Morse, Wayne

Photo Morse


Bob Brundage – Well, hi again. This is Bob Brundage and today is April the 13th, 2005. Today we are talking to a gentleman back in Southbridge, Massachusetts, Wayne Morse so we are anxious to find out about Wayne’s association with square dancing. So, Wayne why don’t you tell me where you were born and brought up and tell us a little about your early years before square dancing and we’ll take it from there.

Wayne Morse – OK Bob. I was born – well, my father and my mother – my father was a farmer and I was born at the farmhouse right in Southbridge. I was born on August 3rd, 1925. From there on I went to school. In school I did two years of high school and transferred to a cold trade high school and went there for four years. Then I graduated from there and I started working at a machine shop and I did the machine shop for forty years. In between I did work on the farm for my father for about sixteen years. Then I got married. As far as the square dancing, my wife was very into the old-fashioned Grange dancing and barn dancing and I didn’t like it at all. Both laugh. I told her when we got married that’s one thing I didn’t want to do was go square dancing. We didn’t do much of that at all and then as they got into this new square dancing we had friends who were taking lessons. In Southbridge there was a club and that’s where I started to square dance.


I was one that the first couple of times I didn’t like it at all and then I kept going and I was the first one to get ready to go to the classes. I was very anxious to get there. I began to like it very much.


BB – I’ve heard that story before. It seems to be the way it is with husbands these days in square dancing.


WM – Also, after we graduated from the class we went on to get into the square dancing. we started going to dances around and I went over to Bay Path Barn in – where is that place now? …



BB- Yeah, just outside if Worchester.


WM – Boylston, Mass. And the fellow that was calling was Dick Leger. I was so impressed with his calling and I went to him at intermission and asked him if there was any place I could learn how to call. He said, “Well, I need one or two more couples. What I’ll do when I go home I’ll – “. He got my name and address and he sent me a letter saying where he was going to give lessons. It was every Sunday. I went down there for at least fifteen lessons and at the end of the lessons he said we should do one-night-stands for a while. What I did I got the opportunity to call for a 4-H club and I did that all one winter. In the spring we had a parent’s night so I hired a hall down in Woodstock, Connecticut and the first night that I was there the hall filled up so much that we had to turn them away. The parents liked it so much that they wanted to learn. So that’s where I got started.


The hall got too small and we went into an elementary school in Woodstock – right into a gymnasium. From then on I had that club, which was called the Woodstock Country Dancers for twenty years. Then it started to kind of dwindle a little bit after maybe ten or fifteen years. There was a nearby town and they had an exhibition. I took some of the square dancers from the club and I was on TV on Channel 10 and 12 out of Rhode Island. The people down there were so impressed with it I started a club down there. It was called Ruffles and Bows. So I had two clubs and that one lasted eighteen years.  Then what happened I started to get calling dates outside. I called for my clubs every other Saturday and then we had guest callers when I was out calling. I started to get A lot dates outside. I called in every state in New England. I called in Pennsylvania. I called in New York State and Canada so I did that for quite a while.  My problem, Bob was that I never got more than three to five hours sleep in twenty years because I was still working in the shop sixty hours a week while doing all this. I had a class on Wednesday night and another class on Thursday night and I called on Friday and Saturday nights for quite a few years. So that’s my square dancing.


BB – Now this is all Modern Western, right?


WM – Right. Yes it was.


BB – Of course you that Dick Leger was big in contra dances etc. did you get involved in contras at all?


WM – I did a few contras but not very much. Well, when I got into calling I got a phone call from Dick and he said, “ Would you like to be on the staff with me at a winter weekend in New Hampshire – Troy, New Hampshire”. I said, “ Yes, I would”. So we got together, talked about it a little bit and we started that place up in New Hampshire and it ran for twenty-five years and we sold out for twenty-five years. That was East Hill Farm in Troy, New Hampshire. I gave it up after twenty-five years. I think Dick kept going for maybe three or four years after I got out of it. He got Lori Morin to take over and then Dick got very sick and passed away.


BB – Yes. I was up there just before he did pass away at his house. I danced with Sue a couple of times after he passed away and I was so shocked to hear about her passing when she had a rotator cuff problem. Well, that’s all very interesting. Tell me about some of the local festivals you probably participated in.


WM – Well there was only one thing I did and that was at the New England Convention. I only called one time. I called in Portland, Maine. You see, my job took me up quite a – I was quite active in my work and I couldn’t do that all the time – get to go to the Convention but I wised I did.


BB – Have you ever been to any National Conventions?


WM – No, I haven’t. No, I did most everything locally around here.


BB – No, that’s OK. Certainly the local callers are the backbone of the business you know. Outside of the thing you did with Dick up in Troy at East Hill Farm did you do any other weekends?


WM – Well. I did have one weekend with Dick at a camping ground. That was the only one but I did do – I don’t know if have you ever heard of the Woodstock Fair? Well for twenty years I had an exhibition on the stage. That’s the only other thing I did.


BB – Well, that’s an important part of the business. A lot of people do that around the fairs – especially around New England. I don’t know about the rest of the country. Of course, I was born and brought up there. So, you never did get to a caller school outside of your time with Dick?


WM – No, that was the only time.


BB – Well, that certainly was the foundation for a wonderful education in calling that’s for sure.


WM – Right, Dick was great. I was very, very close to Dick and he was a great, great person.


BB – He was. Right. In fact, he and I almost did a caller’s school together one time but it just didn’t pan – we just couldn’t get together on a date. Well, in your vast experience around New England did you  get involved in round dancing at all?


WM – I taught a few round dances at my club and I did a lot of line dancing. I taught a lot of line dancing. We got into a lot of like New Years Dance at Christmas time. The clubs parties – actually the club in Woodstock for quite a while had over 200 couples. It was a big club as the way I see it. When calling around New England, like in Rhode Island at that time it was like fifty-five clubs and even in Springfield. You know, you go to a dance and you could hardly even get into the hall with your equipment there were do many people dancing. It was very, very big. I went to call dancers down in, like New Haven around Woodbridge, Orange and Norwalk and all that and very big – big, big crowds. It was excellent.


BB – Well, you’re down in Alan Brozek’s territory.


WM – Right.


BB – You knew Alan?


WM – I knew the name but not in person.


BB – Well, he’s real close to there. So, did you subscribe to any of the note services that were popular in those days?


WM – I’m sorry, to the what?


BB – Note services. You know where different callers put out a workshop kind of a sheet every month.


WM – No, I didn’t get involved in that.


BB – So, tell me a little bit more about the one-night-stands. Are you still doing those?


WM – Well, not now. I’m not calling at all now. I called for thirty-five years. I paid my dues.


BB – You paid your dues, right.


WM – The one-night-stands though I enjoyed them very, very much and even after I got into club dancing – calling I still did one-night-stands – a lot of them and I enjoyed them very, very much.


BB – Well, I understand from recent conversations that you’re kind of busy now with a project of your sons.


WM – Yes, very.


BB – Tell us a little more about that.


WM – Well, you see when I worked in the shop my son started this farm stand and it started to grow pretty high, pretty fast. He got into greenhouses and wholesaling produce to restaurants and hospitals and he needed somebody to help him so I finally quit my job and came to work for him. I’ve been doing that for maybe eighteen years.


BB – Oh gosh. Laughs


WM – I worked oh, twelve to fourteen hours a day seven days a week. Just keep going. Never stop.


BB – Well, it’s about time you slowed down Wayne. Both laugh.


WM – Well, I enjoy it and I just keep going.


BB – In all your experience now looking back is there anything you wish you’d done differently?


WM – No, I don’t. Square dancing, like all of us I guess was like most of your life. It was your life for quite a few years and when I first started to get into it, Bob I thought I’d – I never had any idea about music. I did sing in my choir at my church. I can remember talking to Dick after my seventh or eighth caller’s class. I said, “ Dick, if you ever feel that I won’t make it let me know now. I won’t be hurt – my feelings won’t be hurt”. He said to me, “ I’ve never seen a guy that I’ve ever taught that can get off music and get back on as quick as you”. He said, “ Don’t give it up”.


BB – Well, that’s an important part. Yep, very important. So, do you have any other hobbies? You probably don’t have any time for hobbies.


WM – No, I used to golf a little bit. I used to golf with Dick quite often. When he called around here he used to stay at my house and I’d call somewhere and we’d come back and talk half the night. But I never got into anything else.


BB – Well, he and I played golf together too on my home course back in Connecticut. He shot a – he had about a 150 yard shot across a ravine and onto a sloping green and put it in the hole.


WM – Is that right?


BB – Yeah, it was really the only time I ever saw him get really excited about golf.


WM – Laughs. Well, that would make you a little excited.


BB – I guess so – a nice little Eagle, you know. So, that’s all very interesting. When was it you said you got married?


WM – I got married in 1946. My square dancing started – taking lessons – in the late 50’s I guess. I started doing some calling in the early 60’s. I think it was 1968 I started with Dick at East Hill Farm and we went for twenty-five years.


BB – Ah, that’s great. That’s really great. So, I don’t know if we ever crossed paths, did we?


WM – No, I was talking with Eleanor – she’s my wife – and we did – the club hired your brother – Al, is it?


BB – Yes.


WM – That’s the only time I even talked with Al was at that dance. I went to the dance that night and we talked at intermission quite extensively. I had a very good talk with him. I knew – Dick talked about you, you know – Bob Brundage – he said, “ You ought to get to know him”. And we never crossed paths.


BB – Well, it was one of those things. Of course, it was a big business. You were going one way and I was going another.


WM – Exactly.


BB – I didn’t get into the Eastern Massachusetts area. I used to call at Bay Path all the time. Of course, I was involved in the New England Conventions for some years too as well as the New England Folk Festival too. Did you ever get to that?


WM – No I didn’t. I just never got – I would have loved to have gotten to a lot of things but I was just – I just could not do it. Even when I started East Hill I was working about sixty hours a week and it wasn’t easy for me to do that. It was easy for me to get up there and do the calling though. But it was hard to get there.


BB – Yeah. Well, so how long has it been since you’ve been out of calling now?


WM – Well, in ’68 – I stopped after the twenty-five years at East Hill I probably did maybe four years after that and not very much, Bob. I kind of got out of it.


BB – Well, a lot of guys did. One of the things I like to ask different callers is, what did you find appealing about calling? What turned you on about calling?


WM – Well, I felt that the people that came in I gave them such a great time and it made me feel terrific. I was not a high level caller. I was for fun. I mixed it up with a lot of different things but I was not into high level. I kept it like club level and all these new things that came out, these callers were going, you know, high You know, I never wanted to. I felt that a person that comes in there, no matter who he was or what couple it was if they paid a certain amount of money to come they came here to dance and I tried to give it to them. That was my satisfaction. That’s what made me feel so good.


BB – Sure, right. Well, do you feel like to give me your estimate – where do you think square dancing is going?


WM – Well, I talked before Dick passed away – we used to get talking on it – my opinion was that it has to go right down to rock bottom and somehow maybe start over again. I think it’s almost that way now. How do you feel? Are you still calling, Bob?


BB – No. I retired quite a few years ago too. I’m not dancing either. I have a bum leg etc. but I do spend my time playing golf and making these interviews. I’ve done 125 of them so far. So anyway, I appreciate your taking the time to get your thoughts down on tape Wayne –


WM – I hope I’ve done something worth it.


BB – Oh yeah. I’m happy to have you down as part of the gang. I’ll send you a copy of this tape and the interview up to the Square Dance Foundation of New England and put it in their archive.


WM – Where does that go to in New England?


BB – Manchester, New Hampshire.


WM – Manchester.


BB – That’s where the Square Dance Foundation of New England is housed. I’ve been sending them copies of all these tapes and interviews etc. They’re a very ambitious group of people there. You ought to look into it a little bit. You could check your email or check on your computer SDFNE (Square Dance Foundation of New England) – just SDFNE. org.


WM – Will you mail that to me Bob?


BB – Yeah, sure.


WM – Yeah, let me know. Who is the head of it up there. Is there anybody –


BB – Yes, Anna Dixon.


WM – Anna Dixon


BB – Yes, they actually live in Reading, Massachusetts. She’s a very ambitious lady and her husband is Mil Dixon. You may have met him sometime. He’s an old, traditional caller – been around for a long time – he and Joe Casey – guys like that up in the north of Boston area. So, I’ll send you this information and I’ll also send you a copy of this tape when I get it transcribed.


WM – Very good. Well, nice talking with you Bob. I hope I’ve told you everything.


BB – Yep. We’ve covered everything that I can think of that I have down in my notes here. I appreciate your taking the time from your busy, busy schedule to sit down and put them down on tape.


WM – Well, I appreciate your calling me.


BB – OK. My regards to your wife and we’ll be talking to you again sometime.


WM – Very good.


BB – OK, thanks Wayne


WM – You’re welcome. Bye


BB – Bye, bye.




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