Ron Nelson – June 21, 2008
Bob Brundage – Well, hi again. This is Bob Brundage and today is June the 21st, 2008 and today we’re talking with a gentleman out in , California, Mr. Ron Nelson. Ron has developed a very interesting program that I’m especially interested in finding out more about but, before we do that why don’t start out and find out, as I usually do, a little bit about ‘Ron’s background. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what life was like before square dancing, etc. (both chuckle)
Ron Nelson – Born in Memphis, Tennessee, lived there until I was about thirteen and we moved to Florida. It was in Florida as a teenager that I had … first had … that I had any kind of connection to square dancing. My mother was an avid dancer. She loved going out and doing what was called the Paul Jones dancers … and they first …. my parents first learned about square dancing through a class that was being taught by Don Armstrong. He lived down in New Port Ritchie and we lived in Ocala, which is 100 or so miles away and he would travel on weekends and teach classes there. I would …. my parents were in the first class and I came along in the class after that. We had somewhere close to twenty squares in our class.
BB – This was modern western?
RN – Well, it was …. It was a twelve week class and, in that class we learned contras and round dances and also square dances, maybe twenty or so basics was about all there was at that time. So, you know, that was before any of the Ocean Wave choreography and we were still doing the occasional visiting couple dances at that time. So yeah, so, that was sort of the beginning of modern western square dancing.
BB – I see. Well, I know Don didn’t get into that very deeply. So. OK. Well…. and you went to school … through schools down there?
RN – I went through school in Ocala and when I had the first opportunity for me to really step up and do any calling was at the University of South Florida. I was a student there. I took a PE class which had a session on square dancing and I volunteered to the teacher that I knew a little bit about it. So, I sort of assumed the job of calling because the teacher had neither the skill nor the desire to do this. She was, you know, working from a curriculum which she was supposed to be teaching. So, I stepped up and taught some things like the Teton Mountain Stomp and some other mixers and squares as
BB – Right. Well, that’s interesting. So, how long was it before you moved out to California?
RN – Well, a lot of water under the bridge between those two. The first stop was in Norfolk, Virginia where I had my first square dance club there, the Why Nots. They were a young adults, teen age club and we were ….within the ten years in Norfolk I was busy calling four or five nights a week. I called for four of the clubs and taught hundreds of people how to square dance. It was there that I met Al Stevens. Al was a Sergeant in the Air force at that time at Langley Air force Base and he and I called for the two singles clubs in town and we also called for Saturday night clubs at … and shared the same hall. We had alternating Saturday nights. Al was one night and I was next. On the fifth Saturday there might be a guest caller or, we might get together and share the program. But, Al was very influential on my introduction to sight calling. I had about ten years of calling before Al lined up and then, we started, you know, playing around together doing dates together and then, it was there that he … he was the one that first invited me to come and join Callerlab. ‘77 I believe was the year I joined Callerlab. Then, continuing on there in Norfolk for a while – started doing a little recording. Made a record for Red Boot label – Don Williamson. And then, life changes. I was separated from my first wife and so I moved to Texas after that and went right into calling right away. I had …. a dancer I had taught to teach and had taught to dance in Norfolk had moved to Texas and was wanting to learn to call so, he and I were talking on the phone over a period of months as I contemplated this move. So, I was able to move to Texas and step right into a club program there right away. I was calling for clubs …. within the year I was calling for clubs in three different states – Arkansas and Louisiana and Texas, Texarkana. I met my second wife there (Barbara) and after a year or so we moved out to California. We’ve been in the San Diego area now for about twenty-five years.
BB – I see. OK. Well, you started to tell us about Callerlab and you also belong to Contralab I believe.
RN – Yes, I’m a Contralab caller as well. Continued my love of contra dancing although it’s been kind of hard to exercise it sometimes. When I was in Texas I formed a contra exhibition group and we appeared at both the Texas and the Arkansas State Square Dance Conventions as an exhibition of contra dancing.
BB – Well, that’s interesting. How was that accepted, OK?
RN – Well, people enjoyed the exhibition and it was well received but I don’t think it got us any contra dancers unfortunately.
BB – Yes. That’s the way it goes, as they say but ….
RN – People tend to have a negative opinion of things they know the least about, I think. So, that’s one of the issues we face in contra dancing. I know I just recently did a dance here in San Diego for the Arts Foundation – a fund raising dance for the arts. So, I did a contra in that program and it was fairly well received but it’s such a …. you know, they first started … wanted us to put …. they were going to put the contra down at the end of the hall with the line dancers. I told them that if they wanted the contra, they … it would have to be in the main hall (laughs).
BB – There you go.
RN – I wouldn’t call it in the line dance hall because I didn’t think I could get a contra line up down there.
BB – Well, that’s interesting. So, somewhere along in there you moved to Chula Vista. Were you still calling modern western then?
RN – Yep. In fact, I was just getting into Advanced calling and I even had a C1 workshop here in San Diego that I called for a period of time. I called for several clubs that were basically invitation-only groups – all position, Advanced, A2 and, you know, literally just let out all the stops. It was a wonderful group of dancers that I had following me at that time. I enjoyed it but when I got up into Challenge, I sort of lost the enthusiasm for the intricacy of the dance because the flow of the dance suffers so much when you get into higher choreography. So, as the dancing has changed, I made a little bit of change. I have started leaning more toward the traditional side of things. I love to go to the old time dances. I’ve gotten involved …. I talked to you a little about the Reels and Squares, the club I call for here in San Diego. We had a couple of callers who were … had interest in doing contras so, we started talking among other callers and we got a group of …. I believe there were something like about five or six different callers who joined to create the Reels and Squares club. We called to each other until we started attracting dancers. So, the contra club was contras and old time squares and some mixer dance … circle mixers and so on and attrition has been such that I’m one of the two remaining callers that are still calling for that club. We stick by it for twenty years …. right at twenty years and we have an open program so that, if you have relatives come in from out of town you can bring them down and we get them on the floor. We dance, you know, right all through the afternoon and anyone can walk in and dance with us.
Bb – Right.
RN – I don’t have any kind of list of calls that we do. We just keep the calls necessary for the dance we’re about to do and we teach as they dance and it enables us to introduce a very wide, wide range of material and still keep it an open …
BB – Right.
RN – …. an open program.
BB -Well, that was the program that I was mostly interested …. you say it’s been going on for twenty years?
RN – Yes. I think it’s right around our twenty year anniversary.
BB – Yeah. Well, that’s interesting and so, does your attendance fluctuate or has it fluctuated over the years?
RN – You know, we … certainly like most groups we’ve had our ups and downs. We seem to attract more on our third Sunday which is our party day when we have a pot luck that follows the afternoon and it’s, you know, it’s often that we have two contra lines all the way down the hall. So, you know, that’s a pretty good dance but other times on the other weeks we might … we might get, you know, a couple of squares to dance. Eight…. just eight couples…. my eight couples. We really only have a few couples. Most are singles and we do have a big mixture of partners so that people usually pair up with someone different every time they get up.
BB – I see.
RN – So, that’s been very helpful in attracting people who have lost their partner, their dancing partner and maybe have not been as well accepted at the modern western clubs as they would like to be but, you know, not having a partner is tough in that environment. So, we’ve managed to keep that a strong part of our success I think, is the fact that we welcome single dancers into the environment and make sure that they’re dancing as much as they want to dance.
BB – Right. Well, that brings up the question of … over the twenty year period, what’s the fluctuation in age groups?
RN – It’s mostly seniors. I mean, we’ve had ….we’ve had young couples come and dance with us but the ones that return, our core group, has become probably a group in their 70’s to 80’s. In fact, we have a dancer who, until he took a fall ….was walking up a sidewalk somewhere and passed away ….he was 98 years old. Gosh, he was ….laughs – I knew him for twenty-five years and he was quite an interesting fellow. Very ….and staying involved right up to the last week before he died. Then, as I say, sometimes my daughter had come and brought some of her friends with her, and the young people danced with us and the older dancers just loved having them come and be part of the program.
BB – Right. Well, over the years have you had some that are pretty consistent with their … you know, attend every …
RN – Oh, absolutely. I have….oh, ab…. I would say we probably have ….probably …. I would guess about twenty people that are the real core of the club that are not callers that have come and continue dancing with us. Many of our ex-dancers ….many are like square dancers, modern western dancers and many of them are dancers that have never done any modern western square dancing. They sort of look at the modern western clubs and they think, “Gee, you’ve got too high of a wall to climb to move up into that, you know, area of choreography“.
BB – Yes. Right. Well, that pretty much mimics what is happening out in New England with the contra dance group. They all seem to depend on a core group of people who are willing to accept new people every time.
RN – Yes, exactly. It’s whole different mind set from the modern western concept. In the modern western he said, “ You come up to my level and then you can dance with me” and the open dance form is quite the opposite. It’s accepting of new people coming.
BB – Sure. Well, that’s really interesting. How do you relate with the thinking about the ABC program to what you’re doing there?
RN – Well, there’s many parts of ABC that I use. I don’t do any – how shall I say it – I don’t do things like Circulate. I consider that a modern call. I stay away from the modern calls and I think the Couples Circulates are part of the ABC. ABC to me is too limiting, you know, you have this handful of calls so you’ve got to really work to find the choreography that’s going to provide the variety to keep your returning dancers from becoming bored. The thing that intrigues me about contra dancing is that each dance is a stand alone dance. It has its own rules that aren’t dependant on any other ….any other rules. So, you can have some very unique dances that are unique to that dance itself. But, when you have the ABC list what you is …. everything becomes homogenized. I mean, that’s one of the reasons, I think, that we have people jumping level to level because the dancing has becomes so homogenized at the Basic and Mainstream level. You start exploring the uniqueness of other possibilities within that program. Instead, you’re on this treadmill of learning a new term and a new definition, you know, to move up that ladder.
BB – Right. Well ….
RN – With our form, format, you don’t have that. You do what is necessary for that particular time up and you needn’t worry about that coming up next week and your not knowing it because, if it’s coming up next week it will be taught again or will be walked. Everything is walked through first.
BB – Right. Well, you’re pretty much mimicking what my thoughts are as far as ABC is concerned. I’m not convinced that the additional calls that go beyond the really basic calls are really necessary to entertain people and you’re certainly bearing that out, I’m sure.
RN – Yes, and I think you have to use a lot of variety in the music, a lot of variety in the figures that you’re teaching and, when I’m doing a singing call, I don’t hash the singing call or, you know, change the figure. I’ll walk through the figure. They know what to expect with that figure each time through the dance.
BB – Yes.
RN – And I think ….and so, you know, the old concept of having the inexperienced couple, the number 4 couple, really still holds true and the system would work for a long time before we decide that you have to be, you know, get a lot smarter and take classes to learn.
BB – Right. Well, that certainly bears out my feeling about your program as well. So, I know that you are also using different formations.
RN – Yes. I’ll do dances for three couples, triples or triplets. I do a lot of circle dance …. I do a lot of circle mixers. I have some waltz mixers I use. I have some waltz contras that I do – a waltz quadrille also. They’re very well accepted by the people. It really creates more variety by changing the formation and changing the music, you know, and the feel of the music. And something else about the music … I’ve moved away from the commonly used square dance speakers like the Yak Stak and the Supreme column. They are wonderful mid-range speakers that carry the voice beautifully but they lose so much in the clarity of the highs and lows of the music. And I think that one of the things that we’ve lost in modern western square dancing is the ability to really appreciate the beauty of the music. We’re so intent on getting the voice clear … is just having the music as basically the beat and the background, so to speak. People don’t recognize the phrasing of the music or the ….the various instruments coming in. I went up to the line …. I try to use a speaker that has, you know, a big 12 inch woofer and a nice tweeter so that you get the full range of sound with that.
BB – Right.
RN – Since I started transferring my music onto a computer – I use a laptop computer now for my music – I’m hearing instruments in those instrumentals that I’d never heard on a Yak Stak before (both laugh).
BB – That’s interesting, yes. Well, so what type of music are you using now, like maybe the young French Canadian tunes?
RN – I do use a vast, vast variety of the music that I use. Anything from the English tunes, Irish, Scottish. I use French Canadian. I use music from Europe, some German songs, just all kinds of different things. Of course, I’m not opposed to using rock and roll or a show tune or something like that as well or something more modern.
BB – Well, having been out of calling for several years, can you find that that type of so-called modern music – you say rock and roll and – are they adaptable to things like mixers and ….
RN – Oh, absolutely. Without a question they are but it takes judgment. You need to be able to ….to me it’s appropriate to use it if the music’s fun to move to and if it’s pleasing for me to move to and, if it is, then you can make a dance around it…..
BB – Right.
RN – ….whatever that might be so, I use a lot of …. I get ….who was it ….Lee Hetland, who used to call out here., he and Hal Rice had what they called ‘western contra’….
BB – Ah, yes.
RN – ….and I think that the biggest thing that makes it any ….if you were to compare western contra with the New England contra, for example, the biggest difference is the music itself.
BB – Yes.
RN – The figures are very often the same but, with western contra we use more western music and more modern music than we would use in the traditional New England contra setting. Having said, there’s a very active modern ….urban contra group right here in San Diego. They dance to live music weekly.
BB – Oh, that’s great.
RN – Gosh, they, you know, with the live music they attract much larger crowds than we do with our recorded music than we do, and a younger crowd as well. In fact, one of their ….he just recently joined the group as a caller ….he moved here from out of state. I would guess he’s probably in his thirties. So, things are looking up. The next generation is moving into the activity.
BB – Well, that’s great. Well, do you use anything which we would be compared to what modern western people call round dancing?
RN – I do some round dancing. I teach things like the Left Footers One-step, White Silver Sands. Make sure it …. I’ll take White Silver Sands and I’ll teach…. I’ll use different music for it each time.
BB – Ahh.
RN – In other words, you’re not going to be locked into that same piece of music for the dance.
BB – That’s interesting.
RN – And many, many, many songs are adaptable to that.
BB – Well, that’s interesting.
RN – In fact, we just did ….a few weeks ago I did ….we did the Left Footers One-step but the music I used was the Teddy Bears Picnic.
BB – Oh, yes. That’s a wonderful piece. Well, I know I taught Left Footers One-step to every dancer I ever taught in my life and my wife got so sick of it ….
RN –(laughs) Figure out how to learn (laughs again).
BB – But it’s a wonderful musical trainer actually.
RN – Absolutely it is.
BB – It really teaches people…. you can’t miss that beat, you know? Well, moving right along as they say, tell us about some of the big festivals you might have participated in.
RN – Well, when I was in the military ….here’s a nice story for you regarding my ….carrying my music with me aboard ship as a sailor. I carried my turntable on board but, in order to be able to play the records while the ship was under way I suspended the turntable from the overhead on ropes. I had four ropes coming down and around the bottom of the turntable so it would sway as the ship would … would roll with the … so the needle would stay on the record because I had it suspended.
I went to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, called a Navy Chief that I knew that had danced with us in Norfolk, and told him that our ship had just arrived in Roosevelt Roads and they had a ….they had a square dance club there that danced in their own hall the base gave them. They had it painted red, like a red barn. They had a built-in sound system and they had had, oh probably, a thousand square dance records there and they didn’t have a caller. They were dancing entirely to records. So, with about two hours notice he called up all his friends and said, “Hey, we have a live caller” (laughs). So I walked in and pulled out enough records out of their collection that I could use plus the ones I had on the ship with me and just called their dance for them and had a lot of fun. So they ….what they did, they arranged a dance for them for the next year for me to come down to San Juan and I called the Island Wide Jamboree. They had the air force base and the Navy base, I don’t know if there was an Army base, but anyway, all the different square dance clubs in Puerto Rico had the Jamboree in San Juan. That was the first opportunity I had to call for a big festival like that. It was a lot of fun.
BB – Ah ha. How about Nationals?
RN – I haven’t been to that many Nationals. I just …. I guess the first National I attended was in 1967 and I did go sporadically. I haven’t been to a really big National ….
BB – Yeah. Well, when I first met you in person, I think it was at a contra dance session at one of the Nationals.
RN – Oh, was it there or at Callerlab? I would think it was Callerlab.
BB – No, I remember it as a contra session.
RN – Oh, OK. Very cool.
BB – Well, be that as it may ….
RN – (laughs) sorry we don’t know the exact moment. So, contras have just been, you know, a big part of our square dance life…..
BB – That’s good.
RN ….ever since the very beginning.
BB – Yes. Do you lean more toward the New England style or Western style, so called?
RN – I like them both. Again, I like to dance both and I like to call for both and I like to use live music when I get the opportunity. I just don’t have the musicians at my disposal to help with that. I think that, if you are a musician and play an instrument, that certainly helps you and that’s something that I never ….even though I played the piano at the outset, I never really never pursued it so, although I can read music and understand, you know, music structure which I think is an integral part of calling.
BB – Yeah. I forgot to ask you earlier – you’re dancing at Balboa Park?
RN – Yes. At the War Memorial building there.
BB – I’m sorry.
RN – The War Memorial building.
BB – Oh yes. I remember the first National that I went to was at Balboa Park.
RN – Probably 1956.
BB – Was that the date?
RN – Yeah, that was the date. They had the dance on the aircraft carrier at that ….
BB – Yes, right. I got the chance to do that. Very unusual. Those big rivets on the flight deck were a little bit tough on your feet.
RN – Yeah. I have some photographs of that but that was before I came to San Diego.
BB – Oh, is that so.
RN – People still talk about it.
BB – Right. Well, Ron, if you’ll forgive me for a second we’re almost to the end of this first side of the tape. Let me take a second to turn it over. Hold on.
End of Side ’A’
BB – OK. I want to make sure it’s recording. One of the other interviews I did earlier, I turned the tape over and, somehow, the record button didn’t get depressed. We’re OK. I do have an indicator here that says it’s recording. So, OK. Well, let’s get a little bit philosophical. What do you find appealing about calling?
RN – Well, I’ve always been… always wanted to be an entertainer. At one time I thought I wanted to be an actor and, before I got involved in calling I was doing a lot of little theatre work – performing in musicals and dancing on stage. I’m not a trained dancer but, you know, it was enough for a musical and so, when I had the opportunity to start square dancing …. I remember, my first introduction to the big dance ….they were having this big dance out on the courthouse square in the town we were in, Ocala. They blocked off the street to traffic and they had the dancers dancing in the street. There were several hundred dancers there and they had this big flatbed truck that they made for a stage and the caller came and he wearing this bright red suit with rhinestones and just rhinestone studded, big cowboy hat and he had those dancers just eating out of the palm of his hand. I looked up there and I said, “That’s what I want to do” (laughs).
BB – You don’t know who the caller is, do you?
RN – Ah, you know, I honestly don’t know what his name was.
BB – Was he local?
RN – No, he was not a Florida caller and I’m not sure …. I know it wasn’t Cal Golden but it was somewhere in that era.
BB – It wouldn’t be Ed Durlacher from New York.
RN – It may have been.
BB – I’ll be darned, because he had a red shirt that had a longhorn steer on it but …
RN – Oh yeah. It may very well have been. I just saw that video of him recently up in Central Park. Pretty amazing stuff.
BB – That’s interesting.
RN – So, as I say, we had our club dance that Don came down for and Don eventually …he worked in Ocala, that was much farther so,…he ….actually first he trained Howard Rohrbacher who worked for the Parks and Rec. Department there in Ocala. Howard did probably the next class. Then, the club hired Bob Rust to come in. Bob was from Daytona Beach. Bob was very influential in my ….in my learning to sight call because …. I’ve mimed all the other callers I’d seen who basically worked with, you know, the turntable between them and the audience. He worked with the turntable behind him and they didn’t have the remote music on the microphone in those days so, he stood up at the table with his hand behind his back and he would roll that volume control of the music as he was calling. When he heard that I had been doing some singing calls at our little trailer park that was ….our home, where I lived, on the other side of the block from us ….our backyard was the back of the trailer park – they had a little recreation hall and the couple that managed the park were square dancers and so, they would have a little dance on the weekend when there was no dance in town and would mostly dance to records. So, we started dancing with them and they knew I was wanting to do some calling so, they were open to letting me try to call for them in this trailer park. So, they didn’t have a PA system, so what I did was I …they had this old Hi-Fi set, it was a big console set and the record player did not have a speed control. It had a port that had a screw on the end of it. It was mounted on the turntable so that you could screw it into the side of the turntable and slow the speed down.
BB – Yes.
RN – But, there was a voice channel so I found an old guitar amplifier and took the microphone from the tape recorder we had. Sure enough, it plugged in and fit in the amplifier just fine and I had stuck that up on top of the ….of the Hi-Fi bed and I had the voice coming out of the amplifier and the music coming out of the record player (laughs). So that was my first sound system.
BB – That was innovative, that’s for sure.
RN – Yeah, it worked and people were very surprised and happy that I was able to do it. So, it had ….it had a good effect. Then, one of the snowbirds that had come from New England during the winter was Bob Page – not ….not the Bob Page in California or the Ralph Page from New England but Bob Page. At that time in the 60’s he was probably near 80 years old at that time and he lived in Maine, Kittery Point, I believe. But, he would come down each year and he gave us some very good words of wisdom and he had his Newcomb turntables and all these things he was able to call on so, we had all these kinds of equipment and he would call and I would call and he would take me in those. It was a very good early-on impression. Before long, Bob Rust heard about what I was doing out at the trailer park so he came up to me and asked me if I would call a tip for him at the Ocala club
there, which I did. They were big clubs there at the time. That was a treat for me to be able to be able to call for a big crowd of dancers like that.
BB – Good. Do you have any regrets? Anything you wish you had done differently in your experience?
RN – Oh gee, that’s hard to say -laughs. I …. I think there are things I would have done differently but to just … specifically, I don’t know what that would be (laughs) putting me on the spot like this. I found, as we talked earlier in the conversation, I did do some recording on a couple different record labels. I started doing …. I thought I wanted to be a traveling square dance caller but I really found out that I’m really happiest when I’m with my home group that I know their full capabilities and I can guide them over a period of time rather than being a, one night, you know, special dance type caller, That’s just not the … I just felt that wasn’t really where my specialties lie.
BB – Well, that’s good.
RN – I’ve found that ….you know, I really enjoy the comfort of having my own group. When I was in Texas, I was calling five nights a week, three different states, and I pretty much knew the dancers and knew all those different groups and so, I was able to handle it and I would change my program depending on the group. I mean, I had some groups that were go, go, go and they wanted to do everything high energy and others that were looking for more of a social club than they were trying to master up choreography. We had to play to individuals with different concerns. I quit a club one time in Virginia because they got to where they were so sociable that they wouldn’t get up and dance (both laugh). That was the most frustrating thing for me was to try to get squares on the floor and they wouldn’t leave their conversation to come and dance. I resigned from the club and they hired a young teen-ager named Tim Marriner (laughs).
BB – Oh. What are your predictions for the future of square dancing?
RN – I think it’s better ….if it stays around it’s going to return to the more of the traditional …traditional thing. I just don’t see modern western square dancing surviving in its present form over a long time. I just don’t … I just don’t see it. It’s just been a continually shrinking activity for the past twenty years. So, I hate to be negative about it. I’m very happy with the
traditional community and I think that we have an opportunity to do modern square dancing but, we have to keep it simple. We just can’t ….we can’t keep demanding people come up to our level because, pretty soon there’s nobody that will be at that level.
BB – Right. Well, OK. Well, I think we’ve covered pretty much what I wanted to cover. Is there anything else I may have forgotten to ask you about your twenty year program out there? You call it ….what do you call it, a community …
RN – Well, we just refer to it as Reels and Squares. I’ll tell you how we ….just as a sidelight ….of how we obtained our hall. You know, when we tried to start this group we were met with resistance by the modern western square dance association. They felt like we were doing something in opposition to them and so, they had a wonderful arrangement with the city of San Diego where they could sign up for dance halls and the recreation department would provide them for no charge ….
BB – That’s great.
RN – …. so, they’ve been doing that you know, since 1947 or 8, something like that and so, we applied to try to join the association so we could qualify for one of those dance halls. They wouldn’t have anything to do with us. They wouldn’t recognize contra dancing and the fact that we were doing old time squares was, you know, very foreign to what they were doing. So, what we did was, we approached the international dance association who also met at Balboa Park and we applied for membership there (laughs) the American Folk Dance. And so, we are in Balboa Park now for all those years under the auspices of the International Folk Dance Association.
BB – Oh, great. Well, as long as it worked out.
RN – It worked fine.
BB – Yes. Well, I commend you for continuing such a program. I think I agree with you wholeheartedly that the future of square dancing is probably going to be based on some kind of program like your community program there in ….
RN – And something else I’ll say too, Bob before we close is that, I do a tremendous amount of one night stands where…. in fact, last Sunday was Father’s Day, so following the Reels and Squares dance I went to a dance in a private home for a group of home school kids and we had five squares dancing out in the back yard on this big patio. I do that almost ….just about every weekend there’s something going on where I’m calling for some special party like that. Recently, I did a post civil war, reconstruction dance. We had …they called it a Post Civil War Cotillion ….people danced in period costumes and we held the dance up in the mountains out east of San Diego here in this old town hall that went back to the 1800’s. So, a very picturesque place and a fine time was had by all by dancing to the Virginia Reel and, you know, dances of that era that I was able to show to…
BB – Right.
RN – I’ve already ….they already put me in for next year so ….
BB – Good. Good. That seemed to be what happened at the end of my calling career. I was doing more one night stands than I was club dances and, of course, that’s where the money is.
RN – there’s no doubt about that.
BB – Well Ron, let’s ….let’s call this a day unless you can think of anything else you’d like to put on the tape and save for posterity (both chuckle).
RN – It’s been a wonderful avocation for me. I’ve certainly made life long friends, you know, through square dancing that you just can’t replace. I mean, it’s just ….to think that ….just … a couple of months ago I was talking about a dance we did for the ARTS program. Ken Bower came to that dance. He and I had an opportunity to call a tip together and it struck me that he and I had been friends for nearly forty years. When we first met, we were in our twenties – laughs. Here we are forty years later still working together.
BB – Well, when you mentioned avocation we really probably should mention what you normally do for work.
R N – Well, you know, I’ve been a full-time caller off and on through my career. Several times I’ve done nothing but call square dances and, in the meantime I’ve been a business man. I’ve owned an antique shop at one time. Presently, I work in the media replication industry. We manufacture CD’s and DVD’s. I’m an account executive for selling the manufacture of DVD’s or CD’s to the major software companies and entertainment industries. I work with many marketing departments and large manufacturing firms.
BB – Well, that’s fine.
RN – It’s a captivating industry and I enjoy it very much. Unfortunately, we don’t do small enough jobs, unfortunately, for the square dance labels but, we generally only do a few at a time. We are into many thousands with our clients.
BB – Well OK ….
RN – The interest in the square dance recording was one of the one of the things that lead me into the industry that I’m here in ultimately.
BB – Well, great. So, shall we call this a day?
RN – Bob, It’s been a pleasure. I certainly am flattered by your invitation to speak with you in regard to this (chuckles). My wife just put a note in front of me reminding me to mention to you that I called a square dance for Jimmy Carter when he was Governor of Georgia.
BB – Chuckles. OK. So, All right, and then we’ll call this a day and I want to thank you very much for giving us a little different slant on some of the square dance activity going on around the country and around the world and I encourage you to keep up your program there in Balboa Park and try to instill it in a few other places around the country: wouldn’t hurt.
RN – If we could just somehow, somehow, get these modern callers to understand what it is that we do with a program like this. It’s like, if you go to talk about this and their eyes glaze over and that’s very frustrating when I see it go like that.
BB – Most every caller I’ve talked to lately, when this subject has come up has indicated the same thing that our modern western callers today ….they couldn’t call a program like you do.
RN – Right. Not even begin to.
BB – Right. OK. Well, thanks again Ron and I’ll probably be getting in touch with you to make a few corrections by email.
RN – OK, Bob.
BB – Thanks again and say hello to your wife for me and ….
RN – I surely will.
BB – OK. Bye, bye.
RN – Take care. Bye, bye,
End of interview with Ron Nelson