?
BB – Yes, I know Al was there and I was there several times.
DS – Yep. It was really nice. I was sorry when they announced that they were going to close. I really, you know, I felt terrible. That’s why I don’t have more pictures, because I figured it was always going to be there and I, well, I got them, you know, later, later, later and then they shut the doors and you couldn’t get any pictures. But, the few I got I treasure. Those that I sent you, I happened to get directly from Howard’s aunt, Linda Meyer.
So I want you to take care of these. So I’ve been holding on to them and with all the miracles we can do today I’m going to get them put into a digital format. Which makes it easy to handle. Now I can send them to anybody.
BB – So, (long pause) There was something I wanted to ask you but it slipped my mind.
DS – Oh, it will come back. Don’t worry about that (laughs).
BB – Oh, I know. I was gong to ask you, was Howard’s health failing or something like that?
DS – No. No. He was good and healthy. He went … it was … just … the economy forced him to close. You couldn’t get callers to come because it did take some gas and nobody had the economy cars. Frannie Heinz was one of the ones who used to come out there – come out to see us. He was the only one that got into an economy car so he could travel. Some of the callers he had to guarantee a tank full of gas when they came out. That’s going some. But that’s – no, his health was quite good as a matter of fact. He was healthy and running around like he always did. He just decided he couldn’t do it any longer. I don’t know, it’s hard to say really. I was never privy to the personal …
BB – Do you know when he passed away?
DS – Gee, I don’t. I know he passed away but I don’t know the date. I don’t know the date. I wish I did but …
BB – I mean, he just kind of dropped out of the picture really.
DS – Well, not … he moved to California … moved to the west coast.
BB – Oh, I didn’t know that.
DS – Yeah. I don’t know why but he did and came out here, I think two years, three years and had a get-together with all the staff.
BB – Oh, yes.
DS – Kind of a ‘what’s going on’, coffee and pastry, you know and things like that and we’d spent all day talking about – do you remember this, do you remember that and why did you do this and why did you do that and he’d say, “Well, I’ll see you next year”. But it was costly to come across country …
BB – Sure.
DS – … but he did it two years and, in fact, somewhere I’ve got the list of the callers that came and he said, “If you ever want to start a reunion” he said “here’s the list”. He said, “They may not be there now but it certainly is a good place to start”.
BB – Right.
DS – I got along well with Howard. I really did. I never had any problems with him. I say … he let me run the round dance program. He didn’t ques. much … ask what I was doing. If I asked for anything and it was reasonable I could get it and he was a good man, a good man. I can’t say any more for him.
BB – OK. Well Don, we’re almost down to the end of this side of this tape. Let me turn it over and we’ll start again. Just hold on a minute, OK?
[End of Side A – Interview with Don Sargent]
BB – OK. So now we’ve got plenty of time left (Don laughs). I wanted to talk about also your experience with the other round dance groups and round dance people around New England. I know we had some, you know, New England wide organizations like NECORTA, which is the New England Council of Round Dance Teachers Association.
Don – Ah ha. I belonged to that.
BB – Yes. I figured you probably did.
Don – Well, there’s not much to say about the teacher’s organizations. They didn’t really bother us unless there was a discipline problem. They, of course, they policed, and they were known and they advertised that if anybody has a problem the way to call them and contact them but there was nothing that ever would happen that would cause a problem that bad. It was good. We had nothing but fun and good times and that’s all. I not only belonged to NECORTA, I belonged to most of the square dance associations because I deal with the people. Old Colony Association and those, I belonged to them too. It was convenient. I could air my grieves … grievances against anybody, which I never did, but it was fun. It was fun. I’d do it all again if I could.
Bob – There was not conflict between round dance people if I remember?
DS – We all got along well together. Didn’t matter who we were, you know, “I got more classes than you” … never happened, never happened. We had a good relationship. We used to help one another out. If I had an extra record that I thought so-and-so would like I’d send it off to him or take it over to his class and drop it off for him. It was the same for me. We all knew what we were looking for so if we found it, it was understood … “buy it and we’ll reimburse”. We had a good relationship with the other people. It was a lot if fun. You’d get to see what they’re teaching and how they teach.
BB –Yes. What about the other organizations – ACCORD – that was the Area Coordinating Council of Round Dancing.
DS – I knew of it. I didn’t belong to it but I knew of it. Because I said … you know, you keep joining associations and it would tap you dry for money. Money was still hard to come by. Don’t think that square dancing was a Christmas tree because it wasn’t. It was still … you had to plan that expense. I know we did even though by now times were getting better for us but still you had to say that it’s not easy to make the money. I’ll tell you that.
BB – It was a matter of pinching pennies, right.
DS – That’s right. You want to do it. You’ve got to do it.
BB – How about Roundalab?
DS –Oh, I belonged to Roundalab but I never went. I, you know, I couldn’t do that, I tried.
BB – It was a big expense of course.
DS – Oh yeah, big money and they never had anything local. They had it all out in the mid-west and the west coast so, you know (laughs). I joined it just … well I guess I thought I had to. But I found out I didn’t need it. I left it that way and had a ball … just let them run the place.
BB – Of the many callers that came in, did they … back in those days sometimes callers were also cuers. I know Paul Merola was. Did any of them when they came in, any of the other callers, did they want to do the round dancing there?
DS – They were fine. They were fine. Quite often I would ask them if they would like to cue a few rounds. “Oh no. No, you’re doing a fine job. You know the crowd. No need to. You go right ahead”. I never had a problem with that. It was peace and quiet on my front.
BB – Did Hope ever get to do any cueing?
DS – Oh, yeah. She was – she cued quite a bit. At the end there she was as busy as I was.
BB – Well that’s great.
DS – She took on three or four clubs that she was cueing for and special dances she would cue. She took some dates on her own and she cued at Square Acres for me. It was good.
BB – That’s great.
DS – Oh, yes. She was by my side the whole time. I was involved over twenty-six years in the total picture of round dancing and she was there every step of the way – every step. She was right beside me and that makes life easier too (laughs).
BB – Do you remember any funny stories along the way?
DS – Yeah, there’s a couple I’d like to tell you.
BB – Good,
DS – One weekend it had rained. Oh, we had heavy rains up here and it poured down in buckets and that big roof on Loy hall was a big roof and there was a cupola in the middle of it on the roof. Rain blew in there and landed on that raw wood floor and it buckled up like a little teepee …
BB – Is that right?
DS – … right down the middle of … it the whole length of the hall. So I got in there to run my round dancing and I went to Howard and I said to Howard, “What are we going to do Howard? We can’t do anything in this hall”. He said, “Can you run your rounds and get your people to not trip over the floor that’s raised up?” I said, “Sure, I can do that”. He said, “I want something to keep the people occupied”. I went up and I got my people – I got them in a huddle and I said, “Look, there’s a teepee in the middle if the floor three inches high. When you dance, make sure you don’t dance on it. Skip it”. “OK, OK, we can do that”. So I played rounds for over an hour and every once in a while I’d say, “Watch the hump” the next thing I know Howard comes over with a skill saw and he’s in the middle of my circle of rounds, round dancers and I said,” Ahh, now what’s he going to do”. The next thing I know he’s got the saw – didn’t say a word – just took the saw, turned it on and did a plunge crack in the floor and walked the whole length of the floor making a cut in the floor.
BB – I’ll be darned.
DS – Yeah, right in the middle – I’m still dancing you know. I’ve still got the dancers going saying, “Keep going, keep going, keep going. Keep going”, So, he put a cut in the floor and then he went and got some little, small bolts – quarter inch bolts and a drill and he went down that whole thing – saw cut each side and put holes in the floor and I’m saying, “ Well, that’s got to be interesting now”. He figured he can’t nail it. Nails won’t hold. So, he got a hold of a couple of kids and said, “Now look, I’m going to put bolts through this floor and I want you (laughs) to go downstairs and find them and put a washer and a nut on them”. (Bob laughs) Now you remember how big Loy Hall was.
BB – Sure.
DS – Just imagine that floor underneath, that place underneath – not dug out – not finished off – dirt and he sent the kids down there and he said, “I’ll get one and when I hammer on the floor, you’ll find it and put the nut on it as tight as you can”. They did. It took them an hour to do it but they found all the holes …
BB – I’ll be darned.
DS … and he went with a screw driver and tightened them all up tight and the floor came down. It was wonderful. He was (laughs) he was quite a guy. Yeah, you’d expect to find Howard anywhere. He’d walk through the halls when it was raining with a roll of plastic and a staple gun and, if the roof leaked, he made a little plastic gutter, run it over down the wall and got it off the floor. He said, I’ll take care of the roof afterwards”. And there was one other one that I thought was funny. One night we went … one Saturday we went down, had our class and all during class I could hear hammering, banging and all. This was on a Thursday night. So, after my class was over and I put everything in the car, I went and I said, “Howard, what are you doing? I’ve been hearing you all night”. I looked in and he had ripped up the floor in the coat room. He ripped everything up – the joists, everything. There was nothing but a hole there and this is at eleven o’clock on a Friday night … a Thursday night. “Howard, what are you going to do? We’ve got a dance here Saturday night.” “Don’t worry about it. It’ll be all set. Don’t worry. Don’t worry.” So when I left him he was hammering and banging and by God Saturday when I got there at seven o’clock it was all done, fixed, rug on the floor coat racks were up and everything was back. He must have worked all night. But, it’s funny things like that, that … I can’t help but chuckle every time I think of him. (Bob chuckles) It’s just one of those things.
And we have one more that’s a real, real good one. Hope likes this one. Went down to a hall – it was a kind of hall, it was an orphan, a hall off by itself. We always go down to check the halls. So, I went down and during the week he had ripped all the inside – all the finish off the walls – inside and out. There’s nothing there. Just the studs and I said, “Howard, what are you going to do?” “Don’t worry about it”. I should know better. So, I went in the next Saturday … the next time Saturday, and I rushed to go down. The hall was all done. We had plastic walls. He had put plastic up on the both sides of the studs and, to keep it, you know, tight enough, warm enough for the people because that was a hall class … a hall for the classes. But that was … can you imagine going down there and seeing no walls (both laugh). Yeah, think about it.
BB – Yes, right.
DS – He used to do a lot of funny things but he only did things that were good for us. You know, if you needed something special and it benefited us, he did it. If it didn’t benefit us he may or may not do it – depends on the mood he was in. But it was fun. It was lots and lots and lots if fun. I wish everybody could see Square Acres (laughs).
BB – The only thing that I remember funny in my experience about dance halls … I was hired to do a dance up in New York State someplace. I wish I could remember the caller’s name but he was … it was in the basement of a church and it was a very, very humid day and back in those days. It happened that this church floor was kind of sticky and in those days they used to use a resin kind of product you could sprinkle on it but they didn’t have any there so somebody said, “Well, I understand that you can put soap flakes ….
DS – Ohhhh.
BB – … and so, sure enough, they went and got some soap flakes and they sprinkled it around. We started dancing and about a half hour later that floor was covered with soap suds.
DS – Oh, my God.
BB – It was so humid down there and there was no way to get the humidity out, no fans or anything and the whole floor where everybody was dancing had soap suds on it. We had to cancel the dance.
DS – Yeah, yeah. You know, you do what you think is right and that happens. But it’s funny, yeah. You look back now and you laugh and you say, “Gee that was funny”. Yeah, there was a lot of strange things that, when I look back, we should have but didn’t … but we should have but we didn’t do it.
BB – Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
DS – Yep. That’s right, that’s right but I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. I, I just, you know, for the money I spent I got a lot of entertainment and then, when I went on the other side of the fence I was the entertainment. I still loved it. I still loved every minute of it, you know, and I would do it again in a heartbeat I think. With what I know about it now.
BB – Are you still dancing now?
DS – No. My health won’t let me.
BB – I see.
DS – I’ve got COPD and I can’t breath and I’m on oxygen 24/7 but I feel good.
BB – Well, that’s great.
DS – I get a laugh about remembering what happened and looking back on the things … looking back. I miss the people. That’s what I miss.
BB – Well, I do too as a matter of fact.
DS – You know, you get used to seeing them. I miss seeing the people … but there’s nothing you can do about it. Take what, you know, take what God gives you and live with it. That’s what I’ve done. But I’m happy, you know, I’ve got Square Acres to look back at, all the friends that I met and all the friends that I know. It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. It was a good, healthy activity.
BB – Well Don, I think we’re kind of winding down here and, unless you can think of anything else you’d like to add …
DS – Not really except that it was a pleasure to talk to you and have somebody listen to me and put up with all my babbling. What are you going to do now with this Bob?
BB – Well, it goes to the Foundation, the Square Dance Foundation of New England.
DS –Now what do they do, leave it on the tape or do they transcribe it?
BB – No, no, it’s quite a lengthy process as a matter of fact. I’ll be transcribing it into print as soon as I get through here and I’ll be sending this down to a friend of mine in New Jersey named Gardner Patton and he edits it and he converts, converts it into a format that is acceptable to the Foundation. Then he sends it up to Johnny Wedge who puts it on the Foundation’s web site. And, as soon as all that is done, you can actually tune into that web site and you can listen and read this interview in its entirety.
DS – Oh, gee, because I was going to ask if I could get a copy of it.
BB – Well, you can – it’s going to be available along with the other 120 or so others that I’ve already done.
DS – Oh boy. You’ve been a busy guy.
BB – Well, I started in 1996 on this project so it’s been 15 years. So, you just click on to sdfne.org and …
DS – Everything will come up.
BB – … then you click on ‘Documents’ and you’ll find all these interviews.
DS – Alright, fine – sounds like a plan. So, if you see any of the guys who might know me, say ‘Hi’.
BB – Will do.
DS – All right.
BB – OK
DS – Al … Al, I’ve got Al on the mind. Bob, it was a pleasure – real pleasure and I’m sorry it took so long.
BB – Well, that’s OK. I’m glad we finally got it done and I hope you continue with your little better health.
DS – Thank you very much.
BB – OK. So, we’ll call this a day and call this the end of the tape.
DS – All right fine. Thank you.
BB – Thank you Don very much,
DS – Right O. Bye now.
BB – Bye, bye.
[End of interview with Sargent in Massachusetts.]
[Editor’s note: Don passed away ten days after this interview.]