July 1, 1997
Bob Brundage: Well, hi, again, it’s Bob Brundage, and today is July 1, 1997, and I’ve traveled today up to College Station, Texas, where we’re talking to Nita Smith. Nita has been a resident here for all her life just about, and so we’re here to talk about Manning and Nita. They are members of the Sets in Order Square Dance Hall of Fame. Manning also received the Milestone Award from Callerlab. Manning and Nita also received the Silver Halo Award from Roundalab, and many other awards and so forth, and that’s what we’re here to find out. So, Nita, why don’t you tell us, first of all, where were you born and brought up?
Nita Smith: I’m a native Texan. I was reared in Kimball County Texas, I’m from a family of ranchers and farmers, and actually, I was born on the same piece of property that my Great Grandfather settled on when he came to Texas in 1883. I didn’t know that until I was 50 years old, but I’m proud of it.
BB: Right. Didn’t you say that Texas was just a republic then? Or
NS: Well, now I’m not that old. That was my Grand, Great
BB: No, I mean your grandparents.
NS: That was Manning’s grandparents, Manning’s great grandparents.
BB: I see, okay.
NS: But, no I hadn’t been out of the State, of Kimball County until I went to college really. I went to school in Junction, and actually, I lived out on a ranch until I was 6 years old, and believe it or not, those (?) that know me, I was so scared of people and of children that I cried because I had to go play with those awful old kids. It didn’t take me long to outgrow that. But I went to school, Mother and Dad had to leave the ranch for 5 years in order to send me to school in town, and my Dad leased the ranch for that short time, and then he went back, and we went in summer and stayed all summer at the ranch. But I lived in my Grandmother’s home for the 11 years in school. We didn’t have 12 grades then. And I grew up dancing because my Mother and Daddy loved to dance. And before I went to school, I can still remember my Mother and Dad putting records on the old Victrola and teaching me how to do Cotton Eye Joe, the style that we did it, and how to waltz. My Daddy would pull me out and teach me how to waltz, and I didn’t think that, I didn’t know I was a little girl, I thought I was a big girl just like they was. But that was my beginning of dancing.
BB: Okay, now let’s get back to Manning now. You probably know his background as a boy before square dancing. Where was he born and brought up?
NS: Manning was brought up in Belton, that is in Bell County in the central part of the state. And of course, it was not necessarily a dancing family. His dancing came after he got into college actually. He was an athlete, and he was an athlete all of his life, and he played everything that there was to play through grammar school, middle school, high school, and college. So, he didn’t have time for much of anything while he was growing up because he played football.
BB: So how did you happen to get together now?
NS: We got together through friends. By this time, I had gotten a degree from the University of Texas and was teaching at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio. Manning had moved from Belton to Shreveport, Louisiana, with his family, and he went to school in Shreveport, and to college. He was an outstanding athlete all through college, playing basketball, baseball, football, and on the state teams of all of this stuff And it wasn’t any surprise that he was a little All American at that time. They didn’t have them, all Americans weren’t then like they are now. But his coach, when he graduated from college, I might add that Manning was an all around person when he was in school. I have his year book to prove it. He was president of his senior class, he was president of his KA fraternity. He made A’s, he had an excellent record in school. He was, and he just took part in everything there was to take part in. When the coach took a job at Texas A&M, the year that Manning was a senior at Centenary, he asked Manning to come to A&M with him. And, as you well know, A&M at that time, especially, was an agricultural school as well as an engineering school. And naturally, because I live in a ranching country, all the young men, an awful lot of the young men, came to College Station to school. And this one particular weekend, they were having a big dance. Back in these days we had those, the wonderful music of the band era, and A&M had those kind of bands in for a lot of important weekends. And at that time, the boys in my community that were coming down, they said we think we just about picked out a husband for you. Because after all I was 22 years old, and that was practically an old maid in that day. And they said we’ve picked out your husband for you. One of these days we’ll see if we can’t get him over to meet you, The girls and their mothers, as well as the students, would come on the weekend, and they would, and the boys in dormitories, at least one dormitory, would be vacated and the mothers and the girls all stayed in the dormitory, At that time, all of us wore long dresses, We always went formal, and it was a big exciting thing to come to A&M, because there was always plenty of dates, Remember, there was no girls at A&M at that time.
BB: Oh yes, that’s right.
NS: And I would say that maybe we, maybe there was like 7,000 to 9,000 students, that’s all there was, Well, needless to say, the time did come, even though I came down was the Duchess at the Cotton Pageant 1 year, and Manning says that he met me there, but I don’t remember that. But I do remember that this one particular weekend, they said, well Manning Smith is here, and we want you to meet him. Well, we were at the dance, and they brought Manning around, and we danced together one time, and as I said, there were lots of boys without dates, they were always anxious to dance with the girls that were there, so you didn’t get to dance with anybody very long, very popular. Everybody was, And Manning and I danced together, and it was just, just terrific. So he stayed hot on my trail, and I danced most of the evening with him despite the fact that I did have a date there. That’s the way we met, was on the dance floor.
BB: All right. So what was Manning’s experience. Was he teaching square dancing by then?
NS: Oh no, no. We had, we married in 1939, and it was at least, I would say another, at least 5 years before we got interested. I’m sorry I can’t tell you the exact date.
BB: That’s all right.
NS: But [ do know this, that the Governor of Texas at that time, was Governor Stevenson, who, incidentally, whose wife had served at my reception, my wedding reception. My Daddy had borrowed money from his bank all these years, and it was sort of a family affair, and as a result, we all had invitations to all the balls over in Austin. And Manning and I said, well, we might never get this kind of a chance again, and our children were very small. We took them out to Junction and left them with Mother. And that’s the reason I’m not sure, I can guess at the date. But, instead of going to shake hands with the Governor, we found out that they were square dancing over in another place, and the, on the campus, and so we dashed over there and just never left. Never left the whole evening. Herb Gregerson and his Blue Bonny Dancers were there performing. The one thing that stayed in my mind all these years was the fact that here was Grandma, here was Grandpa, the little children, and the mothers and dads all dancing in the same square. It was, and I have my degree in recreation, and so that just really hit me immediately. That here was something that I wanted to do. So we, that’s the way we got started, and came home to see what, who we could find that was, that could teach us the dancing. And there was a gentleman here who had come from Arizona, and he knew enough to get us started. And, of course, Manning, before we had, we started the whole, whole movement in our town in our living room. And we had four couples of us, just having a ball, ended up with like maybe three or four squares. But of that original group, all of them learned how to call. Manning learned before he knew how to dance, really. He was just fascinated with the calling. And that was, let’s see, 19, my little girl was born in 1945, so this is between ’45 and ’50.
BB: All right. Okay. WeIl, then, this was, let’s see, that was before round dancing as we know it today.
NS: Oh, yes. Manning and I immediately hit the trail over to Austin, because we understood in Austin that the recreation department was doing some work in this, and we, of course, then went to Houston to the first festival we could go to, and found that everybody that was doing square dancing, just about, was also doing couple dancing, was what we called it. And that would only be what we know as Cotton Eye Joe, which is the line dance, would you believe. And we did Shoddy Shoes, and we did polkas. We did (?), and we did polkas. No, no, not in the beginning. Not here, not here. But Manning never taught square dancing, and then later, round dancing. It was all taught at the same time.
BB: Yea, yea right, at once.
NS: And most all of the callers were also round dance teachers. We would go to Houston, I say Houston because that’s our area, and Roger Knapp was one of the early, early, round dance teachers and callers in our state, from Corpus Christi, and we always had some kind of a little round dance to teach as well as teaching square dancing. So we learned the two together, and we never separated them in our minds.
BB: Right. So, when did you start concentrating on, or when did the round dances as we know it today get started.
NS: Well, just sort of crept in little by little. Of course, as we went, after we went to Shaw’s, we started going to Shaw’s then, about the time that, well when we were just doing the simpler things. Then we went to Shaw’s year after year, and Shaw introduced us to
BB: Yea, I think you said you started there, about what, ’48, ’49.
NS: Uh huh, somewhere right along in there, and you see, we immediately learned all of the kinds of round dancing he did, and they were not easy. They were difficult. And we had to, lots of times we couldn’t take him off of the instruction sheet, and so it didn’t take Manning long to get him, well, we had a movie camera, and we’d take it, and whatever teacher was teaching those dances, we’d get them later to perform for us, and that way when we got home, we, we really could learn authentically how to do that dance. But that’s where, but that was the beginning of the harder dances. And I don’t want to even record how many times we tried to teach it to people that didn’t know a thing in the world about it. But you couldn’t blame the teachers, the people, if the teachers didn’t know any better, you couldn’t expect the dancers to. But it’s interesting they put up with all the bad stuff they had. The bad procedures that all of us used because they were all loving square dancing. But never in, actually we didn’t get into heavy round dancing until we started moving out of our area. We went to Oklahoma. That was the first place that invited us to come and perform, and to call and teach. And, like I said, when you ask a caller to call, he automatically, in most cases, also did a round dance. And so then somebody from Kansas saw us in Oklahoma and said would you come to Kansas and dance and teach. And that’s the way that we began, and like I said, there was always a group of people, after the dance or sometime, that said, hey, do you know such and such a dance? Could you teach it to us? And that’s the way the heavier dancers usually would come in the motel room or somebody’s house, after hours, or Sunday, or sometime, that’s where we would do the round dancing, the heavier round dancing. It was a good while before we really, actually, I would say, not until we got into institute work that we got into the heavier rounds. And Manning was very particular about the music. If they didn’t, if it wasn’t a toe-tapping piece of music, he didn’t want any part of it. And we had trouble finding music a lot, because that was before we had Grand and before we had all these other producers of good music.
BB: Yea, square dance record companies, right. Yea. I just happened to think on the way by, before we get too far away from the beginning of round dancing, did you do any international folk dances in this area at that time. I am only relating this because in Connecticut, back before round dancing, per se, became popular, we were doing international folk dances.
NS: This area was not introduced because we didn’t know enough about it. Now I’d had all the kinds of folk dancing through my recreation degree, but not to that extent that I had the music. It was all strictly PE type things. There was a lady and a man, they were named Holck in Austin who was with the recreation department. And they did teach some of the folk dance. And, but it was not in the, not as far as I was concerned, outside of that area, that little area over in Austin, that it ever went any farther. The folk dancing that we have done in Texas started, like I said, when I was able to walk, I was able to dance, and you could go to a public dance. Most of the public dances in the country, especially, were fiddle bands. And they could do the dances that we mentioned, the Cotton Eye Joe, the Shottish, and the Put Your Little Foot, and a waltz, and let me tell you, they wouldn’t hire them in my part of the country if they couldn’t do that. Because they would throw those in and everybody got up and did these dances. And we said all along, we called it Texas folk dance, because it was the dance of the people, it wasn’t a teacher standing up there teaching them. They had learned from their Mama and Papa a long time ago, you know.
BB: Yea, I hear you.
NS: And it was really strange as I got older, especially when I got back from college, that I heard them say well, we didn’t get such and such a band because they can’t Shottish, they can’t do any of the folk dances. So that was the beginnings right there of it, but I can only talk about my own area, you see. Down in Houston, the recreation, anywhere there was a city, you had a different set-up than you had in little country towns like I grew up in.
BB: Well, then you wound up settling in College Station, primarily because of Manning’s job here, and those were
NS: And never have left.
BB: Yea. Well, Texas A&M
NS: That was 1939, and this is 1997. What, 54 years.
BB: Yea. So Texas A&M was a big football school in those days.
NS: Oh, yea. The year that Manning and I married was the year that Texas A&M had their number one team of the nation. So we had a honeymoon for a full year. Then the coach, being a favorite of the coach, Manning was assistant coach, of course, he was a quarterback, and so he was teaching quarterbacks. He did punting, the specialty items (banging) – that’s a bird. They think that is real up there and they try to peck through that glass. And so that’s when we really settled down to a lot of coaching was when that number one team in the nation turned up, and then he stayed there for about 15 years.
BB: I was going to say that’s quite a long career that he had, really.
NS: Then we came back, you see, after we retired from square dancing professionally. The college grabbed Manning and said you’re going to teach over here, and we came back, and he taught students at A&M until he got sick. He had, his classes would fill up, he would say we’re going to sign up classes at 8 o’clock on Tuesday, by 9:30, the classes would be full. He was very, very well accepted.
NS: Well, I’m sure you’ll go along with the thought that everybody else that I’ve interviewed that are in Hall of Fame and Milestone. They feel that you were in the right place at the right time as far square and round dancing is concerned.
NS: That’s exactly right.
BB: Well, I know that you had a very extensive career. Would you tell us about some of the institutes that you did. Where they were and who worked with and that kind
NS: Well, of course, we feel like we were most fortunate to have had 8 years with Lloyd Shaw. And that was our beginnings, and we followed his theories all the way through, and by that time, of course, we were traveling, going to state festivals every where. And we realized that we were running into places where they needed leadership very badly. And we started our own institute, and I felt like, gee this is, this is kind of ambitious for us to do this, but we started here because we had a very nice facility on the Indian campus, and that made it very nice for us. Right from the very first, we stressed dance basics, teaching techniques, and of course there was a lot of calling, square dance calling at that time. But, mostly it was in rounds. And then A&M closed the building that we were using, and we moved to Oklahoma, and it was at this point that we were up at Oklahoma A&M, and they had built a beautiful new facility up there, and it was just fabulous. And then our institute really grew because it was in the center of the United States. They didn’t have to come down into Texas. Even so, by that time, we were having, believe it or not, 15 to 20 different states represented through the leadership, and our whole theory was lectures and teaching techniques, and we started everything with a lecture so people could ask about what they wanted, and they outlined the program themselves as to what we were going to use all week. And every afternoon, Manning gave a program on how to start a beginning class. So, in between, they got whatever they asked for, if it was Latin, they got it because we had Ben Heiberger who was a ballroom teacher, and, you know the rhythms are just so exciting in the Latin, and so Ben came and gave them the basics. We didn’t have round dances at that time. But they were beginning to come. So he, we’d teach whatever we had, but most the time it was just teaching them basic steps on how to do things. Saying that this is coming, you might as well get your feet wet and learn. And so by the time, and we lots and lots of repeats. An average of about 50 people, I mean 50 couples, 100 people. And we stressed very heavily the fact that there was just a certain amount of time that these men could teach, but that there was teaches on that floor, 50 teaches, all of whom had had problems that will be similar to yours Please get acquainted, and by getting them to do this, they learned so much from each other. You know yourself, you’re not the only one that has trouble teaching a two-step turn, you know. And so, those were the outstanding things. Then after that, then, I can’t, I don’t remember all the dates. I’m 80 now, that’s my excuse. But we loved going to Asilomar, with Bob Osgood and all the wonderful people we worked with, and as everybody knows, you always learn more than you teach. And then we had, we were also very, very happy to have gone to, gone with Al Brundage and Ed Gilmore to the United Squares, which was in Wisconsin.
BB: Right. Yea, and that went on several years.
NS: Then later on, yes, and we have, we had just terrific people. Then later we went with Frank Lane and Flippo, to the one in, oh my goodness, Kirkwood Lodge.
BB: Oh yes, okay.
NS: To Kirkwood Lodge. That we went to 12 years. Every, nearly everyone, and then, I’m leaving out one that was very important to Manning and I that we loved with all our hearts, and that was the group that we had in Banff, Canada.
BB:Oh yes, okay.
NS: We met and danced in the school, the college there. Banff School of Fine Arts, and it was wonderful to dance on beautiful floors and then walk out into that cool air and look at Lake Louise, you know. It was very exciting. We had callers and teachers and we never had less than, I, I can’t, no, I’m afraid to say how many squares, but we never had an opening. And there was not anybody in the group, any callers that were there, that didn’t also want to round dance. And so when you saw our floors, you saw round dancers and square dancers all the time. How they could dance like that for a solid week I do not know. But we did, and it was strictly a callers institute, and a callers and leaders institute, and Ed Gilmore was the original, was the originator of it, and then Manning took over and directed it until, really until Manning began to go down. I’m afraid to tell you how many years we taught up there, but it was, our institutes were very meaningful to us.
BB: Right. And when did you get into, first get into New England?
NS: Oh, that was way back there. We never quit learning. Manning and I knew there was always so many things we wanted to do, and we knew about New England dancing, and we knew that we needed to go. So, when Boston had their
NS: That was probably one of our first times to go in the Atlan
BB: Do you remember when that was?
NS: Yea, the Atlantic, the Atlantic Convention. They put us on their staff.
NS: Well, it was in Boston a couple of years, and then it went to Worcester 1 year, and it went up into Canada 1 year, but
NS: But then the time at Boston was the one I was telling you about earlier where I couldn’t stay in the dance hall because I wanted to see what all of the beautiful costumes of New England dance was all about and loved every minute of it. And then we went with AI Brundage, who took us into the area, and we really learned how to contra dance through our training. But the one incident that I have to tell because it was, I was saying we loved to go because we learned all week every place. Manning would never call exactly the tempo that the New England dancers would dance. And when he said Allemande Left and a Right and Left Grand, and twirl your lady, he didn’t always do eight counts, but the dancers would, and it was so interesting
(End of side one)
BB: In mid-sentence there, but you were talking about the big convention in Boston which was certainly the biggest thing for our area at the time. You told me earlier an interesting story about Duke Miller. Do you want to repeat that?
NS: Well, you mean you want me to tell what happened?
BB: Sure, yea.
NS: Well, as I said, of course, I repeat my background in college and it was recreation, and I was always looking for anything that was new to me, and I wanted to see the contra dance in the contra hall, and I stuck my head in, and incidentally, I had on a black squaw dress. At that time, we were wearing more squaw dress dresses in our part of the world than they were the early American dance clothes that we wore later.
But I must have looked very conspicuous with all these long beautiful dresses that the rest of the people had on. Well, Mr. Miller, Duke Miller was so big that you call him Mister because he was a huge man, and he saw me, and he came and said, come on and be my partner. And so, I got up and got in with him and, of course, he made me look very good. Of course, he was an excellent dancer. And I was just excited to dance, that I’d gotten to do contra with contra people.
BB: And the caller was Ralph Page.
NS: The caller was Ralph Page, and of course, he was the king of the road. So when we got through, he said, well everybody did pretty good that time. Just did pretty good, even that girl from Texas. And I just wilted and wanted to just fall right through the floor because I, but I was not surprised when I stopped to think that I certainly stood out like a sore thumb in a black squaw dress.
BB: Right. Well that was Ralph Page and that’s the typical comment from Ralph.
NS: But then I did get to go to the podium and meet him, and that was a big thrill for me.
BB: Right. Well, over the years, Nita, one of the popular, one, no, one of the popular accouterments to square dancing was Nita’s petticoats. So, you’ve got to tell us about the petticoat business. How did you get started, and so forth.
NS: That started because, well, we had gotten sort of away from the squaw dress. I think we all that, all of those of us who, that went to Shaw’s picked up the squaw dresses because that was what was in the area at the time. By this time, I had learned that I didn’t want to wear squaw dresses, I wanted to wear something much more like what we wear today. And with that, we needed little petticoats. And I went to Dallas to see Mildred Smith, Raymond Smith’s wife, who was making petticoats, or having them made and asked her if I could sell them. I said people are just most anxious to have petticoats, and I had bought my first ones from Mildred. She says, well I just can’t do it, she said I’m, they’re making all that I can sell. Well, I’m not kidding you, I’ve had people in the East, especially, come up and practically take my little pantalets off of me because they wanted to know how they were made, and where did the petticoat come from, and can I buy one. And that’s what caused it, there was a demand for the article. So, I went into it, and, of course, immediately started selling. But, I’ve always loved to sew. My Mother always sewed, and I started my business because we could not get the things from Mildred, and I actually established the little country look. The minute that I went into my business, I did the country dresses, and did very well with them.
BB: Right. Well, I know you had the inside cover of Sets in Order magazine for a long time, a full page ad every month.
NS: I couldn’t believe that we sold petticoats to New Zealand, of course Canada, to New Zealand, to Germany, anywhere there was a military base, the petticoats begin to, they begin to ask for petticoats., So New Zealand bought them by the, just
BB: Bushel? (laughter)
NS: Oh, yea, they really did. And it was amazing. 1 never dreamed that I would have quite a little business on my hands.
BB: Right. Which brings up another thing. Did you do any traveling out of the country? I know you did.
NS: We got to go to Europe, and we were so thrilled. We went two different times to Europe. It was quite an experience; the dancing was much better than you would have expected. As I said, we were there with the military, and the people that were in charge of, there was, who brought us into Europe in the first place, were callers and teachers who lived in the United States who were wanting help. So we did practically the same things we did at our institutes. We taught the basic work and left all the new material that we could possibly find and left the more popular dance material that they would ask for. And it was an exciting experience.
BB: Okay. Were you part of the beginning of Roundalab?
NS: I sat in on, I don’t know how many years that Bob Osgood talked about round dancing, I, Did you say Roundalab or Callerlab?
BB: No, Roundalab.
NS: Well, I was going to say I’ve been in on all the rounds, all of the discussion on Callerlab.
BB: Right, okay, that’s good.
NS: Because all of the, so many of the early callers were working at Asilomar, and I think that was one thing that we loved just dearly about the place because we were thrown with such fine callers. And you know, not many, not all the round dancers ever had that opportunity to have been thrown with the callers. Well, they sessions and invariably those sessions before the foundation of the forming of Callerlab, invariably they’d get back on that subject, and so we were both in on the very beginnings of that. Now Roundalab, yes, we also were at the formation meetings of Roundalab. We only, the only thing that Roundalab ever did that was, that we were saddened about was that they didn’t, in the very beginning they didn’t stay with the very, very basic things that they now have developed beautifully. But we needed it at the very beginning to help the callers, and as I said, they finally, they eventually got to it. They had to learn just like all the rest of us how, what was best for the people. But now then, they’re doing a fine job.
BB: Well, they sort of evolved into the International Ballroom style more than just the old country style.
NS: But, they, the thing about is that they did start, they do have some beginning, a beginning program.
BB: Yes, right, that’s true, yea.
NS: As I said, as you’ve heard me say over and over again, we always liked to keep the two together. On today’s market, it is almost impossible to keep them together, because you’d have to teach too many lessons.
BB: Yea, right. Looking through some of the dances you recorded and became popular, some of them are classics today, Mr. Guitar.
BB: Yes, and Mineta Waltz. Oh, I see Tango Manita is not here, but that should be.
NS: Yea, it should be on there. In fact, I would say Tango Manita is the one that has stayed, because, you know why? It is the basic steps of tango. If you learn Tango Manita, you’ve had the first lesson in tango, and of course, a little beyond that. But anything that is that basic will last.
NS: Sure, right. So, we’ve got Beautiful Girls of Vienna, Suzy Mixer, and A Charidy Waltz.
NS: Now there was a Manning’s Mixer that is not on there that we used a lot.
BB:Yea. They still use that record.
NS: And, then, Hey Mr. Guitar, I believe, I’m trying to think which one it was that we taught up there in New England, in Boston. Whatever it was, by the end of the day, every hall was playing the record. And, I’m so sorry, but I guess it was Hey Mr. Guitar, because it was an awful good piece of music.
BB: And what was the piece that you and Manning loved to do as an exhibition?
NS: Rosie O’Grady.
BB: Rosie O’Grady, right.
NS: Didn’t make any difference what, how hard we worked to get some beautiful exhibition things ready. They would watch them, and then they just couldn’t wait until we say, now, now, now, you know, now. And we loved it.
BB: Well, I don’t know, you may not remember, but I really owe you an apology in a way.
NS: What for?
BB: At one of the festivals, I think it was in Worcester, Massachusetts, or it could have been at the Boston Festival. You were asked to do Rose O’Grady. And I was using a caliphone amplifier, it must have been somewhere beside the Atlantic Convention. Now this is a dance where my amplifier was being used, and it was a caliphone. And a caliphone only adjusts 10% above normal speed. And Manning said, now, when we get part way through, I’ll like this by turning the fingers typical universal speed-up signal, and I want you to speed it up. So, he gave me the signal, and I speeded it up about half as much as it would go, and he kept turning around and he’d give me the signal again, I’d turn it all the way up as fast as it would go, and he’s standing there, come on, faster, faster, and I couldn’t, it wouldn’t go any faster. And, probably as far as you were concerned, it probably, it lost some of the enthusiasm of the dance.
NS: Oh, not really, not really. There are so many things that happened to us on Rosie O’Grady, that I think, we would have been able to dance through it under any circumstances.
BB: I’m sure, right.
NS: I know one place that we went at a festival, we were teaching in another hall, and they decided they wanted us to do Rosie O’Grady in a round dance, in a square dance hall, and they made us run all the way from that round dance hall over to the square dance hall, and before we could get there, the man had already put the record on, and we had to pick up where he had it.
BB: Wherever it was.
NS: And, I said that one was the worse. And we got through it all right. So we said, after that many times.
BB: Well, let’s talk about a little more serious things. Is there anything in your career that you would change if you could, anything you regret?
NS: Isn’t it terrible to say no? I really don’t ever remember
BB: No, no, that’s great.
NS: I, there was, I’m sure there were some things, but they weren’t very important, because I can’t remember them.
BB: Right. I know you’ve been, not been active for several years now, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you think about where square and round dancing has been and where you think it might be going. Do you have any idea?
NS: I don’t expect round dancing and square dancing to ever die, I think we have established it to the point that we’ll have square and round dancing. I think it is now being taught in colleges. I know the high schools are using it. They’re getting other people to come in and teach in a lot of places. And I don’t believe that it will ever leave us anymore. I think we’re going to have a program. I can’t say that, I don’t know what will happen in round dancing. If you look back through history, there’s always been an advanced ballroom program. I don’t know that there’s ever been a program anything like this round dancing that has gone from a little, what I call country folk dance into ballroom. That might change. The growth might change and be different, mainly because we have teachers that are much better equipped today than we had then. Most of us just danced because we loved it and did the best we could. Now we have people that really know, and as I said, the colleges are going to take advantage of this, these materials. Now there is no other program that I ever knew that could do in recreation for the people that this dance movement can, especially square dancing. And this is why because it is such fine recreation I think it’ll be here, I think it’s here to stay. I will not say that it, I think it will come, rise and fall, just like it’s doing now. But at my, all I can tell you right here at Texas A&M that it is hard to get a square dance group started because of the students, because they have so many activities. But they love it. And you can get them to dance it and enjoy it. So I feel like that tells me that they will come back to it.
BB: Yea. Okay. Well, do you feel that round dancing, which is your specialty has gotten a little too complicated, or
NS: Well, I always play up the recreational angle of it. Everybody has a desire to do something in the round dance picture. What is fun to one dancer is not fun to another. And we have to stop and think about that. Those round dance people have a most wonderful time when they have learned some of the harder dances, and so, because it’s challenging them, they enjoy it. Now I think they get a little fed up with it faster than they do if you are on a simpler level. But it is hard for me, as a person in recreation to say maybe it’s going too fast, and I guess it is in a way. Because it can’t last. People get tired and they drop out faster. But I don’t know, I don’t think anybody knows, and I would certainly, I taught things that I didn’t want to teach because the people wanted it. So, whatever the people want, that’s what the people are going to get. I don’t know that that’s an answer, but it’s
BB: No, that’s right. Well, a lot of people think that square dancing has gotten too complicated and was just wondering if you would make a parallel to round dancing.
NS: I would like to say one thing right that sort of sums it all up. When we were just, oh I mean, we were just go, go, we were just right, learning everything there was to learn both in squares and rounds, and we would just going constantly, and we were on our way into, I guess it was some place in Michigan, and we passed a park. Manning says that’s square dance music. Let’s turn around and go see what they’re doing. We got over there, and it was a city park, and they were having a square dance. And the square dancers, the man had a bulletin board, and he had every dance written out that he was going to call. And then he’d put the round up there. And they followed exactly what was on that bulletin board. And Manning and I were just stunned. Because, of course, they were old, old, old material. But every time that man got to that microphone, they all got up and danced, and they clapped, and they had a wonderful time. Later on, we went up to him after it was all over and shook his hand and told him who we were, and asked him about this. He said, Manning, I am what they call a youngster. I am filling in tonight for one of the old timers. And he said I didn’t know any better, I decided I didn’t have that record for that second waltz that they have up there, so I just picked up something else and put it in. And he said everybody sat down. And one of the people came up and says you don’t know anything, you know that we do polkas at this particular time, or whatever it was that they do, you know. And he said that did it. I knew from then on that I had to follow the program. And that was a lesson that should tell you how I feel about what kind of round dancing we ought to have. Because those people came every Saturday night or whatever night that was, maybe it was Tuesday, filled up the hall knowing full well every step that they were going to take and loved every minute of it.
BB: Yea. Yea, everybody doesn’t need the challenge, they just need the dancing experience.
NS: And I’m hoping that our dance movement will eventually be adult enough to enjoy it for the music instead of for the challenge.
BB: I know, Jon Jones, I think, told me a story when he was just starting out and Raymond Smith was the Emcee, and a fella got up in front of Jon before him on the program, and he dropped the whole floor in about 2 seconds. And he kept it up and hardly anybody was dancing, and Raymond turned to Jon and he said, look at that Jon, that guy is such a good caller that nobody can dance to him.
NS: Well, Raymond was a, he was a folk caller.
BB: I didn’t really get to know Raymond. I met him at Callerlab back early but, well, Nita, this has certainly been a very, very enjoyable time this afternoon. We’re just about down to the end of the tape, and I would really want to thank you for taking the time to sit down and put these thoughts down on tape, and we’ll put them in the archives along with some other material that I hope you’re going to be able to find around your, in the attic, or whatever. And I’d like to take them back and put them in the Lloyd Shaw Dance Archives. And thank you again for your hospitality.
NS: Thank you very much from coming, and I enjoyed talking about the one thing that was dominated my life which is music and dance. And I wouldn’t have changed any of it for anything.
BB: Right, so okay. Thank you, Nita. We’ll, we’ll be seeing you around the square as they say.