"BETWEEN TIPS" is the official bulletin of the
Alex Ritchie, Editor, 58 Oakdale Crescent, Dartmouth, NS B3A 2L8
phone (902) 469-1492 email:
MAY    2002
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-- July 18-20 --

Have you registered yet to "Come on Down" to Saint John, NB, this July? National Conventions arevery special events and come to the East Coast only once in about ten years. Don't miss this opportunity. Dancing in a huge hall full of enthusiastic dancers from around the world is a unique experience thatepitomizes the friendship of square dancing.
All of the halls will have wood floor for the average expected number of dancers. We have animpressive lineup of well-known leaders registered to call, cue, and prompt.
If you have been hesitating, please register now. We need to know numbers of dancers to budgetproperly and we need preferred dance program information in order to plan appropriate sized halls. Hotelrooms are still available through the convention housing committee; however, to assist us in maximizing thespace available, please consider doubling up, taking your RV, or staying with friends or relatives.
Nova Scotians who were involved in one or both of our National Conventions know that organizingsuch an event is a huge undertaking. New Brunswick needs additional volunteers to help. Even if you are onlywilling or able to volunteer an hour of your time, remember that "many hands make light work". Such choresinclude passing out registration kits or helping to decorate on Wednesday, assisting with the Banner Parade,acting as a room monitor, or helping in the Operations Centre during the convention, or assisting with cleanupon Sunday. If you want to help, please contact Scott & Carol MacDonald at 506-847-0604
Also, Nova Scotians are welcome to make the Covered Bridge outfit and to participate in the OpeningCeremony2002 Dances demonstration. Contact Dottie Welch at 902-435-4544 or ifyou are interested.


Our beginnings in the square dance movement go back to our early childhood. Having both grown up in thesame rural area of Manitoba, the Saturday night dance, the fiddler, the square dance caller with his "forward sixand back", the Virginia reel and the waltz quadrille form nostalgic memories of our childhood and adolescentyears.

As a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, it was small wonder then, when a friend suggested forming amodern square dance club at RCAF Station Gimli, Manitoba, in December of 1959, that we jumped in withboth feet. For a season we danced to RCA records (traditional) and some more modern records that one of ourmembers owned. Because of a service instructor's background, the first thoughts of becoming a caller wereborn. Bill Turnbull, the club member that owned the records, and I would each learn a singing call and thencall it at the club's dance that week. A gentle push in this direction came from Sqd. Leader Fred Tupling, thefirst real "live caller" the club was fortunate enough to have for a six month period.

Transferred to California for three months (where I bought my first PA set) and then on to RCAF Station ColdLake, Alberta, for a year, we were thrown into the fray almost immediately. The Cold Lake club's regular callerwas posted to Quebec on a course and I was asked to fill in as the club caller. This was a formidable task for abrand new caller at a time when there were no books on square dancing and no theory as we know it today. Allcalls had to be memorized. At the same time we had to instruct a new class (there were only 20 basicmovements at that tine) and we graduated our first class of 15 couples in June of 1962.

In September of 1962 we were transferred to Zweibrucken, Germany, where we were greeted with the requestto be the club caller for two area clubs. Our home base club, the "Wagon Wheels", needed another caller andalso the US Army Hospital Base at Landstule needed a caller for their club, "The Sherry Squares". In the fall of1963 we joined the calling staff of the "Boots and Ruffles Club" at the US Airforce base at Ramstein, and in1965 added the "Skirts and Spurs Club" at the US Army base at Kaiserslautern to our calling duties. Each ofthese clubs also sponsored classes, so we would run class from 7 to 9 PM and then club from 9 to 11 PM,except at our home club where we had class on a separate night.

Up to this point in our calling career our prime interest was in the square dance field. Although we had alwaystaught and danced the current easy rounds in our clubs, we didn't have the success at teaching them to ourbeginners classes that we thought we should have had. We have always believed that square and round dancingbelonged together. The first opportunity for formal square and round dance leadership training came with thebirth of the "European College of Square and Round Dancing", held at Garmish, Germany, in 1964 and again in65. Armed with the knowledge, confidence and encouragement poured into us by a skilled staff of US Armyinstructors, we added round dancing to our calling duties, starting a class in September of 1964, which, whengraduated, were formed into "The Canadian Round-Abouts" club. In September of 1966 we turned over theleadership of this club to two of our first graduates, Ken and Donna Gibson, when we rotated back to Canada.

The two years from 1964 to 66 were extremely busy ones for us as it was now our turn to start sharing andpassing on to other new callers the things we had learned. Europe, at that time, (Vietnam war) was a veryunstable place. A military base could have three callers and a good sized club one week and the next have nocaller and only a handful of dancers, as contingents of men were sent to the war zone. It was up to those of usthat remained to help the devastated club to recoup. Often it was a question of, "Who amongst you have dancedthe longest in the club?" "OK, you're the new caller, now let's get to work."

Serving in the capacity of Vice-Chairman of the European Callers and Teachers Association involved givingtraining lectures and assisting in conducting callers clinics and doing general Association administration. Atthat time, in Europe, there were four Jamborees put on each year, (spring, summer, fall and winter) that werehosted by the various clubs as they were able. In 1965, our association, in co-operation with the "Sets in OrderEuropean Tour," sponsored the first European Convention, which took the place of the fall Jamboree. This wasa fantastic opportunity for our callers to share the stage and also learn from some of the top name, professionalcallers from the United States, callers such as Bob Osgood, Bruce Johnson, Bob Van Antwerp, Dave Taylor,Don Armstrong and round dance leaders like Manning and Nita Smith and Frank and Carolyne Hamilton, toname a few. As Chairman of the Association in the 65/66 season, when the square and round dance leadershiphad been cut in half due to the war, my job was to rebuild. All the emphasis had to be put on training to ensurethe survival of the clubs and to put on a successful second annual convention. By convention time we werealmost back up to strength again due to this training and the fact that some experienced callers had beentransferred in. We did heave a sigh of relief, however, when we handed the gavel over to the new chairmanafter a very successful convention and headed back to Canada.

Upon our arrival back in Canada in September of 1966 we were transferred to the Halifax/Dartmouth area,where I would work as an Air Force quality assurance representative at the Fairey Aviation (and later IMPAerospace) plant at the International Airport. At this time there was only one modern square dance club, the"Tartan Twirlers," in the area and two small traditional style clubs.

In the valley there were four new clubs, two in Yarmouth and one each in Milton and Blockhouse. That wasthe extent of modern square dancing in the Province. A Callers Association was just in its formative stage, withan executive, but without an agenda. The experience we had gained overseas was put to good use getting thenew group organized with a constitution and a training format. Over the years we have served in all the officesof the association, Vice President, President, Training Director and several terms as Secretary Treasurer. Onretirement we were presented with an "Honorary Life Membership" in the organization. We purchased a newhouse in Dartmouth that had an unfinished basement that was big enough to dance four squares comfortablyand six squares in a pinch. We promptly tiled the basement floor for dancing and then started a round dancebeginners class followed two months later by a three and a half square, square dance class and a second rounddance class. The square dance class upon graduation became "The Metro-Gnomes" and danced the followingtwo years in the Halifax North Common field house, then they moved to Highland Park School in north endHalifax. The first round dance class was to introduce the dancers, who were going on the 1967 CentennialCross Country Square Dance Train, to the rounds they were likely to encounter as they travelled from city tocity. After the second round dance class graduated, they were formed into "The Dancing Shadows" RoundDance Club.

If square dancing in the Halifax / Dartmouth area was to expand, it would require more callers. To that end, weran a callers class in our basement during the 1967-68 season, graduating new callers Benny (& Norma) Slade,Jerry (& Curly) MacLeod, Ron (& Gwen) Crawford and Joe (& Ruth) Doucette. Benny started a class inWestphal that upon graduation became "The Stardusters" club. Jerry worked with me at the Metro-Gnomesclub. Ron started a class in the Five Island Lake area that upon graduation became "The Crosstrail Dancers"club. Joe took on the job of chairman of the recently formed Metro Council of Square Dance Clubs andalthough he didn't form a club of his own, he conducted many one night stands, introducing hundreds of peopleto the fun of square dancing, over several years. Having mentioned Metro Council (now called the MetroAssociation) I should mention that it was also born in our basement when we gathered a group of dancer andcaller leaders of the area together to ensure that this new expansion developed with guidance and a spirit ofco-operation. Ches (& Fern) Knowlton was elected as the first Metro Council chairman.

It was also in the summer of 1967 that a good friend from our overseas square dancing, Dana MacLeod, had aheart attack and could no longer call for the class he and his wife Laura had started in the Trenton area. Franand I went to Trenton Steel Town Park and put on a three day, crash callers course for five of Dana's classcouples who were anxious to see that their group continued dancing. These new callers were Jack (& Dolores)MacArthur, Herb (& Kay) Muir, Brundage (& Ella) MacDonald, Bill (& Isabell) MacPherson and Bill (& Joan)MacEachern. These five, with some once a month help from the Metro area callers continued to provideinstruction and good fun dancing to their group, who were given the club name of the "Trenton Twirlers." Dueto business commitments, both of the Bills had to drop out of the calling activity in the following year, but theremaining "3 M's" continued to provide their dancers with excellent dancing and went on to form a second clubin their area called "The Triple M Dancers ".

The following year, 1968, saw the birth of the "Dartmouth Teen Troopers" club in our basement dance hall. This teen club was for grades 7, 8, and 9. This was an age group that was in an "in between" age, too old forthe birthday parties of elementary school and too young for high school dances. The fact that our own twodaughters fit into this category definitely had some bearing on our decision to start this group. We called forthe teens for several years until newer callers were available to take them over. About this same time a callerwe had helped train in our overseas club, Ed (& Lil) LeBlanc, was transferred to the Halifax area, where Edstarted an adult club called the "Hal-Dar Swinging Stars" and another club for children in grade 5 and 6 agegroup, called "The Tween Teens." We did have a bit of a problem convincing the adult club members of thearea that the teens would not conflict with their dancing. We laid down the ground rule that the two children'sgroups were to dance in their own sets. If an adult asked one of them to dance in an adult set then the adulttook the responsibility and any criticism should it arise.

In late 68 our round dance friends from overseas, Ken and Donna Gibson, were transferred to RCAF StationGreenwood. During the winter and spring of 1969 we drafted the format of the first "Camporee." It would be aweek long training event with an Indian theme and tribal competition to promote fun and offset the stress thenew callers and cuers would be under during this training. The 1st and 2nd Camporees were held at the TrentonSteel Town Park in 69 and 70 and were very successful, helping already established new callers and alsostarting new callers and cuers Marg and Tom Keighan, Lionel and Janet Crowe, and Art and MargaretBlumsum. In 1971 Ken and Donna were transferred to British Columbia so no Camporee was held that year. In 1972 a shorter, weekend version was started aimed more at the dancers, still retaining the Indian theme andopportunity for new or potential callers and cuers to call to the group sometime during the weekend. Jack andDolores MacArthur and Brundage and Ella MacDonald worked with us on this 1st of July annual weekendprogram. When we had to give it up around 1980, they carried it on with Hilton and Vi MacIntosh taking ourplace and Alex Ritchie and Bernice Thurber taking over for Brundage and Ella when they retired. TheCamporee, after 30 very successful years, had to close when the campground at Five Islands closed and nosuitable alternate could be found.

In 1970 we started a class in Lower Sackville that upon Graduation became "the Sackville Downers". TheSackville Downs racetrack was still in operation at that time and the word "downers" didn't have theconnotation that it has today. This same year saw Fran purchase "The Grand Square" square dance shop fromChes & Fern Knowlton. It was hard to procure crinolines at that time so she started to manufacture them forsale in the shop. Many's the night that we would come home from a dance at 11 o'clock and then start cuttingstrips for crinolines from new bolts of material that had arrived in that day, working through till two in themorning. She operated the shop out of our basement for eight years taking it out to all major dances and to anyminor dances that requested it. Hardly a money-maker, the shop was a labour of love, as all who have tried itwill attest. It took innumerable trips up and down the stairs to load the van, unload it at the dance, load it backup again after the dance, drive home and then unload it, and the next day get it set back up in the basementready for any customers that should want to come in. Yes, a true labour of love but Fran enjoyed it and enjoyedthe people she met through it.

It was around the 1970 era that "Sets In Order" square dance magazine published the "Gold Ribbon Report."This report recommended that rather than a full season (30 week) class, clubs should sponsor 10 week classesand then let these "Basic" dancers dance at that level for at least a year. We decided to try this system at theMetro-Gnomes club and formed a basic club called "The Stepping Stones" for these ten week dancers. Thisrequired more callers so Jerry Macleod and Art Blumsum (a beginning caller) worked with me on this program. We ran through a series of about 6 classes this way, starting a new class every 10 weeks, and the basic programworked well with the new dancers enjoying themselves more and becoming better dancers. The one thing wedidn't count on, however, was "peer pressure". Our basic dancers had friends who were in other club classesand at the end of the season they could go out to dances all over the province while there was no place for ourdancers to dance except in our club. This discontent killed the program but I still believe it is the best systemfor square dancing if only we could get all clubs to follow it. Jerry gave up calling after the program ended andArt and Margaret went on to form a new club called the "Bee Squares." They gave their dancers several yearsof enjoyable dancing until their car was hit by a drunken driver at an intersection, injuring both of them andleaving Art an invalid, confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. A sad ending to a promising callingcareer.

1971 saw the birth of the "2+2" club for those who wanted just fun level rounds and squares. It alternated twosquares and two rounds. We only kept the club going for a couple of years but it filled a need at the time. Around this time we also started grooming Marg and Tom Keighan to take over the Dancing Shadows club forus. We had Marg and Tom sit in on one of our classes one season and then they taught the next class under ourwatchful eye the following season after which they took on the leadership of the club. Lionel and Janet Crowehad been in our Metro-Gnomes club and had taken round dance basics there; they formed a second club calledthe "Rebel Roundabouts " in 72 or 73 and had a very successful club for many years.

In February of 1974 I retired from the Air Force and worked for a hydraulics firm for a couple of years beforewinning a competition to be hired by Supply and Services Canada. I was again back out at the HalifaxInternational airport, with IMP Aerospace, this time as an Engineering Procurement Officer negotiating theprice the Government would pay for the work the company was doing on our aircraft. I retained this positionfor another 13 years, retiring in 1991 with a total of 38 years of Government service.

By 1975 there was again a need for more new callers, as Ron Crawford had to give up calling. Cecil Smith, anew caller who was calling for the Teen Troopers, and I alternated week about with the Crosstrail club andclass to keep them dancing until replacements could be trained. To this end we started another callers class inour basement and although there were 5 couples, I'm afraid I can only remember four, Jim and Pat Alguire,Mark and Susan Savage, Wade (& Cheryl) Savage and John and Connie Hudson. Mark started calling for theSackville Downers, Susan called for the Teen Troopers, and Jim and Pat called for the Crosstrail Dancers classand then the following year took over the club. Wade started a club in Porters Lake called the "MarineSwingers" and John and Connie did some one night stands but never started a class.

Sometime around 1975 or 76, Benny Slade lost his sight and had to stop calling for the Stardusters and I wasasked to take over his calling duties. It was also shortly after this time that my blood pressure started to climband my Doctor told me to cut back on my calling. To this end, I resigned from The Metro-Gnomes and wasreplaced by Lorne Tyler, the Sackville Downers and was replaced by Mark Savage and the Crosstrail dancersand was replaced by Jim and Pat Alguire. I now called only for "Benny Slade's Stardusters" club and class. This club danced on Saturday nights in St John's Church Hall at the corner of Lake Major Rd and Number 7highway and although the hall only held 10 sets comfortably it was often packed with 12 or more sets. I don'tknow if it was the atmosphere in the hall or the friendliness of the club members, or the fact that people knewthey didn't have to get up early the next day (Sunday) so they could let their hair down, or what it was, but I doknow it was one of the most fun-filled clubs we had the pleasure of calling to. Wade Savage worked with meon the77/78 Stardusters class, and in the summer of 1978 I was transferred to Amherst, NS, to work full time inthe Enheat plant there. For the 78/79 season we drove back down from Amherst every Saturday night and hadWade call on the program with us to ensure a smooth transition when he would take over by himself thefollowing year.

1978 was a very busy year as we moved to a new community and designed and built a new house. The lot wepurchased was heavily wooded with 18" to 24" diameter spruce trees that we cut and sent to the mill to bereturned as lumber. Thinking that I would be there for the rest of my employment with DSS, we built ourretirement home with a 24 'X 48 ' dance hall in the basement that had a floating wood floor and a circledriveway around the house to provide ample parking space. In the fall of 1979 we started a class in SackvilleNB at the United Church Hall and played with this class for two years finally graduating them in 1981 tobecome "The Tantramar Twirlers" club. This was also a fun loving club and as we had our own orchestra(Royal Hicks & Friends) within the club we often had live music for our club parties. Our home dance hall wasinitiated by these club members as we would put on special practice nights if someone had to miss a club nightor two. The years 81 to 83 were also fun for the Amherst area dancers as Al and Norma Mills, Harold andDianne Miller, and Fran and I put our classes and clubs together two or three times a season for a dance in theAmherst High School. These dances were aimed at the new class members and served to give them fun at anoutside dance as well as the opportunity to hear other callers' voices. For Fran and me it gave us a chance towork with these callers and their wives and I think that all of us had as much fun working together as ourdancers had dancing together.

1981 through 83 saw the formation of a plus level workshop that danced once a week in our basement hall. These dancers were from the Amherst and Moncton clubs who would "car pool" to drive to our place and by thetime they arrived they would be "raring to go" having had a half hour of shenanigans in the car on the waydown. They were a happy group and fun to call to and they gave me a chance to work on calling the plusbasics.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and we were transferred back to the Halifax International Airportin the summer of 83. We sold the Amherst house and bought a home in Fall River, 12 minutes from my workplace. We were fortunate to find an excellent replacement caller for our Tantramar Twirlers in the person ofDoug Leaman from the Moncton area.

In September of 1983 Jim and Pat Alguire started a new class in Oxford Street School and they asked us towork with them to form a new club. We decided to start the club as a "Basic level" club and then after they haddanced a year in basics, we would provide another class to bring them on to mainstream. When they wantedmore challenge they could take another class and move on to the plus level, all being under the umbrella of theone Caller run club. To this club we gave the name "The Metro Merry Makers ". Jim and Pat graduated theirclass in December and Fran and I started a second class in January of 84 and graduated them in March andjoined them with the first class. Having the use of both the gym and the classrooms in the school made itpossible to run both club and class on the same night. We would bring the class down to the gym to dance thelast tip with the club so that they got to know each other long before the class graduated. We enjoyed workingwith Jim and Pat and we always went out to a restaurant to snack after the dance to hash over how the eveninghad gone and talk over anything that had come up during the past week and make any plans for the future. After the Basic club had been dancing for a year or more, we started a mainstream class on Friday Night thathad to dance in Spryfield as there was no vacant nights at Oxford St. that year. Bruce Savage, as a new caller,attended that class, reviewing the basics with them that I taught the previous week. We wanted Bruce todevelop the same philosophy that we had when we brought him into our organization. Bruce still calls for theclub and next to Pat is the most senior caller (time-wise) for the group. The following year, the mainstreamclub was back in Oxford St. school and another new caller, Hugh (and Eleanor) O'Brien, were helping with thebasic class. During this time Jim had been calling to a plus workshop group called "the Ocean Waves" and wedecided to bring this group under the Merry Makers club organization also. Now we had the three levelsoperating along with their classes. All three groups progressed well for several years. Then as is often the case,as the "core" dancers moved up a level, they no longer danced with the basic group and no longer helped tobring in new dancers for the basic classes. In 1991, when I retired and we started to spend our winters down inFlorida, Mark Savage was brought on staff to replace me. Two years later the club was turned over to anexecutive to run as Jim fell ill and his untimely death in the summer of 93 left a void, not only in our club, butin the entire square dance activity. There was hardly a facet of any type of dancing that Jim hadn't influencedduring his many years with Dance Nova Scotia.

In 1979 I was contacted by Gunter Buchta, the executive secretary of Dance Nova Scotia. He asked me to setup a leadership course to help broaden the square dance leadership base throughout the Province. There werefew guide lines, other than it would be taught in the first week of July each year. The course I drafted spreadthe leadership training over a 3 year period so that the students had time to put the information received to gooduse when back at their home clubs. For areas where there was no square dancing being done we would takenon-dancers and teach them to dance a limited number of basics and then teach them to call these basics. During their 1st week of training, students were taught the first 25 basics and then the mechanics of callingthem, plus general square dance philosophy. They were encouraged to start a new class in their district whenthey went home so that they could put to use all that they had been taught. The following year they would betaught how to dance and call another series of basics and some more in depth caller training which they wouldagain put into practice back home. The third year they would learn to dance and call the remaining mainstreambasics and learn various methods of calling, plus simple round dance (2 step and waltz) basics. It was a veryintensive course and our students worked 9 hour days and then did homework assignments after that. Squaredancing is meant to be fun, however, and the staff made sure the fun stayed in the classroom even during theseteaching sessions.

The first and second years of the leadership course were taught at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifaxand the remaining 8 years were taught at Acadia University in Wolfville. The initial staff consisted of JackMacArthur and Fran and me, with Brundage MacDonald coming in for two days. The second year we decidedthat another square dance caller could be better utilized than the round dance leader so Jim Alguire was broughton staff. As the number of classes grew so did our staff and over the years Pat Alguire and Al and Norma Millswere added. In 1987 a round dance course was added to train round dance leaders and because much of thesame leadership training applied, it was conducted in conjunction with the square dance course. Ken andDonna Gibson were brought on staff to teach this round dance phase of the course.

The DANS Leadership course fulfilled its mandate by providing callers and leaders to Sydney, MargareeValley, Boulardaree in the Cape Breton area, Trenton, Amherst, Advocate, Halifax, Dartmouth, Bridgewaterand the Annapolis Valley in mainland Nova Scotia, Moncton and Sackville in New Brunswick, St John'sNewfoundland and Lennoxville in Quebec.

In 1984 we were asked by Bobbi Brean to go to Middle Musqodoboit to call a one night stand with thepossibility of starting a class. We normally tried to get four squares of dancers for a class when starting a newarea, but if memory serves me right we only had about three sets for that first class but they were such a happygroup that we forged ahead anyway. When they graduated they chose the name of "The Happy Foot Dancers."The following year we brought our Son-in-law, Stuart Brink, who had just completed the last year of theleadership course at Acadia, on staff with us. We alternated weeks about from then on until they weretransferred to Ottawa at which time Lorne Tyler took over Stu's slot. When Lorne and I both retired, BruceSavage took over the club caller's duties.

Some of the highlights of our calling career that stand out in memory are:

  1. Calling in the ballroom of the Heidleburg Castle, in Germany, to some 50 squares of dancers.
  2. Calling my first "guest" calling date at the Chateau in Metz, France, when I called their Valentines dance. The hall was beautifully decorated with hearts and cupids and red and white streamers and didn't I thank them for inviting Fran and me to do this "Halloween" dance for them. My first case of the mouth in motion before the brain was in gear.
  3. Being invited to call the 1968 Atlantic Jamboree.
  4. Being invited to call the 1971 St. Patrick's Day workshop and dance for the Square Dance Federation of Manitoba.
  5. Being asked by Bob Osgood, Editor of Sets In Order magazine in Los Angeles, California, to record a track on the "Set In Order" 1973 Basic Square Dance record for that year.
  6. Being invited to call the "Dancing In The Clouds" dance at the top of Jay Peak in Jay, Vermont in 1974.
  7. Being invited to call the "50th Anniversary of Square Dancing" Federation dance at Truro to live music of Royal Hicks and Friends.
  8. Being asked to design and then direct the DANS Leadership course.
  9. Conducting the grand march and calling the first tip at both the 1982 and 1994 National Conventions in Halifax.
  10. Receiving the "Award Of Excellence" from the National Square and Round Dance Society. (The 5th to be awarded at that time)
  11. Being honoured by Dance Nova Scotia naming a "Teaching Excellence" award after me.

There are other memories that were all highlights but are too numerous to mention here. Suffice to say that inour 32 years of active calling we made many good friends and many good memories. If some of these datesmentioned above are off by a year or two, please just put it down to the failing memory of an old caller.

John & Fran Essex invite all their friends to help them celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary, Friday, July 26, St. Clement's Church Hall, 16 Gaston Road, Dartmouth.(See Calendar of Events)

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