BOB HOWELL – 2006 INTERVIEW
Bob Brundage – Well, hello again. This is Bob Brundage and today is March the 12th, 2006. We’re talking today with Bob Howell back in Ohio. We had a chance to interview one time before and, in fact that was ten years ago. It was in 1996 at the San Antonio National Convention. We got interrupted because the room we chose to interview in was a First Aid room and we had someone came in with a heart attack. It was just too much confusion so we stopped. I’d like to just recap that whole tape in a digest form. As I understand Bob was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He went to Ohio State. Then he went onto the Navy. After the Navy he returned to Cleveland and worked as a Science teacher and Coach. He was involved a little bit in Modern Western Square Dancing for a while – got a little tired of that. During that time he had the chance to record on Grenn label and the Lloyd Shaw label. At that time he was roller skating three days a week and, from past conversations I happen to remember that he was also an avid skier. Does that kind of rap it up to you Bob?
Bob Howell – Sounds familiar.
BB – Chuckles. OK. You made a comment on that tape that I thought was interesting – might be a good place for us to start today. You made a reference to college life and the Arts and Sciences and you said that Modern Western Square Dancing is a Science and you think that square dancing should be an art form. Do you want to expound on that a little bit?
BH – I don’t think that my mind has changed in the last ten years at all Bob. That’s been my philosophy ever since I started. I’ve always believed that dancing is an art form and when you put the music on, my feet begin to shuffle and I want to dance. I guess the Modern Western Style was one where the biggest thing that I disliked was the fact that I had to learn something all the time – building and learning and learning and learning and even when I taught it for a few years my heart was never in it because I don’t want to have to listen to a caller. You put the music on and give me a pattern and I’ll dance.
BB – Right
BH – I want to flow with the music and really, I don’t like puzzles. I don’t like mental puzzles. If I have a dance in my head I want to dance with my feet. That has not changed – not one bit.
BB – Right. So that was the beginning of your love for contra.
BH – That’s exactly right.
BB – OK. Well, also looking back through that first interview I noticed that you were one of the founding members of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation and your were also one of the founding members of and first Chairman of Legacy. You were right up there with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln being a founding father here.
BH – I was a little ahead of them. Both laugh.
BB – Well, tell us a little bit more about Legacy. I haven’t had a chance to talk to too many people that were involved with Legacy outside of the Terrills. So, tell me a little bit more about the function of Legacy and what you had hoped to accomplish there.
BH – Well, I think that three greats got together, Bob Osgood, let’s see there was Osgood and the Burdicks and Charlie Baldwin. All three of them were writing different magazines and they could see the handwriting on the wall, I believe. They had a see what was happening, the confusion there, and they got together and thought, well, let’s not oppose but unite which I thought was absolutely wonderful. Out of Legacy came Contralab, Roundalab – Callerlab started the same year. There was a uniting there because I remember so vividly one dance – I’m not going to mention any names – I think that some of these people are still alive – but the fact that we went to a dance down around Akron, down around Richfield, Ohio and I learned a basic that night – the guy had a teaching session to begin with and he taught “Ripple The Wave”. We danced Ripple The Wave in fifty different directions all night long. I had never heard the call before and I’ve never heard the call since. It must have been one of his strong points because I couldn’t tell you today what it was. Ripple The Wave was the thing. That was when they were coming out with new movements every month and there was always some brand new stuff. It was disgusting as far as I was concerned. I think what killed me was not the rush so much but the fact that they lost the phrase – dancing on half phrases and dancing Grand Squares in twenty-seven counts and Allemande Left in six instead of eight. I’ve always felt that the body flow needed eight to get around there. I lost my interest in the Modern movement, but, I wasn’t alone – I can remember California – 1946 or ’47 – 40,000 people dancing on that football field at the National Convention and I do believe that last year they had a tough time getting six or eight thousand people at the national square dance. And with Ed Gilmore coming through town one time talking about the club concept (hobby dancing), more interest was lost. Bob Osgood’s idea was great. He united the world on it but he also fostered the club or hobby aspect of it where you had to dance so many nights or multiple nights, etc. and I’ve never had that in my heart at all. As I say, I taught in the Adult Education Program – I did teach the Modern Western Square Dancing but I didn’t call much of it because I wasn’t satisfied with it because people were always asking me, “When are you going to start teaching square dancing”?
In fact, in one of the clubs I had, there was a square that was dressed identically and every week they came in with the same clothes on, etc. Finally, I had a suggestion box. Someone said, “ Do you ever read or open that suggestion box “? I said, “ I sure do”. They said, “ Well, you’re not paying any attention to it”. I said, “ Oh yes I am”. I said, “ I open it after every dance”. “ Well, you’re not doing very much about changing” And I said, “I don’t intend to change”. And they said, “ Well then, we’re not going to stick around” and do you know what I said? “Goodbye” and they left. I guess I’ve been too fundamental. I guess I’m not bright enough Bob to do that stuff because I don’t want to have to think, as I said before, while I’m dancing. I just put the music on. That’s when I get routines – English Country, contra, etc. mean so much to me because when I dance it once or twice through I memorize it…. In fact, if I’m prompting a contra I’m generally on the floor and after the third time through I’m dancing right along with everybody else….
BB – Yes. I know you are.
BH – ….. and I think you are of like mind although you have gone deeper into the Modern Western than I did. But I’m becoming frightened again right now because the last copy of Contralab Quarterly comes out and here they are. There’s the three contras. The East traditional, country west – the western contra and then the MUCs – M U C – Modern Urban Contra. And Bob, they’re going the same direction as square dancing……
BB – Yes, they are.
BH – …. and I just hate that. I call that outfit the “Black and Deckers”. I’ve asked Cal Campbell – there I am using names again – Cal in that article where he comments about the odor from some of them. You’ve got to be fifteen feet away to dance with some of them. I never thought I’d see that happening – no shoes, hair down their backs, tee shirts that “Whew”. Of course, this has come a long ways since that point. Most of them aren’t like that but they expect three twirls on a Do sa do and a turn under on a Ladies Chain and all that. My shoulders won’t do that anymore. I don’t think it’s pretty and they don’t dance on the phrase and they don’t dance to me because if a caller is calling on the phrase I’ll dance for three hours. You start clipping time or stacking calls and I’m gone in about twenty-two minutes. So that’s my message – go ahead.
BB – OK. Well, were you involved back early in Callerlab days as in 1974? I know you’ve been to many Callerlab Conventions.
BH – I was in perfect attendance – at every Callerlab Convention I think for twenty-nine or thirty years. I got as far as – oh, somewhere along the east coast going to Callerlab – I think it was in Richmond – and went across the Pennsylvania Turnpike, went in the motel that night, went to dinner and when they brought the check I couldn’t talk. I do remember taking out my card and paying the bill and went to bed and Phyllis said, “ Honey, I think we’d better head for home” and I think that was the first time we ever agreed on anything in our lives. The next morning I drove four hours right straight back to Cleveland, went in and had a triple bypass and I missed for the first time. I think I’ve only missed two Callerlabs since 1974. I’ve been faithful there but I’ve also been a thorn in their side, because I started out right away talking about traditional dance and nobody wanted to listen to me. But they did – the Canadians, the foreigners and last year I remember these guys all tried to help me but it didn’t do any good. But that is changing because I see that modern western guys are now getting the idea that maybe they’d better slow down a little bit – maybe they can do what I do. I’m still at it and having a heck of a good time. I just hope I can keep going because I called one for 120 kids last, what, a week ago last Thursday night – a school dance. And then I had a Senior Center with – I think there were 52 people there on Friday. So, maybe it will dwindle but I hope not because I’m having a heck of a lot of fun. I’m sure you are too.
BB – Well, OK. So ……
BH – That was like a speech about Callerlab – yes, I was on the Board of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation when I went out there. I was at the beginning but I’ve seeing the demise. It had it’s time but today Bob, you’ve heard me say this before – if you have a computer and a television set you don’t need anybody in this world. It’s affecting the church, the bowling, it’s effecting everything. People don’t want people to do things with any longer but it will come back. I’m sure I’ll live long enough to see it.
BB – Yeah. Well, I know you’ve been to many, many National Conventions too.
BH – Yep, started in 1962 and haven’t missed too many to date. You were in behind it.
BB – Well – and I know we should talk a little bit about the book that you co-authored called ‘Dancing For Busy People’. So, tell us a little bit about your experience there.
BH – Well, Calvin Campbell again. Cal Campbell was after me for years. He said, “ Bob, you’ve been writing for that magazine – that Easy Level for thirty-five years. You’ve got to put that into a book”. I said, “ Cal, I hate every month when I have to write for the American Square Dance magazine and for the New England Square Dancer. I detest sitting down and writing. So, he took that and he took a lot of material, then put some of his own stuff in and got Ken Kernan and put out the book and it’s been quite successful. Somebody was telling me they saw a copy for sixty-five bucks on eBay or something like that. I said I had six or eight books – they should have called me – I had six or eight of the originals still sitting in the box here. Yeah, it was a compilation just what we believe in. You see, Cal was passing half the job – well, Pappy was dead and Judy was helping Cal along with what Dorothy carried on for all those years. Shaw never wanted to teach square dancing in the Elementary schools – you did folk dancing. I remember him telling me one time at a lecture, one of his sessions, a teacher asked him to come in – she had kindergartners whom she had taught Grand Square. They looked like little wind-up robots. There was no joy, nothing to it but the teacher was so pleased. The kids wanted to dance, to do something very simple. I still use that kindergarten stuff – I modify a lot of it, Bob. I’ve got big, old dancers dancing kids dances – Chimes of Dunkirk – I used it at my senior group the other day. I had what, 52, 53 people – I had three men. The gender balance was not there so I put them in threes and, you know, Chimes of Dunkirk is a cute little tune. It’s about a second grade dance but I had them clap their hands three times, stamp their feet three times – oh, they’re in threes by the way – clap their hand three times, stamp their feet three times then turn 360 degrees around. Then tap their right foot three times, now your left foot three times. Now, the tallest person move up to the next three. Then the next time the one with the most hair and the next one there was something else. Well, then finally I hit them I said, “ Now the best looking one move up”. Then the next one, the brightest one move up and then the finally I said, “ And now, the sexiest one stand still and the other two move up”. By that time the egomaniacs are all in trouble. It’s that sort of stuff that I’m into and have been and I love it.
BB – Right. But you say the book has been quite successful?
BH – Yeah. It’ been sold out. It was a soft copy. It was a hard copy and the last report I got it was still – they said they were all gone. I was still supplying a few people with it. I had some that I hadn’t sold but it has been used well by all. I had a fellow here the other day who came in with a disc which I put in the computer with all these modern movements in there and it was remarkable. All the people moved around and everything else – all of it on the computer and yet he wants to borrow my copy of ‘Dancing For Busy People’ and he’s going to come to our contra weekend this spring too.
BB – Good.
BH – So, he wants to see the other side of it. He’s an engineer from Germany. He’s a bright boy but I said to him, “ Thanks but no thanks. Here, you take this back”. And he said, “But I want you to have it”. So I said, “OK”. I put it in with my other CD’s.
BB – Well, are you going to do another printing?
BH – On the book?
BB – Yeah.
BH – I don’t know. It’s really Cal’s baby. He’s the one who pushed me on it. I would not write it so he did it – compiled the stuff and really he was the publisher. He took a lot of stuff that I – well, people that I shared with me in the magazine. But, I detest writing. In fact, sitting at this computer has almost crippled me up but I can’t let it go because of the good jokes that come in every day – both laugh – including yourself, Robert. I love you for it. You have a good sense of humor.
BB – Thank you. Well, back at you I’ll tell you. So, why don’t you tell us about this contra weekend.
BH – Yeah, Jim Wilbur a caller from down along the river – country boy – and I have done it for six or eight years. We have a contra weekend in the Lafayette Hotel down in Marietta, Ohio and it’s right where the Muskingum River runs into the Ohio and I guess Washington met with Lafayette down there when they were camping or something. The hotel’s been there for years. It’s been flooded out several times but it’s an ideal facility – it’s an old place – very, very old but it has a beautiful dance floor and a large room where you can pull the door open so you can eat in half and dance on the other half. So half of it is carpeted and the other half is floor. Jim and I start on a Thursday night – we call it the ‘Spring Frolic’. Auggie & Miriam Simmons manage the event for the two of us because they do the business end. We start on Thursday evening and go through till Sunday noon – like this year we’re starting on the 27th of April. We’ll be dancing Thursday evening, all day Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday, the 30th we break at noon after we have lunch. It’s almost like a fellowship. It’s almost like Shaw’s was when you were there. Older people – you’d be surprised they’ve got one couple in there 94 years old and dancing up a storm and each year – for the last three or four years I didn’t think it was going to go because these folks are “getting up in years” – some of them are having a tough time on a Right and Left Through over and back. I know I have myself. I have to hustle my buns to get there. It’s been nice. It’s been successful. Come on along. I’ll send you a flyer.
BB – OK. Did you ever get to Don Armstrong’s week in York, Pennsylvania?
BH – No. I’ll tell you – our son was married on that weekend – Thanksgiving weekend and it’s always been an anniversary. No, Don was after me – oh, several of them have been after me for years to come on up and – let’s see, it’s always been a special time for family so I never got there, but I’ve been envious. I’m sure that – well, I know that they dance well there. ….
BB – Yes. Right.
BH – …. because all the three fellows that organized it had a good sense of rhythm. Now they’re all gone but it’s still going on. I know it’s enjoyed by an older set of people and I’m still tempted to start a group of “smoothies” because we have a brand new Community Center here in Fairport Harbor – the town I live in and one of these days I’m going to see if I can regroup. Don used a term that I like. He called his group somewhere in Colorado the ‘Smoothies’ or ‘Smooth Dancers’ and I’m going to see if I can regenerate that because I’m anxious to offer some of our older dancers a place to dance. To me, Pappy always said that the perfect dance or the perfect rhythm was a waltz rhythm and Dorothy always said that the perfect dance was a contra, so you unite the two and you have a real good marriage. So I started slipping in waltz contras two or three years ago in Marietta and it’s exciting and new as it can be if you can imagine that. Do you know the dance, the “Duke Of Kent’s Waltz?”
BB – Oh yes.
BH – Ok. When you get into that second part where you Balance Forward and Back and Box the Gnat, Change Hands, Forward and Back and Swat the Flea – that is, I think, the biggest thrill – you’re five feet off the floor and that makes for good dancing. We have a lot of fun but we don’t do anything difficult because I don’t know anything difficult, I really don’t. I don’t profess to get into that kind of stuff.
BB – Well, you did some weekends and week-long things with Jerry Helt one time didn’t you?
BH – Yeah, we did – down at Copecrest in Georgia. Jerry and I put on the “Bob & Jerry Show” for fifteen years down there.
BB – Yeah, that’s what I thought.
BH – Yeah, I hated to see that die off but it’s just – well, it’s like the last contra club I had. They were pleading with me to keep going but at the last dance the first guy that walked in or the first woman that walked in had a four pronged cane, the second was a guy with a seeing-eye dog and I said, “ Folks, I think it’s time to quit.” Both laugh. We had a crying session over that one but it just ran out of gas. But I have been privileged because I have been in those Golden Days of Square Dancing. I’ll never take it away from anybody. If folks want to dance ‘Advanced’, they are certainly welcome, but I have no interest at all in doing so. I remember one time at the Buckeye Jamboree – at the Ohio Jamboree – this goes back probably 20 or 30 years when Challenge first came into square dancing I think. We went into the Challenge Room to see what was going on. Well the rule was, if you broke down you couldn’t restart and the young man who was calling started in and in about 30 seconds or at least a minute at the most, most squares had broken down and the rule was you could not restart. So, he kept right on calling for about five minutes and when he finished they ran up to the stage and said, “ Boy, that was great. That was a great dance and that was great calling” and Phyllis looked at me and said, “Let’s go. Let’s go back to the contra room”. Well, but it’s fun. It’s bringing people that are in there and they want that type of thing. I don’t want to have to think of what I’m doing I just do it automatically. Pappy always said you know, you’ve probably heard it yourself, when he said, “ …. and even the bears in the woods would sway to the wind blowing through the pine trees ….”
BB – There you go.
BH – That’s been around for a long, long time. We had so much fun with our Tombstone Trippers, our kids and the kids in the neighborhood, as our lot backed up to a cemetery, and we took them all over the place and sort of emulated what Pappy’s kids did for a long time. Along in the 70s and 80s came the unicycle group from Mayfield Heights, OH – did you ever get to see that one?
BB – No, I didn’t.
BH – I did unicycles for 3 or 4 years. One is a full Commander in the Navy now and they’re still writing me at the National – would you bring your unicycles? But I had half the kids on 9 foot cycles and the other half on 4 foot cycles. We were doing Grand Blossom and all sorts of things – even Relay the Duecey and the whole “schmear” on high cycles and low cycles – over their head and underneath and everything. We always had a standing ovation with this one exception and that was when the wheelchair people got on right in front of us and I think the people got burned out clapping for them. It seems too that we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been on almost every continent in the world. Phyllis and I – Phyllis is a support. I mean she’s been a real wonderful person in helping me all along the line. You know, there are three dances I call – the one I plan, the one I call and the one I hear about all the way home that I should have called. We haven’t been to Antarctica but otherwise we’ve been on every continent in the world. We’ve had our tours with our people – I mean it’s been with groups of 40 or 50 people with us – that helped. Helped us around. But it’s been good to us. It really has.
BB – Yeah. Have you had any experience with non-English-speaking dancers?
BH – Yes. Sure have. I don’t do much calling. I use the same words over and over and over again. I get them so that they understand a Do Si Do – they understand a star – although I remember I said ‘Star’ once when I was calling up with Ralph Page up in…..
BB – New Hampshire?
BH – … who was with him? Oh, the guy who wrote the magazine for a while – I mentioned his name a little while ago. (Charlie Baldwin – BB) Anyhow, the two of them sitting there and I said, “ Make a right hand star’ and boy, they blew up and they said, “ You can’t make a right hand star with two people. You have to have four people to make a right hand star”. I said, “Well, I don’t know. I’ve been successful for years with a two-handed one.” And no patter. No patter at all. That confuses them completely – Circle Left, Forward and Back, Circle Right and keep it just like you’d do in a hall that is poorly sounded. No foolishness. Yeah, I’ve also had blind people and I’ve had hearing-impaired. Take the speaker and put it flat down on the floor and let them dance. They hear it through their feet. And then there slow learners – I shouldn’t use that word – I mean handicapable. How’s that. That’s nicer today. But I’ll tell you what I did have happen to me just last year. I was doing a little dance – are you familiar with the D’HAMMERSCHMEADSGSELLN? . It’s a little Austrian Folk Dance – a little soap opera type of thing.
BB – No, I don’t – no.
BH – Clap your thighs, clap your hands, clap your shoulders and then you go right hand, left hand, both hands. I got them going. This is a fifth grade group now just east of Akron down there and I got them doing it singly, I got them into a sort of line dance and I got them with a partner. Then I got them with two couples, one with an East/West position the other one North/South. I’d say. “ OK, the East/West couple you start on the side – thighs, shoulders, clap and as soon as you get to number four, North and South – while the Eat and West couple starts you’re doing it in the center the others are doing it on themselves. Well, two little girls over there – these are fifth grade kids I guess – two little girls – just to show you how far behind I am with this P/C stuff – two little girls and they’re doing this routine and of course, when you start alternating it really becomes interesting but they had it immediately. I said to everybody, “Freeze.” I want you to watch this couple over here.” And the one little gal put her hands on her hips and glared at me and she said, “ We are not a couple”. I said, “ Oh, I’m sorry. What are you?” and she said, “ We are a pair”. This is a twelve-year old kid telling an 84 year old man – both laugh – so I guess it’s never too old to learn. It’s a wonder I got our Tombstone Kids through our travels. It’s been fun but I started out calling for Girl Scout Troops and I’ve got one next Saturday and I’ve got one the following Saturday and I’m down in the National Park, oh, a half dozen times, well, two or three times a month, you know. So, I’ve never progressed. I’ve never made any headway.
BB – Right. Well Bob, one of the questions I’ve been asking the folks that I’ve interviewed is – Have you had any regrets – anything you wished you’d done differently?
BH – Not at all. Not that I can think of. I guess I was fortunate to fall into it. Really, I know Bob, I have no regrets whatsoever because I just – I love to dance and – I was working on a Doctorate – I think I told you this the last time – but I was working on a Doctorate at Case Western Reserve University. I was fed up with all the educational stuff. So that’s why I took a recreational course one semester. One of the segments of it was square dancing. Maggie Mulac, the instructor had a squeeze box, an accordion there and I said, “Maggie, can I call one?” I guess I did Take a Little Peek or Duck For The Oyster or something and she said, “ Boy, you did it well. We get a double booking once in a while. Would you be interested?” So I did one, I never did another one for her but from that one night I went back to church and got everybody dancing on Saturday night and became the Superintendent of the Sunday School. Gosh, I can remember those days. I was so devote and now, here I am at the end of this thing and to get to reading the Bible is like getting ready for a final exam. Both laugh. I’ll tell you what. I don’t want to go to heaven. I sure as heck don’t and I don’t like old people. Some of these – “Why don’t you go to Florida” and I say, “ I couldn’t stand it”. The rumors in this town and this little town is only a mile wide but the name of the restaurant downtown Is “Rumor’s Have It’. Both laugh. That have nothing to but – I mean they won’t go vote for a Levi, they won’t vote for anything but they want their sidewalks here – we get them plowed with a tractor because we get pretty good snow off the lake. But old people – excuse me, did I say that word? No, I just don’t like old people. I’ve had three coaches that retired after I did, a baseball coach, a football coach and a basketball coach. I was Principle at the time and these three guys all retired. They got themselves a television and an easy chair and every one of them are gone. And all of them a lot younger than I am.
BB – I just said, have you ever had any regrets?
BH – Oh no, no never. No, I think I was extremely fortunate to be part of the generation that just hit everything right.
BH – The Golden Age of Square Dancing.
BB – Yeah, it was just at the time – you know, I went to Lloyd Shaw’s School in 1954 and that was the beginning of my Modern Western – even though Pappy Shaw was not a particular advocate for Modern Western the way it is today I’m sure but no – so, I felt very fortunate throughout my life but I’m a lot like you. The activity has gotten completely out of control. Which brings up another point, which I wanted to ask you about. What’s your take on this new ABC program?
BH – Well, I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve read a little bit about it. You’re going to have to help me because I can’t remember it, Bob. It was in the … ah … tell me. What is it? You can see how versed I am on it and how interested I am.
BB – Well. There’s a group down in Texas that propose to get people to come in any night and join a dance and be like we used to do. So, you get a group together and you teach them figures that are in the A group and then another night you teach the B group and then another night the C group but they can come in anytime – anybody can walk in anytime and start dancing. So, in other words there are no lessons involved. After anybody gets all the way through A, B. C then they have sort of a more experienced group that uses all of the various figures. They use one set of figures for the A, one for the B, one for the C outside of the original fundamental things. It keeps like that every night. I thought you might be a little bit familiar with that. In my estimation, for what it’s worth, the figures that they’re using in those three are a little bit more than you really need. You’re using things like Veer Left, you know, circulate and things like that. I don’t think you really need those for the type of dancing that you like to do and that I like to do.
BH – I don’t like to teach. He who teaches least, teaches best. The more you teach the worse off you get because then you get structure and then you get layers. Gilmore, I remember Ed saying, “ You never try to perpetuate a club. You start a new one because when you bring in new people – in fact when I was in Legacy I did a mini-Legacys for years I played the devil’s advocate on that one. I said, “ Alright now, let’s see, how that we’re diminishing in size? Let’s do some thinking. How about – I’ve got a sixteen-year old kid who wants to come in and dance. He’s pretty good. He wants to learn how to call.”, “ Oh oh, wait a minute now”….. because I remember one – well, you’d know the guy very, very well too – one of the founders of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation, big old Texan. He says, “ Well I don’t want any kids nose in my navel, no.” I said, “ Alright, I’ve got this eighty-four year old guy that would like …. “. “Oh, oh. We don’t want any eighty-four year old guys in there”. I said, “ Charlie” – one guy was sitting there – I said, “ Aren’t you a member of that club?” and they said, “ Oh well. He’s the exception. We don’t want to bring in old people because they can’t keep up with us”. I said, “ Oh. OK. I’ve got a black friend …”. “ Whoa”. I said at that time that I thought I could get away with it but they all said, “ Well, really we don’t …”. I said, “ Boy, you know, you people are pretty doggoned selective, aren’t you? You aren’t really interested in bringing anybody in”. I got good discussion out of it but I was playing the devil’s’ advocate the whole doggoned time. But, they were waking up to the fact that, yeah, they were pretty select. And they have been, in their clothing ideas. I think now, of course, they’re breaking that down although some of the diehards are – at the last Callerlab or the one before because I missed the last one – the one before, they just absolutely would not let go of the clothing. Phyllis said she hated the lampshades ever since they started. You can’t sit down in them. You can’t get into an automobile in them – both laugh – darned things. So, she called them lampshades and I got a kick out of that. I didn’t realize that somebody was trying to re-organize – I think they’re trying to re-invent the wheel is what they’re doing but they still are. Bob, I wish them luck but I don’t think they will survive.
BB – Well, the other profound little thing I always ask is, where do you think square dancing has been and where is it now and where do you think it might be going? And, of course, we’re referring to modern western.
BH – Well, I’ll tell you basically I’m not – I could care less. Isn’t that a horrible thing to say and here it’s been so good to me for so long and I have so many friends in Callerlab and all but it just – you’ve got to keep learning. You’ve got to keep learning because somebody is looking at the end of that, “ Oh, you only dance Advanced? You only dance …” and the looks and right away you’ve got another section. And I know what I did, Bob. Every year at the end of my teaching sessions – we’re talking about this multi-level stuff – I’ve got stuff down here in a file cabinet that I was doing thirty-five years ago because I had a fall session – this is through the Recreation Department – I had a fall session, I had a winter session and a spring session. At the fall sessions I did the basics where I did – in the winter I did Mainstream and in the spring I did a dance. The last month in the spring I had – not all of them but I think we had twenty-two clubs in town at that time. The guys were there trying to pass out all their literature – and we’re going to have some fun – come on out to a fun night, alright? I’d run into these people in the fall and I’d say, “ How did you make out at that dance?” “ Well, we really only danced one dance all night long. They let us watch all the time.” – maybe only two of them. I don’t want to learn anything. Just put on the music and … It’s like live music today, you know, MUC – Modern Urban Contra people – they’ve got to have live music, Well, I call to the group frequently. I refer to them as Black and Deckers because they remind me of a drill going through me someplace but I give them what they want and – but I’ll throw in, too – I’ll throw in a triple which, of course they can’t do – all they can do is duples – alternate duples and they’re into lines and I throw in a square which really upsets them. Then I’ll do a proper or I’ll do a big Becket, as they call them now and they’ll tolerate me but they don’t like it. So, this last year was the first year they didn’t hire me back. There was a real good band too. They’ve been around for a while. But, it didn’t break my heart. I don’t think they’ll survive, Bob but, that’s all right – I sound like a real crepe hanger. I’ve seen it – no, we were in the golden years, as I said before. We started right at the ground floor and came all the way up through, tried our best. However, my heart was never in modern western at all – and actually, that’s come into contra too. I know I walked off the floor, which I’ve never done before – my partner that night walked off the floor – she got into some movement there that I had never heard of before – right in the middle of the contra and she walked off. Well, that left me without a partner so I walked off which I detest. It burns me when people do that. It’s bad. It’s not courteous. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I’d never done the movement. It wasn’t a difficult one but no, you’re finding now, even with so many of the western calls now are coming into the contra field but I see contra going the same direction which is a shame. So, I’m going to keep on going with my contras and my waltz contras. I’ve written a dozen of them or so and people seem to like them. They seem to be able to handle them. They can them where they can’t do the fast ones.
BB – Are you using live music at all?
BH – No. Never did, Excuse me, I shouldn’t say that. One time, about thirty years ago I did but I ran into the union problem. Cleveland is a very unionized town. I had I think it was the Ohio Hardware convention at a hotel downtown. I called or they heard that I was doing this and they said, “ Now, wait a minute. You’re not getting in that building without union musicians.” Well, I had a fiddler and a piano player. That’s all I used and – the guy is gone now – and he said, “ You’re not getting in that hotel.” So, he said, “ I’ll get somebody for you.” That was a year before – six months before – and I called, well, I’ll use no names – I called him again – still nothing. That guy let me hang until the afternoon before that dance before he’d give me clearance. He said, “ Well, I’ll go over to a local beer joint where they have a band like that.” I said, “ But they’re not available.” “ Well. I’ll get somebody.” “OK. You get me somebody.” Well, finally, I think it was about 5:30, I was choking up and finally he said, “ Well, alright, fine. You go on in and if there are any questions just have them call me.” So, I walk in and the Stewart of the waiters – the waiters for the Stewart Union walked up to me and said, “ You’re not going on with that live music.” I said, “ Sir, I have permission.” “ No, you can’t get permission.” I said, “ Here, you call this guy.” Well, when he called him he said, “ Let them go.” So, I went with my fiddler and my piano player that night and that was the end. The unionization just absolutely killed me.
BB – Yeah. Well, I should tell you the story about Lawrence Loy when he was recording with – oh, way back, Columbia or RCA Victor or whatever. They had a union band obviously and, if you remember there were callers around the country that, at the end of a figure they would ring a cowbell. Do you remember? And so, while he was recording, they came to the end of it and he rang this cowbell and this union guy comes up and says, “ Are you a union musician? You can’t do that. You don’t belong to the union.” Both laugh.
BH – Yep. Well, they’ve strung me out. Of course this whole town – and, of course I was beat up as a kid on the corner selling papers by the union, and I never did join the union. You’ll find out when you come to Cleveland that there is no corner boy. You know Chicago has their news stands and New York and all. In Cleveland you have to go into a drug store on the corner to get a paper because they couldn’t break the union but they about knocked my eyeball out because they – I wouldn’t – but then, when I was in college I joined the Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers. They didn’t give me any choice. If I wanted a summer job I had to and it was the only union I ever joined. I thought that – in fact, I don’t know if I mentioned this last time or not but right after I think the first Callerlab I went skiing in the east with a member and that member – we got on a chair together and started up and he says, “ I’m looking for the day when nobody will get into a public building without belonging to Callerlab.” And I said, “ You’re talking about a union.” “No. I’m not. I’m talking about Callerlab.” And I said, “ Fred, it was Ray Behm from Louisville” – he told me one time he said, “ That’s a tinhorn outfit.” I said, “ What do you mean?” and he said, “ All you need is you go out and buy four records and a record player and you’re a caller. You don’t need them. You know they won’t last.” Well I said, “ I’ll tell you what, after the four records and a record player you’ve got to have much more sophisticated equipment than that don’t you?”
BB – Well, I’ll tell you. I don’t have any anymore. You know the other union story I remember – we were calling up in New Hampshire one time and Ed Durlacher was the featured caller. We were using the band that I – that Al and I always used called the Pioneers. Of course, they were not union and they were not educated musicians. They just picked up as they went along. Ed started to call a singing call, I forget what key they were in not that it matters but he turned to the band just before the end of the first chorus and he said, “ Drop it a half tone.” Both laugh – and they went from G 7th right into C – both laugh – and he never said a word.
BH – I think old Shaw got angry with me and this is one you’re not going to put on a record of any kind. I’m going to tell you a true story. I’m on the stage in that band shell on the slab in Colorado Springs, Thursday night – you’ll remember it – he went down there with a group – probably yourself – do you remember it? – and they had a live band. So, we’re in this band shell and I can’t hear anything. The speakers are up on top going out over the audience and I was just going to call Solomon Levi I think or something like that. Made it simple but I couldn’t hear – I could hardly hear the band and finally they started up and I said, “ Wait a minute. It’s too loud. Turn it down.” They started again – “They can’t hear you out there” – OK, start again. With that the piano player or the guitar player or one of them said, “ Well, what key do you want it in?” I said, “ Well, play it in the key of P and I’ll hold it until morning.” Well, the piano player hit the keyboard with his head and it was another five minutes delay. Well, I think Pappy was disgusted with me but I said, “ Give me any key. I’ll harmonize with it. Don’t bother with a key, I’ll go.”
BB – That’s funny.
BH – No. I think Shaw was a little bit angry with me.
BB – Yeah, I can see how that would.
BH – I just hope you’ll keep it up – I was sad to hear that they moved away from you down there with the foundation but I guess they had to go to bigger quarters or whatever it was. I contribute every year with my money but that’s about as far as I go.
BB – Well, the latest project Bob is, I have two – a couple fellows here in Albuquerque that propose to take all this material that I’ve collected and put it on a web page.
BH – Oh, my golly.
BB – Bill Litchman has given his blessing. He has to clear it with the Lloyd Shaw Foundation President, Bob Fuller, I should say but anyway, that’s a pretty ambitious program but I think that would be great.
BH – That would be great. The New England Dancer Magazine has gone to that now you know.
BB – Yes.
BH – There is no more hard print after next month. They’re putting it out so anybody can read the magazine. Do you take the magazine?
BB – Yes, I do. I’m getting it on the computer now, yes.
BH – OK, but I can tell you this just barreled Juaire, Ed Juaire on it. He said this is something you should not do. It can’t be done this way and all. You know, Ed’s a nice guy but he’ll go for broke. He’s still making money I’m sure on the ad’s but the subscriptions, golly, I don’t know who pay three and a half bucks for twelve pages of print.
BB – That’s true. Right.
BH – It’s not worth it. Well, it won’t be long, I’m afraid before the years have – but I hope not. I don’t wish anybody bad, honest but it can’t survive. I shouldn’t say it can’t because there will always be pockets of it and if you want to learn the fancy stuff why – but like in Europe, those clubs over there are always talking about the great – it’s all about women. To me, if I go to a dance Bob, I want a woman in my arms. I think the one move that kills me more than anything else when they started in on phantom movements and had me going out walking around by myself out there. I told them – I went up to the caller and I said, “Let’s just have some fun with this dancing”. He said, “ Well, I think you ought to know about these movements”. I said, “ Well, ….”. I went over and sat down but hell, I want a woman in my arms. If I’m going to square dance I want to square dance. I don’t want to – well, I shouldn’t say that because some people don’t think like I do. No, that’s real interesting though. Yeah, I remember old Durlacher too. He was something else. I have his collection of records and his books and everything else. And I still use them. Still use them.
BB – Well Bob, I think we’ve kind of run down and unless you can think of something else you’d like to say for posterity.
BH – Thank you. It’s been fun for the opportunity and I couldn’t ask for a nicer person to have fun with because it would not work. But, I’m thrilled with what you’re doing because you can – well, at one Callerlab thing they did a takeoff – they wanted to do a takeoff on Shaw, on the Lloyd Shaw Foundation and I said, oh, they’ll need a big hall. Well, we had about fifteen people there and Charlie Baldwin – that’s the guy I was trying to think of before – Charlie was sitting there and he said, “ You know what? Same old faces. There’s about fifteen people. These young guys aren’t interested at all in that seminar on Lloyd Shaw because Bob Osgood or was it Herb Egender and myself and we had a lot of fun with the things that – a few of the old guys around and that was it. That’s passe. I’ve had fun and you’re having fun and don’t stop. Don’t slow down. I hope Bob, I hope we’ll cross paths – I’m not going to the National. Are you?
BB – No. No.
BH – It’s close to you and I thought maybe you might but I am going to Callerlab again.
BB – Well, good for you.
BH – Well, it’s going to cost me about 1500 bucks and I think last year I made about a thousand so – I don’t like paying out of my pocket. Hotel rooms are 180 bucks a night and you sit up half the night – both laugh.
BB – Don’t even use the bed, right.
BH – So, keep going kid. I admire you. I love you for it and thanks for the chance to get jawing for a while.
BB – Good. Well, thank you Bob and we’ll be talking to you again.
BH – Well I hope we’ll cross trails again. I’d love to see you. Oh, listen, my niece and nephew are living in Albuquerque….
BB – Oh, are they?
BH – ….. and they’re inviting us down to the balloon festival in the fall…..
BB – Oh, beautiful.
BH – …. so it may just be that I’ll get back into that part of the country again because, I think their son is going to be an Eagle Scout and I’d like to seen him honored.– I’m still a Boy Scout. I still carry a card after 70 years.
BB – Well, that would be great. I’d like to …..
BH – Also, Barbara Johnson, who danced with us last year at Marietta, maybe she’ll come back.
BB – She lives, well, a pretty good days drive down from where she lives up in Pueblo, Colorado – so well, that would be really nice. That would be great.
BH – God love you.
BB – OK
BH – Thanks Robert.
BB – Thank you Bob. We’ll be talking to you.
BH – Stay well
BB – You bet, Bye, bye.
BH – Bye bye.
End of Tape – End of Interview