Paul Moore – June 22, 2003
Bob Brundage – Well hi again this is Bob Brundage and today is the 22nd of June nint … 2003.
Paul Moore – 2003. Right century Bob.
BB – I started this project way back in 1996 believe it or not. But today we are outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico and we’re talking to Paul Moore from (the) San Diego, California area, and he is on his way through to the Oklahoma City National Convention and very graciously invited me over for dinner and I wanted to find out a little bit more about Paul and Mary and their activities in square dancing, round dancing, contra dancing and so forth. So let’s start Paul, the way I usually do, with where you were born and brought up, and we’ll kind of take it from there.
PM – Where I was born and brought up is a (unintelligible) subject. I was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1945, just about 8 months before the war was over so I don’t qualify as a baby boomer. I lived there for just two years and then my dad was released from his job where he’d been frozen during the war and he went back to college to get his Masters Degree. That made us move to the Boston area, and that’s probably where I came into my first contact with square dancing. My older sister loved to square dance and we had a set of the old Decca square dance records, you know, the ones that had the old gingham … red and white gingham cover on it, and my dad took photographs, oh, not photographs but 16 millimeter films of people dancing and I just always liked watching that but really didn’t get involved at that point. From there we moved to New Jersey with dad’s job change again and then to Scottsdale, Arizona with another job change, back to Motorola, with my father. And at that point I got involved not only with athletics but I was involved with school choir and the school always put on a musical and since I was one of the more coordinated and one of the stronger guys who was willing to do it, I ended up being lead dancer in some of the shows and that led to me getting a scholarship to a ballet studio.
BB – There you go.
PM – But then, as soon as I was out of high school, there went my dancing. You know, off to college and I stayed with athletics and even after I graduated and started teaching high school English. I was coaching basically year round and also teaching for a local community college at night. One year the night class didn’t go, and Mary said that there is a square dance in the next little community over here and why don’t we go give it a try. She didn’t tell me it was a lesson, the first night of lessons or anything; it was a square dance, “Let’s give it a try”. And we went down and we got hooked. And from then on we joined a second class so we could really get the basics under control and we danced two to seven nights a week for the next four or five years and then we slowed down and then about five years after we started, Mary saw an advertisement for a callers school and she gave that to me as a birthday present, and I am sure she has regretted it ever since. (Bob chuckles) Because what started off just to be thinking of, you know, maybe I’d teach one class a year or something like that, has ended up being something like 160 or 180 nights a year and seeming to grow the distances that I travel and the number of nights I’m out and so forth.
BB – Where along this way did you run into Mary and where did you get married and so forth?
PM – We both went to the University of Redmond, Southern California, she was a year behind me but something they did every year at the University was they turned out a freshman picture book so that … and it was intended for the faculty and for the freshmen so they could become acquainted with classmates and students ….
BB – Right.
PM –…. and Mary had an absolutely gorgeous photograph from her senior graduation picture and she also happened to be rooming with a friend from the high school that I had gone to. So we met and so what …
BB – So one thing led to another.
PM – Well, actually not at that point. We met each other, we could be friendly, but then finally oh, 6 or 8 months later I had access to a friends car, a way to get off campus for one of the first times for the year, and I said, “What the heck, I’ll ask Mary if she’ll go with me”, and we went all the way over to the next town, ten miles, to see Mary Poppins. And since we both loved Mary Poppins, that’s what really got us hooked.
BB – Ok.
PM – We still think about that and we feel like we are in that room where everybody starts laughing and floating off the ground.
BB – Ok. Well, that’s an interesting story. Well, tell me along the lines then following your caller’s school you went back home and started a class I assume.
PM – It didn’t happen right away. I kept doing my homework, you know, listening to, particularly listening to hoedowns and beginning to figure out what the structure of the music is and timing. And then there were some senior citizens nearby who wanted to have their own little group and they knew that they weren’t ready to keep up with a regular club, so they asked me to come down and would I teach and surely I’ll do it for … just for the gate. Each night they paid a buck a piece or something like that and some nights … and so I’d go home with sometimes as much as ten dollars.
BB – Ok. Getting into the big time now.
PM – But it led to, you know, not much later getting a first booking with a regular club and then after I’d been “calling” for a year and a half or so, a couple of other clubs asked me be their instructor, and I know I did a terrible job of calling but I did teach the dancers well and so they were successful when they went out to dance and I’m still calling for one of those. Actually, the two clubs joined together to become one, and I’m still calling for ‘em some twenty years later.
BB – That’s great. Did you come from a musical family at all? I mean did you have a musical background at all?
PM – (long pause) Neither one of my parents played an instrument or sang or anything like that, but they made sure that there was always good music in the home. We went to musical programs, and of course church choirs and so forth. My older sister played the accordion, my older brother played trumpet and … but I had never thought of doing anything with music until I got in high school and each class in the high school, you know, the Seniors, Juniors, Freshmen, and so forth, had to put on a show for the whole school. And ophomore year a friend and I decided that we were going to take Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado from two and a half hours down to forty five minutes. And we kept just the most famous tunes, and maybe only once through a set of lyrics or the chorus and it was so much fun that I then got into the choir and into the performing in musicals and then in college stayed with the choir which at that point had a recording contract with Columbia records, Columbia Masterworks. And so even if I wasn’t actively performing I was, you know … I kept close to it. Also I had done, you know, the folk music thing back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
BB – Well the reason I ask you that is because I know that you’ve gotten very interested in your lifetime about contras, which requires some musical knowledge and I know you practice it very well and that’s the main reason I brought that up. Tell me about who are some of your mentors over the years who kind of helped you through.
PM – Well the first one I have to give credit to is the very first teacher I had who is … he remained local because he had his daytime job. He had his own plumbing company but he had an absolutely marvelous voice, superb timing, great sense of body flow and was always a gentleman on the microphone and treated his people well. And so he is the one who first taught Mary and me how to dance and later was very encouraging on the calling.
BB – And what was his name?
PM – His name was Bill Gibson. And he bought D&R records at one point and produced two records on his own, both of which sold extremely well. So he moved on to other things and no longer calls.
BB – Whose callers school was it you went to?
PM – It was the local callers club called Cow Counties Callers Association. And we had 17 weeks of lessons that lasted 3 to 4 hours each.
BB – All right. That’s a good way to do it.
PM – And there were, I think, 8 of us in the class and we had something like 25 instructors. Every member of the callers association …
BB – Took part in it.
PM – … took part in it. In presentations and they all critiqued us when we had mic. time and they would fill in the squares so we always had people dance … to call to.
BB – Well, that’s great. Well, have you taken any other caller’s schools after that? When you got into it a little more?
PM – No, I did not attend any more formal callers schools. But I worked one on one with Johnnie Scott who was a recording artist with Prairie records. And we spent a lot of time working on things. And then, wherever I could, talking with callers at festivals, really working on what needs to be improved.
BB – Yeah, OK. Well tell me how you got into contras.
PM – We went to a festival before I started calling and at that festival … Bob Ruff who is one of the Hall of Fame callers was doing an hour session on contra dancing. We’d never heard of it, we’d never seen it before, but we said “what the heck”, you know, let’s give it a try and from the very first dance, which I recall was “All the Way to Galway” we were hooked. And so we would hunt down contra dancing wherever we could find it, (there were) limited choices in Southern California, Bob Ruff did some, Hal Rice and Leif Hetland seemed to be the three that we could locate. And all three were very encouraging and saying, “You ought to give it a try”. At one of Hal Rice’s dances he put me on, after giving me fair warning, but, you know, “Be prepared to do a contra dance”. It went very well and then by this time I was calling squares and square dancers knew that I was contra dancing … “Can you teach us to contra dance?”, and that led into a contra dance club that danced twice a month. They, of course, forced me to keep doing research because they didn’t want to keep doing the same eight or nine dances every time.
BB – That’s interesting. And that group is still dancing, probably.
PM – We lost the dance hall to a group that was willing to pay for it four nights a month instead of just two, and so there was a little gap in there but a square dance club decided that of the two dances a month one would be rounds, the second one they would have contras between square dance tips. So I did that and that led into starting a new group which has been going since 1986.
BB – Right.
PM – And still going strong. We started dancing in the school cafeteria, but we couldn’t use it in the summertime so we moved to an Elks Lodge on the only night of the month they had free. They were very happy to rent it. They gave us a deal on the rent and we’ve been there for 15 years.
BB – Well, who are some of the people that you have worked with over the years? I know you’re associated with … you have your own contra weekend down in San Diego. Before you got that started were you on the staff of any of the other weekends, or how about festivals or something like that?
PM – California State Square Dance Convention, I was there usually every year. Our local dancer association put on a square dance and round dance festival and so they opened up space for contra dancing there. The San Diego weekend had been started by Joe McMenamin and Hal Rice and Leif Hetland. Hal and Leif left for the second year of it so Joe was running around, … “who can I get to fill in”, so he got hold of me and Glen Nickerson. And we staffed it for the next, oh, 3 or 4 years and then Joe McMenamin pulled out, I think the stress of wondering if you are you going to have enough attendees got to him. So we contacted Don Armstrong and he came on to staff for five years. Then (he) ran into a timing conflict and so for a couple of years we alternated who the third caller was and then we latched on to Grant Logan and that’s who we still have.
BB – And Grant is from Canada. Yeah. Well, those are certainly great credentials and Glen is still with you too.
PM – No, Glen pulled out about four years ago, you know, he’s slowing down the amount of calling that he is doing. He and Flo still make the trip down to dance with us but, as I say, we’ve rotated … we’ve used Don Ward from Southern California, and Ron Johnston who has had to retire from calling because of business problems.
BB – Oh, I didn’t know that.
PM – He had to spend more time back at the job or otherwise he … it’s where the hobby got in the way of the job.
BB – Yeah. Well what about National conventions?
PM – Oh, I’ve been to ten of them I think. The first one was 1987 in Houston. I was just one of 30 callers on staff and had my two or three slots. I got to meet people like Bill Johnston and Tony Parkes, Mona Cannell, Boyd Rothenberger, a number of people who were very, very talented. But we also saw some people who weren’t so talented and learned probably as much from that example as (from) the good example.
BB – Sure, right.
PM – And then the 1988, Art Harvey (and I) were basically in charge of the contra program for the National in Anaheim. When the National came back in 2001 then I was in charge of the contra program for that. And then I’ve programmed the California State Convention 10, 12 times, something like that.
BB – Right, right. So, well I’ve mentioned … to get off the subject for just a second, I mentioned round dancing, have you been involved in round dancing at all or just as a dancer.
PM – We danced for a while and then…. “It would be a good idea just to have two or three rounds just in case”. I started off with ones that were relatively simple … that I knew I could be successful with. You know, Frenchy Brown, and Tips of My Fingers, St. Louis Blues and you think, “These are fun”. (Bob chuckles) And so, now I’ve expanded up to around 30 or 40 round dances that I can cue. And on occasion I have had to fill in for a round dance cuer who couldn’t make it to a dance.
BB – I assume you don’t try to keep up with all the…. all the new round dances that come out every month. (chuckles)
PM – I do not buy the round of the month. So if I’m there, what’s in my record case is what they get to dance.
BB – That’s what they get to dance, right. I was pretty much the same way. Well, that’s all very interesting. Now I know you’ve been involved in other weekends and we want to get around to that. Let’s see, I don’t think we’re getting down near the end of the tape yet. So besides the one that you’ve been involved with in San Diego for some time, now you’re involved …
(tape cuts off abruptly)
BB – We had to stop long enough to turn the tape over and were just about to start talking about the weekend you’re involved with now in York, Pennsylvania. You mentioned Bill Johnston and Don Armstrong earlier and I know you were there at that New Years weekend as a dancer before you got on the staff. So tell us about your experiences with York.
PM – Well, we had gone three times as dancers, Glen Nickerson told us about it and said it’s really worth going to sometime and he sort of held us … our hands as we went to it the first time. It was kind of awe inspiring to walk into the room and here’s Bill Johnston and Don Armstrong. I still had my orange teacher manual under my arm and, of course, the great Dick Leger was on staff at that time. I knew about him because of the work he did with Callerlab on the timing and to have those three come out of their way to speak to me and encourage me. I met Decko Deck back there and we still keep up a really friendly bit of communications going. You know, I thought what a marvelous venue this would be to call but there’s no chance. These guys are going to last forever. And the next thing we know is that Dick Leger has passed away and they brought in Grant Logan. And then Bill Johnston passed away and they brought in Stew Shacklette and then finally when Don passed away they surprised the heck out of me. Here comes the phone call from Grant, “Would I like to be the third on staff at York”. (I) learned a lot by getting up on that stage of reading the crowd, you know, what kind of dances they like to do, what kind of music they like to dance to and I think it’s really matured me tremendously to call to dancers who know … some of them know more than I do. How I got on stage instead of some of them I’ll never understand.
BB – Well, as you say, it’s a great venue and it’s a great weekend and I know I went there several years and my brother and his dancing partner have been going and I always enjoyed it. It was a great thrill, really.
PM – I think that was the first place I met Al.
BB – And I think it was the first place I met you, I think. (Paul chuckles) So. All right, and that’s…. that’s going along successfully?
(recorder quits abruptly and then after a pause comes back on)
BB – ….. and Stew Shacklette has recently suffered a stroke so how are your plans for this year? Everything on hold or just continue going …
PM – The decisions on staffing are up to Barbara Johnston and to Grant Logan. And I think at this point they are just waiting to see how well Stew recovers. And he does seem to be getting better day by day.
BB – I assumed that was probably what was happening.
PM – And we’re hoping that by then he’ll be up and strong enough …
BB – Right.
PM – He may not be able to make it to the Kentucky Dance Institute this summer, or at least not to call at it but … I know he is not going to Oklahoma City.
BB – Yes. No, I suspect he would not but … all right, well, a couple of other things that I usually ask people that I chat with. Over the years have you had any other hobbies?
PM – I was involved in track and field for 25 years, both as a competitor and as a coach and did fairly well. (I’m) one of the few people who can probably remember running on the cinder track at the LA Coliseum, the same place that they had the 1932 Olympics. I just had a great time with that. Coached at the high school (level) for 16 years, and overlapped square dance calling and coaching for one year, and realized something had to go and 25 years of track and field was enough and I liked the cooperative feeling of square dancing versus the competition of sports.
BB – But you don’t have time for the frivolous stuff like golf that I do. (chuckles)
PM – No, no. Mary threatened that when I retired I was going to have to take up golf.
BB – Oh I see.
PM – But I found another kind of a hobby. Two days a week I go to a place called “Lighthouse for the Blind”. And they’re all adults and most of them have lost their eyesight since they’ve been adults, because of diabetes, or macular degeneration or whatever. And they’re all pretty intelligent people and they just need a comfortable place where they can go and manipulate, you know, move around on their own and gain that confidence. So I go down twice a week and we start off reading the headlines in the newspaper and sometimes that’s as far as we get in an hour and a half … is the headline and one article….
BB – I’ll be darned.
PM – …. because then the conversation just takes off, and the questions, and maybe somebody over here knows an answer otherwise it comes back to me…. “well Paul, what do you think”. And I’ve had to learn so much about politics and economics over the past year (chuckles) to answer questions.
BB – Nothing the matter with that. That’s good.
PM – And being a former English teacher, I’m now free to read the things I didn’t have time to read when I was grading papers.
BB – That’s interesting because just recently I’ve started playing golf with a man that is legally blind. We have to line him up … and he lost his sight just a couple of years ago too and he is thrilled to be back on the golf course. At one time he was almost a scratch golfer.
PM – Um hm.
BB – And it’s very interesting. That’s a very noble project you have going there. Tell me, one of the things I’ve been asking people, “Where do you think square dancing has been and where do you think it might be now and where do you think it might be going …. philosophically.
PM – Well, we had that … I don’t go far enough back to remember the Pappy Shaw days but I’ve certainly met a lot of people who knew Pappy, trained under him, and with the popularity of the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers there was a huge boom there in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. Probably a lot due to the service men who had danced during the war. This was something that they could do at their various bases. And then I think there was a back off during the ‘60s as new kinds of music were coming out and more youth activities. And then another big balloon of square dancing in the ‘70s. And Callerlab came along to solve some of the problems that had been created with the overly ambitious and creative callers who wanted to keep inventing new figures. And Callerlab helped with that as a problem but I think in the ‘70s people were looking at the number of dollars they could take home from a square dance, calling square dancing. You really didn’t need to be that good. There were so many people who wanted to dance. These guys quit their day jobs and tried to make a living calling, and they realized you can’t do it just calling at night and on the weekends. That you have to have workshops and classes and so forth. Well, how do you attract people to classes. Well, you have to have new material all the time. So where there was no intention to have a ladder, you know, as Callerlab says these are not levels these are programs. But the callers knew that if they wanted to make a living at it they had to call classes at A1, A2, C1A, and so forth. Well, as dancers started disappearing in the early ‘80s, not through any fault of square dancing I don’t think, but more … there were other things to do, and there were always fads. And square dancing had been a big fad for awhile and now it was time to slow down and these guys who had quit their day jobs still wanted to be able to call that many sessions. Well, who’s available to call to? And they went to the seniors. In three or four years they added 20 years to the age of the average square dancer. (Bob chuckles) And the image of square dancing now is that it’s something for old folks. I think somewhere we’re going to have to make that connection with youth again, with the enthusiasm, the … not the same old sounding music that we played in the ‘70s. I mean, Merle Haggard was a great singer but, he doesn’t touch the hearts of kids that are 18 years old.
BB – True.
PM – We need to reach out in that direction. Right now I find square dancing is very fractionalized. That American Callers Association supposedly was only going to offer cheaper insurance and cheaper licensing and then they came out with their One Floor Square Dancing Program. Callerlab has changed lists and philosophy. You’ve got the country dance people who are a little bit younger and they don’t want any dress code and they want live music all the time. We have the “advanced dancers” who think that unless you know 600 calls you are not a good dancer versus other people who are happy if I can dance 30 calls really well, and dance them smoothly…. “I’m a better dancer than that guy who’s rough with 600 calls”. So, we’re going a lot of different directions and maybe we’ll go back to dancing in our basements and our garages and maybe somebody will say, “Hey, over in this neighborhood lets see if we can get two or three of these groups together”. And we may build it all up again.
BB – Right.
PM – But I think it’s too much fun to die; it’s just going to change.
BB – Yeah, well, that’s a good way to think about it and I think I have a tendency to agree with you.
PM – I was talking to Bob Howell who says he still calls dances that he called 40 years ago and people love them. Visiting couple things and Venus and Mars Stars and that, and I find I end up (with) one night stands and even club square dances and pull out this material and people go crazy over it. Or actually, now some places are booking me for those types of dances rather than the contemporary Mainstream or Plus dances. It’s fun to see people smiling while they’re dancing instead of worrying about what they’re doing.
BB – Right, right. Well that’s … another question I usually ask is, looking back on your experiences do you have any regrets and is there anything you wished you might have done a little differently as you were going along?
PM – ( long pause ) It’s so easy to get tied up to being in the spotlight up on the stage, you know, everybody loves you because you called a good dance and so forth. You go to a festival, you know, glad handing everybody as you walk down the hall and so forth and it’s led to not paying attention…. enough attention to Mary and giving her a space in the activity. Because when I started calling she didn’t have a partner any more. And it’s been really hard on her. And so, that’s something I think we’re finally now beginning to look at. This needs to be a shared activity. It can’t be something I just go out and do and leave her home. Or she has to sit there like a wall flower and smile at people all night long.
BB – Sure, right. Very interesting. Well, it’s been a great little session we’ve had here Paul and I appreciate your having me over for dinner and also for taking the time to put your thoughts down on tape and we’ll get them into the archive and save them and maybe someday 100 years from now somebody will come back and ….
PM – … say who in the world is that.
BB – (chuckles) Right. No, I sincerely appreciate your time and efforts and you have a really nice … and I know you have an excellent rapport with your dancers and I’ve watched you work more than once and I love the way you work and I’m sure your dancers do to.
PM – I think the secret is, make it fun for yourself and your enthusiasm will carry across and your dancers will probably have fun also.
BB – That’s true.
PM – But I think this has been a real honor for me just having you to dinner today would have been an honor …
BB – Well, thank you very much.
PM – … and being on your tape is … with some of the people you have interviewed is, almost beyond belief.
BB – Thank you very much. So we’ll call it the end of the tape and thank you again and have a nice trip over to Oklahoma City and back to San …
(Tape cuts off abruptly. End of Paul Moore interview)