LEE KOPMAN INTERVIEW
Bob Brundage: Okay.
Lee Kopman: Yeah. I was graduated (?) during the school year, I was teaching, I got a job in Beth Page school district. I was teaching there. And (?) assembly program and I do know (?) square dancing. One of the parents who came to watch and listen to the children at the program, she belonged to a church group, and the church group needed a square dance caller. And she heard me call. And she came over to me and asked me if I would call for her church group. And I said yes. Well, I didn’t even have any equipment at that time. So I asked my principal if I could take the equipment out of the Phys Ed department. We had a PA system, and I did. And I booked into this church group; I took an extra pair of underpants in the glove compartment, because I never thought that I would make it through the night. I was so nervous. And I called. I knew six songs at that point. And I went in there, and I set everything up, and some people got there early. And one guy wanted to start sooner. Well, if I started sooner, I would have used up one of my songs from my repertoire. But I did that one song like three times. I think it was during the night. And then, you know, like everything else, somebody in that group needed a caller for their group, and you know, it was like a chain reaction, excuse the expression. And before you know it, I was doing a bunch of gigs for church groups. Then I had found out through my initial teacher, Bob (?) that there was a callers association on Long Island. And I called. I attended the first meeting. Oh, I can’t remember, I think Don Valentine on Long Island was one of the key men at that time. And at that time, as I said, the western dancing was just about coming in. I think Wheel and Deal came in, or maybe Square Thru was just about starting, I’m not sure. But I went there, and they had their meeting, and then they had some dancing. And they started to do this western type dancing. Well, I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about but what I saw, I really liked. And then I started to, you know, think about it, and before you know it, there was a group in Plainview, Long Island, that did some tape dancing at that time, and they, I visited with them. Lilith didn’t want to get involved, you know, she didn’t want to make square dancing our whole life style at that point. She was teaching in school, and I was teaching in school, you know. And then we wanted to raise a family and so on. But I visited with them, and they were dancing tapes. And I started to dance with them. And then they would let me call a tip. They were dancing in their basement because nobody else knew how to call that. I think most of the dancing at that level, that it was coming out of Ohio with, who use to, Will Orlich, he used to run these workshops, right. And who was the caller there, he moved to Florida, he used to record for, you know who I mean. Ron Schneider. And the other fellow who lost his foot, remember him.
BB: Oh, I’d forgotten that. Right.
LK: You know who I mean.
BB: I know who you mean, I can’t
LK: He was, they were outstanding callers. And I would listen to them on tapes, and I would just get so excited. I just loved it. Well, I started to call for this group just a tip here and there, and then I didn’t understand really what I was doing. I would just memorize a figure and at that time we weren’t working with checkers and dolls, you know. A figure came out, and you did it. One or two ways, and that was it.
BB: Yeah. You memorized it.
LK: Yeah. And that was it. And it was the same thing. In fact, after a while, what you could do is you could just do the first part of the song and then you could just say, well finish it on your own, you know, and they can just. A lot of the eastern dancing was the same, but the men weren’t really privy to the techniques of sight calling and things like that. It wasn’t necessary at that time. And before you know it, I started to, I developed a group on my own and I started to call for them. And all the calling I did, you know, I had to write down and I had to read and, material in Sets in Order started to come out. I used to tear those out. I used to call those figures, you know, hoping that they were going to work, because sometimes there were errors in the publications area. But whatever I called for them, what I read, I really didn’t understand a lot of it. But then I was forced into, because I started to pick up a lot of Paul Hunt’s groups, you know. When he passed away, well, let me, I, just before that, Dick Jones was a hot caller in Long Island. And I mean every time I, my mouth watered every time I went to his dances. And you just felt like you were floating on air. And every time he was calling, he was getting 15, 18 squares. I mean it was just stupendous. I walked in there, I was happy to dance and all that, and I wasn’t jealous about anything because I was just starting. I was just a new kid on the block. And he was a seasoned caller, and he was recording and all that business. But there was also another caller on Long Island by the name of Paul Hunt. And Paul Hunt was doing most of the Challenge dancing, Advanced dancing at that time. And the kind of dancing that Paul Hunt did didn’t really, it wasn’t really that technical. It just involved calling lots of figures. And the dancers that went there, you know, it’s not that they were doing the figures from all positions either. They just, their vocabulary was much greater than the dancers that Dick was calling to. And Paul Hunt was not a singing caller. He was just, at that time, he was a hot hash caller. That’s what it was called. Lots of figures, and everything was called fast. Dick Jones, on the other hand, was the singing caller, you know. And both were good in their own fields, you know. And then what had happened was Paul got sick, and it was really cute. When I was teaching, I was always looking for money to make, ways to make some extra money because the school income was so low. I would work at a recreation center, and then I would rush back to where Paul Hunt was calling and just dance the last half hour. And the dancers were kind of excited that I was there because I was the new kid on the block that was interested in this kind of dancing. And they knew that I was trying to do a little bit of calling. On a number of occasions, I met with Paul, we had dinner at his house. And we would talk choreo and things like that. And he kind of took me under his wing, see. And after Paul got sick and he passed away, every group that he called for on Long Island and in Brooklyn, called me to ask me to fill that slot. And I went from calling like maybe twice a month to 5 nights a week. And when you go from twice a month to 5 nights a week, you’ve got to get better, you know. And before you know it, I started to write some choreo. I think one of the first calls I’ve ever wrote was a call called Wheel Out and About. It’s not important how you do it, and I don’t think it’s in any glossary or whatever. But, and then the hottest call that, the very first, most popular call I ever wrote was probably Scoot Back, and in a way that really wasn’t that original. There was a figure that was called, and we had heard it on the tape. I don’t know who was calling the tape. And I saw this particular figure. It wasn’t done exactly the same way, and I was trying to teach to the dancers. It wasn’t my tape. I was dancing with them. They had some of these tapes. And I said, now this is what I want you, I think this is what he wants you do. He just wants the people that are looking in to, to come in and turn half. They’re just scooting back to where they came from. And that’s how Scoot Back came, you know. And it’s funny how some of the calls come about, you know, naming your calls. I wrote an advanced call, or a C1 call once called, not once, but called Rotary Spin. I had the call, but I had no name for it, and I happened to be driving to school 1 day, and I saw a helicopter. And the rotary gave me the idea to call that Rotary Spin, which is, it’s a wonderful call. But you know, when I started to write, before you know it, they just started to flow out of me, and I was always looking for new ways to do certain figures when I was choreographing. I was writing with checkers. I wrote with checkers. Moved the checkers all the time, every time, every day. I was working with checkers. And I said, well, this is what we use this figure for, maybe there’s another way to do it And before you know it, I wrote 30 figures, 40 figures, and now it’s, I don’t think you can call a, unless it’s the first 45, I don’t think you can call a tip in square dancing without a call, without calling a call that I wrote. Be almost impossible. I wrote you know, a little over 300 some-odd calls.
BB: Well, somebody told me that you used to write one on the way to the dance.
LK: I, well, you know, it, they just came to me. And I don’t, nobody in my family ever did this. My father was a pharmacist, you know. Nobody even thought about any kind of folk dancing or square dancing. And I don’t know, I just took to it, and Steve did too.
BB: Where did Yellow Brick Road come from?
LK: Follow the Yellow Brick Road. I’m just trying to think how that, I don’t know, I’m not sure. That’s used in Challenge dancing now, at the C3 and C4 level. I’m trying to remember how that came out. Did anybody ever tell you how it came out?
BB: No. I thought it was something on the way to a dance.
BB: You saw, or heard
LK: We would sit around the table, and I’d say, I’ve got this call but I have no name.
And they, the family would discuss it, and they never would come up with the idea. I was always the one that said, I think this is a good name for it, you know. And you try to name a call based on the movement itself, you know. Follow the Yellow Brick Road has Follow Your Neighbor and Spread. So we picked that out, and we have, some of the names really are funny, you know.
BB: Well, I thought there was a pop tune around that time called Yellow Brick Road.
LK: I don’t think that had anything to do with it. No, I don’t think that had anything to do with it.
BB: Forget that. So you just mentioned Steve, and tell us about Steve’s up and coming.
LK: Well, Steve, you know, he’s started to call. When we started to teach dancers, I started initially to teach in my house. We couldn’t rent a hall because, and it was just too expensive. And we only had one or two squares in the neighborhood, in my neighborhood we had them, in fact, that were interested. And so we met in our basement. And there were times when we needed person. And Steve would come down. We would get him out of bed, and he was 6 years old, and he would come and he would dance better than anybody. And he just had a natural affinity for it. We took him to the World’s Fair when he was starting to call, and he called at the World’s Fair when he was about 6, and we had to set him up on the table because nobody could see him. And after he called his first tip, it was the funniest thing. They all came up to
have him sign the Century Books, but he couldn’t write in script, he could only print.
And he had this long line of people waiting for him to sign Steve Kopman, and that was his first exposure. And then he started, I think, you know, he started some teenage groups, and then you know, he started to do some gigs for church groups and things like that when he was in high school. He couldn’t drive so his mother had to drive him to the dance, or somebody who booked him had to come pick him up and take him to the dance. And I mean, he was making for, you know, kids his age were delivering papers and making like $8 a week. He would go out and call a dance and in 2 or 3 hours he would make about $75 or $80 for the 1 hour or 2 hours that he was calling. So he lucked out. And he just continued to do it, and he really got good. He really is good. He’s a real singer. See, I’m not a singer. I can sing okay. I don’t go flat, I don’t turn anybody off when I sing. But he can really sing. He is really good.
BB: Yeah. that’s great. This Balloon Fiesta going on this weekend, do you do many weekends like this during the year?
LK: Oh, yeah. Of course, there was a time when things were really hot, and we were doing over 46 weekends a year out of town.
BB: Is that right?
LK: Yeah. When I was, I always had a home program, you know, calling 4 nights a week at home. And well initially it wasn’t 4 nights a week, but after I took over Paul’s groups, you know, it was. But I can remember many times when I finished school on Friday, I had a very cooperative principal, and she would let me leave about an hour early in the afternoon, and what I would do, I would have a cab wait for me at school. And I would rush, take the cab, get to the airport, fly to the gig, do a Friday night, all day Saturday and Sunday, and then come back home. And we did 46 weekends like that a year out of town you know. And it was just, you know, at that time, I was much younger then. Now at this stage, we’re doing about 30 weekends a year, 32 weekends a year.
!ill;. Well, that’s still a lot.
LK: If anybody canceled out now, I don’t book into it you know. I’ll just, either I’ll do something at home or I’ll just take the weekend off.
BB: Yeah. But in the meantime, you’re maintaining your home program, too.
LK: Yeah. The home program is being maintained, you know, we’re still teaching beginners you know. People usually associate me with, you know, the Challenge and the Advanced. But, you know, I’m concerned with the whole thing. I like to call. I don’t care if, and I’m not just saying this because you’re sitting here. I like to call. I don’t care if I’m teaching beginners or I’m calling C4. I just like to call. And I’m fully aware, you know Bob. I’m privy to what’s happening to the activity now. Things are not good. It’s much harder to get new dancers in, and I taught beginners classes. We used to have eight, 10 squares. Now we fight for a square or two. Last year, I taught a whole year for one square. We started with six couples, and we lost two, but we kept a square. This year, we started with six couples, and we picked up another two that had been away that want to come back again, so I’m dealing with two squares now. But whatever it is, I do it. You know, in the New York area, a lot of those dancers retired, you know, big fans of mine, they moved out of town, and, you know, you can’t sustain your program unless you feed it. And if I lose a square, I have to add one. If I lose two squares, I have to add two couples, you know, what’s the difference.
BB: Right. So, well you’re fortunate the fact that if you have to be away some times, and something at home has gone down, why you’ve got Steve there to
LK: Well, Steve doesn’t live there, no.
BB: Oh, he doesn’t?
LK: No. He lives down in Knoxville, Tennessee.
BB: Oh, I didn’t know.
LK: No. I don’t usually break into the home program. See the only time I might have to is if we got to a festival that starts on a Thursday, but other than that, everything I do is Monday through Thursday. I don’t call on the weekends at home. There are, about two or three times during the year when I’ll call a Challenge weekend at home. A Friday, but they’re all Challenge dances. But then I would have to be at home for those. But everything else, I never get anybody to substitute for me. I don’t have anybody who has the skills to call for the kind of dancing my guys like to do in the area. Thank God for that. You know, then there’d be, what can I tell you.
BB: That’s a corner on the market then. Well, you were telling me earlier, too, that one reason your home program is so successful is because of Lilith.
LK: Yeah, Lilith has a lot to do with it. She has a strong personality. The thing about Lilith and the activity is she loves it as much as I do you know. And it, she’s always been a part of it. I know lots of callers haven’t had you know, the, what am I looking for,
LK: The support of their wives when it came to going out of town. She used to go out of town with me, you know, quite a bit. That’s not the case now, you know. Because the financial situation. It’s just too expensive and because the numbers are not there. I mean if I were to go out, and we were going to have 30 squares on a weekend, and we were going to make a few thousand dollars, so what’s the difference if you take $200 or $300 less to have your wife come with you. But she takes the reservations for a lot of the weekends and festivals that we personally run, and she, depending on the gig, she’ll go with me in terms of how successful it is. During the summer, she’ll go with me all the time. She’s, because she’s still teaching at school.
BB: Oh, is she.
LK: Yeah. She’s still teaching at school. Now one of the things that’s kind of changed our life style a little bit is the fact that she, I started to do line dancing. And then after a while, it just became too much for me to learn those dances and keep up with the square dancing. And she took over. And now she has groups that meet Monday and Wednesday before my square dance group, at the same hall. And she has quite a nice number of dancers. And she has a beginner group and she has an advanced group. And she’s really into it. You know, with the short skirts, and the hats, and the whole thing, and the boots, you know. And she studies hard, and she puts the thing on the computer and then prints the whole thing out and this is what we’re doing this week, and this is what we’re going to practice and review the week after. So, she’s into her own schtick now.
BB: Right. Interesting you brought up the computer. My next question then, isn’t there a program on the computer that’s,
M; (?) Challenge dancing.
LK: Yeah. Well, there’s a program on the computer that can deal with dancing from Mainstream right up through C4, Challenge level 4. And in the beginning, I fought it, probably because I didn’t think I was smart enough to deal with it, and I didn’t have a computer. But, you know, you’ve got to move with the times, and we did get a computer, and I learned how to use it. And it took me about 6 or 8 months. First it took me about 6 months to learn just to get a feel for the computer. I could type. I’m a good typist. So I had no problem with that. But just in terms of, you know, getting use to you know, putting something down, and it comes up on the screen, and trying to feed it in such a way so that the information comes so that you can understand it. And then I got the square dance program, and I got the booklet that went along with it. I started to read it, and I hardly understood anything. So I was on the phone to the people that developed the square dance program. Very good friends of mine from California and also from Massachusetts. And I started just taking instructions via the telephone from them. How do I do this, how do I give it that. And then I got to be pretty good at it. But there’s one flaw in this whole thing with the computers. When you used to write with checkers and you used to move the checkers, you had to move the checkers through the whole figure, so you got a feel for the body flow, and you didn’t over, overplay body flow. If they were going clockwise, you would give them a call that would bring them back the other way or a stationary call, you know, north to south. With the computer, you can get sucked into this thing. Well, how about doing this? And before you know it, you know, people are going around in circles, and it says, well, geez, that looks really good, but it’s not good for the dancers. And you start to see this and learn this, you know, and when you finally call the stuff that you printed on the computer. It took me a while to, you know, see that, and nobody ever complained to me, but that’s not the way I would choreograph when I would use my checkers. The other thing that’s happened that I find is that whenever you write on the computer, the computer doesn’t move the checkers. You type in the figure, and the result shows on the screen. In other words, if you’re in, if you say Heads Pass the Ocean, you type in Heads Pass the Ocean, the first thing you see is just that picture. If you want them to, say, if you give them a call like Chain Reaction, you don’t see movement on the, on the screen. You type in Chain Reaction, you see the end result.
BB: End result, yes.
LK: So, what happens there is that in teaching some of these calls to new people at different levels, even calls that I wrote, I know the definition, but I can’t teach it as well as I used to because I don’t have the feel for it. See, when you choreograph a call with checkers, you’re moving them through the definition. But when you see it on the computer, you don’t know. You can spend all your time on the computer, you lose that skill of being able to teach it. At least I have, I don’t know about some of the other guys.
BB: That’s very interesting.
LK: Yeah. And it’s really been upsetting to me. And we’ve talked about it. How this started to come up is we have some groups on Long Island that want to learn C1, and C2, and C3A. You know, pretty sophisticated dancing. And I’ve been teaching them. And we have workshops for them. You know, its not a freebee, it’s all part of the business. And what happens when I go to teach these things, and I’m an outstanding teacher in, in square dancing. I can get anybody to do anything because of my (?) training, you know, as a teacher. I’m really good at it. But now, I’ve lost that little edge in being able, because I forgot the terminology and the things I used to use in order to get my point across. I mean, I get it across, but it’s, it’s narrowed a little bit. And they don’t feel secure. I don’t think they feel secure with the way I’m giving them the information. Just by that, you know what I mean. So, but Lilith and I were talking about it, and I think what I’m going to do, I, in fact I did it here, I wrote with checkers here. I have my checkers here. I have wooden checkers, four blacks and four reds.
And I move them around. And I also have eight checkers that have no numbers on top. They’re just blank, so when I do some pretty sophisticated Challenge dancing that requires phantom dancing, I put the phantoms in and then I move them around. See, so, what I’m going to do now is, she said suggested, and I think it’s a good idea, a couple of days a week, if I write 4 days a week, a couple of days I write with the checkers, and a couple of days a week I write with the computer. Which is what I’m going to do.
BB: Yeah. Getting back to the computer, isn’t there some way that you know, if you were, what you’re saying is you saw the end result, isn’t there some way to type in each action?
LK: It would be too cumbersome.
BB: It would?
LK: Yeah, too cumbersome. here are a bunch of things that you can’t do on the computer. That there maybe, but I’m not privy to it you see. I lost a lot of my style. It became a little bit, what I feel is too commercial, because I know a lot of the other guys are using the computer, and my personal style is not in there. You know. I guess, and it’s, I really have a good time writing with the checkers. But I haven’t, it’s fun to write with the computer, too. But there’s a special, priceless ingredient that’s lost when you use the computer and you stay off your checkers.
BB: Yeah. Well, that’s interesting to me because I’m not computer literate, so.
LK: Well, I’m not really either. I mean the only thing I know how to do is do the square dance choreography, play Solitaire on it, and bring up the, you know, the worldwide web and look for some information about what’s happening in the square dancing, but, most people like me, concentrate on certain areas in the computer. You have your geniuses, and the people that are a little, that are very smart that know so many aspects of the computer. But the average person I think who uses it concentrates on one facet of it.
BB: Okay, it seems like somewhere in my memory I heard that you did a TV program.
LK: Yeah. We were on the Donohue Show.
BB: That’s right, yes.
LK: We were on the Donohue Show. Well, I did a couple. We also did some, they had some I think, (?) what’s his name? The guy who does,
BB: Oh, Sandy VanOker.
LK: No, not Sandy VanOker. This guy is a black fellow. He used to do the weather, in fact he still does the weather on NBC.
BB: Yeah. Channel 4.
LK: You know who I mean?
BB: I know who you mean. I can’t put a name to it either.
LK: Yeah. Well, they did a bit on Long Island, and I was a little concerned about that, because he wanted to deal with square dancing in our area, but also in certain other areas, and so I had told him, you know, who to contact. He did a black group in Detroit, and he did us on Long Island. He was going to do a gay group, but he didn’t do that.
Whatever, and he did some other spots, I think. And what he did was, he really put the whole thing together real nice, and he presented it. Steve happened to be on Long Island at that time, so he, we were both involved in that particular presentation. Now the one with, this is interesting. The one with Phil Donohue, The way that came about, is a woman in, where is she, from North Carolina. I don’t remember her name. She’s not dancing now. But she had written to Donohue, you know. She said, you have a lot of things on your program that people, you know, are interested in, you know, and I wanted to let you know about something that we do that might interest your viewing audience. And she brought up square dancing. And then she mentioned my name in it, you know, as, at that time what she thought was a premier caller in the country, one of the premier callers, you know, and all that. And that was like 2 years later, I get a call from the producer of the show. I was playing racquetball. I come home from racquetball and Lilith says, Lilith greets me at the car. You’re going to be on the Donohue Show. I said, what are you crazy. She said you’ve got to call this lady. So, I came in and I called. She says, we want you to do a show. I said, well, can you give us about 6 months, we’ll get the whole thing set up. She said, no, we want it done in 2 weeks, three weeks. I said, well, okay. So, they didn’t want to get people from the Chicago area. But they wanted to get representation of blacks on the, that’s where they, that’s where we were doing the show, in Chicago. So, I got some people from Ohio, we got them from Wisconsin, we got a group from Long Island, and we got a group from Chicago. Arid I remember the day we were supposed to go. We were going to leave around, after 12 o’clock. And I went to school early in the morning, and there was a tremendous rain storm. Now Dave Taylor was going to be involved in this show.
And no way was I going to stay home and have Dave Taylor take this whole thing. So I left school at 9 0′ clock, and we got the last flight out they permitted into Chicago. And we got there, Dave was already there. He was all decked out and ready to take my place. And we walked in there, and we did the whole show, you know. I met him for the first time, Phil Donohue. He wasn’t interested in meeting Lilith. He was interested in meeting me. And he said we got, we went up there the day before because they had never done a show where, like this, where I had to call and everything had to be coordinated with the controllers, you know, and the music had to come on, I had to hear the music. And he wanted to have a live band, you know. And I hadn’t called with a live band before, you know. What the hell was I going to do. So he had these three guys that, from the Chicago area or Wisconsin area, and they came in, and we did a little practicing. So we had to do a little rehearsing before. And then the next day, all the dancers, you know, went here, and I went to his office. I hadn’t met him yet. The day before we were in there with the producer, you know practicing the format. I came there in the morning, and he was all decked out in blue jeans and things like that, you know. And he introduced himself. He was just a lovely guy. And he said, look, when we go out into the audience, before the show starts, we’ll go out and we’ll talk to the people, you’ll talk to them, and I’ll talk to them. And we did that. And we went out there, and voila, there was the whole thing. And the presentation was not just western dancing. I tried to explain. Did you ever see the
BB: I saw a part of it, yes.
LK; Okay. Well, you know, the idea was to show them western as well as eastern. I said, you know, this is what eastern is, Red River Valley, Duck for the Oysters. Then we did the demonstration. And then Dave Taylor called. You know, one tip there. And then we had stuff from the audience, the questions, and it worked out pretty good.
BB: All right. Well getting back to present day, I know you’re a member of the Callerlab Milestone Award, and, was this a surprise to you?
LK: Oh, sure.
BB: (?) I’ve talked to said it was a complete surprise.
LK: Yeah. It really was. It was funny the way that happened, you know. I think they gave me the award, where was it, down in Virginia Beach?
BB: Yeah. 1992, wasn’t it.
LK: Yeah. I think it was down there. And Lilith knew about it. John Marshall had arranged for her to fly down and hide and be away from me, you know. And I was doing one of the Callerlab workshops. And we finished early. John Marshall had gone to the airport to pick Lilith up. I come over, and I’m walking into the hotel, and she comes in with dark glasses, and a hat on, like I wouldn’t know her, right. And then all of a sudden I said, that’s Lillith. And she runs, she hides behind the pole. Like I don’t know who you are. And then at that point, even though I was privy to it, you know, and that I was going to get it, and I wasn’t surprised when they finally mentioned my name. I think Jerry Haag got it that year, and
BB: Yeah. I’ve got the list here. That was that. There’s one question I’ve, or one comment that I’ve been making about you for several years. I understood that you did a weekend with another caller somewhere who had the habit of saying doodle doodle da, that’s good, doodle doodle doodle da, that’s good. And when he was not there on the workshop afternoon, you taught a call named That’s Good. Now is this a true story, or am I making up.
LK: It is. We called it, Looking Good.
BB: Looking Good, okay.
LK: Yeah, yeah. We just finally made a call Looking Good. Jesus, I forget, I think it’s a hinge on, I forget how to do the call, and Looking Good was the call, and there was another one that somebody used to, oh yeah, another caller that somebody used to say, when they were about to do an Allemande Left, he would say Shazam. And then I came up, on that same weekend, and I wrote this call Shazam, where it wasn’t an Allemande Left. Shazam is a Hinge and U Turn Back. But I think that’s the call you’re talking about.
LK:Shazam. Yeah. It was called Shazam. But there is a call called Looking Good, where it wasn’t an Allemande Left, Shazam was a Hinge and U Turn Back. I think that’s the call you’re talking about, Shazam. It was called Shazam. But there was a call called Looking Good. Which Looking Good, in fact, I know it’s called, it’s an Explode and Slide Thru, that’s what it is.
BB: I see. Well, what happened to the other caller when he called it that night.
LK: He couldn’t call it any more.
BB: Is that
LK: That really socked it to him. I’ll tell you who it was, in fact, it was Dewey Berry from Cleveland, Ohio.
BB: There you go.
LK: Yeah. Square Thru three, there’s your corner, Shazam. And then I said, no this is no good. And that same weekend, and that kind of screwed things up.
BB: Right. Okay. I’m glad to settle that. I’ve been telling that story about you for years.
LK: Yeah. That’s what it was.
BB: Because I think it’s a funny story. ACA, any thoughts about ACA?
LK: I’m sorry that it exists, I really am. Because, you know, we have enough problems without dividing the group that we have now. And I’m not sure what it is that was so unpleasant for that particular group to break away from what we have now. You know, there’s more strength in numbers, and I think that whatever things they were unhappy about, could have been brought to the attention of you know, the Callerlab association, and we probably could have worked it out in committee and had more dialogue with the larger group than, you know, what they started to develop. I had thought about joining the group, you know, but I haven’t joined. My affiliation dedication, even though I haven’t attended, you know, some meetings in the last few years, really has (?) towards Callerlab. I think that we, I don’t think we need two organizations in order to meet whatever our responsibilities or objectives are. I’m not crazy about it.
BB: Yeah, getting away from square dancing for a while, do you have any other hobbies.
LK: Yeah. I’m an avid racquetball player.
BB: Are you?
LK: I play racquetball 4 days a week. When I was in college, I played varsity lacrosse and varsity squash. And when I was graduated, I continued to play squash for a while, but it was too inconvenient for me to get to those, to the courts, because when I was graduated, it was a kind of a thing where, you know, I wasn’t into the square dancing, we were married, we were going to have a child soon after, about 2 years after we were married, so I used to work at a recreation center, and I used to officiate lacrosse games. And what I would do was, I would finish school at 3 o’clock, run to officiate a game, come back home, have a sandwich, and go out and work at a recreation center.
And so you know, it was really hectic, but at the time when you’re 22, 23 years old, it wasn’t a big deal. But racquetball is my love. I play that every day back home, every afternoon.
BB: WelI, that’s good. I know you’re in good shape physically. And you have to be mentally. You mentioned that you just love to call. Can you put to words what the appeal is to calling?
LK: Oh, I think it has to be, I like to be a take-charge person. When I was in college, I was president of my class 3 of the 4 years. And I, when I played varsity baseball in college, I was the pitcher. See what I mean? So I like to be in front of the class. I like to give the instructions, and so I like to feel like I’m a take-charge person. I probably would have been very unhappy being part of Callerlab without being on the board of governors. See, that’s the way I am. And I’ve always lived that way.
BB: Yeah, right. Are you still on the board or not?
BB: All right. Well, I’ve been asking all the other people I’ve interviewed, for a sort of an overview of the whole thing. Could you give us your thoughts on where square dancing was, and where it is, and where it’s going.
LK: Where it was, was good. You know, we didn’t seem to have any problem getting large numbers of dancers into classes and doing festivals with large numbers of people attending. But at that time, I think we’re talking about in the middle 50s, early 60s, there wasn’t that situation in the home where two people were required to work. You had usually somebody at home and somebody going out, and when they came home, they felt like somebody wanted to get out of the house in order to do something else. And it was easy enough to get them to get involved in the square dancing. Now with the fact that two people work, and it’s tougher to make ends meet, when both people come home, they’re too tired to go out and dance. So, I think that that’s a factor. I don’t think the line dancing has been a good thing for our activity, although, you know, there’s no reason, you know, it exists and people are happy with it. But it’s become competitive. And the competitive aspect is that to do line dancing, you don’t have to go every single night. You can go once, skip three, and so on. When you’re taking lessons. Square dancing is not the case. You’re either on the boat or you’re off the boat. And that’s been a problem for us to you know, to bring people in and to sustain their interest as far as that kind of commitment. The other problem is with the square dancing is that it just got too hard, too technical. You know, at one time, we had one level of dancing, and, oh, the stuff came out here and there, you know, and so you learned it, and when you left, you didn’t have to remember it. But when we started to divide things, and to different levels, the responsibilities as a dancer became, you know, a little bit more complicated. You had to go all the time, and you had to practice, and handle this, and learn a language that you know, that was, that just involved so many new temin, so many new terms. And you know, it was exciting for the dancers at that time. People seemed to have more time to be able to deal with it. But as they have less and less time to commit themselves, they just didn’t want to go out and make the thing as academic as it became. Which is what it really did become. It became too academic. Now, you know, when we were rolling, everybody was excited about it. But we peaked. And getting new people in became harder and harder, and when they finally did come in, it’s all of a sudden doing Mainstream and then Plus, and you know, there was a rush by too many people to move them up, move them along that they just didn’t want to make that kind of a commitment, you know, There were other things that they had that were more important. And you know, the other thing is that in order to deal with levels of dancing above and beyond Mainstream and Plus, you really have to have good skills. And it’s very hard to find callers that have those skills. I’m not trying to play down the skills that the callers have at Mainstream and Plus, you know, we have outstanding callers at that level. But, when they start to move along and try to sight call and understand the technical aspect of the other things, it’s a different ball game all together. It’s not basic math. We’re talking about trigonometry, we’re talking about geometry, and it’s very hard to develop those skills, you know. Now I’m really nervous because with the computer, you don’t have to be so good. Because the computer does all the work you know. And you can give them the information, and all of a sudden, well, what do you mean. Well, I’m not sure you see. So people will start to call things that they really don’t understand, but they say, well, it has to work because the computer says its okay, you know. But I have ambivalent feeling about, you know, I’m happy about my contributions. But I don’t know in the long run, how good has, how good it’s been. I really mean that. I’m not just giving you a lot of lip service because, you know, you do the Mainstream and the Plus and the contras and whatever. But, just keep this in mind. That when we were developing these figures, we had more figures, more dancers than ever you see. And then it peaked. Now I’m not saying that, you know, I can’t feel that, you know, the Advanced and the Challenge programs are detrimental to the activity. Because just think of, you know, when we used to go, we had these nationals, we had, you know, 35,000, 40,000 people going to these things.
Now the national square dance convention, you get 14, 12. You can’t blame that on Advanced and Challenge dancing. Somewhere along the line other things have happened, you know. I don’t know what kind of a factor that’s been in the reduction of the numbers. But, you know, when you talk about whether or not it’s good or bad, for about a I5-year period, it was outstanding. We had more people dancing than ever before.
BB: Well, the telephone rang there for a minute, so we took a brief pause, and I want to complete this thought Lee has about where do you think square dancing is going tomorrow.
LK: Well, it’s hard to predict the direction that we’re going to go. Right now, I think that we have some serious problems. One of our, one of the things we have to confront and deal with is the business of shortening some of the responsibilities of the new dancer that takes lessons. And to, instead of dealing with a 30-week, 40-week program, talk about a 18, 20-week program and getting people out to dance right away. More of a social situation than an academic situation. That should be one of our primary concerns. But that’s hard to accomplish if you only have a square or two taking lessons. Because what are you going to do? Set up a special night and say, all right, let’s have a big dance and just have one or two squares there if everybody from the beginner class can come on that night. And those that are presently dancing in the Plus program, you know, how cooperative are they going to be. You’ve got those that are, have the same kind of a concern that a caller has in terms of building the activity, but they’re few and far between. Most of them are, I’m not going to say selfish, but, you know, dancers recreate. They go out for a night, they come home, they don’t want to get involved in the politics and the refreshments. You have those that do, you know. But I don’t, I’m not really optimistic about the way things are going. And maybe shortening the number of weeks we have as far as the teaching aspect, you know, might be one solution to the problem, but then you run into the problem in terms of numbers. If you have small beginner groups with a square or two, I mean how can you set a separate night for them, rent a hall, and things like that, see. Have other problems to deal with. But we just keep plugging along, and we just do the best we can. What can I say.
BB: Well, we don’t really have a lot of, we don’t have almost any strictly Mainstream programs.
BB: Going on.
LK: No. And that’s a problem.
LK: I mean there’s no such thing, maybe we ought to, you got about 26 calls on the Plus list, right. Take off 20. Put them some other place. And have Mainstream and Plus as just, you know, one, one aspect of the whole thing . What do we have, what do you got, about 69 or 70 figures on the Mainstream list? So make it 82. What the hell’s the difference? Eighty-three. Put the other things in the Advanced program and the Challenge program. And start to develop your clubs a little bit earlier without much of are, responsibility on the part of the dancers. In terms of what they have to learn. Take the, take some of the academics out of it, and you know, that might help us. But I would favor shortening the required weeks that are needed to, now you, you may say that, well, let’s have a 25-week program. But if you’re dealing with retired people in their late 60s, 70s, and 80s, they may take the 25 weeks to accomplish your objective.
So that’s not the factor. The factor is, how many steps are required before you go out to a dance and have coffee and enjoy yourself without worrying about the academics.
I know there are people that have run programs after, they take what, the first 34 or 40 steps, or whatever it is. I’m not sure what that is, and they have programs