A Brief History Of A Long Square Dance Career
Ed Spurgeon lived on a farm near Lake Minatare, in western Nebraska, for 62 years. After graduation from Scottsbluff High School, he and some friends got involved in the Rural Youth program. One of the recreation education classes featured square dance calling and games by Recreation Specialist, Jane Farwell from Wisconsin. He always liked music and had only been to three square dances before the workshop. After the classroom training, they had to lead a game or call a dance, and there was no way he was going to lead a game, so he opted to call that dance, not knowing that it would lead to something so lasting.
Interest in square dancing picked up in the area following the classes, and Ed started calling Rural Youth dances in 1947. Later he bought his own sound system and went into business for himself. He met Phyllis at one of these dances and they were married in 1950, a marriage lasting almost 54 years! They have four grown children who have all danced, and their son has called dances as well. Ed maintained square dancing is a family activity that can include every member of the family. Ed and Phyllis have 11 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. Some of the grand children have called dances with their grandpa!
Ed’s smile was contagious; dancers always said they could hear his smile when he was calling. He was terribly shy, but when he picked up the mike to call, there was no evidence of that. He called Mainstream, Plus, traditional, and yodeling calls, being known for his version of “The Auctioneer,” “It’s a Small World,” and his yodeling. Another of his specialties was the Theme Dances for Halloween, Christmas, and the All Singing Call dances.
Being involved in farming and driving the school bus kept him busy, but there was always time for square dancing. There wasn’t a week went by that he wasn’t calling for a dance, teaching lessons or attending one, so that he and Phyllis could dance together. Phyllis was multi-talented at the dances, because if Ed was calling, she could dance either the men’s or women’s part to help encourage all those attending to get involved. The dancers they met were involved in their communities, churches, and in volunteer work. “You can’t find nicer people anywhere,” according to Ed.
Ed Spurgeon taught square dance lessons for over 35 years, promoting square dancing, recruiting new dancers, and conducting Plus Workshops along the way. He taught lessons in local schools from elementary to high school in conjunction with PE classes (including his granddaughter’s classes). He also called for 4-H and Junior Leaders club dances. He and Phyllis were Youth Hall Chairman for the Nebraska State Convention in 1973, and the Program Chairman for the 1981 State Convention held in Scottsbluff. He supported the Nebraska State Conventions with his calling and helping with providing sound systems.
Ed called for, and taught, three generations of valley families in his calling career. He was the caller for nine adult clubs and four young people’s clubs over the years. Ed called actively in five surrounding states, plus Hawaii and Alaska. He and Phyllis hosted a group traveling to Hawaii, and was the guest caller for a festival in Anchorage, Alaska. In addition, he was the resident caller for Square Dance House Party in Estes Park, Colorado for a number of years. He always supported Wyoming club dances, and called in Laramie for their festivals.
Ed and Phyllis donated time and talents, along with many of their club members, to entertain the residents at Veteran’s Homes, nursing homes, and special events, such as seasonal parades and celebrations. There is a beautiful tribute penned by Raymond Jones following this history which very eloquently illustrates the years of dedication and devotion to square dancing of this special couple.
Ed was a member of CALLERLAB since 1980, and was featured in the January 1988 issue of American Square Dance Magazine. Ed and Phyllis retired from farming in 1994 and moved to Scottsbluff and continued to donate their time to Square Dancing. He had no intention of slowing down and had dance bookings past his death in 2004, leaving a legacy of 57 years of calling.