SQUARE DANCING IN GEORGETOWN

SQUARE DANCING IN GEORGETOWN
By Dub Ramsel

Square dancing differs from ballroom dancing in that a caller calls the steps that are to be taken. The calling is in rhythm with the music. Dancers have to listen very carefully to each call in order to prevent breaking down the square. Once broken down the people in the square have to wait until the caller can work in a call which is "left Aleman" and this gives the square time to remake and get back on course. It is embarrassing to break down, and it is always someone who failed to listen to the call. Therefore, it pays to be completely sober and "on your toes"- so to speak.
Square dancing was introduced by the immigrants from the British Isles - maybe Ireland. It was done all different ways then and has just recently been standardized. Now all calls are the same regardless. I have danced to callers from Germany, England and Australia. It can be followed by all dancers who have learned the basic calls. It takes months to learn all the calls that are used in main stream dancing as well as advanced calling which is termed "Plus".
After the lessons are finished, then a student is ready to ease into mainstream dancing. Most callers are also teachers and take pride in his or her students being able to keep up when they finish their lessons.
When Liz and I first began square dancing, Cecil Dunman was the caller and also the teacher. The club was called "The Teacup Squares". This was in the late sixties. We were dancing in the basement of South Western University. When we completed the lessons, we did not feel like we were ready to do mainstream. Wet dropped out and didn't start back until 1976.
When we started back, Ed Larder was calling for what became the "Shirts and Skirts". His lessons were before the regular dancers came in. Some older dancers were always on hand to dance with the students. These volunteers were called "Angels" Along with them we completed the lessons again and then felt ready to "hit it'.
Some of the early dancers that started Square dancing in Georgetown were Ester and Dock Weir, Will Kelly and Roseland McClain, Wiggie and Evelyn Shell, Loyd and Moppie Crabb, Jess and betty Todd, and Doug and Nell Benold. I am sure I missed several others.
We were fortunate to start when we did since by now every call was the same regardless. I of who was calling. Some of the earlier dancers got mixed up since they had learned something else before it became standardized.
Weldon and Cristi Wade, Will Kelly and Rosenland Mc Clain and Wiggie and Evelyn Shell were still dancing when we finally got settled into the swing. There were approximately six squares in the club at this time. This means eight to the square. That number has carried about steady ever since. Every dance brought in visitors from other clubs throughout central Texas. If a club did not have the visitors to help with the finances, I doubt that any clubs would survive.
In addition to dancing at home, we would also go visiting a couple of times a week. Gas was not so expensive then and sometimes we would traverse hundred miles. Then we got an Airstream Trailer and joined the Camping Squares. Then as time permitted, we would
go off as far away as Colorado and New Mexico. Some members who were retired went all over the Unites States, Canada and Mexico. Places like "Funn Valley" and "Parrish Ranch" in Colorado were favorite places to go camp out and dance for a week. Red River New Mexico was also a favorite as well as Ruidoso, NM.
It was a problem at times finding places to dance in the evenings. Most of the most desirable places charged more than our budget could stand and we also had the caller to be paid. Then there were other things that had to be purchased and also dues to the Capitol Area Square and Round Dance Association. It all added up and the membership dues would hardly cover it all - we were not out to make any money - just pay our way.
The Georgetown Public School System decided that what we did was educational to the community, therefore let us share their buildings and utilities for a very reasonable cost. This has worked out well for everyone. At this time, the Shirts and Shirts are using the Mc Coy School lunch room every Wednesday from seven till ten. Their classes for new members began in September and they are always looking for new members and these mostly come from students like us, who kept up with it until health problems came along, have to drop out and this makes room for new members.
The officers of the club are elected within the membership from the President down to the Sheriff, and they change officers every year. For those who want to serve more than one term are invited to do so.
In square dancing, one meets the finest type of people. They become life time friends and will do anything for each other. They become a family, and we feel fortunate to have had the chance to do square dancing for twenty five years or so.
Every Tuesday evening a group of retired Square dancers meet for a meal and then go to someone’s home for fellowship for a couple of hours. Even though they can no longer dance, they like to get together and talk about it. We have been blessed to be members of this group, and thoroughly enjoy the comradely. I do believe some feel closer to each other than they do to members of their families.
I strongly believe square dancing is here to stay. It provides inexpensive means of recreation, wholesome exercise, and fellow ship with the top "echelon" and helps people stay young. These people come from every walks' of life and have unlimited knowledge 'and love to share their experiences and knowledge with each other. Generals become close friends with their PFC’s. All class bearers break down and everyone is evaluated for what he is instead of who he was. Banker and Lawyers associate with farmers and real estate agents. The playing field is leveled and the one thing they all have in common is Square Dancing. There is no age limit, so long as the health hold up one can dance. A few couples hold up until ninety, like Bill and Katherine Karso, who live on their ranch between Cedar Park and Georgetown.
Jim Hays has been calling for the Shirts and Skirts for the last ten years or more. Jim just does square dancing, but round dancing is also done during the same time frame. An extra caller called a "Curier" does the calling for the round dancers. Many of the members do both square and round dancing. It has become about as popular as square dancing. Bruce and Rose, Taylor, old members did both, as well as Chuck and Dale Martin and Myrle and Mary Breckenridge.
Most clubs serve coffee and refreshments during the dance. Believe or not, a lot of energy goes into square dancing, so some refreshments are always welcome. Members take turns bringing refreshments and fixing the coffee. The coffee is usually decaf so that the dancers will not miss any sleep afterwards. Having refreshments is a good calling card to net visitor attendance. Like any other function, if you want a good crowd you have to feed them.
As I said before, square dancing is not restricted to any age group, but since middle-aged folks seem to have more time most of the regular members of the clubs are in that age group. This is because younger couples have kids to deal with. Sitters are not always to come by and some don't like for anyone else to tend to their brats or darlings. I personally had rather dance with a younger group, besides being better to look at, they are more agile and learn faster.
Quite often some couples like to go to a bar or someone’s home and have a few cocktails. After-parties are also after the dancing is over. It the dancing is not done in restricted places like schools and Churches, they sometimes have a light alcoholic drink after the caller leaves. Special dances are held once a year when a large hall like The San Gabriel Community Center in the park. Here after-party is always had there. It gave the local members a chance to get acquainted to the visiting folks. Sometimes a dozen clubs would be represented at the Special dance.
I recall going to a big dance in the Ruidoso area of New Mexico. It was located on the Apache Indian Reservation at a place called "The Gardens of the Gods" It was run by the Apaches. It was big enough for a hundred squares and it was packed full this evening. There were bars set up on all four corners. To the disappointment of the Indians, we did not use the bars except for soft drinks. This infuriated the Native Americans and they decided to up the charge on soft drinks to five dollars. This, naturally, did not set well with the dancers, and refused to hold the "after-party" there. The result was that we were asked not to come back again. We were all gone the next day, so, I do not know how it all came out, but I imagine the local club had something to say to the Chief.

Drinking is out while square dancing. It is even written in the bylaws. The reason is that it takes a sober mind to keep up with the calls and not break the squares down.
Besides that one might fall on his face. This has never been a problem since very few dancers are drinkers, and they seem to have enough fun without it.

We had to drop out when my feet became arthritic and Liz broke her hip. Otherwise, we would still be doing it.

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