JIM MACZKO INTERVIEW
May 16, 2004
Bob Brundage – Well, hi again. This is Bob Brundage and today is May the 16th and today I’m talking to Jim Maczko out In San Diego, California. Should be a very interesting conversation because Jim has been so active in square dancing for over 50 years, is currently the Chairman of the newly formed ARTS group which we’ll talk about and has been a long time associate with United Square Dancers of America. So Jim, let’s start with a little bit of personal history first of all. Let’s talk about where you were born and brought up and some of your early experiences.
Jim Maczko – Yes, I’m a native San Diegan born and raised right here in good old sunny southern California. A great place to grow up and live – kind of a home I’ve always returned to although I’ve gone away a couple of times I’ve always come back to San Diego.
BB – Right. So, tell us how you got wound up getting involved in square dancing in the first place.
JM – Well my parents started square dancing about 1952 and I tagged along – they just never bothered getting a baby sitter so I went along for the ride. In 1954 I decided I should take it up so I began with a pre-teen club here in the San Diego area that – the activity was booming in those days and everybody was square dancing – something that a lot of us enjoyed – got into an exhibition group actually that traveled to a number of festivals and conventions and got active from that aspect.
BB – What was the name of that group?
JM – It was called the Junior Levis and Laces – was basically the pre-teen club and the exhibition group was a group called the Rainbow Twirlers. As I said, we participated in conventions here in San Diego – at the National Convention in 1956 – had a youth program and had a beautiful open air – actually called the Ford Bowl where 3000 people could sit and watch the exhibitions on stage.
BB – Yeah, I think I remember that – I was at that convention. I’d be interested in the chronology of your leadership. Did you start out as an officer in your home square dance club and build it from there?
JM – Well yes. When I attempted to become active politically from day one almost – this pre-teen club – we had a pre-teen club, a teen age club and there actually was an adult club so there was the Junior Levis and Laces and in a pre-teen division I attempted to run for President and lost, ran for Vice President and lost but I guess they felt sorry for me and elected me Secretary so I got in on the ground floor there – at least got to participate organizationally – finally did work my way up to President of the teen age club. That was a very, very worthwhile experience and laid a lot of groundwork for things that followed. In my involvement with this exhibition group, the Rainbow Twirlers we traveled to the National Convention in 1957. The story that I have is that Lloyd and Dorothy Shaw asked to have their picture taken with our exhibition group and I actually have that picture displayed in my den – our exhibition group. I was one of the smaller members of the group so I got to be down in front and Lloyd and Dorothy were up toward the back. I could say that I crossed paths with the father of modern western square dancing, Pappy Shaw.
BB – Then from that experience how did you get into other aspects of leadership?
JM – Right, well, as I said youth dancing was booming in the late 50’s, early 60’s and we formed the San Diego Junior Square Dance Association in 1961. Then in ’63 I became Vice-President of – actually in ‘62 I became Vice-President of that group and in ’63 I was President and we had 13 to 16 clubs that were members right here in San Diego and we developed a rapport with a sister organization in the Los Angeles area called the Teen Age Square Dance Association. Between the 2 organizations we exchanged visits – bus trips back and forth and again it was a rewarding exchange of dancing – it was a lot of fun dancing – we danced a little faster pace as kids and did things a little differently than the adults – probably a little rougher dancing than the adults enjoyed but we knew when to behave ourselves and when we could cut up and have a good time.
BB – Can I assume correctly that that teenage effort is no longer in existence?
JM – That’s correct, yes. Neither organization is alive today unfortunately. There is a strong effort amongst dance organizations to revitalize the youth activity but it’s struggling realistically but each step forward things get a little bit better. That’s true both here in California and nationally that the youth program is being pursued at least. People haven’t totally given up on it.
BB – Yes, well. Would you tell us a little bit about what your regular job was that you could afford to spend so much time in square dancing.
JM – Well, I went to the University of Denver to pursue a degree in – I wanted to become a real estate appraiser but that didn’t seem to pan out. I wound up getting a degree in Building Industry and Real Estate, BS, BA degree at the University of Denver and got into construction more than the real estate side of things. Then kind of in construction estimating – pricing of projects and the governmental or heavy highway and civil construction arena for about 35 years now. Graduated from the University of Denver in 1969. Then again, while in Denver there was a square dance club on campus, the Pioneer Squares – the University of Denver’s big name is the Pioneers so we had the Pioneer Squares. We would travel to other college campuses – CSU up in Fort Collins had an active group and of course the University of Colorado had their group that was active – also participated one summer with the Lloyd Shaw Fellowship at the Shaw home in Colorado Springs. I actually gave Dorothy Shaw a picture of the group that was taken back in ’57 in St. Louis. Of course her home was a beautiful place to gather and dance and exchange information on the history of square dancing.
BB – Right. Well, I attended Shaw’s School in ’54 but never did get to their home. I went up to their Pikes Peak overlook. Anyway, Let’s start talking about United Square Dancers of America. I understand that you’re the Parliamentarian at the moment –
JM – Correct.
BB – and why don’t you give us a little bit of the background of USDA.
JM – Sure. In the late 70’s – ’77 I was elected President of the California Square Dance Council and served 2 terms there and it was out of that organization that the idea was pretty much arrived at that the perhaps we should look around to see if other state organizations would be interested in gathering together to form a national dancer organization. Of course Callerlab having been formed in ’74 and Roundlab in ’77 and I was actually involved with Legacy starting in 1975 so I had a feel for what the other national organizations were doing and they kind of taped me with the chore of surveying the other national – the other state square dance organizations to see if there was in fact an interest. It was pretty much determined over about the next year and a half that perhaps was worth the effort of gathering. So we made arrangements in June of 1980 to meet at the National Square Dance Convention in Memphis, Tennessee to just see who would be willing to step up and help make a national dance organization go. There had actually been a couple of previous efforts to bring dancers together on an individual basis – collect 10 bucks from each dancer and then try to form a national organization but that never really developed any momentum. By 1980, ’81 I think the dancers saw that you could accomplish more by gathering together than you could by forging ahead on your own. So, with the offices of the California Square Dance Council as kind of the spearhead they directed us to move forward. In 1980 in Memphis we did gather and out of that we formed an organizing committee that moved ahead and actually in November of that year, 1980 we gathered in Oklahoma City to draft bylaws and these documents were presented to everyone who was interested to attend the organizational meeting during the National convention in Seattle in 1981. As a result of that meeting I was elected the first President of the United Square Dancers of America. It kind of moved on from there. It started with 11 charter member organizations spotted all over the country, the east coast was represented as well as Texas and California, Delaware and Missouri and Alabama so it was a good cross section of the nation initially. Officers were elected. While funds were scarce in those days the officers pretty much funded the initial efforts to get things going but then we were all repaid as USDA grew and collected funds. Just by forming these organizations together we created on day one the largest square dance organization in the world. With over 100,000 dancers coming together just from out of those 11 state groups.
BB – Well that was my next question about what the size of your organization has been.
JM – It has grown to where could identify over 300,000 dancers, members. Today it’s back down around the 100,000 range. We do have a number of programs that – the square dancer insurance program is how we kind of how we are able to quantify those that are dancing.
There are about 80,000 participants in that and then there are some members of USDA who do not participate in big dancer program. So that is a fairly accurate count of what we would call the organized square dancers. There are still the independent dancers out there that just do not belong to clubs or participate in the insurance program. They’re uncounted but they’re out there.
BB – Well, of course I grew up in Connecticut and I spent all my square dance calling experiences throughout New England and the northeast. I don’t really recall very much reference to USDA up in the New England area.
JM – EDSARDA (Eastern District Square and Round Dance Association) was a slow one to join. They’ve only been a member for about 5 or 6 years now. They have come into the fold and we anticipate that in June that we will elect an Eastern Region Vice-President from the EDSARDA organization – Leonard and Connie Houle. We’re looking forward to having then join the USDA Executive Committee.
BB – Oh good because he’s one of the callers I have on my list to interview. That’s interesting. I’ve been checking out your web page and it’s a very, very ambitious effort you have going on there. You have so many different programs we could spend a whole day just talking each one of them I believe but I noticed that around the country you have 22 different chairman of your organization in various aspects of the activity. You put out a quarterly newsletter every quarter. Besides your insurance program you also have a credit card program.
JM – Right. We encourage dancers to utilize the credit card and USDA reaps a benefit from that and the proceeds from the credit card program – not one penny of that goes into USDA coffers. It’s all reinvested into the square dance activity. 50% of the proceeds go back to the affiliates of USDA and USDA collects dues every year. Basically each state is afforded up to 4 votes if your state covers the entire state and represents all the dancers in that state you are entitled to up to 4 votes and that will cost you $100. By virtue of this credit card program and the dues have never increased from day one – 1981 to 2004 we’ve never had a dues increase but as a result of the credit card program basically your dues are refunded because of the proceeds from that. We’re going to have about our 4th distribution of funds from that program this year and it was only 3 years ago that we refunded or distributed funds – the last time was 2001 in Anaheim and we’re going to do it again this year in Denver. Basically the affiliates are refunded their dues and so this year the state organization will get $400 back – EDSARDA, California and other organizations will actually get a refund of $400. So it really doesn’t cost anything to belong to a national organization. With all the benefits it’s a real worthwhile situation. The other 50% of the proceeds from the credit card program go to – half of it goes to the youth fund and half of it goes to the handicapable program. The youth fund has developed things like a youth video and had distributed those at virtually no cost. The handicapable program – they basically fund participation in the National Square Dance Convention as well as each year there is a US Handicapable Convention. Now they’re having one in the east and one in the west – those are not under the auspices of the USDA but USDA does support them because USDA pretty much coined the phrase ‘Handicapable Dancers’ back in 1984 when their program was initiated.
BB – Oh, I didn’t realize it went back that far. Well, you also have a very ambitious publications program. I’ve counted 23 different brochures and booklets, etc. That was my first introduction to USDA was to send for some of that material.
JM – Right. Now you can download it from the website. It’s always been free to members and to non-members. USDA has not discriminated against non-members. Their education program has bar none been the best available anywhere. There were state organizations that had strong education programs over the years – Texas and Oklahoma back in the early days – the ‘60’s and ‘70’s – they had excellent education programs. It has kind of evolved that USDA has kind of taken over and improved and expanded on those efforts. Today, like you say there’s a pamphlet or information on just about every subject of interest to the square dance community.
BB – Yes, I know some as an example would be ‘What Are Your Responsibilities as a Vice-President’ or as a Treasurer, etc. as well as others. Then you also have a discount prescription drug plan.
JM – Right, yes. That has proven to be beneficial to those who have been participating. You’re able to get your prescriptions – if you don’t have insurance or any other – you’re able to get a significant discount by utilizing the card and again, USDA does reap a small benefit from that – those funds really haven’t developed to the degree that we would have liked but the program is still new and we still have hope that it will grow. Again, it kind of benefits square dancers and square dancers families. That card can be used by virtually anyone. You don’t have to be a square dancer to utilize the card.
BB – Yes, that’s great. Well, the other thing that caught my interest was your USA Travelers program. You’re encouraging people to dance in all 50 states.
JM – Right, yes and that’s another brand new program – it’s only like 2 years old and the first year there was a handful of people that earned – basically it comes in steps. I mean your first step once you have danced in 12 states USDA will give you a badge and a dangle that indicates you have danced in the 12 states and basically until you get up to the 50. Nobody has achieved that yet but again, the program is new but we think that it’s a program that does help promote reciprocity and hope that people will travel and that they will get return visits and make friends. I mean, what better way to make friends than to square dance.
BB – That’s right, right. Well that’s an interesting program. How far has your – have some of your people gotten? You say they haven’t been to all 50 yet but –
JM – Right. There’s a number that have crossed the 12 and I think that this year there will be some who get to the 24. You basically couldn’t start the program until USDA started it 2 years ago. People haven’t had the opportunity to cover all 50 stated yet.
BB – Right. It’s not retroactive.
JM – Correct. No.
BB – OK. Well it’s sort of a – what was that – the name escapes me – when you used to try to get different callers names.
JM – The Century Club.
BB – The Century Club, yeah with a little bit of a different slant on it. And you’re also active trying to get square dancing designated as the National folk Dance.
JM – Right. So many square dancers think that we’ve already done this. Well we did, back in 1982 it was designated the National Folk Dance for that session of Congress and that was the thing that kind of – we square dancers who worked on that effort – we actually traveled back there and danced at a congressional session in 1982 to help promote getting it passed but when Ronald Reagan signed it in June of ’82 it was really only good for 18 months – the balance if that session of Congress. There have been other efforts to get it to make square dancing a National Folk Dance permanent – in fact, in ’84 I was fortunate to be in attendance at a congressional hearing where Bob Osgood spoke to the members of the judiciary committee who were gathered to hear that particular session. There was some opposition at that point in time from other dance groups and they spoke against the square dance movement but it was still an exciting experience and on that occasion Bob Osgood chose to award 2 Silver Spurs to couples that were very, very active in promoting the National Folk Dance – George and Ann Holser and Mac and Mary McClure. Of course, Bob has a terrific history in promoting that and today there is a new bill in congress – HR 645 that we’re attempting to get co-sponsors. Again, we’ve learned a few things over the years in the political arena or how to play the game and this time we’re actually proposing to amend Government Code 36 which includes things like the national anthem and the national motto and a 5th thing on the list would be the National Folk Dance. So this would be a permanent designation of square dancing as the national folk dance and it would not have to be redone every year. Realistically these efforts probably take 2 to 3 sessions of Congress to achieve so we’re optimistic that things could happen before the end of 2004 but realistically we’re probably going to have to reintroduce the bill with the next session of Congress in January of 2005. We’re encouraging dancers to send letters to their Congressmen. We actually have a form letter that you can sign and fax in or email your Congressmen to support the bill. To date we have like 28 co-sponsors and again, the co-sponsors are from states all across the country. Realistically, when you look at the states that have identified square dancing as their state dance – there are like 32 states that have – are already doing it on a state-wide basis so it just seems natural that if you have 2/3rds of the states participating we ought to have 100% of the country participating. We feel that this will help attract attention to the square dance activity – at least help to get it initiated into the schools – introduced into the schools in a more acceptable manner – acceptable from our perspective so the kids don’t get turned off by square dancing like so many kids were.
BB – Well. I think on your web page you even have the proper address for peoples Congressman, etc. so that it makes it easy for them to voice their opinion.
JM – Right. We’re trying to make it as user-friendly as possible so the dancers don’t get frustrated in their efforts to communicate with their Congressional leaders.
BB – Yeah. Well, that’s really a wonderful program. Tell me a little more about the handicapable program.
JM – Well, back in ’84 the President of USDA at the time – Joe and Joy Vacarri were aware of a group called the “Pensacola Special Steppers” out of Pensacola, Florida and appointed a chairman from that group to head up – Mac MacKenzie to head up the USDA’s effort. They’ve done a lot to basically identify the handicapable groups around the country and to provide assistance. Each year dancers – handicapable dancers who petition the USDA Handicapable Chairman may have their National Convention registrations paid for them out of the USDA Handicapable Fund. So, we’re trying to assist with the financial aspects of it there. We realize that the traveling to the National Convention for anyone is an expense but for the handicapable groups it can be an especial burden so we try to make it a little easier. Then a number of years ago the Handicapable National Convention was initiated – US Handicapable Square Dance Convention. They were kind of going – alternating every other year and was typically in the eastern half of the country and now there’s a western convention as well and USDA funds each of those conventions each year and current time we’re contributing $750 each year to those conventions to help fund those activities.
BB – Well that’s a wonderful program. What sort of attendance do they get?
JM – Ah, they’re not real large. I think that they have maybe 20 – 25 squares but again, it’s an effort to travel to those conventions as well but they are at least geared to the handicapable dancers. And of course the National Convention – USDA had encouraged the National Convention to establish a handicapable hall each year. For the most part when space is available they’ve managed to arrange for that.
BB – Yes. Of course it takes a special caller for that type of a program also.
JM – That’s true. Yes.
BB – Well. I noticed the other thing about your web page, it has all kinds of links to other areas. I know you have links to various vendors and you have a directory of callers and cuers and other organizations as well. It certainly a very ambitious program. Whoever handles your web page has got a full time job I think.
JM – Yes. It was initiated by Jim Weber who is now President of USDA so he’s got his hands – well, he’s still sort of managing the web site but he’s kind of got it up and rolling and is kind of maintaining it rather all the efforts that went into creating it. We’re very, very proud of that.
BB – Right, I’m sure. Well, I was very impressed when I finally hooked into it back a little while ago. I certainly encourage your efforts in that area. So, anything else about USDA before we move on?
JM – Well, each and every year since it’s inception USDA had grown. I mean, there has been a new affiliate join each year. That’s not something that’s happening in the square dance community but USDA has a proud record. One of these days soon we’re going to have all 50 states belonging and we’re going to have outgrown our (squeaky noise on tape) ability. It will be a good thing that we can still add dancers. Of course the insurance program is probably most (squeak again) familiar – that’s a situation that – again, pretty much generally the funding that let’s USDA operate the educational programs and these other areas as well because we do make these things available at no cost to anyone. At the National Convention we take like 8 tables in the Showcase of Ideas just to display all these materials and encourage dancers to pick them up and take them away. And at the National Convention we have after party and we’re now actually sponsoring a youth after party that USDA will buy pizza for the kids or whatever is appropriate at that particular venue. There’s a lot of things going on. It’s an organization that – the time had come in the early 80’s that there was needed and it has proved beneficial and I think that now that the rest of the square dance establishment has pretty much accepted USDA as a co-member of the square dance family.
BB – Right. Well it’s a really ambitious effort all the way down the line. I’m really impressed by all the efforts that USDA had out forth.
JM – I don’t think that any of us at the beginning envisioned it as becoming what it had become today. I think that we saw that if we got all 50 states in and we got $100 from each state we’d have $5000 to work with and that would take care of it. Now we have an annual budget of $30 – $35,000 but it’s something that, as I say that the time had come and we’ve far exceeded our expectations and are all very, very proud. There are still 4 or 5 of us that are considered founders of USDA are still very, very active in the organization so we have a good history of what’s gone on in the past and as well as new people coming in and bringing new ideas to move the organization forward.
BB – Right. Well, with such longevity on your original founders is a good testimonial that square dancing is good for you.
JM – That’s exactly right.
BB – Laughs. Well, moving on a little bit – I found a piece written by you called the National Council of Square Dance Organizations. You had a meeting back in 1999. Now, I’m sort of assuming that this was sort of a forerunner of ARTS.
JM – That’s correct. USDA in ’98 proposed that we bring all the national organizations more windy than some of the others
BB – No, not really. Well, the tape stopped unexpectedly and we were right in the middle of an important question so I’m going to ask the question again and start back at the beginning. So, in 1999 I saw a piece written by you called the National Council of Square Dance Organizations. I kind of assumed that this was sort of an introduction to what turned out to be ARTS.
JM – Right, Yeah. In ’98 USDA proposed to schedule a meeting where they brought all of the national organizations together for a discussion of how we can do more to improve the square dance activity and 11 organizations were invited to attend USDA’s winter meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The meeting was actually held on a Wednesday and a Thursday so as not to conflict with the professional members of the square dance community’s livelihood where they typically would work a festival or a major dance over the weekend so we scheduled it to not to conflict with that. USDA actually paid the housing – the room for all of the attendees for 2 nights and arranged for the meeting space and that sort of thing. It did invest funds into making this happen and it was envisioned at that point in time that the chairmanship would kind of rotate – that the meeting hosts would rotate. That meeting was – we all felt was a very, very big success with American Callers Association, Callerlab, Roundalab, Legacy, Single Square Dancers and the International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs and USDA and USAWest all participated – I know I’m leaving out a couple but that’s the gist of it.
BB – The NEC (National Executive Committee of the National Convention)
JM – Correct, good, yes the NEC also participated –
BB – and the USA West Policy Board, URDC – United Round Dance Council, Single Dancers and Camper Dancers and the Gay Square Dance – Roundalab – yeah –
JM – Right. We were very, very pleased and impressed with the participation from the gay representatives. They had – they were able to do a presentation for us that most of us were not that aware of in that they had pretty much of a documented square dance recruiting campaign that, while it required a lot of follow up effort they had a step by step procedure that they shared with us and USDA has actually kind of now taken the Hensel Plan (for square dance recruitment) as it was called and straightened it so to speak taking it from the gay community and making it a little more user friendly for the straight dancer or the typical square dance community. We felt it was a very, very beneficial opportunity to bring everyone together and it was a very, very cordial gathering and there was hope for the future. Then following that in May of ’99 the groups met again hosted by Legacy in Cleveland and the USDA President, Bill Flick chaired both of those first 2 meetings and then following that the NEC representative, John and Dimple Williford were actually the appointed or the designated Chair of the National Council of Square Dance Organizations following that. Unfortunately, the momentum seemed to stop there and the National Council really never met under that auspices again. Then in the Callerlab meeting in St. Louis in 2001 the idea of ARTS was initiated there that there needed to be a gathering of more than just the Callerlab entity and the Foundation to make the Phoenix Plan go and so that’s kind of how the first mention of ARTS which Jim Hensley, the Marketing Director for the Callerlab Foundation pretty much coined the phrase ARTS and the Alliance of Round, Traditional and Square Dance.
BB – Well, that’s great. So you have high hopes for this organization and you are the current Chairman. I have a list of the officers here that’s also on the ARTS web page along with a lot of other information and links to various – you have a page here on your governing board and who is on that and membership things, etc. so I understand there are group memberships and individual memberships, etc. so let’s talk about that.
JM – Correct, yes. The governing board is made up of the 11 national organizations and presently an invitation has actually been extended to the Canadian Square and Round Dance Society so there is a potential that they will be coming into the fold as well. They probably won’t make that decision until their national convention in July in Calgary but that effort is at least moving forward. In the meantime ARTS is accepting donations and contributions from individuals of $50.00 level per year and organizations at $100.00 level per year. People have contributed more than that and we’re very, very grateful of having accumulated enough funds to kind of make things happen. Our initial introduction to the square dance community is going to come in a major way at the National Convention in Denver where the ARTS will actually be conducting primarily a demographic survey. While we realize that this survey is going to be skewed to what we might call the super dancer – those who travel and do attend national conventions. One of our thoughts is perhaps those are the types of dancers we want to clone.
In other words, we want to find out what brought those people to the activity and we want to bring other like people into the activity that will become the future leaders of the square dance community. In addition to the survey there will be kind of an introductory brochure – a tri-fold brochure that will introduce the ARTS to all square dancers. Fortunately the Denver convention committee have been very, very cooperative and they’re actually going to include the survey and the brochure in the registration packets for everyone that attends the national convention. And they’re going to be encouraging everyone to fill out those surveys and return them. They’re headed on a course to have better than 8000 dancers in Denver. The latest projections are around 85-8600 which is an improvement over Oklahoma City so maybe there is a turnaround being seen in attendance at the national convention at least and hoping that it will reflect in other aspects of the square dance activity as well. But through this demographic survey we feel like that’s going to give us a basis to communicate with potential sponsors or investors or grant writers and grant givers to fund square dance activities. If you go talk to the major corporations they all want to know well, “Who square dances?” Everybody seems to think it’s a – “ I’m not old enough to square dance”. A lot of people say, “ You’ve got to be 80 years old to square dance”. Well, I know different. I’ve been square dancing since I was 7 and it’s something for everybody and we’re hoping that we can get that word out.
BB – I have a copy of your ‘Mission Statement’ here and I’d like to read it into the record. The ARTS mission is to generate public awareness and promote growth and acceptance of contemporary Square, Round and Traditional Folk Dance by encouraging and assisting a coalition of allied dance groups. The ARTS will provide leadership and resources necessary to create an achievable marketing program. The ARTS will encourage, promote and support healthy lifestyles through dance programs and events that provide fun and effective exercise for both mind and body, all within a unique system of social interaction. A very broad statement.
JM – Right and those words were not developed lightly. We had a lot of wordsmiths in our group that – because when we have out governing board meetings each organization gets 1 vote but each organization is welcome to have multiple representatives. USDA typically sends 4 couples to these meetings and Callerlab always has 4 or 5 of their members there and other organizations maybe not quite not to that level so there’s a lot of good heads in the room that can nit-pick and make things right so we hope that that mission statement – we believe that mission statement truly conveys the direction that we want ARTS to go.
BB – Right, right. Well, this is just taking Jim Hensley’s survey’s a little bit step further, I guess.
JM – Correct, yes and Jim has been active in the governing board representing the Callerlab Foundation so we still appreciate his input. A number of individuals within the governing board have stepped up to the plate and generated some terrific materials that are going to be used to help the long range planning along the areas of grant writing and fund raising and sponsorship and changing the image of square dancing – and truly enhancing – I think enhancing is the word that is best utilized there – enhancing the image of square dancing. It’s not a bad image we have today it’s just that people don’t actually understand us or was presented to them in a bad light and we just want to kind of put a better light on it.
BB – Sure, right. Well. an ambitious program I’m sure. OK. Well does that cover ARTS fairly well in your estimation before I continue?
JM – Pretty much. Yes again it’s a young organization and we’re very, very hopeful that it will be growing and moving ahead. We typically have 3 meetings a year – a spring, a summer and a fall and the summer meeting will be on Sunday following the national convention in Denver.
It is an open meeting although with probably limited space available but we would not turn anyone away should they care to at least see what’s going on and to contribute. If someone has an idea or a suggestion we’re certainly want to – we’re open-minded and want to listen.
BB – Right. Well, OK. I’d like to get your perspective on one question that I’ve been asking. You indicated when we first started chatting that most of my efforts have been centered on callers and cuers, etc. and you’re neither one. You’ve just been a dancer all your life. So the question I’ve been asking is, “ Where do you think square dancing might be going in the future?”
JM – Well, I’m optimistic that it’s going to have a rebirth. I think that we can improve our – enhance our image and show people that it’s a fun activity for everyone. Maybe we need in our marketing efforts to be targeting the baby boomers and the people that – the empty nesters who have a little more time and need some activity. Certainly kind of a side light to ARTS is something that we think needs to be done is more definitive research into the health aspects of square dancing. I mean, those of us who do it all believe it’s healthy but it would be beneficial to have the Mayo Clinic do an analysis or some reputable medical entity kind of stand up and say that square dancing prolongs peoples lives 10 – 20 years or whatever or improves their lifestyle through the mental and physical activity of square dancing are able to verify that we believe that square dancing is truly beneficial. I think by doing that we can in fact have a rebirth of the square dance activity. Of course, the population keeps growing but our square dance numbers seem to be diminishing and if we just had the same percentage of dancers in the activity today that we had 30 years ago square dancing would be a very, very healthy condition. I think that’s an achievable goal.
BB – Right. One other question then. I wonder if you’d give me a sort of a perspective on your own career over this last 50 years.
JM – Well I tried to stay active organizationally. Denver is going to be my 40th National Convention and it has been an opportunity to meet and greet people and remeet and greet them over the years. I’ve had some good strong friendships and relationships and, of course USDA’s annual meeting is always in conjunction with the national convention so I have a lot of respect for the national and what it has done and have had the benefit of participating as Publicity Chairman for the 25th National in Anaheim, the largest national convention ever held at that time. I hope the publicity campaign that we put forth helped to attract additional dancers and helped to make it the largest convention. So the national convention serves a special need within the square dance community and we feel like each of these organizations does in fact do that and it’s good that we are now coming to the same mind – coming together within ARTS. While we felt that organizations were important – of course you have the clubs on the local level – individual clubs kind of need one another to survive and to grow and by uniting they can form associations – associations can gather and form a state and regional associations and now USDA and the national dancer organization and, of course ARTS kind of bringing all of the facets of the square dance community into one arena and communicate – communication is always very, very important and we can write things and write things and write things but we can’t make people read them. You’ve got to kind of tell people and you’ve got to tell them more than once. You’ve got to keep telling them. Getting the message out is a difficult thing. We always say, especially in the square dance community but probably it’s true in everyday life – getting the message out on any subject is never easy and that’s why we see commercials thousands of times on TV to sell their product. We can’t afford to do that but someday maybe we’ll be able to do a better job of promoting square dancing.
BB – Do you have any regrets? Anything you wish you had done differently?
JM – No. I think that maybe we should have started USDA earlier and we probably should have started ARTS earlier but sometimes a need has to be brought to the forefront before we actually meet that need. So that’s probably a situation that could have been improved if we had had the foresight to do those things sooner.
BB – Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing of course. I also know you were –you mentioned you’d been involved with Legacy over the years. You must have known my good friends Doc and Peg Tirrell.
JM – Absolutely. Yes, we see them every year at the National Convention.
BB – They’re great folks. Well, I think we’re just about finished unless you can think of something else you’d like to have recorded by this particular session.
JM – No, I think that – well, you’re associated with the Lloyd Shaw Foundation. Maybe this isn’t for the record but I was very, very pleased to see that it is being moved to my Alma Mater, the University of Denver. Hopefully they can put in a presentable fashion that we can go visit it someday. I was in hopes that we could do that in conjunction with the national convention this year but I guess it really isn’t that far along.
BB – That’s what I understand, yes.
JM – Getting to talk to Cal and Judy Campbell. They’re working hard on that effort and they’re great people to have involved with that but I’m pleased that it’s gone back to Colorado – Pappy’s home and my Alma Mater means a lot too.
BB – Well, it seemed the right thing to do conditions being what they are with the Lloyd Shaw Foundation. All right, I think we’ll call this a day then. I sincerely appreciate your taking the time this morning to sit down and put all these thoughts on tape. I’ll be transcribing them over the next couple of weeks probably. I don’t type very fast. So, thank you again Jim. I’ll call this the end of the tape.
JM – Very good Bob. Thank you
END OF INTERVIEW
Following the transcribing of this exchange I asked Jim for spelling corrections of some names and if he had thought of any important information he had left out. I received the following statement:
I neglected to mention my association with the USA West Square Dance Convention Policy Board. With the inception of the idea of having “A Quality International Square Dance Experience in the Western United States” we attended the first organizational meeting of Western Square Dance leaders during the National Square Dance Convention in Portland 1994. This lead to the first USA West Square Dance Convention held in Denver during 1997. With the selection of San Francisco as the site for the second USA West Square Dance Convention I was chosen as one of the Co-Chairmen for this Convention held at Moscone Center – San Francisco in July 1998 – known as “Dance by the Gate in ‘98”. The next USA West Convention will be held in Hawaii during August 2006. The USA West Convention go dark when the National Square Dance Convention is held on one of the western states (USA West is dark during 2004 and 2005). I have continued to remain active on the USA West Policy Board and have served as their representative to Callerlab Conventions 2001-2004 and their representative to the National Council of Square Dance Organizations in 1999 and to ARTS organizational meetings in 2002-2004.