Burdick, Stan: CALLERLAB Milestone, SDFNE Hall of Fame


Stan & Cathie Burdick Interview

June 28, 1996

Bob Brundage:  We’re at the National Convention in San Antonio, having a wonderful time talking with various people.  This afternoon we’re talking with Stan Burdick, who is currently from the Lake Placid area in New York State.  The date today is the 28th of June, 1996.  We’re interested in the Stan Burdick life story, starting with what happened before square dancing, what got you into it, and what was your greatest influence for people, events and what have you.  So, Stan, take off.

Stan Burdick:  Thanks Bob, nice to talk and always good to reminisce about the good old days, so to speak.  I’m happy that I’m now getting close, at least, to celebrating 50 years of calling.  I figure that I started in late 47, early 48.  For all intends and purposes, I’ve put down 1948 as the starting year, ‘cause I’m not real sure.  But it was in the days that I was in college, back in those days.  I went to a dance in a grange hall, a square dance, and I was so excited about the idea that here was a caller up there.  He had everybody in the palm of his hand, so to speak.  That was kind of an old time, what we call Eastern style dancing.  I would be something like; I think the tune was “Listen To The Mocking Bird”.  I was with a girl; I really did like that girl.  He said “now first couple promenade the outside.  Go all the way around and come into the middle and swing her if you dare”, and then he said “and kiss her, kiss her if you dare”.  By golly I was waiting for the fourth couple to do that and promenade and I guess I was so enthused about it.  But I was a bashful kind of a guy in college days.  I swung her, when I got into the middle, I swung that girl, but I didn’t dare kiss her.  I kicked myself all the way home.  I got to thinking about it, and I thought, you know, I’d like to be in that position there.  Where you tell people what to do, and their having fun and maybe I’d better learn this kind of thing.  Time went on, that was 1948.

BB:  Where was this Stan?

SB:  That was in a little town in Western New York.  I went to a college called Alfred, Alfred University.  It was just a two year school there.  I was studying various subjects.  That was the beginning of where I saw square dancing, and I wanted to be a part of it.

BB:  You were brought up where?

SB:  My home originally was Rhode Island.  I spent a lot of time in Connecticut and in the New England States, but then I went to college, and the college I went to was in Western New York.  I hadn’t seen square dancing much in New England, although I knew it was very prevalent there too.  That was back in ’48.  Then I decided that I’ve got to learn this stuff.  Since my folks were in New England, we’re very familiar with the New England Area.  We heard that Charlie Baldwin from Boston, a great caller that had been with us for many years, was running a school for callers along with his Labor Day Week, at Camp Becket, in the Berkshire Mountains.  What Charlie was doing, was every morning, he’d take about twenty guys that wanted to learn to call.  There weren’t any women in it at that time.  But twenty guys, each morning of that week, he would work them on how to call.  I never forget some of the lessons that he taught.  One thing was, “now swing and whirl that corner girl, one, two, three, four.  Promenade go two by two, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight”.  And that’s the way Charlie would teach.  He wanted you to get the idea that on those one, two three, four, or one through eight, you weren’t to say anything.  He’d say to get your timing, you got to either count or tap your foot or something.  That was the beginning.  That was when I first begin to really learn to call.  Of course, incidentally, I met my wife at Camp Becket.  She went as a single, I went as a single, and soon after that we were married.  But I’d know her before from the work in camp.  I worked in the YMCA and worked in the camp work.  She was in a neighboring camp, so I know her before.  That week, that one week when we were in Camp Becket, we really got close and went on hikes and the trails and all that and we decided that that was the beginning of romance.  We eventually culminated in our getting married in 1955.  But, I’ll never forget Charlie and the good time of beginning to learn to call.  That was probably in 1949.  That was really when I started seriously.  Although I had practiced a little bit in 1948, or even a little earlier that that.  All we had in those days, as you know Bob, was the big 78 records, breakable, and we certainly broke a bunch of them.  And (????)Woodhall and all the other callers of the time, I would listen to those, and listen and practice and try everything that caller was saying on the record.  That was the beginning of trying to imitate what I heard on that record.  There weren’t many records where you had just music that you could use to call.  At least, I couldn’t find any.  I’d listen to those guys call and then practice that way.

BB:  Excuse me Stan, can I interject this story about Charlie Baldwin.  He was the moderator of a clinic at one of the early New England Conventions.  He gave a very good presentation.  He opened the floor for questions.  A feller got up and he said “Charlie, how do know when a record is worn out?”  Charlie, without batting an eye said “when you start to hear the music coming through from the other side”.

SB:  That’s good, that’s good.  Well, working for the YMCA, and finding out another place I could go in the summer.  We had a whole month off from the Y in the summer.  They gave us that much time as professional Y people.  So, I heard about a place called Silver Bay, New York, up on Lake George.  Cathie and I, when we were about to get married; let’s go up to Silver Bay.  They have a beautiful chapel and a hugh campus, 40 buildings.  It was the YMCA conference center.  Let’s go up there, and get married in that chapel.  That’s exactly what we did in 1955.  The nice part of it was this.  Right after that, since they knew that we had August off every year from the Y, at that time I worked both for the Providence Y and then into Middletown, Connecticut, and I had that month off, Silver Bay need a caller for the month of August.  I went up, and they liked what I was doing, just simple stuff and I called.  And every August from that point on, with the exception of two years, and now this is the thirty eighth year that we’re going back and calling for a period in the summer.  Now we do it all summer long, every Monday night with square dancing for the guest.  There are usually 6 to 800 guest at Silver Bay Resort Conference Center all the time, different conference groups.  So Monday night is the square dancing night all summer long we do it.  And in those days it was just in August when I had free time to do the calling up there.  The nice thing about it, Bob, was that our family, our three kids practically grew up there in August at that beautiful resort while I called square dances.  They had a good time in this family center.  So square dancing going way back then was such a boon to me to be able to go up there and have all our meals, all our lodging, just for calling dances and of course a little of other work that they assigned to us.  Cathie and I both helped with various projects there.  The square dancing was the big thing, and it always has been.  Of course, we’re going back again this summer.  Now, Silver Bay is our home.  After retiring, or semi-retiring about three years ago, we said well lets leave Ohio, sell our house, and go to God’s country, most beautiful place in the world, in the Adirondack Mountains, Silver Bay on Lake George and live there.  We bought a house, and now that’s our permanent retirement home.  Of course, we still call many dances, not only the Monday nights at Silver Bay Conference Center, but also dances around that area in other locations.  I’ll tell you a little more of the story.  The years following that, at the YMCA, you probably know, being associated with the YMCA, that it’s a very involved kind of work.  They want you, not only during the day for your regular work, office work and so forth, but then practically every night you’re assigned to various jobs and so forth.  When kids are free, and adults are free, the Y is booming.  Well, that didn’t fit in to well with my calling interest.  I was always betting in trouble because I had planned to go somewhere to call a dance then the Y people would say, but I thought you were coming to our meeting on that particular night.  So I go in trouble, it got to be so busy there for a while, both with the Y, both with the calling.  A caller has to make a decision somewhere along the line.  Should I leave this secure, full time work at the Y with its retirement benefits and everything and jump into this square dance calling full time.  Along about 1966, I had to make that decision.  Cathie and I talked it over and we said let’s do it.  Let’s leave the Y and jump into square dancing full time.  It was quite a risk.  Then we were lucky again, just plain luck.  Along close to that time, 66 – 67, I was doing some odd work for people and so forth and calling dances and trying to make a living that way, and along came Arvid Olsen who owned American Squares.  It was then called American Squares.  He wasn’t the first editor/publisher.  Ricky Holden was involved in that thing way back ten years before in New Jersey.  Others were involved as editors, Frank????? and others.  So, that magazine was going down.  I was doing some writing for the magazine, because I like to write about square dancing, so Arvid Olsen, the editor came to me and said, “You know Stan, we’re having trouble getting this magazine really so, I think you could buy this magazine and make a good go of it.  Now that you’re not working the Y anymore and have maybe a little more time, you could buy this magazine, make a go of it, build it and so forth.”  Well that sounded good.  We were lucky to get that opportunity.  So we got the magazine from Arvid, and we tried to build it up.  We changed the name to the New American Squares.  Later we changed the name to American Square Dance.  So, we built that magazine.  You know the funny thing, Bob, Arvid promised us, shouldn’t say this on tape, Arvid Olsen promised us that there were about 5000 subscribers.  OK, so be bought it on the strength of that.  We printed over 5000 copies, our first big printing in Sandusky, Ohio.  You know we had to eat a lot of those copies, because Arvid wasn’t quite true to his word.  Oh, yes he was in a way.  Sure, he had 5000 names in the file, but some of them he’d carried for years.  So, we had a bunch of names, and by the time we culled it, the file, and pulled them all out, the ones that had not been dropped and should have been dropped, we ended up with 1700 active subscribers to the magazine.  Over the years, Bob, we built the magazine all the way up, from 1700, with a lot of work, a lot of traveling around the country, a lot of subscription dances, we built that up to our big total was 24,000 that we finally had.  We’re about to sell it, the magazine was sold to John Sanborn in 1992.  We were kind of thinking about doing some other things with getting out of the magazine.  It had been 23 years we published that magazine.  It’s a lot of work, a lot of constant work.  Not this 9 to 5, working nights and all.  So John wanted to buy it and we sold it.  We sold about 21 or 22 thousand is what we had at that point.  So John Sanborn, these last three of four years has been the owner of American Square Dance Magazine.  There was something else, though that I need to mention of historical interest.  When Bob Osgood decided that he wanted to take it a little more easy and get out of publishing his magazine, which was as you know, Square Dancing Magazine, or a lot of people used to say Sets In Order, both names applied.  That was in the early 80’s.  Bob came to us and said “Stan and Cathie, would you consider, you’re the only ones that I want to rely on to pick up our subscribers, if we would quit publishing Sets In Order.  This was again, a golden opportunity for us, because once you’re publishing a magazine, and you go through all that trouble of so many pages per month, and then suddenly a bonanza comes like that, where you can almost double your subscription, and just print the same magazine.  Your printer is going to get rich from that ‘because he gets all the gravy.  But you will get richer too because all those new subscribers for your magazine certainly will pay their fair share.  We worked a deal with Bob and it was very equitable and we certainly appreciate Bob’s generosity at this point.  He didn’t want to lose his subscribers so we agreed to fulfill all the unexpired subscriptions if they were willing to take our magazine.  He wrote a nice letter to all of them and said the Burdick’s are taking over your unfulfilled subscriptions and some thought at that point.  Some said no, if he’s dropping his magazine, we’ll drop.  So we ended up there at close to 24000 at that point with his and our combined subscriptions.  He did not want to let go, he wanted to forever drop the name Sets In Order or Square Dancing Magazine.  He didn’t want to sell or give that away, and that was fine.  He simply wanted us to fulfill his subscriptions, and that’s exactly what we did.  So that was an important year for us to add that many subscribers to our magazine.  We continue on at that point, we were at the point where kids college expenses and all that.  It was such a nice boon to have that opportunity.  So that brings us up to 92 when we sold the magazine to John Sanborn.  You know Bob; you never get printer’s ink out of your blood.  Cathie and I made an agreement with John Sanborn that we would like to print something, and we would not have advertising, because that would compete with him.  But we’d like to do a caller’s not service just sent to callers.  That wouldn’t conflict much with what he had in his national magazine.  So we started Mike Side Management in 92 after we sold the big magazine.  We’ve been running that ever since, these 5 years since then.  We’re now up to, would you believe, 500 callers, practically every state, every province of Canada and ten countries abroad.  The callers are subscribing to what we’re doing in the note service.  So it’s gone very well, it makes a very nice retirement opportunity.  I’m doing retirement type things now.  We’re enjoying life at Silver Bay, and the life is a little easier.  So we spend several days every month putting out the Mike Side Management and I’m calling every weekend, not so much around the country anymore but mainly in the areas of New York State, a little in New England and Pennsylvania, close by and that sort of thing.  Still doing callers schools, because that’s always been a high priority in my life.  Still doing seminars and clinics like the one that I’m working here at San Antonio Convention.  Other things of that nature, I’ve told Cathie and I’ve told the square dance world that 50 years is enough.  So, early 98, I’ll not hang up the mike, but I will quit the road pretty much and call pretty much locally and do these seminar clinic type things, and of course, do the note service continually.  As long as my health hold out.

BB:  Well that’s great Stan, I know you got many, many miles of traveling, and I wonder you can think of any special accomplishments, any special events that stick out in your mind.That your very happy that you did, or very proud that you did.  What about large crowds, did you ever have a dance where nobody showed up?

SB:  Oh, absolutely, yes, many, many times, especially in local areas, and breaking into a new area.  For instance, you probably know this, that quite a bit today there are many caller run clubs.  Years ago, when you and I were active in the old days, every club seemed to be run by dancers, with officers and all that.  Well Today, many times, callers are running their own groups, clubs and workshops.  So I’m into that, there are going to be times when you announce a dance and you’ll run it and you don’t have a bunch of dancers behind you and suddenly you’re there at the hall and nobody comes.  So that’s certainly an important thing to consider.  The other thing about memories and travels and so forth, for 20 trips we’ve taken now with dancers to other countries and ship board and overseas and so forth, our last one was just this past April going to Italy.  Taking 16 dancers and dancing in Rome with the little club there, the only club that we know of in Italy that’s western style.  The dancing in London, calling in London and we’ve been there a number of times.  These 20 tours have been really important to us.  I like to spread the word about the magazine and to spread the word about square dancing in general.  But just enjoy having fun on cruises and trips with dancers.  I’ll never forget square dancing on the Great Wall of China; square dancing in the middle of Shang-Hi, where those Chinese, thousands of them, gathered and pulled in closer and closer, so close to us that our little one set could hardly move because they all crowed in with their big smiles and watching us dance.  One little Chinese gentleman off to the side was heard to say in perfect English “just like the cowboys do”.  That’s what his impression was of square dancing.  I don’t know if we made any converts there, but it was certainly fun traveling through this kind of thing.  Also, dancing in the wilds of Tanya, Africa, 50 miles from no where.  They take you out on these safaris and you go out into the wilds, 50 miles from anywhere and all that you see as you square dance on those rough plains just for the fun to entertain ourselves and entertain our guides.  All you see all the way around the ring as you look, way out there, ½ mile, a mile out are antelopes, elephants, giraffes, and all kinds of wild animals watching and wondering what the heck those funny people are doing out in the middle of no where.  Those are some of the memories that happen from many trips.   I guess the biggest dance I ever called was almost accidental.  Three callers were involved one year in Louisville, KY, at one of the big festivals there.  This goes back ten, fifteen years.  The other two callers that were assigned wanted to call in the advance hall, and I was left in the big hall.  I called, would you believe, a dance for two hours with 5000 dancers.  Now, that’s when we could get 5000 dancers in those big arenas, in the big cities.  I think that’s the most I ever called for, a single dance for 5000 people.  You know, you look over those heads, and you can’t even see the faces back at the far end of the arena because their so small.  All you can see is the color.  We all wish that the numbers could be like that today.  But on the other hand, that’s not to complain.  We certainly have big crowds in some areas, especially at the National Conventions, but not quite that big usually at the smaller festivals.

BB:  Yes, I noticed the total attendance that I read today was 16,337.  Quite a few, I was impressed by the number of Japanese I’ve seen at the convention this year.

SB:  A bunch of them, you bet.

BB:  Well Stan, I know you’ve attended many, many national conventions.  Tell us about that and a little bit more about CALLERLAB.

SB:  OK, glad to do that.  Well, I think the last count was about 30 national conventions that I’ve attended.  Cathie has gone with me most of the time.  I’ve attended all of the CALLERLAB events, all of the conventions of CALLERLAB. Every other year Legacy has their convention.  I’ve attended all of those.  Cathie and I were Chairman of Legacy for a period.  Actually, speaking of Legacy, I was one of the ones, one of the three responsible for starting Legacy.  Bob Osgood came to me and Charlie Baldwin and said you know we three are the editors of the three biggest magazines.  So, I’m coming to you to see if we couldn’t do something, start an organization that would help to do a little bit of control with what I’m seeing is happening in square dancing.  There were a lot of so called detours.  I remember Bob liked that word detours.  Bob Osgood would say look at the situation now.  Their coming to the national convention in hot pants.  Can you imagine that?  The women are not dressing properly in nice square dance outfits.  That is one detour.  I see something else coming in.  There’s some drinking at some of the dances.  Maybe we could start an organization that would maybe try to do something to not necessarily control in a dictatorial way, but just to put some regulations in there.  So then we talked and had several meetings where we discussed this, and finally the idea of Legacy came.  That was about 1973 was when we had our first Legacy conference in Cleveland Ohio.  As far as CALLERLAB is concerned, I also served a short term as Executive, or Chairman, I guess we called it Chairman at that point of CALLERLAB following Bob Osgood.  With the magazine and all at that time, it was just impossible to carry on any longer than that short year.  So, another Chairman or Executive was found at that point.  Very soon John Kalthenthaler was found and John became the regular full…

(The tape came to an end at this point)

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