Lori Morin Interview
February 4, 2004
Bob Brundage – And this is Bob Brundage. Today is February 4th, 5th –
Lori Morin – 4th –
BB – 4th, 2004 and tonight we’re talking by long distance telephone to Lori Morin by in Rhode Island and looking forward to getting a nice tape of her experiences with her square dance world, putting up at the archives of the Square Dance Foundation of New England. So Lori, why don’t you tell me a little bit about where you were born and brought up. I know, in an email earlier or I guess by phone earlier you told me you were born in Connecticut in a town that I never even heard of and I lived there.
LM – I was born in Oneco, Oneco, Connecticut –
BB – How do you spell that?
LM – O, N, E, C, O.
Bb – Ah, that’s the way I spelled it. Well, I’ll be darned, I never heard of it. Where about’s is it, in the eastern
LM – It’s near the town of Sterling, Connecticut near Plainfield –
BB – Yeah, OK
LM – a little town, we only had like – I think there was only 8 of us in a grade – it was a little 3 room school house. It was nice growing up that way. I thought it was nice growing up that way anyway. Yeah, it was really something unique and like, as I mentioned to you earlier my whole life was square dancing. My mother and father were always square dancing. They went to the old barn dances we called them now – barn dance dancing and old time dances. I was a baby and they used to bring me and I had three brothers at the time and me and my ?? then – kids were – had to sit in the chair and be quiet – they couldn’t run around you know so we’d sit there and I was little so my mother used to lay me on a bunch of coats and I’d fall asleep usually on the stage in front of the fiddle player and they’d watch out for me while my mother and father were dancing. Then sometimes we’d have – my mother would – as a matter of fact she telling me that same – she’s in a convalescent home now – I was telling here what was going to happen tonight and she was telling me, oh she said, “Don’t forget to mention the kitchen dances we used to go to”. You know, the kitchen dances. So I said, “What, did you actually dance in the kitchen?” and she said, “Oh yes, we danced in the kitchen – sometimes we danced in the living room” she said, “ – but most of the time we it was in the kitchen. We’d move the kitchen table out of the way and we’d dance in the kitchen – they’d have a fiddle player and so they had a fiddle player and a caller. That was usually all they had.” That’s how they danced – she said, “They’d have probably about a square – maybe a little more than a square and they would put us kids – lay ‘em on the bed or lay ‘em on a couches in the other room you know so at that time we’d go lay down some place but they’d dance for –“ she said, “ we’d dance until twelve o’clock or after”.
BB – Right. Well then you learned a few instruments too I understand.
LM – Yes, yes. I started out on the ukulele when I was about 10 years old. I started on the ukulele and then I started on the banjo because that’s very similar. As I got a little bit bigger they put me on the bass violin that thumps back and forth with a couple of chords you know then they started me on the guitar.
BB – All right. Well, do you play at all now?
LM – Yep. As a matter of fact I was just getting warmed up for my weekend.
BB – Oh yeah. You don’t do like Dick Leger did and play while you call?
LM – I’ve have done a few of those, yes, I have. I don’t do it all the time but do do it you know for a special occasion when people think that I can’t do it I just take bring it out there and show them that I can do one at least – laughs – it’s usually one of Dick Leger’s songs that I can do well.
BB – OK. you said earlier that you always had to play in the key of C. Yeah
LM – Because my fingers couldn’t reach a lot of the chords because I was so little.
BB – I remember trying to play, even in banjo the key of D was always tough for me. So, now you can play in how many keys now?
LM – Oh, I can play them all now
BB – Ah, there you go –
LM – I just play them all.
BB – All right. So that pretty well covers your getting introduced to square dancing so how did you get involved in calling?
LM – Well actually – of course we belonged to the – when we first got married – Dave and I first got married back in ’66 – in ’69 or ’70 we started the modern square dancing with the Adam’s Apples in (??) – Milton Adams, do you remember him?
BB – No, I don’t remember him.
LM – Milt Adams, he was the caller and then that club folded up and we went with Wayne Morse and the Ruffles and Bows there and the Woodstock Country Dancers. Do you remember Wayne Morse?
BB – Yeah, I remember Wayne –
LM – Wayne, yes. Well OK, so Wayne was good friends with Dick Leger and Wayne Morse was running a live music so – not live music amateur callers night. So, he asked me if I would do something and you know because I was kind of bashful too at that time so I said, “Yes, I’ll see what I can do” so I decided that I’d play my guitar and Dave and I would call the square dance together and son played the spoons. We did one of Dick Leger’s songs then and, lo and behold who shows up but Dick and Sue that same night so he was pretty proud that I got up and did that song but how I really got into it was then we went down to Dick’s one night and he said he was going to have an amateur callers night but of course I only did that one time with Wayne Morse and kind of let it go at that you know – didn’t pursue it any further but then maybe about a year or so later Dick was having – he said to come down and do your song down here. Well, I didn’t do the same song I did another song and he let me do the amateur callers night there and I did a couple of songs and I did it pretty much well to timing so every week when we went down there he let me call a tip and I kept on going – not that I wanted to but he kept on making me do it so then I finally got interested in quite a bit so that’s how I got started.
BB – Well good, So, did you ever get to a caller’s school?
LM – Yes, yes. I went to Al and Earl’s Caller’s School – Al Brundage and Earl Johnston. I went to 2 of them and then I went to – that was up in Sturbridge and then I went to one out in Colorado to John (??), Tony Oxendine and Jerry Junck. Oh, and before I went to Dick’s Timing School. I went to Dick’s Timing School – that was down here in Rhode Island.
BB – All right. Well, then how did you get started with a square dance club of your own?
LM – Well I started right here in Chipatchet. I asked Dick what I should do you know. He said that if I could get a group of elderly people together – you can get either a group of young kids together or a group elderly people together and try that. I did – we have a Senior Center not even a quarter of a mile down the road. I put a sign on the bulletin board up there – “Anybody interested in square dancing give me a call”. Well that night I had everybody calling me so the following Sunday night I went up there and I taught them and I did that for a whole year and then we decided to start the Ruffles and Bows here in Chipatchet – the same group – we had about 30 people that one night that I started and they all joined my Ruffles and Bows and we had those 30 and 29 more so that was a good group.
BB – Sure. About when was that? About what year?
LM – That was in – well I started in ’88 and the club started the following year so that was probably ’89.
BB – Ruffles and Bows, eh?
LM – Ruffles and Bows, yep. I took the club from when we first started dancing with Wayne Morse but they were closed up and I asked Wayne if I could use his name again so he said, “Sure” so he was glad somebody would use it.
BB – Right. Well I know you were closely associated with Dick Leger so why don’t you tell a little bit about your experiences with him.
LM – Yeah, well Dick taught me everything I know about square – this kind of square dancing you know, he taught me the timing – both he and Sue they worked with me. I’d go down – when I first started I’d go down once a week and him and Sue would either play the piano or Sue would play the piano and Dick would play the guitar – get me started out on how to – get me started on the right beat, you know giving the dancer the right beat and not taking it for myself and that’s how I started there and Dick would – every record that I’d bring down Dick would time it out for me – he’d time it out and then I’d have to time the next record – I’d time it out and that’s how we got started. He also taught me how to cue the rounds too and do contras so –
BB – Well, that was one of my other questions I was going to ask you sometime if were ever gotten involved in round dancing or contra dancing. Tell me a little about that.
LM – Yes, I – matter of fact two weeks ago I had to do almost like a fun night at the Great Plains up in Needham and I had to call and cue the dance. So, I did mixers and rounds thanks to Dick so I learned (??) – laughs – they were mostly mixers though.
BB – Yes. Well, do you do your club there, the Ruffles and Bows do they round dance?
LM – Yeah, I teach then round dances but at the end of their season we go into round dancing –
BB – I see, but at your regular dance nights do they dance both?
LM – Right now what they are doing – my class is – we let them do – I’ll have like I’ll call a free dance and then put on like a waltz or something on or I’ll do a mixer and when I get to – say maybe in February or March I’ll start doing the rounds with them. I’ll do like Frency Brown or Ohio Two-Step or something like that.
BB – Yeah. Well, that’s interesting. How about the contras? Do you do contras at your own club?
LM – At the club. Yes, I do. Easy ones, yes. Easy contras.
BB – That’s a regular part of your program is what I’m getting at because that’s –
LM – I ever call the Virginia Reel –
BB – There you go. Both laugh
LM – O X O, they love that one. They love to do that.
BB – Which one?
LN – O X O
BB – Oh yeah, O X O, right. OK. Well, so I know you’re very active in – you’ve gone to quite a few festivals. I know you go to the New England Convention every year –
LM – I used to call the Connecticut all the time but they have it way down in the far end of Connecticut now so we don’t go down there as much but I do go to New England every year – I try to do that you know. I always consider it a sort of payback. The dancers who come to my dances I go and dance with them now and call for them so we have a good time.
BB – And then you’ve been going to Callerlab too for some time.
LM – Yes, unfortunately the last couple of years we haven’t been you know. I enjoy that. It’s sort of a shot in the arm – it gives us something to look forward to every year
BB – OK. Now, one of the things I want to hear more about is the weekends you put on. So tell me how you got started in that.
LM – Well, Dick Leger got me started on the weekends. His weekend that I’m doing now was his weekend. I was doing it with him probably six or seven years before he passed away. Then when he passed away I wasn’t going to do it anymore – I just didn’t think I could do it without him you know because he had so many people that went. All I had was my club that went you know so I didn’t know if I could do it or not so I said – his son tried and tried and tried to talk me into it and the more I thought about it and I said, “Well, let me give it a shot” so I did and lo and behold I had almost 100 there the first year. Quite a few came back from Dick’s weekend – they wanted to still keep coming and of course we were running Dick, myself and ?? were running it together the three of us at that time. Then when Dick died Sonya didn’t want to do it anymore so it was just me. So I asked Joe Casey if he’d like to run one with me and he just jumped at the chance. Between to two of us we kept our head above water and now it’s doing pretty good. Of course every year it’s a fight to see how many are going to get there because dancing is down so much right now. That’s the only one I do is that weekend.
BB – OK. Where is that located?
LM – That’s in Troy, New Hampshire, East Hill Farm
BB – East Hill Farm in Troy, New Hampshire. Well, I guess that East Hill is famous for a lot of weekends really.
LM – Oh yeah, and like I said it was going down though. There are not that many square dances held up there.
BB – Oh, is that right? I know it used to be busy all –
LM – Yeah, every week there was square dancing but it’s getting into a family function now
BB – Right. Going back a little bit Lori anybody except Dick Leger that was – you would call sort of a mentor.
LM – In the traditional dancing Eddie Duhammel – do you remember Eddie Duhammel?
BB – Yeah, I remember – I never knew him very well – I knew him-
LM – Yeah, as a matter of fact maybe I even mentioned it on my note I wrote to you – Eddie Duhammel used to call up in ?? Connecticut and that’s where we used to go dancing all the time when I was a kid or as I grew up you know probably started going when I was eight or nine years old and of course when you’re a kid you can memorize anything. I memorized all the square dances – I knew them all by heart. It didn’t take much to jog my memory when I started going back to the traditional dances then – as a matter of fact when I go down to Bob (Livingston) every once in a while a dance will come up and I’ll call it the way Eddie used to and he’d be so surprised at how it goes because he doesn’t do it that way – laughs
BB – Right, right. Well –
LM – He was kind of a mentor and then – I don’t know if you ever heard of them Roger ?? –
BB – What’s the last name?
LM – Leathers, Leathers.
BB – Leathers. I don’t think so.
LM – He was pretty big down In ?? Valley and we used to go down there a lot dancing when I was a kid. That was traditional dancing you know. To me, to me that was square dancing. I enjoyed that a lot and I still enjoy it a lot. It wouldn’t take much for me to turn my whole club back into one like that.
BB – Well, I think you should, really from the way things are going it might be a good idea.
LM – Well. that is pretty much my main thought right now because nobody wants – this year we advertised and advertised and we probably wouldn’t even get one phone call you know. There are too many people busy with other things to do. The thought is, this year is to – or in the near future I think is to just run a traditional square dance fun night – whatever – you know with traditional and maybe even modern square dance put in – something that you can teach very easily and let them dance to. That’s my thought. That’s what I intend to do anyway.
BB – OK. Well, that fringes on another question I was going to ask you and that is, “What are your plans for the future?” So, if that’s what you’re thinking about I certainly encourage you to do that.
LM – Yeah, well you know there’s a couple of callers in the area that are thinking the same thoughts. Every time I mention it to them they say, “You know, I’m thinking more and more about that if I’m going to keep calling” they’ll say, “I’m going to think more on doing the fun night type thing or the traditional square dancing”. Because Bob, like Bob Livingston down there can call a whole night and not worry about, “OK, I gotta worry about these people coming to class the next night – if I’m going to have them there – if I’m not going to have them there and they all seem to come back again because they know what’s going to happen the next time – they don’t have to worry about a lesson and that’s what I think it’s coming to because, like my kids – I asked them, “ Could you commit, could you commit to every night, one night a week of classes?” And they couldn’t because of their kids. There’s too much going on in their lives. So if my kids are that way I’m sure there’s quite a few families that way.
BB – Well. One of the questions I’ve asked many of the people I’ve talked with – do you have any regrets? Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your past experience?
LM – About square dancing? Laughs
LM – No. You know, I’ve enjoyed the whole thing. I’ve enjoyed the whole square dancing thing. I’ve enjoyed the people – met a lot of nice people – met a lot, a lot of really nice people. One person didn’t mention to you that helped me out a lot was Al Roberts. He taught me mental image which I use a lot. He helped me out a lot too but we met a lot of nice people and no, I wouldn’t change it. I enjoy it a lot. I enjoyed it a lot.
BB – Right. Well, so I think – I think maybe we’ve got everything down that we wanted to. Do you think of anything else you’d like to talk about?
LM – Let’s see. We’ve talked about the New England Convention –
BB – Oh, one of the things that –
LM – Oh, I know. I made five different records.
BB – You made what?
LM – I recorded five different records.
BB – Five different records OK. I didn’t realize that so tell me about that.
LM – Yes, I recorded them on Silver Sounds. Let’s see, I started – I did my first one in ’93 and then I just did – let’s see – 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5 – five after that, yeah. Dick encouraged me on those because – – One thing, one thing I’d like to have done is do a record sometime so he told me what to do you know, who to call – I tried Jack O’Leary and I did – I called Jack O’Leary and that’s an experience in itself of going down there and I’m sure you know to call a record in a very sterile place, you know – laughs – just a microphone looking at you and nothing else. It was a very good experience. I enjoyed it but I haven’t made any more because you know, I just can’t see the point of it right now.
BB – Sure. Well, one of the other things I realized I hadn’t asked you about yet is you’re one of the few people in the square dance world who yodel. Both laugh – I bet you get requests for that all the time, right?
LM – Yes, I do –
BB – You probably have to yodel at least once a night?
LM – Oh yes. But probably a couple a night while it started again – of course you knew I had the operation – I had an operation there and couldn’t yodel for a while there – just starting to get back into it again – just the other night at the Great Plains they were all so happy that I could yodel again. Both laugh – Yeah, I enjoyed that. Another thing that’s really good is that there are not that many lady callers you know and, as a matter of fact I’m the only one that’s active in Rhode Island as far as I know. Pat Juaire used to be and she doesn’t do it anymore and that’s it there’s no other ones that I know of – you know of the modern western square dancers who – square dance callers – quite a good recognition down here as far as newspapers and stuff like that along the way – when I call a square dance they’re pretty much there.
BB – Right. Well, I remember the first time I ever ran into a yodeling caller was way back in – oh, the 4th National Convention in San Diego – that goes way back in the early 50’s – a fellow named of Buzz Brown and boy, he – laughs – they wouldn’t let him call anything else until he put on his yodeling thing you know. He was a handsome young kid –
LM – That’s the thing of it when I go to the New England Convention I bring a couple of other records that I want to do and – “Oh, you’re going to yodel – you’re not doing the same ones over again”. Last year because I ran – I was running into problems because I starting with the thing with the operation and I couldn’t breath – I couldn’t talk never mind breath and yet they wanted me to yodel and I just about made it through that convention..
BB – Do you use any particular records or can you do that do almost any of them
LM – No, I use particular records. I have a couple of them that I really like to use you know like, “Are You Teasing Me” and things like that ?? and stuff like that.
BB – You probably change the figure.
LM – Oh, always. Always change the figure. You know, in fact at my own club I go through the thing – that’s probably what I wanted to mention that at my own club I go through the same figure all four times, you know.
BB – Do you really? Well, you’re one of the few –
LM – I don’t change it because they know they’re going to do it and they cut up and have a good time if they want to if they know what the figure is going to be. If I go out I might do the figure two different times – I won’t change it any more than that. I won’t change all four – four times I won’t change it you know I pretty much stick to the things – and I’ve gotten compliments on that several rimes and they say, “Now we know we can relax with you”. That makes me feel pretty good – it’s a compliment or what it is but it makes me feel good anyway.
BB – Right, right. Well, what’s your impression of where you think modern western is headed for.
LM – I think we both know where that’s heading right now – I think it’s got to go back to the beginning. It’s got to go back to the beginning. It can’t go anywhere else because the dancers aren’t going to let it go anywhere else. It’s like what’s happening – we’ve got a Spring Fling coming up and we’ve got quite a few new dancers this year – they don’t want the new dancers dancing with them. They want to dance Plus. So, they want the new dancers who I would like to keep out front they want them in the back of the hall someplace. How can you have this happening if you’re going to put them – after you get them throw them away someplace you know. I think it’s got to go all the way to the bottom then turn around and come back up again. That’s my thought and that’s what Dick told me he thought too.
BB – Well, my impression it will probably be Advanced and Challenge clubs that will continue on and on for a while – they’ll gradually get smaller and they’ll finally wind up to be a cellar group. Then some day they’re going to find out they only have three couples left and they can’t do it anymore.
LM – That’s right. That’s right
BB – I really think that eventually we’re going to have to get back to some kind of a community dance type program where people can walk in once a month if they want to and still dance.
LM – That’s what I liked about Callerlab. They brought that Community Dance Program out again, you know. They did it and they should keep it out so people can see what can be done to make these people have fun and they don’t need to have a lot of lessons.
BB – Of course the problem is that 99% of the Callerlab members believe in it. Laughs
LM – Oh yeah – and here in the state we can see it happening – I don’t know why they don’t see it happening.
BB – But the of course the other thing is – I’ve heard expressed before is that a good percentage of modern western callers today couldn’t even call a CDP – a community dance type program. Laughs
LM – Oh, I know it. Right here in Rhode Island they have called me up and asked me if they can use some of my Mainstream, Mainstream and Basic figures to do a dance. How do you teach if you can’t – laughs
BB – Yep. Alright. Well, look, I think we’re pretty well finished for the evening. I appreciate your taking the time to talk with us. I’ll get this transcribed and get it off to you. So, why don’t we call it an evening and hang on just a second while I –
Additional commentary –
BB – Following the preceding taping Lori and I chatted for several minutes and Lori wanted me to be sure and offer her most heart felt gratitude to her husband, Dave for tolerating her ambitions in the square dance world. Dave has to put up with all the problems that any caller’s spouse has to endure. So, I want to be sure and get that on the tape.