Norma Wylie (husband Wayne deceased) June 24, 1997
Bob Brundage: Well, hi again, this is Bob Brundage, and, uh, today we’re in Orlando, Florida. We’re getting ready for the National Convention at the Convention Center and trying to interview some of the people that are on our list in this oral history project. And today, we’re talking to Norma Wylie, who currently lives in Mesa, Arizona. And the date today is the 24th of June 1997. So Norma, let’s talk about what life was like before you got into square dancing. Where you were born and brought up and so forth.
Norma Wylie: Okay. I was born in St. Louis and went to school, lived there all of my life, and I had always been into dancing since I’d been 3 years old, into ballet particularly. And then, about when I was 11 years old, I got interested in ice skating. And that was my second love. And, do you want me to go on?
BB: Sure, yeah.
NW: And so, as the years went on, and Wayne also was a dancer at a very early age, and a musician, we were both musicians in high school, I played saxophone and clarinet, and he played the bass fiddle. And so when he got out of high school, he went on the road with a national dance band, and I stayed home, and I played in an all girl, 14 piece orchestra.
NW: That played around in the local night clubs both over in Illinois and St. Louis. And then the war came along, and Wayne went into the Air Force and was a pilot for Uncle Sam for 4 years. And while he was gone, we didn’t do much dancing, naturally. And got more interested at that time in my skating. But when he returned from the war, we got interested in square dancing through a friend, and we saw these beautiful round dancers and wanted to know where we could go to take lessons in that. And we finally ended up in a class run by Lucian Zeemba. And we just took off from there.
BB: You’re still in St. Louis.
NW: Still in St. Louis. Yes. Wayne took most of his flight training in California, but after the war, we were married and moved to California for a year or two, and then he was sent overseas, and I returned to St. Louis. And so, our life revolved for quite a while after that on, in St. Louis, and when we became interested in the square and round dancing, we became so interested, that it took almost every night of the week. And we got into the love of this dancing, and particularly square dancing. But we also did folk dancing with this Lucian Zeemba. And he, we were a member of his exhibition group at that time and also his exhibition round dance group. But we loved square dancing, and we never, in all the years until he died, did we ever give up square dancing, or round dancing. We always combined the two. And I still, today, as a widow, at, I was a widow, I’m now remarried, but, I still square and round dance. I do not just round dance.
BB: Okay. Just a matter of personal interest, do you remember what Wayne flew in the Air Force?
NW: Well, he was stationed in Casablanca, and he received the planes that they brought over from the United States, and he flew them up to the war zones to replace the old ones, and he brought the old ones back so they could put them aboard a Navy carrier and take them home when they were no good. But he had, he was fortunate during the war of not having to be in combat. He was over for quite a long time, because he did not build up enough hours to come home.
BB: Yeah. Well, these are probably fighter planes.
NW: These, they were single-engine planes. He flew single-engine planes. When he got out of flight school, he was, his title was Flight Instructor or Flight Engineer.
BB: These are probably
NW: Before he came out of there, though, before he left Europe, he was in the European zone, and before he left there, he was flying the DC-3s in Mats, which was the Mediterranean Air Transport Service. And that’s where he ended up. But he didn’t have enough multiple engine time, mostly just single engine.
BB: Probably P-40s or P
NW: P-40s, and P·47s
BB: That’s what I
NW: And AT -6 when he was doing
BB In training, yeah.
NW: Flight training.
BB: Well, P-47 was the plane, the one that I flew in the European period.
NW: Yes. Well during that time, I worked at Curtis Wright where they made
BB: Ah, okay.
NW: The P-40 and P·47. And so it was quite interesting that I was able to work on the war planes that he was flying.
BB: Right. Well, then you got into the teaching of round dances, and
NW: Yes. Well, that was quite interesting, too, because we joined square dancing in October of ’52, and I remember that because it was election time and Eisenhower was elected. And that was in October of ’52, and then we wanted to know where do we go to learn that round dancing. So we ended up with Lucian Zeemba’s group, and we took, we joined that group in January of ’53, but we did not start teaching until October of ’58. We went to, Manning Smith had an institute, ballroom and round dance institute, in Peaceful Valley, Colorado. And then we went down to his institute in Texas, and finally, there were a group of callers. Our first round dance group were 10 callers and their spouses, because two of them were women callers. And they said, “Norma we like rounds at our dances, but we don’t want to learn those cue sheets. You go learn how to be a round dance teacher, and you learn the cue sheets, and you teach us.” So, that was our first class of 10 callers and their spouses.
BB: Yeah. Do you remember some of the callers who were in that group?
NW: Hap Mativier, oh gosh
BB: Any of them wanted to be, got to be in the national scene.
NW: Not too much in the, Bob Wickers, he did, he just recently passed away. George Mason was one, and there were two women callers, Lee Walker and her husband.
Oh, dear ole Lee.
BB: I just wrote to her not too long ago. I haven’t heard back from her.
NW: Oh, somebody said that her husband died, or, I haven’t heard from her either in a few years.
BB: I stayed with them many times on my way through
NW: Yeah, I remember that, I remember that. But oh gosh, I’m trying to think of some of the others, Frank Sullenger was one. Frank was a real card. And George Mason was one of our best at that time. Oh, golly, Edsel and Jessie Hatfield, they also ran our newspaper that came out every month. And, well, it was a glorious group, but they didn’t want to learn how to read those cue sheets. So they insisted that Wayne go do that, and they were our first club. And it was very interesting that callers were our first
people to teach, and we liked that.
BB: Well, that’s great. So, then, you started developing your own classes and clubs.
BB: Yes, we had several, a couple of clubs, if you want to call, they called themselves the Roundaliers. And we also, then, later we moved to St. Charles, Missouri, across the river from St. Louis, and we started the first capital round dance group, and we called, Wayne cued for first Capital Squares, and I supposed we had a Thursday night group, I can’t think of what they were. We also had a group called the Evergreens and Classics, of which, on Tues, that was on a Tuesday night, and we never taught anything but classics, and what we call Evergreens, dances that never became classics, but they were still on programs around the country.
BB: Yes, and some probably have made the classics list since then.
NW: Yes, they have now.
BB: Right, yeah. Well, that’s interesting. So at that time, probably most of your dancers, round dancers, were also square dancers.
BB: Today we have round dancers and square dancers.
NW: That’s true.
BB: Not exclusively, of course, but many people started in square dancing and got out of it and got into round dancing, and that’s all they do.
NW: That’s all they do. Well, I’ve always heard the story of many cuers, when we were traveling around the country, saying, well, now they have gotten into quote, unquote advance round dancing, and they no longer have time for square dancing. I used to say, gosh, you can make time if you want, because I still square dance today, and we did, as a couple, Wayne and I did, until he passed away. And he cued for several callers, and we just became a part of their group and when they needed somebody to fill in the squares, we were always there to fill in.
BB: Right. Well, along about this time, you must have gotten into choreography (?) so
NW: Yes, we did, I can’t think, oh, when we went to the first, our first, convention other than, well, in St. Louis, in ’57, when the convention was there, they didn’t have the organizational set-up as they have it today, but we, they had a secretary, and a treasurer, and a general chairman. And then on the chart, several of the callers and the round dancer teacher took care of the getting the workshops and everything at the National Convention in St. Louis in 1957. Wayne was the treasurer; I was the secretary. And it, like I said, it was an entirely different
NW: Organizational set-up than it is today. And we worked many hours in our basement. We’d set up 10, 12 typewriters, and we got everything together, and it was quite an experience that first thing.
BB: And that was one of the early
NW: That was
BB: Nationals, too.
NW: That was one of the early Nationals, 1957.
BB: That must have been about the seventh or eighth.
NW: Yeah, I think, wasn’t it ’51 or ’50 something when it was held in Riverside.
BB: Yes, yeah.
NW: And, then it went on from there. But we typed all of this stuff up when we got, when it was over to send to Louisville, who was having it in 1958. And that was our job. So our job was not over when the convention was over, because we worked many long hours afterwards to get that stuff sent to the next convention.
BB: Do you have any of that old material left in your archives or your
NW: No, I don’t, I had gobs of that material until we moved to Mesa, and out here the houses don’t have any base, basements, and we didn’t have any place to store it. And so, I had to do away with a lot of things, and I accidentally, we were going, when my children were there with Wayne’s stuff, I accidentally threw away a whole sack of pictures
BB: Oh, that’s too bad.
NW: That included some of the callers like Ed Gilmore, Melton Luttrell, and I have a few, but not as many as I had. We were going through some things in the shed, and my daughter said, “Mom, do you want to throw this away. It looks like a bunch of pictures and some things from different festivals,” I said, “no, just pitch it.” And I was very sorry afterwards, because it had a lot of, of exhibition pictures that were our folk dance group and everything. And they’re just gone.
BB: Sure. Yeah, well that happens, and it’s unfortunate. One of the reasons the Lloyd Shaw Dance Archives is trying to, more and more, bring to the forefront the fact that we wish people could save things like that
NW: Yeah. Well, we
BB: I, everybody I talk to, I’m asking to put all of this type of material, at least put it in their will. I can understand them not wanting to give it up while they’re still alive, but, as you probably know, the children of people who have been active, when they come to settle an estate, they say well what the heck is this?
NW: What good is that?
BB: And out it goes.
NW: Well, it’s like when we joined square dancing and round dancing, our children were quite small. In fact, I think my youngest daughter was only about 18 months old. And when they went to, when we went to get some of this stuff, which we could not take out there, but I did take these pictures, which I accidentally threw away afterwards. But, they, for instance, when they both got married, they said, well we will come to the wedding. We better come to the wedding, we’ve raised your children since they’ve been in training pants. Which was quite true.
BB: Yeah, Yeah, So, well, I believe you were instrumental in the inception of Roundalab also.
NW: Yes, We were members of Legacy and on the board of directors at Legacy for a couple of years, and Bob Osgood came up with the idea that the round dance teachers ought to get together and form some kind of an organization similar to Callerlab. So, we were there, we were one of the 10 or 12 teachers there at the time, and Bob asked us to do this, and we came up with trying to get all of these round dance teachers together. And Bob heartily approved of it. And so Wayne went to work on it, and we contacted, I was just looking at some of that stuff the other day before I came to the convention, and I think there were something like four or five hundred letters that we sent out at that time, to people all over the country, and the world, really.
BB: Have you always done Roundalab in affiliation with the National?
NW: Yes. I did for, we did for many years. Oh, when we first started Roundalab, we met in October.
BB: Oh, yes. Okay.
NW: But a lot of people said it was, they either had to go to one or the other. Their children were young, and they couldn’t afford to come to both places. So, we sent out the type of postcard that you can tear the one part off and send it back as to what you preferred, whether you preferred it in October or September, and/or when it was with the National. And the consensus of opinion was that we should hold it before the National. And they worked that out with the Executive Committee on the thing so that we could come into the city early and have our convention.
BB: Well, I’m always interested in, you mentioned, as we were talking before we started taping, your mentors, and I’m always interested in who you consider your mentors.
NW: Well, I consider my mentor, or Wayne’s and mine mentor, Manning and Nita Smith because they used to come quite often to St. Louis not only just to teach rounds, they came to call. And we always went out afterwards to have a bite to eat. And Manning said to Wayne one time, “Wayne, you are a teacher”. And Wayne said, “Manning, I don’t want to be a teacher. I’ve been a ballroom teacher for many years, and I do not want to be a teacher.” And he said, “but you are a teacher.” And so the callers in our area picked that up, and that’s when they asked us to come, go to Manning Smith’s institute and learn how to be a round dance teacher. And, but I will consider them my mentor, the best one I think I’ve had.
BB: Right. I would guess, at that time, that round dances weren’t quite as difficult as they are today.
NW: Not quite as difficult, but still in all, they were difficult. Not, we didn’t always just do two steps, as I said, this Mr. Lucian Zeemba, wrote a lot of tangos, and he wrote many, many beautiful dances that I also used to keep the cue sheets on those, but I had to get rid of those when we moved to Mesa, because we had no basement, or anything to keep them in. But the dancing, we always had to memorize. However, when you consider what we did then, and the number, just the numbers, of dances that come out now, it would be impossible.
BB: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Right. But yeah. All right, tell us about some of the dances that you and Wayne choreographed.
NW: One of the first dances he wrote was on a Grenn Record called Waltz in Paradise, and which we taught at the Detroit Convention, whenever it was there, ’61 or ’62.
BB: Cobo Hall.
NW: That’s right, Cobo Hall, yea. And that was the very first dance we wrote. And, I think, all together, we wrote 20 some dances, but the most one, the most successful ones were “Remember Today”, which was done on a Blue Star Record, and “Somewhere My Love”, which is a pop record really. And another one we did for the man who owned High Hat Records at the time, “The Boy Next Door” and “Donna”.
And those were our most successful ones, I guess. But we wrote many, like, I think 20 or 21 dances.
BB: I think we should mention, Norma, that you had one of them played at Wayne’s memorial service.
NW: Yes, “Somewhere My Love” was such a beautiful dance and a beautiful piece of music, I asked the Minister if we could play it at the end of the service, and, for Wayne’s memorial service. And he, she said, or he said, yes, we could, and his wife played the organ, and everyone in that hall shed a tear.
BB: I’m sure, right. Well, at my Father’s memorial service, he made one record in his lifetime. It was called the Yellow Rose of Texas. And the organist played the Yellow Rose of Texas after I had found the cue, or the sheet music for it, but, and that was played in our little church back in Connecticut. Yeah, very interesting.
NW: It was quite a touching ceremony. This, I wish I had recorded it. They used to make tapes, and I didn’t think of asking him. But everyone came to me afterwards. This was not conducted as a regular memorial service with eulogies, etc. We went in, my daughters and I, to be interviewed by the minister ahead of time, and he conducted this service about different things in our personal lives. And he said, “you know, we’re going”, at the beginning he told everyone in the audience, “we’re going to laugh a little bit, and we’re going to cry a little bit”, and they really did. And everyone came to me afterwards, and said what an unusual service that was. It was the best they think they’ve ever been to
BB: Well, that’s great, that’s great.
NW: Like that. It was very different and very unusual.
BB: You just mentioned your daughters. You had what, two daughters?
NW: We have two daughters, and they were 3 years apart, and they were both interested in the figure skating that Mom did. And they both became quite proficient. A lot more proficient than Mother ever was. And they became quite proficient and ended up teaching skating for a number of years. They are not teaching any longer, but they did teach for a number of years.
BB: Well, that’s great. And where are they located now?
NW: Now, the one daughter still lives in St. Louis, and my other daughter lives in Texas, between Galveston and Houston. She’s really closer to Galveston, I guess, than to Houston.
BB: Well, you don’t find much ice on the ponds out there.
NW: No, but there are a lot of indoor rinks.
BB: Oh, I’m sure, I’m sure. But, okay, well, one of the things I’ve been asking people, and I’d be interested in your opinion, and, what is your opinion about costuming in square dancing? As you know, just as a forethought, some people, some square dancers today are dressing with what they call casual, and I’d be interested to know how you feel about that.
NW: Well, you asked the wrong or the right person for that, because I’ve said, I guess, I’m going to be a die hard, I’m going to be the one of the last ones on that dance floor in a regular square or round dance dress. And, I do believe by our going casual, people, the callers are afraid they’re not going to attend their dances, several of our round dance teachers don’t approve of it, and they do come in slacks, but they don’t come in blue jeans. In Mesa, of course, we have a lot of retired people, and I worked in the square dance shop right after Wayne died, and I worked there for 10 years, and the clothes are so beautiful, and I still don’t feel like dancing when I’m not in a quote, unquote square or round dance dress. And I do believe, by our going this other way, that we’re losing our identity. We’re lost, it used to be you walked into a restaurant after the dance, and everybody said, oh look at those pretty clothes. And I still get remarks on my clothes. Everyone wants to see your clothes. Now, I realize when you travel that’s a lot to carry around, but we did it. So why can’t we do it today. We have much more things to carry things in than we used to then. And I suppose I’ll be one of the last ones up on the floor in one of my square dance dresses. But I don’t own anything on the,
BB: And so we’re just about at the end of this side of the tape, so if you will please, flip over to other side of the, I’ll run it to the end and then flip over, please. Continue this thought about costuming. Norma, how do you feel about the prairie skirt type of thing.
NW: I went and tried to buy, I was in Santa Fe last year, and I bought two skirts and blouses, and I find in wearing them, that I’m so cautious about dancing then, because I’m afraid I’m going to catch my heel in my skirt and possibly trip or something. And so, I don’t know yet how I feel about it. I’m not real crazy about them, let’s put it that way, but I have danced in them a couple of times, and for the price I paid for them, I should dance in them every day, because they were not cheap, and, but I don’t, I’m not as comfortable dancing in them as I am in a regular square or round dance outfit.
BB: Well, you and I go back to the day when the, when all square dance dresses were ankle (?)
NW: Were long.
BB: Ankle length. And, of course, in those days you wore pantaloons under them. And all, ankle-length pantaloons.
NW: That’s right.
BB: And, well, I hadn’t thought about catching your heel in the skirt.
NW: Yes. And I did catch my heel in one of the skirts at, an institute we went. We went to Easterdays’ institute at Purdue University last year. And I wore that during the day. At night I always dressed in my outfits. Now in round dancing, they are sometimes now going to the cocktail dresses. And I do feel that’s out of place, too. I really do feel it’s out of place.
BB: Right, so, all right. Getting back to Roundalab a little bit, so since its inception and your obvious help in getting it going, have you been attending most every year?
NW: I missed 1 year, and that was the year at, Wayne died in December of ’84, and in June of ’85, I just felt I couldn’t handle emotionally, I could not handle it.
BB: Right, right.
NW: So, I didn’t attend, and I came back in ’86, and it was even a little rough then, but I was better able to handle it then.
BB: So, you’ve been to a lot of the biggies.
NW: Oh yea, yea.
NW: And, probably Miami was a pretty good size.
NW: No, we didn’t get to Miami. We were the year before and the year after, we went
I see to the convention, but we didn’t get to Miami.
BB: Ah. You can’t go to them all, that’s for sure.
NW: Well, Wayne was fortunate. He worked for General Motors as an accountant, and he got 6 weeks vacation a year. But some of that we used for weekends, and some for weeks that we did. And, so we could not schedule any more time. But we always tried to get to the National. I guess if I go back now and mark them off on the thing, I’ve attended about 21 or 22 conventions.
BB: Is that right. Okay. That’s a pretty good record. Tell us about some of the weekends and week long things that you’ve done. Who were some of the dignitaries that you’ve worked with over the years.
NW: Well, we worked for a long time with Bob Page at his, first, we were over at Squaw Valley. And then he got over to Asilomar after Bob Osgood’s thing was there, and all together, between Squaw Valley and that week, we did a weekend and a week with him. We worked for him for 13 years. And we worked at Kirkwood Lodge for 5 years.
And we worked at Boyne Highlands for about 5 years. And we worked up at Sun Valley 2 years. And I’m trying to think of some of the others. I have it all
BB: Oh, sure. Well. Who were some of
NW: I’m going to send some of the callers. Well, we worked naturally with Bob Page. But he was surrounded by Jerry Haag, Ken Bower, Gary Shoemake, and Beryl Main, did I say Beryl Main?
BB: Yes, yes.
NW: Ken Bower, and one or two times, Dave Taylor.
BB: I saw Gary this morning, by the way.
NW: Did you?
NW: I haven’t seen him for so many years. I saw, I’ve seen Jerry Haag, and I’ve seen, Ken. He came over when Beryl was dying and did some of Beryl’s things, over in Mesa.
But we did those on a regular basis. And then we worked for Melton Luttrell for 20 years.
BB: Is that right.
NW: We did the Thanksgiving weekend, and that was also with Ken Bower and Jerry Shatzer. And that was one of the biggies, I guess that we did. And then a lot of the festivals and weekends that we did for 8, 9 years at a time. And we had a wonderful time.
BB: I’m sure.
NW: With all the callers and
BB: Now when you were developing, all this time you were so busy, you were obviously carrying on a home, what we call a home program. Did you recruit all of your dancers from the square dance area, or did you recruit any other people outside of the activity?
NW: No, we never asked for people outside the thing. We always got them through round dancing. Wayne cued for several square dance clubs and they all wanted to round dance. When they wanted to round dance, they came to us. And our federation, he was several years, he was president of the St. Louis Square, I don’t know what they call it, Square Dance Federation, but that included the round dancers, round dance teachers. And he was president of it, and at later years, even when we moved to Mesa, he was historian. And they said, Wayne says, I want away from this job, and he says, they said you can’t get away from us, and he says, well, I’m going to leave this stuff here with somebody. But anyway, we were quite active for a number of years there. We also, we were talking about camps. We worked Chula Vista up in Wisconsin for a number of years, and another one up there on Lake Geneva called Royal Holiday we worked for 8 years. We also worked a camp up in Canada on Lake Muskoka, about 125 miles north of Toronto. And we did that one for 9 years. And we
BB: Did you know Mark Huff?
NW: Oh, that’s who got us the job, yes. We were fortunate enough to know a lot of real nice round dance teachers and jazz callers in Canada at that time, and they invited us up, not just for Toronto Convention, but they invited us up for weekends to come and just discuss with the callers and teachers their round dance program. Now we did a lot of these, I don’t know what you call them, seminars, particularly in Wichita. We did that and Indiana. And several others that would ask us to come in and do this thing for a whole week. We also did teachers schools with Betty and Clancy Miller. We work, they taught the beginner level; we taught the more advance level at that time. It wasn’t as advanced as it is today. But we did that for 3 years, and then we started our own school out at Circle 8 in the state of Washington, at Cle Elum, Washington. And we did that for 3 years, and ’84 was our last year that we did that, because Wayne passed away. And, but we enjoyed teaching other people how to teach.
BB: Well, you were probably, knew, Audrey Palmquist.
NW: Oh, yes.
BB: In Canada.
NW: Oh, yes.
BB: Before she was married to Ed. Right.
NW: Right, right.
BB: That’s interesting. I had a very pleasant interview with them in California.
BB: So, one of the profound questions that I have been asking people. What did you find outside the joy of dancing, what did you find appealing about teaching?
NW: About teaching?
BB: And cueing, and so forth?
NW: Well, I will say, I didn’t do much of the cueing. Wayne did the cueing, but he had a terrific musical background. He played in the rhythm section of the band on the bass fiddle, if you want to call it that, but his timing and everything was just unusual. In fact, at that time in the country, he was known as one of the best cuers around the country. And, actually for about 3 years before that, if you’d asked him to cue, he’d say, this cueing business has got to go, you know. In fact, Arvin Olsen, was it
BB: Arvid Olsen.
NW: Arvid Olsen, asked him to write a, I still have the article at home that he wrote on ballroom, why not. And we discussed cueing. He came up to this camp in Canada 1 year, and that’s when he asked Wayne if he would write this article. But Wayne was very much against cueing at first. He wrote an article also for the Texas Journal. They asked him, “Wayne, do you believe in cueing or not cueing?” And he said, “not cueing”. But when it became this necessary, he did do it. Now, I could do a little on my own. I have a musical background, too. And I could do it, but I did not enjoy it. And he loved it.
He loved it. And he was very good at cueing.
BB: Yeah. A thought just crossed my mind. You mentioned that he played in the rhythm section of a traveling band, as you say. Do you remember who, what the name of the band was?
NW: It was Eddy Dunsmore and his something Men of Swing or something.
BB: I see.
NW: What they did on the circuit of traveling around the Midwest, they put on like Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, and they were the band that played in between. And so when they took a break, these guys would play. They had a beautiful band, very good band.
BB: Big band?
NW: Yes, it was at least a 10-piece band.
BB: Is that right.
NW: They had full sax, altos, and
NW: Tenor, and
BB: Bass probably.
NW: And they had the trumpets, and they even had a violin player, a trombone player, and the trumpets, they had two trumpets I know, and the drummer. In fact the drummer was off to Sydney 3 or 4 years ago. Now he is the only one I know that’s left out of that thing. But
BB: How about a piano.
NW: They had a piano player, and I’m trying to think of his name, but they all were from school. And they were all young men, and when Wayne came back from the Army, we still had the bass fiddle, but he went into accounting work. That was what he was going to college for, before he left, and then he went to work for General Motors as an accountant.
BB: Yeah. So, that’s very interesting. Currently now Norma, do you have the time for any other hobbies?
NW: No. I go bicycle riding.
BB: Good for you.
NW: I go swimming. We live in a complex similar to Leisure World, it’s called Fountain of the Sun. They have their golf course, and they have exercise programs, etc. But we’re so busy dancing every day, that we don’t have much time to do that. But now in the summer time, we go up and swim, and we will walk. One thing nice about it, those areas are all enclosed like a Hacienda you know. And so when you walk, we don’t have any uphills, downhills. We can walk flat, but we can walk 3 to 4 miles in our complex without going outside the gate, and you’re not going run over, and you’re not going to have a lot of children that, or teenagers, coming up to you on the street, and maybe, you know, frightening you.
BB: Right. As a matter of interest, I think, why don’t you describe a typical week in your life today. You’re talking about dancing
BB: Every day and that kind of thing. I know there are people out in Mesa that dance morning, afternoon, and night.
BB: You’re probably not quite that active.
NW: First, let me say, when Wayne and I went to Mesa to teach, and you might be interested in how we got to Mesa. We were going to go to New Mexico to retire. And we got, we did a festival in Cincinnati with Bob Fisk, and Bob Fisk said, “Wayne, how would you like to come out to Mesa, and be my round dance teacher?” And Wayne said to him, “Oh, Bob, I don’t really want to work that hard.” He said, “well you think it over, and I’ll call you”, this was in November, he said, “I’ll call you at the end of January, and you let me know whether you are or you aren’t”, because we were, he was going to start the following October. And so, we went home and thought about it. And we really did write down the pros and the cons. And asked our daughter if she would stay in the house by herself, and yes, she would, and, uh we went out at that time to spend 6 months out there, and 6 months back home.
BB:I see, okay.
NW: So, we went out there, and we ended up teaching 14 times a week. So, when he passed away, I went to the point, where I myself, was dancing 11 times a week. When I married Dick, we were dancing 11 times a week, until 2 years ago, when I got, when I became ill. So now we’re down to dancing, what, dancing 9 times a week.
BB: That’s all, huh. Really slowing down, right.
NW: Really slowing down. So, I presume we will dance about that much this year, because we have a new round dance, Carlos and Nancy Ascada are moving into the area to teach. So, I’m sure that we will be having approximately that much dancing.
BB: Well, what’s a typical week, I mean, do you start on Monday
NW: The way we did it this time, we danced Monday morning and Monday night, and then, we danced Tuesday morning and Tuesday night. And we used to dance on Wednesday morning, but this past year we took Wednesdays off, and that was our complete day off. Then we danced Thursday morning, Thursday afternoon, and Thursday night. And then Friday, we danced Friday morning or Friday night, and Saturday. And we didn’t dance on Sunday. But there were a lot of times we did, we had special teaches on Sunday night. So, that’s the way it goes.
BB: Well, these are squares and rounds.
NW: These are particularly rounds that I’m doing now.
BB: I see. Okay.
NW: After I got out of the hospital, I wasn’t sure if I could handle the squares. We went to a couple of squares, and I just asked them not to twirl me, because I had through here I had a problem. So I just asked them not to twirl me.
BB: You were dancing at the advanced level.
NW: Yes, I’m dancing at A2 or A1. We danced a couple of A1s this past year, too.
BB: Well, is there very much Mainstream and Plus dancing at, in your area.
NW: Yes, there is. Yes there is.
BB: Which park were you in, by the way.
NW: I, when Wayne and I were teaching, we were in Teller Point.
BB: Oh, yes.
NW: And, where Wade Driver is now.
BB: Wade Driver, right, yea. I looked it up, for property for myself as a matter of fact.
NW: Did you?
NW: It’s a nice park.
BB: Yes, it is.
NW: And the lady who built it was absolutely wonderful. She died with a brain tumor and died quite young. She was in her 40s. And, it was quite a blow.
BB: The last time I was there a couple of years ago, I told Wade I saw, I made it a point to see Wade.
NW: Uh huh.
BB: I had met him back in New York state, and said I was thinking about moving down there, and he said right away, oh no, no, we’ve got enough callers here. I wasn’t going to come down and try to compete with you. Are you doing any contra dances. Nobody does any contra dances.
NW: No, nobody does.
BB: And I said, well, if I came down, maybe I’d do some. Well, yeah, you’ll make out great if you come down here and do contras. But it’s really interesting. Looking back on your career, if you will, any regrets?
NW: No regrets whatsoever, except that I’m getting too old to enjoy it as much as I did. However, I enjoy it. And when I come to these meetings, like at Roundalab, or their conventions, then I become all enthused again, because I meet so many old friends, and I just hope that never ends.
BB: Yeah. Anything you might have changed in your career?
NW: That I would have liked to have changed?
BB: Yeah, yeah. I mean, looking back, is there something you’re kind of sorry you did. You wished you’d done something else.
NW: No, I don’t think so.
BB: No. Okay.
NW: We hesitated about going to Mesa with Bob. We ended up living in a park model right next door to each other. And at the end of the year, they would call us in and said, do you feel satisfied you’ve made enough money. Wayne finally told them after the first year or so, I’m making more money than I made when I worked for General Motors. And no, I don’t think so. We’ve been, I don’t think I’d ever like to go back to St. Louis to live. And so, quite a few of my family have moved out of town, and several have died, of course. And so, there is nothing I don’t think I’d change, and Wayne never wanted to go back to St. Louis, and we had him cremated, and his ashes spread around the Superstitions, because he always loved the West so much. And I don’t think there’s anything that I would have changed, or wished I had done in my career. Because we had a very, very good program while we lived in St. Louis and called for many, or cued, for many square dance clubs. And when we came out here, the feeling was the same that, all of a sudden, you’d see people that you knew from all over. And there they are, dancing with you again. I know I, Nita Smith asked me one time, is there, how do you like teaching those old people, she said. I said, Nita, you can’t believe these are not old people. Maybe their years are old, but they go every day.
BB: Young at heart, yes.
NW: Yes, very young at heart. And I don’t think there’s anything that I would have changed, Bob.
BB: Why don’t you tell us, as sort of an overview, of where do you think square and round dancing has been, and where do you think it might be going.
NW: Well, I look at it this way. We were discussing it down with one of the couples from Manitoba, Winnipeg, and I really, it’s frightening to know where it might be going. The square dance groups in the retirement areas seem to be getting smaller which worries the callers, I’ sure. And the round dance teachers groups are not as big as they were, say 3 or 4 years ago. I feel this change in clothes, particularly casual, has something to do with the numbers being down. I really do. And the fact, we, of course, living in a retirement area, we have people there, but we are not recruiting enough new, younger people into this. And it does worry me. Someone said to me, from Florida 1 day, you know, Norma, 10 years from now, there may not be round dancing at this level. And I’m sure that’s something to think about. I’m really a little frightened the way the movement is going, and not just square dancing. It’s round dancing, too.
BB: Well, my philosophy is that I, as I look ahead and try to conjecture, and so forth, I figure 100 years from now, neither one of us will care.
NW: No, we won’t care. But hopefully, it’ll last. Like I was talking to this couple from Manitoba, and they were saying, we went through it at the best years.
BB: Well, this is one of the things I’m sure you would agree with. That you happened to be at the right place
NW: The right place at the right time.
BB: At the right time. Rightfully, everybody that I’ve talked with are the people who have become Hall of Fame and Silver Halo, and so forth. I’m sure Nita Smith feels the same.
NW: I’m sure she does, too.
BB: Right. Well, Norma, we’re just about down to the end of this tape, and I want to thank you whole heartily for taking the time to sit and chat with us for a while.
NW: Well, thank you.
BB: And I’ll look forward to receiving that bio that you’re
NW: Yes, I’ll send it to you.
NW: But thank you for asking me for this honor.
BB: Well, thank you very much, and I appreciate it. Any other memorabilia you’d like to have go on the Lloyd Shaw Dance Archives, why please send it along.
NW: I sure will.
NW: I sure will.
BB: Thank you, Norma, very much.
NW: Thank you, Bob.
End of Tape