Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Not-So-Secret Love of Square Dancing

When I was just a small girl, I fell completely head-over-heels in love with square dancing. Unlike a lot of people that I've talked to from my age group, I never got to do it in elementary school gym class - but boy, would I have loved to!

My romance with square dancing began when my great aunts and uncles would stop by my grandparents' house on the way to go to their dances. My Grandmother always encouraged them to come by so that she could see their pretty outfits. I lived next door and whenever I'd see the relatives pull up and pile out in their dancing duds, I ran over as fast as I could.

Aunt Inez & Uncle Cal ~~ Uncle Buddy & Aunt Edna

To me, they were pure magic - the ladies in their big swishing skirts and cute Mary Jane dance shoes (sometimes in gold still my heart) and their husbands perfectly matched by color and pattern complete with handsome bolo and bow ties. I'd always giggle at how when in these dresses, only two women could sit on my grandparents' long couch which usually could seat five people. Petticoats took up some real estate!

I'd be remiss if I didn't insert one of my favorite quotes ever here. It's from the movie, Calamity Jane:

This town ain't big enough! Not for me and that frilled-up, flirtin', man-rustlin' petticoat, it ain't!

And I'd watch under the porch light as they got into the car to leave. Each husband would help his wife into the car and then quickly shove her wide dress and crinolines inside before hastily shutting the door before they could spring out again. You could tell that it took some practice to get both the wives and the dresses into the same car. And these were the days when cars were big! I also remember that both of my Aunts wore just the softest hint of perfume so with every swish, the air was filled with flowers.

Several times, I went with my Grandparents to watch them square dance. The dances were held at an outdoor open-air pavilion next to the lake. It was set amongst big pine trees and I can remember how dark and still the woods were with the tops of towering pine branches just barely silhouetted against moonlight and the water lightly lapping the shore. In the middle, this large wooden pavilion that appeared as if a carousel when the dancers spun round and round in swirls of color in response to the steps melodically encouraged by the caller.

"Promenade! Now circle left! Now weave the ring!"

I'd give anything to go back there again. I've toyed with the idea of taking up square dancing for a long time now. I even once talked The Mister into trying it with me but we never have. I think it's time to see if he's still up for it. I've found several classes being offered in our area. One in a senior citizen's center. Hello, I bet you know which one I'm going to choose!

I've collected some square dance items through the years and here are some of my favorites:

I have two different square dance lesson records with Ed Gilmore. Inside, there are books that show the different steps as well as many full-color shots of Ed and the dancers.

Okay, forget the dancers. I'll admit to having quite the Ed Gilmore crush. It's lucky for Mister Kitsch that I only get crushes on unattainable men from the past.

One of my other favorite pieces is this Phun Phelt (so fun that we don't even need to use the letter " f ") applique:

I've had this for many years and it was given to me by the owner of a junk shop. When I found it, I let out the biggest squeal and I guess that the owner thought that I should have it. He was this sweet little elderly man and as we got to talking, for some reason he told me that he sometimes went fishing with Jerry Reed. Wowee!

I'm trying to figure out what to compare those few minutes to so that you kids these days might be able to understand. Let's see... It's as if you went into a junk shop and there amongst the undesirable items, found a brand new I-Pad and the owner just gave it to you. And then he told you that he sometimes plays X-Box with Justin Bieber.

You dig? I was stoked! I have yet to be able to commit to ironing this applique onto anything. I just can't find anything cool enough to deserve it. So, it stays in a frame just waiting...

Maybe when I get my first trophy for winning a square dancing competition, I'll put them both in a shadowbox together. See that? That's using the power of positive thinking.


I was so excited to find this mini documentary on square dancing today and to hear that it won the American Documentary/POV award:

Watch the full episode. See more POV.

My heart just leaps when the man says, "You get to swing the one you brung twice!" Being a married lady, I also notice a little cringe from his wife when he says it as if she has heard that same joke a hundred times. Super cute, those two.

Though I expected such, I hated to hear that it's still mostly the senior set that enjoys square dancing. Maybe like many things considered "vintage", it will see a come-back. Maybe square dancing will be the next mustache on a stick or zombie apocalypse. I bet that you kids get what I'm saying but if not, I'll be happy to tie Justin Bieber into that one too!

But enough of Justin Bieber. It's sad to think of him being eaten by flesh-hungry zombies while trying to fight them off with that mustache on a stick. Let's talk about something happier. Like square dancing! What about you buckaroos? Anyone know how to square dance? Do tell!

I'm going to leave you with this curious little video from Lucky Strike. See! Square dancing used to be so cool that ad men tried to sell cigarettes with it!

Until next time (Bow to your partner! Bow to your corner!)
x's and o's,


Anonymous said...

Your great-uncles and aunts are soooo cute in their square dancing duds! I went to an estate sale of an avid square dancer a while back and she had some super great outfits - they were pricy, but I did get at least 1 (maybe 2?) square dance outfit catalogs that I found in with the magazines. Once we get all moved and unpacked and I find them, maybe I can send them your way...

Amy/CollectoratorOne from Flickr

Eartha Kitsch said...

Wow, what a sale that must have been! I'd love to see those square dance outfit catalogs. LOVE to!

Little Rosy Runabout said...

That Phun Phelt applique is PHABULOUS!

Eartha Kitsch said...

Thank you Phriend!

Amber Von Felts said...

Hoho this modernized analogy killed me!

"It's as if you went into a junk shop and there amongst the undesirable items, found a brand new I-Pad and the owner just gave it to you. And then he told you that he sometimes plays X-Box with Justin Bieber"

I too once went to an estate sale of a Square dancer. I loved all the costumes! I didn't get any though, I have two left feet! Speaking of costumes, I think they should have made the 'lady' cigarettes wear lil' ruffled skirts. You know, if I could go back in time and help direct a cigarette commercial that would be the only change!

Eartha Kitsch said...

Thanks! :)

I think that you're right - and they could have made the little skirts out of the cigarette wrappers!

I have two left feet too. We'll see how this dancing thing goes!

j. wilson said...

if someone had given me that patch/decal, I would have keeled right over with happiness! I've been a HUGE fan of square dancing as long as I can remember and even swiftly got over my shyness to dance with a boy in sixth grade when they taught us how to do-si-do. mr. a-go-go has an aunt that used to go who has all the outfits. sadly i am about the same size as three of her otherwise I would wheedle one away from her. swoon!

and Jerry Reed? Thunk! how super cool is that? LOVE this post!

Dakota said...

Oh wow, did this post make my day!! Anything square-dancing sets my little heart a-flutter. Your Aunts are too great in their get ups. I really wish there would be a non-ironic square-dancing revival; it looks like the most fun ever, and I'm looking to validate my square dancing dress hoarding habit.

Sara In AZ said...

First - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your family pic! Just fabulous!!!!!! And those dresses and petticoats - awesome!!!

I was one of those that was forced to do square dancing in elementary school. I lived in Texas at the time and it was a pretty big deal there. It was super awkward though because it was still the "boys have cooties" phase in life, so you didn't want to be near a boy much less dance with them! :) I did not understand about petticoats at that time though, I'll just bet if I would have I would have loved square dancing a whole lot more!

That would be SO great if you and the MR did take square dance lessons. I just know y'all would have a blast!

That Phun Phelt is Phreaking awesome!!!

I am sad to see square dancing is mostly a senior endeavor. But, I'll just bet it will make a comeback soon what with all things "vintage" being so popular.

Next time we come into town we are all going square dancing! Get your petticoats ready now girl!

PS - I think I need to teach Mike that petticoat/car trick! :)

Poodle said...

We had to square dance during PE when I was a kid. It was so embarassing, since I was usually the one who had the yarn tied around her wrist because she couldn't remember left from right in the heat of the dance. Such pressure!!! I'll admit I wasn't the most coordinated towel in the linen closet. Fifth grade was awful on all counts. Good luck to you and the Mr. I'm sure you'll have all kinds of fun!

Anonymous said...

My great aunt Janie is still a square dancer to this day! I have always loved her fluffy dresses. I've always wanted to learn to square dance as well however as a teenage girl I was too terrified to join fearful that my friends might find out so I never did. These days I don't spend as much time worrying about what others think (this is particularly evident when I'm digging out the Salvation Army bins) so maybe I should give it a second chance...

monogirl said...

Your Aunts and Uncles look fabulous in theri square dancing duds. I too was victim to the elementary school PE square dance routine. The big game was to see how many moves you could do WITHOUT touching your partner. Cause, you know, cooties.

Holly Hall said...

You are a woman after my own heart! My Grandma and Grandpa Samson square danced, and my grandma sewed all of their matching outfits. When I was little, she'd let me take all of her dresses and petticoats from the cedar chest and play dress up. My favorite was a white skirt with turquoise trim on which she had painted a circle of buffalos with those TriChem embroidery pens. She also clogged, and I've been begging her for years to teach me--she's pretty sprite for a granny, so I'll bet she could still shake a leg. My grandpa was a rough old cowboy, but he'd put on his toupee to go square dancin', just like it was a hat for going out. :)

If I lived closer to Nashville, I would start a non ironic square dance club with you in a minute, Miss Eartha! xoxo

Unknown said...

This might be one of the most brilliant lines I have read all month: "Maybe square dancing will be the next mustache on a stick or zombie apocalypse."

If you ever find yourself in Minnesota at this time of year, you should attend our State Fair. There are quite a few square dance fans and demonstrations at the Fair. My first real job was out there and early in the mornings the dressed up couples would come by for coffee. A chatty and genuinely friendly bunch.

Also, I was one of those folks who did square dance in school, but we were in junior high. I have fond memories of that because my partner (we were paired with the same person each time by some obscure alphabetical algorythmn) was all real smiles and made my heart beat faster.

vintch said...

such a fun post! square dancing is so nostalgic, and such great, clean fun. and the get-ups are super fabulous as well. you've made me want to go put on mah dancin' shoes!

kathryn said...

I love finding square dancing dresses when I'm thrift shopping, gingham and ruffles attract me like a moth to a flame!

art deco dame said...

square dancing is awesome!I'm currently back in my hometown caretaking for a family member and one of the old ladies up the street still lives on the block.She was a square dancer and I keep trying to talk her out of her collection.It'll happen before I leave I SWEAR!Haha!

Kitsch and Curious said...

Those dresses are wonderful! Fake patchwork fabric makes go a little bit weak at the knees!

Although square dancing isn't much of 'a thing' in Britain, one-off barn dances are fairly common in local church halls and so on. I've never been to one, but I think I would be tempted!

Tony Parkes said...

Hi... I found your site while searching for a closeup of Ed Gilmore for a presentation I'm giving. You'll be happy to know that (1) square dancing is undergoing a non-ironic revival among young people in many parts of the country and (2) there's now a digital museum of square dance memorabilia: (I'm one of the brain trust, having been a caller for 48 years).

Eartha Kitsch said...

Tony: I love your site and am so happy yo hear about the square dance revival - I must look into that further. Thanks for letting me know! :)