Lenny Houle – October 29, 2008
Bob Brundage – Well, hi again. This is Bob Brundage and today is – what is it? October 29th, something like that …
Lenny Houle – Yes.
BB – … just short of Halloween and today we’re having the pleasure of talking with Mr. Len Houle who lives up in Westfield, Massachusetts and has recently (been) elected to the Presidency of the United Square Dancers of America, a very comprehensive program. That’s what we want to find more about. But before we get into USDA let me ask you, were you born and brought up around Massachusetts Len?
LH – Yes I was Bob. I was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the paper city of the world. We’re in the history books as a matter of fact and we have some of the finest silk mills. I grew up in the 40’s, 1942 I was born and was raised in Holyoke and stayed there until I got married and then we moved to an outside community.
BB – OK, and were you associated with dancing at all in your early years?
LH – Well, we got started the first year that we got married. In 1964 we started square dancing and the following year we took up round dancing.
BB – Good, was that in Holyoke or had you moved by …
LH – Yes, it was. Actually it was in two separate cities but they were like five miles apart. We had lessons on Sunday night and Monday by the same caller so we ended up joining both clubs so that we had double lessons back to back and it really made a big difference.
BB – I see. Do you remember who the caller was?
LH – Yes, Bill Trudell. He was a plumber.
BB – All right. Very good – Joe the Plumber (Ed. Note: we are talking just before the 2008 elections when Joe, the Plumber, became an item in election news) (Both laugh) right, OK. So, you say you started round dancing as well. Is that it?
LH – That is correct.
BB – And you had a separate club there for round dancing or was it all the same club?
LH – No, the round dancing was totally separate because back in the 60’s there really wasn’t any cuers. Somebody …the cuer would teach a dance or two and then, on the night of the square dance there was no cuers per se. The caller put the records on and the strongest couple would be in front and everybody would follow and, you know, eventually we all got to know the dance. The dances were a lot simpler back then also.
BB – Oh, sure.
LH – You know, they weren’t choreographed like they are today.
BB – Right. Do you remember any of the old, simple round dances?
LH – Oh, yeah. Pearly Shells, Frenchy Brown – (laughs)
BB – Well, that’s interesting. So, I know you’ve been terribly busy in a lot of other things before you got involved with USDA, so, when did you get into the …where did you start with, maybe the Square Dance Foundation or something?
LH – Well, actually no. We started way before that. We started with …1958 we got involved in our local organization. We were representing our club and they were complaining there was no money so I said, “Why don’t we have a dance?” And they said, “That’s fine. You’re the Chairman.” (both laugh) – and that was the beginning of my involvement in the associations, you know. (Connie Houle makes comments in the background) and it’s just been going ever since then. First the local level then the state level, the regional level and now we’re at the national level.
BB – Yes, right. Was that the Greater Springfield Area Association or something?
LH – Yes, that was the Western Massachusetts Square and Round Dance Association … is where I started becoming involved as officers.
BB – Yes. So, you worked up and got to be President of that probably.
LH – Oh yeah. We were …the only office I don’t think we held was the Treasurer. We were just about everything else.
BB – Yes. Then, where did you go from there. You said you moved up into regional ….
LH – Yeah. Well from there we went over to the EDSARDA which is the Eastern District Square and Round Dance Association and we are actively still involved with that. We’ve been on there since the early 80’s and we’re still presently involved. We represent EDSARD as the Secretary to CO-OP which is the CO-OP, Cooperation Committee of callers, cuers and dancing organizations and we represent the dancer’s organization. So we’re secretary for that and we have been for probably 10 years now. We were President of EDSARDA. We were Means Chairmen … Means Chairmen for how many years. We’re still doing it, you know (laughs). It seems like we’re only a volunteer but they won’t fire us, you know? (Laughs)
BB – Right. Well, I know you must have been involved with the Square Dance Foundation of New England.
LH – Yes, we were. We were Vice Presidents for the Square Dance Foundation of New England. I believe it was in …we were the General Chairmen for the New England Square and Round Dance convention in ’91. I believe the following year they approached us …the Vice President of the Square Dance Foundation …I think it was in ’92 or ’93 that we were Vice President.
BB – Well, I know you have been really busy with that organization as well and, of course, these interviews that I have been doing are being taken care of in the archive at the foundation. All right. Then how did you get involved with USDA?
LH – Well, we were looking for information and we invited Bill Flick, the Vice President of USDA to come to one of our meetings. He came down and I got to be really friendly with him right away and we became chummy even though he lives out in New Jersey and we’re in, you know, the Massachusetts area. We kept in touch. We joined the organization and then, when he was getting out of office he said to me, “Hey Len, wouldn’t you like to be Vice-President of USDA?” and I said, “Yeah, right.” and he said, “No, I’m serious”. So, you know, he primed me and he helped me out and we applied for the position and we were successful in being nominated for the Vice Presidency and we ran that for three years. Then last year we were Publications and the …Publications screening like, you know. Then this year they asked us to run for President and so we took on the Presidency.
BB – There you go. Just what you needed.
LH – (Laughs) We’ve got the big S on the forehead – Sucker. But you know something? It’s something that …anybody that is involved with square dancing today has a love for the activity and you can’t put a price tag on it because you cry when you look at the money that you’ve spent, you know …but you do it for the love of it, you know. The recreation it’s given us, the friendships that we’ve developed over the years. No matter where we go we run into people, even though they haven’t been dancing for ten years. It’s like we left them last night. It’s such a terrific activity.
BB – True. True, Right, well, OK I know that I happened to fall into one of your conventions at one time. I think it was in Los Angles several years ago and I was very impressed by the number of people who were in attendance and this was all part of the …I mean it was in conjunction with the National Square Dance Convention at that time. Do you usually have all of your conventions at the same time as the National?
LH – Yes, we do.
BB – Well, looking down through your web page I can see that you are divided up in what, four different regions?
LH – Yes, we have four Vice-Presidents, you know, north, south east and west and it just works out terrific because everybody’s got their territory and, if for some reason somebody needs information that’s out of their territory, they just get a hold of the other VP and he immediately assists them in anything that they need, you know. Or somebody might have a case on the border but it belongs to the other organization they can help each other out very nicely, you know?
BB – Right. Well, I see that your regions are called, West and East, Central and Plains
LH – That’s correct.
BB – Four different …OK. So you have a Vice-President for each of those regions.
LH – Yeah, Yes we do.
BB – Yeah, right. Well, I’ve looked down through and I can see that you have a dozen or fifteen different categories of interest that you operate on. First of all you have an important Director of Information?
LH – Oh yes. That’s Lyle and Jean Beck. He is so remarkable. He is …I’ll tell you, he is better than a spare tire because he is on the job, and on the money.
BB – And his principal duties are what?
LH – Well, he would put on Promotions for any news releases that we come up with. People that need information on what’s the activity all about. He would inform them as Information Officer. The programs that USDA organizes or runs for the benefit of square and round dancers, you know, made up of 58 different affiliate members and he’s on top of everything plus he’s been involved for, I don’t know how many years.
BB – All right. And then you have a Parliamentarian and a Historian?
LH – Yep.
BB – Tell us about your insurance program.
LH – OK. The insurance program is a low cost insurance coverage which is offered to dancers and covers whichever …wherever you dance. It offers bodily injury, coverage up to $10,000 to the dancers if they are injured at a dance. It also provided up to one million dollars liability coverage for the dancers and the officers of the club that sponsored the dance. The problems that may arise …the total cost …I’m sorry (laughs) it only costs $4.25 per dancer per year. So in other words, if you had twenty dancers in your club you take $4.25 times 20, you know and that covers for everything..
BB – For one year.
LH – Oh yes, for one year.
Right. Well I know that the…I live here in Albuquerque now and the New Mexico Square and Round Dance Association is covered with your program and I assume it’s quite effective. And I know that you put out a
lot of different publications. Can you tell us about some of those?
LH – Oh yeah, the publications. You mean of all the different …
BB – No, you put out pamphlets and flyers and …
LH – Oh my God yes. (Laughs) We have so many of them it’s hard to remember them all off hand but I’ll give you a quick run down on some of them. We have great youth programs, you know. We have CD’s on how to teach the youth how to square dance. We have the Recruitment Plan, we have the Club Specials. Recruiting and Keeping New Dancers, Club Erosion, Games and Gimmicks to have fun at your dances, Square Dance Attire, which changes with everybody’s attitude, Take The First Step, Club Newsletters, Take a Youthful Step, Online Shopping Mall – that’s where we encourage people to go shopping on the net and using our web site number and we get a little percentage to help us keep our activity afloat. We is really, really …when we lost that credit card a couple of years ago … Bank of America decided that we were too small of an organization so they cut our ties with them and we lost like $15,000 of income, you know and that really, really hurt. And there’s so many more…there’s Master of Ceremonies, Square Dance Clothes, the Vice-President – Challenges of Vice-Presidents, Note Book, President’s Book, I mean, it goes on and on.
BB – Yes, I know.
LH – It can be reached by the web site, you know. Everything is able to be downloaded, you know. Nothing is copyrighted and we encourage people to do that and, if there’s stuff they can’t, they just write to us and we’ll mail them out anything that they need.
BB – Yes. And some things are just a nominal charge I think if you get a bunch of them, for example.
LH – Right. We used to give them out free but some of these books cost us $2.50 apiece to print up, you know, and we’d been giving them away free. Well, we dropped the number down from 10 to 3. You get 3 free but if you want 4 you’ve got to pay for, you know, it’s just with the loss of income we’re …it’s tough, you know, we’re trying to keep afloat but we’ll survive.
BB – Oh yes. All right. And you also have an Education Committee?
LH – Yep. Yep. There we try to put on seminars wherever we …well, like at the Nationals, we’re always putting seminars on, you know.
BB – OK. So, in other words you’re saying that you have people from your organization who will go to a square dance club, for example.
LH – We’ll be happy to do anything like that. If they show a need for something like that we’ll be more than happy to show up and be there and put on any type of an education for them that they would love. We would love to do that.
BB – Well, that’s a wonderful service that’s for sure. OK. Tell us about your Prescription Program.
LH – The Prescription Program, OK. The program that we started a while back …it offers a free discount card to assist anybody that doesn’t have any prescription medicine coverage. If a person does have some and they go to use ours, sometimes ours isn’t the best price because everybody has a different percentage of payment from their employer or employee and it could change the amount of the portion that the person has to pay. Once a person…let’s say that you have insurance and you use up all your available cash, (scrambled ) they call it, you can use our card to supplement because you don’t have any coverage because you spend so much money and then the coverage picks up again. But there are a lot of people out there that don’t have any prescription coverage so this is …you can save anywhere from 20 to 25% discount on the regular price of prescriptions. The cards are free and we try to make them available to all the square dance organizations but the nice part about this, you don’t have to be a square dancer to use it because anybody can use these cards, you know and we strongly encourage square dancers to pass them out to their friends and kids or kids going to college. You know, we drop them off at Doctor’s offices.
BB – Yes. Well, that’s interesting. So, all right. Then the other thing that I know is of interest to our listeners would be your Travel Agent Program.
LH – OK. Is that the one where we offer …if they want to go on cruises and vacations?
BB – Yes, right.
LH – OK. I’m not 100% familiar with that but I’ve got a good handle on
- That’s where if you decided that you would like to go on vacation you would call our agency up …this is really attached to the ARTS, that travel program OK. But we encourage it because, as members of the ARTS, it’s important that we try to support them in any way we can and if we can encourage people to plan some of their travels through the program that is really a good thing to do. You see what happens is this. You want to take a cruise and the cruise sells for $1200, you can call us up or go to the web site for travelers and get the same thing for $1200 but now, a portion of that goes to the ARTS which, you know, it’s for the Alliance of Round, Traditional and Square Dance and it’s really such a great organization. That, you know, with that meeting 4 times a year, 3 times a year and we fly in from all over the country to go to these meetings and it’s like any other meeting. We all have our own ideas and some things get worked on and some things get pushed aside. (laughs)
BB – Sure.
LH – But you know what, everybody is there because they’re interested and they want to achieve something for the greater good for the square dancers, you know?
BB – Yes. OK, now I see one item in there called the Showcase of Ideas. Tell us about that.
LH – OK, when a dancer goes to the National Square Dance Convention on …Connie, what was it, Thursday morning? The Showcase of Ideas?
Connie Houle -(in the background) – Yes.
LH – Yeah, OK. At 10 o’clock on Thursday morning they open the Showcase of Ideas. This is where the dancer gets to browse through all of the different booths that were put together by different clubs and organizations to promote square dancing in their local towns, state or area associations. You can get all kinds of trinkets and that’s really the place to be on Thursday morning. That’s where …that’s a nice place to pick up all our publications because we have five tables set up over there. The four regions plus our own table and it’s really a hotbed of activity on Thursday morning. But, I mean, the booth is open from Thursday morning right through the close of the convention even though if you don’t get to make it on Thursday morning. It goes until two o’clock on Saturday and that’s when we are allowed to start disassembling the booth. There’s a raft of information there. It’s endless and you can plan
your vacations for every state. There are road maps. They put out publications for dances coming up. It’s really a great place to go. And once you do one, you say, “Boy, I didn’t get as many trinkets as the other guy did so I’m going to make sure I get there earlier next year, you know. You don’t even know what your bag looks like when you’re done because they’ve got stickers all over everything. I think their names are visible but other than that, wherever …you don’t even know where you’re from any more because they’ve got a sticker on top of it.
BB – Yes. Well, that’s great. Well, I see you’re involved in after-party actions as well. Tell us about that.
LH – OK. The after-party is where when the convention is done for the evening, we usually try to get a Friday night and we have a Mainstream program. Well actually, the convention sort of dictates what level you’re going to be dancing whether they want you to dance Mainstream or plus. So, we have to go with whatever they choose for us to do, that’s what we do. We send out invitations to about twenty, twenty-five to forty callers previous to the convention asking them if they would honor us by coming to call for us. Traditionally, we usually get about 18 to 20 callers and it doesn’t mean we don’t get more than that, what it means is callers that didn’t want to commit themselves when they find that they have some free time, they’ll stop by then, they’ll sign in and whatever rotation that they sign in as, that’s when they call. Non-stop dancing. It’s just another continuance of a great convention.
BB – Yes. Well, that’s great. So, all right, what about your newsletter.
LH – Well, the newsletter is really encouraging every …the four different regions of our Vice-Presidents send in articles of activities they’ve been involved in for a several months period , any hotbed stuff that they want to put out coming up. Then we encourage people that are having news of interest to send it to us so we can publicize it. If they want to advertise their conventions, if they want to take ads out naturally that helps financially. But we do cover a lot of things that we don’t charge for and it’s really a very nice publication.
CH – I think it’s $6.00 for the year.
BB – OK. That’s interesting. You put out how many copies a year?
CH – I think he sends out …oh, it’s close to 5 or 600 every time.
BB – Oh yes, Good. All right.
LH – That’s Jim and Edythe Weber. They’re the USDA News, the Editors.
BB – OK. Now I see you have an ambitious program going on that was attempted several years ago by Bob Osgood to get square dancing listed as the national folk dance. Tell us what your activity is with that.
LH – Well, unfortunately, the activity sort of suspended the attempt two years ago. It’s not something we’re not going to continue. I think there was so much turmoil going on in the country that our little project was of very little importance to the senate and the congress, you know, so we’re …I guess we’re waiting for a better time frame but I don’t know what’s going to happen to that. It seems our country gets worse and worse and more and more involved with such big hot items that the little stuff never gets to come on top, you know.
CH – Most folks have done it on their own. They have put out to their congressman, etc. and, you know, in Massachusetts we’ve done …I think that almost all of Massachusetts has done that.
LH – Has voted for it.
CH – We battled for it and our congressman has said OK but it’s got to go through all the states and not all the states have promoted it.
LH – I believe there’s 32 states that have made square dancing their folk dance for the state but, we’ve got a few more to work on and some are tough. Some probably will never give in. But, we run into activities such as, like here in the northeast, polkas. They figure the polkas should be the national dance. Now with the Spanish population coming up, they figure they should be part of the dance too, you know, or the Irish, so …(laughs) it gets really complicated and involved.
BB – Yes. Well, that’s interesting. I encourage you to keep on and keep trying, as they say. Now, I see something listed under Long Term Care.
LH – OK. What this is all about is, let’s assume I wanted to look into something for myself and my wife, I would pick up a USDA application, fill it out and when a person fills this out there is nothing given more
than name and address and a phone number, OK? So, there’s no pertinent information received by anybody. The card is mailed by the person who fills it out. They are then … it gets to a staging area where there are 3 major insurance companies. They’re on the stock market. They’re all legit. They’re something like Mass. Mutual, the Prudential Insurance Company and there’s another one that’s a big name in there and all these things are handled strictly confidential from the insurance company to the person making the inquiry. The USDA has nothing … doesn’t get involved with any of that stuff. We just … what it is…
CH – … it’s the selling of a product for, you know, the elderly or somebody that’s going to need a nursing home or intermediate care. It’s an insurance for that.
BB – Yes, OK. Well, that’s an interesting project as well. I notice your web page mentions that you have several of what you call ‘Affiliates’ and one is called Around the world. Now, what in the world is that?
LH – Around the World.
CH – Around the World. I don’t remember that one (laughs). We’ll have to look into that one.
BB – You’ll have to look at your web page (All laugh)
CH – I guess so. Around the World
BB – Yeah, all right. You also have information on square dance lessons. How do you handle that? I think , in other words what I believe this is , if somebody happens to run across your web page they can click on and find out where square dance lessons are almost anywhere in the country.
CH – What happens is, they’ll click onto our site and then they get to a certain person, one of the Vice-Presidents and they can tell them through the affiliates which each Vice-President has of the region and then they contact them or tell them who they can contact so that …we’ve done that quite a few times. Somebody moves into the area and they want to know where there’s dancing, you know and we’ve been able to tell them that we …New Jersey, New York, … you know, where there are affiliates and then give them that phone number…name and phone number and they ask them and so it does work. But it’s usually through the Vice-President.
BB – OK. And you also have …you also have, through your web page you can also find a link to the callers and cuers data bases, I think. That would probably refer you to something like ceder.org, or something or ceder.net I mean or one of those. Maybe Do Si Do or one of those.
CH – Yeah, one of them. One of those web sites …
BB – You can at least get a link through you to one of those as well.
CH – Yep.
BB – All right. Earlier you mentioned ARTS which is the Alliance for Rounds, Traditional and Square Dance and you also have a link to them. Are you …what cooperative efforts are you making with them. What is it, Jim Maczko, is he the President now?
LH – No, Jim is … he represents USA West and he’s representing them.
CH – He’s not President anymore.
LH – No, he’s not President. Jerry Reed I believe is the President right now. (Ed note: Jerry Reed is Executive Director, Mike Jacobs is Chairman)
BB – OK.
CH – I think the elections are when, in February.
LH – I think so. I believe the elections are in February.
BB – Well, I know you can get information from Jerry’s wife. Where do I see that? Well, I’m not sure so I won’t ask you about it either.
LH – I think if they want to …promoting for the benefit of check this here web page, www.ARTS-dance.com. I’m not sure that that’s the web page for more information or that pertains to one of the dances that we are having. (ED Note: the site is www.arts-dance.org.)
BB – OK. Well, that’s really great. And the last note I have here is your pharmacy discount card which you’ve already mentioned. Well, you certainly have an ambitious program. Do you feel it can be expanded more than what you now do?
LH – You know, there’s always room for growth, OK? The problem with growth is you have to have a need for it, and providing that the growth
doesn’t cost a lot of money because, you know, it’s like everything now. Our organization is shrinking. We did lose a revenue source and, you know, the shopping mall, the long term care, if a person wants to send for an application and take it, well, we would receive $100, OK and that keeps us afloat too. The prescription card, every time someone uses it we get 25 cents. So all these programs are important that , if they use them , we can stay afloat financially because we have no real outside source of income and if ARTS is going to go for expansion, like I was telling you about, the printing for all the publications that we do, Connie and I …
CH – Almost $4000 a year.
LH – For printing.
BB – Yeah, right. I can imagine.
LH – It’s not free and we’re happy to do it.
BB – Yes. Well, do you have memberships for individuals or is it just for clubs or what?
LH – No, an individual can join but traditionally it’s usually clubs and that. We welcome dancers to join.
BB – OK.
CH – It’s through the affiliates, that’s how most of them join. Join the affiliates which are like EDSARDA, you know …
BB – Yes. OK. Well that’s ….we’re getting down near the end of this side of the tape so what do you predict is going to be the future of square dancing?
LH – Well, I’ll let my wife say something then I’ll say….I’ll probably contradict her but that’s the way we work. Connie and I, we work very well together to promote and preserve square dancing in our area and anywhere we get a chance to promote it, you know. We have different views on it. It doesn’t make it right or wrong and sometimes it makes for a healthy discussion, you know.
CH – Well, I think right now, unless we get the middle aged, 40’s and 50’s, we’re in trouble because, if we don’t get them …yeah, we’re getting some of the youth, the youth are there but after they go to college, etc. they’re married and that they drop … most of them have dropped out.
BB -Yes. Well, hopefully, after they get the family started, etc. maybe they’ll join again sometime but …
CH – That’s what we’re all hoping, you know, to get …a lot of them in our area have started family clubs. They seem to be doing very well as far as that …because of that, you know. That has worked out pretty good in our area but, you know, we’d still rather have those 40’s and 50 year olds otherwise we’re really …I mean the age group right now is, you know, 50’s and 60’s and up and, you know you have a few 50’s in that but you really need to get that population there or we’re going to be in trouble.
LH – The thing is that when … there’s a stigmatism that comes with square dancing. Some of it is from the dancers themselves and some of it …oh, I don’t want to wear all those frilly clothes. Well, the dress code has come down quite a bit where you don’t have to wear those dressy clothes any more. Men can wear a pair of chinos or a black pant. He can were a street shirt with a bolo and he can, you know, he can attend a dance with about $10 worth of bolos, you know and maybe a western belt and he’s good to go. (Len laughs) Now the same for the girls. They have some nice prairie skirts and they’re not that expensive. They come out of India, these nice skirts. They look like they’re all wrinkled. You pick them up for 10. 20 dollars, 30 dollars and you get a nice blouse with it and the girls have a nice ensemble for less that 40, 50 bucks and you don’t need the big petticoats under there. They don’t need the petty pants anymore. The shoes are very important. I think the shoes make you a better dancer. They make you dress a little better too and …but as far as the activity itself, I think we’re going to see its going to downsize. It already has. The size of the halls have been downsized. The sets that show up at a dance have downsized. But, to get people to dance, there has to be a whole new approach. I know at ARTS, were putting this program together, we want to put a web page and a video program together and there’s a price tag on it and we’ve been in discussion over it and we know we need outside professional help to do this. But the problem is, that’s only going to be one source of information for a person. When you’re promoting square or any activity, but we’re talking square dancing, you need TV, you need radio, you need newspaper and you need flyers all over the place. You need the whole four of them because not everybody watches TV, not everybody reads the paper and not everybody listens to the radio.
CH – Word of mouth….
LH – Word of mouth is still the best way with flyers, you know. But to me, my money is …if you’re going to spend it on anything, newspapers are very expensive. TV is outrageous. Radio is not cheap either but you’re going to get better value for your money on the radio because, when a person is listening on the radio, they’re listening to the radio and doing stuff. Their mind is on the radio because they can do dishes, they can do the wash. They can do anything they want while they’re listening and their mind is listening to that radio while they’re doing their chores. If you advertise on the radio …remember when we grew up, radio was our source of entertainment because no television. You know, they’d say, “Let’s listen to the ball game” and you’d say, “All right, who’s at bat, wow, look at that one go. My God, that ones going over the green sign. Look at that ball. I can’t even see it any more”. You can’t watch a ball game on TV and they say, “Yep, Jack’s up. He hit the ball. You can’t even watch it. There’s no excitement, there’s nothing. But radio makes the big difference. They talk to you and tell you all about it. Therefore, I figure you’re going to get a better advertisement out of the radio than any other of paying for that, you know. Now what does the average person do during the commercial? They go to the bathroom they go to the kitchen. They go everyplace but sit in front of the TV. They record the program and fast-forward the commercials so you’ve just wasted $10,000 on paid TV time because nobody’s seen it.
BB – Yeah right. Well, that’s interesting. That’s an interesting thought. Well look Len, I think we’re just about to the end of this tape. I don’t know, is there anything else you’d like to put on the tape for posterity?
CH – I don’t think square dancing will ever go out, and I say, you know, maybe in 5 or 10 years it will be on the upswing again as it … along the road, you know.
BB – OK. Have you any thoughts about competition in square dancing?
LH – You know, I’m glad you mentioned that because there’s a couple of things that just came up in the last six months. I believe Callerlab is going to promote square dance competition dancing in the high schools.
BB – Yes.
LH – They’re going to try to get that encouraged. Now, the Nationals don’t allow competition dancing and I said, “Well, what are you going to do at the Nationals?” He said, “We’re going to cross that bridge as we come”. They want more dancers and we want more dancers so they’re going to have to bend down and allow competition square dancing for the youth at the convention, you know, at the Nationals.
CN – The youth already have it.
LH – Now a caller approached me this past Sunday. In fact and we sat down …as a matter of fact we were at the Square Dance foundation of New England’s 35th Anniversary. That was a very nice program with callers and cuers, a lot of great refreshments and it was nice to see a lot of the people there, you know. Anyway, I’m not going to mention any names but he said…we talked for about a half an hour in a corner and he said, “You know what I want to do? I want to give like a $1000 prize to a…go to the high schools or colleges and have a dance-a-thon. The last couple standing would get $1000 but it’s all about square dancing. You bring in people who are not dancers, you know, the college kids and you teach them, you know, 4 or 5 basic steps so they can get started in the square and let them run for like 20 minutes with it, you know, nice music, get atmosphere and then expand it. Let them go again, raise the tempo of the music, get them going, get them excited. You have to remember now, there is no stopping. This is a dance-a-thon. From the time you start until the time you quit, that’s when it ends. The last couple standing will get the $1000. OK?”
BB – There you go.
LH – Well, where are you going to get the $1000. He says, “Well, we’ll do this. We’ll charge $10 a person to sign up” and I said, “Will you still get enough money?” and he said, “Well, we’ll have a cut off. We need X number of dancers signed up for this to take place. If we don’t reach it then everybody will get their money back. It won’t be a bad set up, you know”. So I said to him, “How are you going to make …what if you only get 2 or 3 couples”. “We’ll just keep going” he says (laughs). But it’s interesting because you just kind of keep…by the time that night is over you could teach them the whole set of lessons (laughs).
BB – Yes, that’s true.
LH – He said, “That might happen. They might just turn around and say, ‘That was a lot of fun’. We should go maybe square dancing”.
BB – Right. Well, that‘s interesting. Well, I know I just interviewed John Marshall who is the new President of Callerlab and we discussed a little bit about that but…well, instead of taking the time…I think we‘re pretty much wound down on what I wanted to cover about the United Square Dancers of America. and I want to thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me this evening and so, thank you very much Len and Connie and we’ll hope to be talking to you soon.
LH – It’s an honor and a privilege to have the chance to talk to you, Bob. This is really an honor for us to be able to get to talk to you like this. It doesn’t happen every day.
BB- Good. Thank you very much. So, we’ll call this…
(Tape clicks off – end of interview with Len and Connie Houle)