Welcome to the
Spokane Folklore Society
Kevin Brown, Caridwen and Greg Spatz FFF 2019
December HolidayThanks to everyone who participated in the Spokane Folklore Society Holiday Zoom Party- over 50 people enjoyed performances by Arvid Lundin and Deep Roots, Darla Jean & theSomething or Others, Louise Fix and Noah VanNorstrand, along with a poem by TomMorgan. Participants also shared stories about meaningful tree ornaments and enjoyed see-ing friends new and old who have been part of this tradition for 4 decades. And severalpeople kicked up their heels at home, especially for the closing waltz!
Forty Years Ago ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Old Time Music and Square Dancing
By Penn Fix
The Forty Years Ago column relies on information from two sources for its inspiration.
was a bi-monthly newsletter that provided a calendar of dances through
out the Northwest as well as a related article. The newsletter written
by Penn Fix began in November 1980 and continued to 1986. The other
source comes from long time volunteer and founder of SFS, Eric Johnson
who provided a detailed list of SFS sponsored events from 1977 to 1992.
years ago, one hundred and thirty dancers came to the Woman’s Club to
dance squares. Long before there was contra dancing in Spokane, there
was old time square dancing. It all began during Expo ’74. The Gypsy
Gypo String Band from Seattle featuring Sandy Bradley, Jack Link, Jerry
Mitchell, and Warren Argo had been hired for the Smithsonian sponsored
Folklife Festival. One night the band had just finished a rousing set
of old time fiddle tunes; Jack Link asked the crowd what else they
wanted. And out of the audience came Bill Reagan; he offered to call a
square dance. The response from the audience was so positive that Bill
and the band were hired for the rest of that summer.
Reagan, later known as “Wild Bill,” had grown up in Colorado in the
1930s where he learned to dance and call. One of his peers was “Pappy”
Lloyd Shaw who is acknowledged as the founder of the modern square dance
movement. Bill served in the Air Force during WWII and remained
overseas until he retired in 1963. During his time in Europe and Asia
he called square dances but when he returned to the states and moved to
Republic, Washington with his family he quit calling until that fateful
night at the Expo 74. Bill’s absence from the United States right after
the war and his decision to not call once he returned meant that he
missed the continued development of the square dance scene started by
Pappy Shaw. Square dances became much more complicated which
necessitated dance lessons and classes. Bill’s dances were simple and
easy to teach at public dances.
that summer, Sandy Bradley and the Gypos returned to Seattle and the
bar, the Inside Passage, where they held weekly concerts. But instead
of just playing old time fiddle tunes, Sandy began calling squares. She
developed a repertoire of dances gathered from Bill Reagan, Lloyd Shaw,
and other older callers. At the same time club square dancing was
wrapped up in clubs that hosted classes, asked members to wear matching
costumes, and danced to recorded music. Sandy, on the other hand,
offered an alternative: simple easy to learn dances held in public
settings with live fiddle music. Sandy brought the “old time” square
dance revival to the Northwest.
of the first sponsored events of the newly incorporated Spokane
Folklore Society In 1977 was a square dance with Sandy Bradley calling.
While most of its events were concerts, the Spokane Folklore Society did
sponsor two more square dances in 1979.
January 1980, the Spokane Folklore Society offered its first series of
dances. For the next two years, the SFS held two dances a month, one
contra and the other squares.
house band for the square dances was Sweetwater String Band led by
fiddler Geoff Seitz. And “Wild Bill” Reagan called the dances. Other
square dance callers came to Spokane during this time. Pop Wagner and
his brother Bode from Minnesota were hired to play for the Expo ’74
festival. They returned in 1980 to play and call square dances on two
separate occasions. The following year Sandy Bradley returned as well as
two of her proteges, Sherry Nevins and Debbie Nagusky.
interest in square dancing in Spokane culminated with a dance held
forty years ago, February 21, 1981. The Hurricane Ridgerunners, a
powerhouse band from Seattle, played for 130 dancers at the Women’s Club
that night. The band featured Jerry Gallaher calling and on guitar,
Mark Graham on harmonica, Armin Barnett on fiddle, and Paul Kotapish on
mandolin. They also held a dance in the Coeur d’Alene at the Ivalee
Dance Hall the night before and the following weekend they were in
McCall and Boise, Idaho. The tour, noted Jerry recently, was the
“zenith for the band.” In 1982, they returned to Spokane for the first
of several Spring Festivals sponsored by SFS but shortly after that
event, the Ridgerunners broke up. Mark explained,” when Ronald Reagan’s
era struck the flimsy old time music economy like an asteroid, everyone
put on clean clothes and went to school or got a job.”
band’s fate reflected that of square dancing. The popularity of
contras had begun to overcome the old time square dance world. Square
dance callers like Sandy Bradley, Sherry Nevins, and Debbie Nagusky
first added contras to their repertoires and then later called contras
almost exclusively. String bands remained popular because their music
could be used with contras but bands that focused on traditional contra
dance music from New England, Ireland, Scotland, and French Canada were
in more demand. In January 1982, the Spokane Folklore Society
discontinued the monthly square dance and moved to a single contra dance
on 3rd Saturdays of every month.
more articles are available at our Current Newsletter
We can help you get in touch with
other people in the
Spokane, Washington, area who are interested in music, dance, and folk
arts. Find out what's happening
on the calendar
Our major project of the year is
Fall Folk Festival.
One of our main
activities with SFS is Contra
Dancing. Contra dancing is a type of traditional
New England. Dancers face each other in "contra" lines and move up and
down the formation as couples in figures directed by a caller. The
Reel is a dance in this style. You don't have to be experienced - the
teaches all the moves. Special clothes are not necessary. No partner is
needed - Singles and couples are invited. Check the calendar
for the contra dance schedule. Click
here more details and some pictures and links to video of a
typical local Contra dance.
If you are interested
in having the Folklore Society help
sponsor your event, please download this .pdf
here. (Acrobat reader required)
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visit to our site, please read
more about the Spokane Folklore Society: its organization and
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