Evertt ‘Ev’ Mackin Interview
May 19, 2005
Bob Brundage – Well, hi again. This is Bob Brundage and today is May the 9th, 19- I’m sorry 2 thousand and five. Boy I’m way behind the times here. Ev, and today we’re talking to a very well known gentleman back in Warwick, Rhode Island, Mr. Ev Mackin. We’re looking forward to an interesting conversation about his activities in the square dance world, which I know has been quire extensive helping out in the New England area. So, Ev why don’t you start by telling us where you were born and brought up and tell us a little bit about what your life was like before you got involved in this big world of square dancing.
Everett Mackin – OK Bob and it’s a pleasure to talk to you. It really is. Well, I was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, want the date?
BB – Yes.
EM – June 11th, 1941. It was a good time to be born, I guess. I’ve been a very lucky individual. We started square dancing in 1969, started taking classes in 1969. Up to that point, oh, I wasn’t too involved in too many things to tell you the truth. I was really active no doubt about that. I was in the insurance business so I was always on the road meeting people. Things went along pretty good for me. Basically that’s it. I was with the same company for 33 years and retired from that company in 1996.
BB – So, were you, went through the school system there in Rhode Island?
EM – Yes, I did. Graduated from Coventry High School. We moved from Cranston, Rhode Island to Coventry, Rhode Island in 1948, I think.
BB – Did you come from any kind of a musical family?
EM _ Well, my father played the piano. We had a piano in the house and he would play that. I’m sorry to say we lost him when I was eighteen years old. I was in the Army at the time. He never used music. He could play that piano though. I enjoy music. I’ve always enjoyed music. We’ve always had record albums, always music in the house, music in the car. Our children took piano lessons, etc.
BB – What kind of branch of service were you.
EM – I was in the Army Signal Corps. When my father passed away I got out on a hardship discharge because we had two younger brothers and a sister at home. When I got back they said, “You’ve got to come home and look after your mother”.
BB – OK. Well, tells us about your first experience with square dancing.
EM – Well, I’ve always enjoyed country music and I’ve seen these square dancers on TV and I knew it was around, you know, but it was one of these best-kept secrets. When I started in the insurance business I was collecting on a debit where you went, you know, collected a premium. I walked into this house one time and I saw western clothes on a hanger, hanging on the back of a door and I said, “Do you by chance square dance?” and she said, “Yes, we do” and I said, “I think I’d like to try that”. Well, she said, “This Sunday night is the last night. this is the third night that you can get in, this is the last night. Come down this Sunday and you can get started.” I went home and told the wife, told her, I don’t think I told her, I asked her if she’d want to go try and that was it. We just fell in love with it right from the very beginning.
BB – OK. Who was your teacher then.
EM _ His name was Ben Smith. He’d been calling for a while. He worked for Sunoco Oil company. This is what he did. He was a wonderful person and encouraged us. Just a wonderful guy. He’s still around. He’s not calling though.
BB – I don’t think I knew him.
EM – He stayed pretty much local right here in Rhode Island.
BB – So, then when did you get interested in calling?
EM – Well, I was interested I think right from the beginning. I was fascinated. We had the very beginners Mainstream list at that time. We started it in like maybe September and we were done in February or thereabouts. We’d learned all there was to learn at that time but I was fascinated by what the caller would do. How he would move these people around and I was fascinated by it. I think we were maybe after about a year and a half later had these Amateur Caller’s Nights at our club. We had an amateur Caller’s Night every year and I learned a singing call. I did a singing call the first year. I was scared to death, shaking like a leaf. Once I did that then I said that I had to learn how to do the hoe-down business, the hash business there. There were a couple of us so we had a caller, his name was Bob Linden from Pawtucket. he came in and met with us down in a hall in the area where we lived here and he spent some time with three of us so we could prepare to do the next Amateur Caller’s thing. He taught me the system on what to do. It was basically a Mental Image system. I tried the next time to call a hoe-down and a singing call. I started off pretty good but them I got lost, had my problems. It’s not as easy as the pros made it look, you know but I stuck with it.
BB – Right. Then what other instructor did you get beside Bob Linden.
EM – Well, that was pretty much it here but once I joined the Caller’s Association, this would have been around 1972 maybe, right off the bat I went to the, obviously I went to the Earl Johnston/AI Brundage school up there in New Hampshire. That was extremely motivating. There must have been thirty of us up there and we had one heck of a time. Kids from all over the place. It was a wonderful week. I think I paid for that one and the following year I applied for a scholarship. I got a scholarship and Arlene and I went to the next caller’s school with those folks.
BB – That’s always good advice, right.
EM – I recommend it to anybody.
BB – So, then when did you start getting people together and forming clubs, etc.?
EM – In 1973. I brought in a lot of people into square dancing. I brought relatives in, I brought friends in, I brought people I worked with into the activity. It was just great. We traveled all over the place. We were not too far from Connecticut. We were able to drive down to Earl Johnston’s club on Wednesday nights, maybe Thursday nights in Ledyard, Connecticut. Eventually we formed a club. We formed the Night Owl Square Dance Club in Coventry. That got me going. I had a lot of support, an awful lot of support and eventually I just started getting the bookings and it’s been going that way ever since.
BB – Yeah, well, were there any other caller’s schools you attended?
EM – That was the only real formal school other that the clinics that NECCA would sponsor on the third Sunday of every year and what we would bring in to our own Caller’s Association. Like the Jim Mayo’s and people like that.
BB – Yes, right. Well, who do you consider your personal mentor?
EM _ Probably Bob because he got me started and we were together a lot. We ended up moving to Massachusetts. We lived on Cap Cod for eighteen years. In fact, any of the callers that I knew would stay at our home and Bob would spend time with me there. All we ever did was talk square dancing. That’s about all we ever talked about. But a lot of the callers have been very good to me. A lot of them have.
BB – Well, that’s great. So, tell us about some of the festivals and like that you’ve been involved with.
EM – Well, I probably started doing the New England Convention probably in ’73 or ’74 and I’ll hit most of those. Back then we were getting eight and ten thousand people and this last one we just had we had around a thousand people. You can see how that has changed, Bob. I wish there were something that we could be done about that. We all talk about it we don’t do more with it. We went to one Canadian Convention up in New Brunswick. Jim and Joann Mayo went with us on that. I’ve traveled, Jim’s a very good friend of mine and I’ve been about everywhere he’s been. We’ve done the Callerlabs, not regularly but a few of them and I found those extremely, extremely helpful, you always get something out of that. Very motivating.
BB – How about National Conventions?
EM – No, have not been to a National Convention.
BB – Have you made any recordings at all?
EM _ Nope, no I haven’t. Probably never will. I’m basically a club caller. I get a lot of work in when asked. I do about 130 nights a year, a least that.
BB – Well, that’s pretty busy for a lot of people these days. That’s what, averaging a couple of times a week and you’re still active of course.
EM – Yes, I am.
BB – And you still have this, you have your own home club?
EM – The Whirlaways in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
BB – All right. One of the questions I’ve been asking people you can think about it for a second. what did you ever find appealing about calling? What kind of turned you on about it?
EM – Don’t misunderstand me, I think I enjoy the challenge of it, both the dancing of it and the calling of it but I don’t mean in a high level sense. I mean, you’ve got to have your act together, you know. I think I like that part of it.
BB – OK, Well, one of the things I know you have been very involved in is the Co-op committee and the last I knew you were the Chairman. Are you still Chairman?
EM – No, I resigned from that a year ago. I was in there about five years. What happened was, again, let’s get back to Jim Mayo. I’m sure his name comes up a lot but I like Jim and knew Jim and I was at a convention one time. Jim was in the hall dancing. some of his friends were there, people I didn’t know and they said, ” We ought to get Everett involved in the New England Council of Caller’s Associations”. At that time I think Eddie Mayall was the Chairman of NECCA. Jim had already been Chairman some time back. So, they called me up sometime later after the convention and they said, “What do you say. How about coming to NECCA, we need a Secretary” and I said, “No, no, no, no” but both of them got on the phone and you can’t say no. So that kind of got me started in that end of things, Bob. I went right through the chairs in NECCA up to Chairman of NECCA. I was Chairman of NECCA from ’92 to ’94. Then I became a delegate from NECCA to Co-op at some point shortly thereafter.
BB – Well, before we get too far Ev, I should mention for the people who are listening to this tape that NECCA is the New England Council of Caller’s Associations and the Co-op Committee is a committee that was formed to bring the cooperative efforts of NECCA and EDSARDA which is the Eastern District Square and Round Dance Association and NECORTA which is New England Council of Round Dance Teachers Association and to coordinate the efforts of those three organizations together. A very important part of New England activity, I’m sure.
EM – Quite unique, I believe.
BB – Yes, quite unique. So, you worked your way up through NECCA and eventually into the Co-op Committee, right?
EM – Yep. I think I started there as Secretary probably of that.
BB – I see. And how long were you President?
EM – In NECCA?
BB – Yes.
EM – You held the office for two years. The Treasurer could keep succeeding himself but the Chairman and the Vice Chairman and Secretary had two year stints.
BB – And how about the Co-op Committee?
EM – That one can go until they take you out or you get out yourself. I think there’s only been maybe six Co-op Chairmen since it was founded.
BB – Yes, and you were Chairman during what tenure?
EM – Chairman of Co-op? Around 1999 to 2004 probably.
BB – Yes. OK. Well, five years. Right. Well, one of the functions of the Co-op Committee, of course is called the Yankee Clipper Award. You’ve been very active in that. The Yankee Clipper Award turns out to be actually the most prestigious award presented in the New England area.
EM – I would say so.
BB – Yes. Can you tell us a little bit more about Yankee Clipper?
EM – Well, I’ve never received the Yankee Clipper Award but it is definitely a prestigious award. There’s a committee of past Yankee Clipper recipients who, nominations I would say are sent to them and they look over these recommendations and nominations and they are the ones who make the decision. At this recent convention we just had a square dance club receive it, only the second one to receive it was the Square Riggers Square Dance Club out of Natick, Massachusetts and I’m proud to say I was their caller for about five years. Recently it became quite a ride so I backed off from that.
BB – Oh, I didn’t realize that a square dance club would, I’ve been looking through the recipients of that and I hadn’t noticed that a square dance club actually was a recipient of the award. That’s interesting.
EM – The first club to get it was the Fairs and Squares which are still running out of Framingham, Massachusetts. It was probably, and I’m not sure Bob on this OK, maybe fifteen, twenty years ago they received it so a lot of people were not aware of the fact that a club had received it. They started something new at the conventions a couple of years ago when I was still Co-op Chairman based on a recommendation from a club member that, why don’t you have section where the Yankee Clipper recipients all sit together at the convention during Celebrity Hour. I said that that was a fantastic idea. We will do that and that’s when we found out that there was a club that had had it. So they invite the President, the current President of the club to sit with the Yankee Clipper people. You might have been part of that group in that section when you received your award.
BB – Yes, I think I was. Well, that’s very interesting. I know the Co-op Committee’s function is certainly an important part of the New England history of square dancing and, of course is a continuing thing even today.
EM – They do a lot of work. A lot of hard work but they make it fun doing it. They get an awful lot done. There are some very dedicated people to make those drives to where they down in Worchester. Some of those people drive three or four hours to get there. They meet four times a year so there’s a lot of dedicated people.
BB – Right. So, getting back to your calling did you call contras at all?
EM – No, I didn’t Bob. I love, I’ve had a short little bit of dancing them and I love to dance them. There was, when I lived on Cap Cod there was a gentleman there who used to call contras. His name better come to me pretty soon now that I’ve mentioned it but every so often during our classes or during our dances, Harold was his name. I’ll get his last name pretty soon. I’d ask him to do a contra for the dance, about the middle of the dance do a contra. We didn’t do rounds at the club. So, I’d be calling the square dancing and maybe the third or fourth tip he’d get up and call a contra and after he got done with that, when I went back to square dancing those people danced so good and so nice it was absolutely amazing what dancing that contra would do.
BB – That’s great. How about round dancing. Did you get involved in that at all?
EM – We round dance as dancers, not high level rounds but we do round dance. Yes, we are round dancers.
BB – Did you ever subscribe to any of the note services around?
EM – I did, In fact I subscribed to Earls when he had it, currently I am not subscribing to any. I probably should, but I’m not.
BB – Well, I don’t know if you should or not. I think they’re quite confusing. I know I subscribed to Will Orlich’s notes for years and I don’t know. I’ll have to tell you a good story about Will Orlich sometime. Well, this is all very interesting.
EM – I get the Callerlab information and that keeps you pretty much on top of it.
BB – So, you’ve been involved with Callerlab. When did you start with them?
EM – Oh boy. Let’s see. Probably around ’78, ’79 somewhere around there.
BB – And you said you had been to their conventions.
EM – A few of them, yeah. I went it when you quote, ‘Were invited’. You know how they used to do that, send your name in or something like that.
BB _ Right. Well, that’s great. One of the things that I’ve been asking other people that I have interviewed. Do you have any regrets, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
EM _ That’s quite a question. That’s quite a question. Well, I’ve been a happy guy I’ll tell you that, very happy. Just wished I’d done more that’s all. I wish we could pick the numbers up. I don’t know why we can’t. We did a thing, I work with a group on Wednesday nights and they go over to the Dunkin’, are you familiar with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and Donut chain, Dunkin’ Donuts?
BB- Oh sure.
EM – Well, after these Wednesday nights, we’d go from 7:00 to 9:00 and they always go over to this Dunkin’ Donuts and have coffee and a donut. So, they said to me one night, ” How about next week you come with us” and they said, ” You can do a demonstration in the Dunkin’ Donuts”. I said,” You’ve got to be kidding me” and I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll be happy to do it”, So we went last Wednesday night coincidentally and when we got in there, there were quite a few people in there and there were about ten ladies sitting off on one side and there were people in there. Now these dancers, about eight or nine couples that had been going every week and they just get in there and move the tables and chairs around and we all get comfortable. So the first thing they did we all had coffee and a donut and then we started setting up to do the square dance. These ladies had just come from a wake. They were all sitting in the corner having a coffee. But anyhow, we got two squares believe it or not in this Dunkin’ Donuts and I did a very, very short hoedown and a singing call. We chatted a little bit. I told them we didn’t have much time. I had to get back home pretty soon. We did another short hoedown and a singing call, it was just great. They were clapping and having a good time, spreading the word that’s the key.
BB – Right. I never heard of it at Dunkin’ Donuts before. I see it at country fairs and like that. That’s another thing, have you ever gotten involved in any if the country fairs demonstrations?
EM – Yes, we did. When we lived in, in fact we’ve done a couple of those, when we lived in Coventry they had an Old Homes Week, they called it and we did square dancing there. When we lived on Cape Cod they, down in Barnstable County Fair we did a demonstration down there. They set us up in a certain spot you know and it was good for the area and to promote it. One thing I did do, Bob that I should have brought up is when I moved to the Cape I went to the school system down there. They had an Adult Ed program that was, I wanted to learn how to do some oil painting and the high school had an Adult Ed thing going. You could do carpentry, oil painting, all kinds of different things. So I went to them and I said, ” how about having a square dance, intro to square dance, at the next year’s Adult Ed thing and they went right for it. They gave me a room and believe it or not I graduated four squares out of that Adult Ed. Many were my neighbors who had gone. When I came to Warwick, I moved back to Warwick, Rhode Island in 1997 and I went to the Warwick school system. I did a couple of years with Adult Ed over there but then they stopped it, Bob for some reason they took it out of the school. Why, I don’t know whether it was, it could have been liability and like that but anyhow, they don’t have it anymore. They can’t do it anymore.
BB – That’s too bad. Well, back on Cape Cod then after that did you form a club with them?
EM _ No. No, I didn’t Bob. There were about five clubs on the Cape and I introduced them, in fact, when I had the graduation at the school, Adult Ed, I invited all the club Presidents to come to the graduation and I introduced them and explained where the clubs were and so forth and so on. Most of them did do it, went into round dancing and became Presidents and worked real hard out there.
BB – Well, that’s great. It’s funny, my only experience with Cape Cod, the only date that I ever had out there that I remember I had to hire an airplane to take me there. I was living at, my father had a poultry/hatchery operation and he had a very important meeting he had to go to all of a sudden and I had to be home the following morning to take off a hatch of chicks. The only way I could get to Cape Cod and do the dance and get back in time to do that was to hire an airplane.
EM – I’ll be darned. That’s something. You must have put down at some little airport out there.
BB – Oh yeah. Of course, this was a tiny little plane that took me, just a little four-passenger thing. That’s my experience with Cape Cod.
EM – Well, I wished I’d have been there when you were there.
BB – Another question I’ve been asking people too is, “Where do you think square dancing has been, where do you think it is now and where do you think it might be going?”
EM – Well, that’s the one hundred thousand dollar question, I guess. There are all kinds if theories going around. We’ve got to make it simpler, etc. and so on you know. I think the, with the calling and all the figures and the challenges, etc. and so on you know, you go from one degree to another degree and somewhere in between we just can’t seem to find a spot that’s going to keep everybody happy. More like, start a group and shelter them, Bob you know what I mean? Just keep them you know? I mean, they say it will come around again and I’m sure it will.
BB – Well, a lot of people have said to me that, well, they thought they were in the right place at the right time. Do you have that feeling about your experience?
EM – I would say so, yes. The halls were fuller, you know we talked about how many people went to the festivals or the conventions and then all of a sudden they started making that drop you know. Boy, try and fix it.
BB – Well, of course, everything has changed from what it used to be obviously with all the other problems we have everything that’s taking people’s time between computers and television and all kinds of things, cell phones, people just don’t take the time to enjoy the family life again.
EM – That’s right.
BB – Well, I think we’re getting down near the end of this tape. If it happens to click off any time we’ll call it a day. Do you have any other hobbies, Ev?
EM – I like to go fishing. I try to become a better fly fisherman if I can. I have friends that I go with. We have a good time. We hit the rivers. We go into Connecticut an awful lot because there are beautiful rivers in that state over there, the Housatonic and the Farmington River. We’ve done that and, in fact I’m planning on going a couple of weekends soon. That’s what I do to relax.
BB – Well, that’s one hobby I never took up. All right. Well, I think we’ve pretty much covered everything unless you can think of anything else.
EM – I really can’t Bob to tell you the truth. I feel like I’m just a boring guy but that’s just who I am.
BB – I know you had a faithful square dance partner for these many years. We shouldn’t neglect Arlene.
EM – Well that’s true. That’s true. When I started calling learning how to call, she was pregnant with our third child, our son, John and I practiced, oh good Gosh, he grew up during the practice and he knew the songs as much as I did. She put up with all the noise, I’ll tell you. She put up with it but she encouraged me.
BB – Well, nothing better than a good, faithful square dance wife I’ll tell you. They do put up with a lot but they’re certainly beneficial to your success too, I’m sure.
EM – In fact, your brother was one of her favorites of all the guys. He had the beat. He worked with me up at East Hill Farm trying to get me to call on the up-beat. Oh God, what a challenge that was.
BB – You know, there were only two people who that I ever knew that could do that and AI was one of them. The other was Doc Journel down in Texas. If you ever run across a recording of his, he had some LP’s, and listen to it you’ll hear him call on the up-beat. I’ve tried it. I can’t do it.
EM – It makes a difference. It really does.
BB _ Well, unless you think of anything else Ev, shall we call it a day?
EM – I think that will do it Bob. I’ve taken enough of your time. I sure do appreciate what you’re doing.
BB – Well, thank you very much and I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me this evening and, if you’d like I’ll send you a transcript of this when I get it done.
EM – OK.
BB – Yep. I’ve got your address here. Say hello to Arlene for me and we’ll be talking to you again.
EM – Thank you very much Bob.
BB – OK, Ev. Bye bye.
EM – Bye bye.
Following our taped conversation I received an email from Ev to include the following statement.
In June of 2000 I attended the New England Caller’s School held in Nashua, NH. The leaders were Jim and Joann Mayo from NH and Jerry Junck from AZ and NE. I attended the same school in June, 2001 held at the Square Dance Foundation Hall in Manchester, NH. The staff that year was Jim and Joann, Jerry Junck and Tony Oxendine from SC.