A Brief History Of A Long Square Dance Career
Mel and Shirley live in Sidney, NE and have lived in the same house at 1316 Quince Street sincce 1955. They were married on February 29, 1948. Mel and Shirley have four children. Jason,m the eldest, lives in Sidney and is the head custodian and maintance person for the Cheyenne County Community Center. Yvonne, eldest daughter, died at the age of 27 from Leukemia. Their other two daughters are Sylvia and Kim. Sylvia lives in Dublin, OH and works for the Nestle Corporation. Kim lives in Tueson, AR and works for Intuet Corporation. Mal and Shirley have five grandchildren, four great grandchildren and three step great grandchildren.
Mel and Shirley were first introduced to square dancing in the early 1950's. They took their first lessons from a local caller in Sidney, Virgil Knackstead. At that time there were eight square dance callers in Sidney. It wasn't long after their introduction to square dancing that Mal was encouraged by dancers and club memmbers to take up the microphone and try his voice at calling. Mal asked one of the local callers, Hank (Hink) Barker, "Hink, How does one becaome a caller?" Hink responded, "Get A Damn Book!" (Mal has indicated that he has never found that book to this day.)
Mal purchased his first sound system (a used Califone) in 1954 from a local caller, Gordon Richards. Mal said he spent alot of time practicing in his basement. He said he practiced one singing call for three months until he had it totally memorized. To this day Mal has never actually performed this particular singing call at a dance.
From their very first introduction in the square dance activity, the Minshalls have been very active in all aspacts of square dancing. In 1962 Mal and Shirley organized the Shidney Prairie Schooners Square Dance Club. This club continues to sponsor and promote square dance activities. One summer they participated in 13 local community parades. On the floats, Mal amplified both the front and rear of the trailer and used a 12 voly battery as power to generate his sound system. Mal and Shirley's two youngest daughters were actively involved in a youth exhibition square dance group. These young dancers, coached by Mal, were well received wherever they performed. One of the more challenging moves this group performed was "Teacup Chain" and dancing a square inside a square. At one of The Nebraska State Square Dance onventions this youth group changed genders having the boys dress as girls and the girls as boys. The audience was impressed with this somewhat humorous and challenging dance format.