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Mal & Shirley Minshall


Nebraska Square & Round Dance Caller Association
Hall Of Fame Members


Mal & Shirley Minshall

A Brief History Of A Long Square Dance Career

Mal and Shirley Minshall live in Sidney, Nebraska, and have lived in the same house at 1316 Quince Street since 1955. They were married on February 29, 1948. Mal and Shirley have four children. Jason, the eldest lived in Sidney and is the head custodian and maintenance 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, Ohio and works for Nestle Corporation. Kim lives in Tucson, Arizona and works for Intuet Corporation. Mal and Shirley have five grandchildren, four great grandchildren and three step great grandchildren.

Mal 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 members 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 become 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 local caller, Gordon Richards. Mal said he spent a lot 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 to the square dance activity, the Minshalls have been very active in all aspects of square dancing. In 1962 Mal and Shirley organized the Sidney 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-volt battery as power to generate his sound system. Mal and Shirley's youngest daughters, Sylvia and Kim 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" dancing a square inside a square. At one of the Nebraska State Square Dance Conventions this group changed genders have the boys dress as girls and the girls dress as boys. The audience was impressed with this somewhat humorous and challenging dance format.

In the mid 1960's Mal decided to travel nationally to call. He was a full time, national caller for 14 years. He has called in all the 48 (Continental) United States except Arizona, Florida, and Texas. He has also called in two of the Canadian Provinces.

Throughout his "time on the road," Mal met many wonderful dancers and callers. In a "reciprocal" agreement, Mal invited many "out of state" callers to visit and call in Western Nebraska. One of the special dances that dancers looked forward to and sponsored by Mal and Shirley was a visit from Stan Burdick of Sandusky, Ohio. Not only was Stan an outstanding caller with great ability using creative choreography, but he was also the editor/publisher of American Square Dance magazine. These special dances were known as "Subscription Dances." All attending square dancers were given a free yearly subscription to American Square Dance magazine with the price of admission.

Throughout Mal's calling career, Shirley has been his best friend and help mate. Shirley could dance the man's part as easily as the lady's part. She helped many square dancers when she opened as square dance apparel shop out of their home. The shop was known as Shirley And Mal's Place, but everyone began calling it SAM's Place. This is how "Shirley" became better known as SAM. Shirley (Sam), is widely known for her promotional gifts to dancers on special occasions. Each Christmas dance everyone (including guests) would receive a special Christmas decoration from the Minshalls. Also included were calendars, pens, and other items. There were not only useful gifts but they also promoted square dancing carrying the square dance logos. Mal and Sam also acknowledged other special occasions (i.e. Birthdays, Anniversaries, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.) with special gift remembrances.

During his time as a National (full-time) Caller, Mal especially looked forward to May 1st of each year as he called at the YMCA in Erie, Pennsylvania. The dancers would ask him each year if he were planning to come back the next May. A most memorable dance was held in Ogden, Utah at the Nevada State Square and Round dance Convention. It was at this dance that Mal called for 3,000 dancers at Brigham Young University. In the late 1970's when the country experienced such huge gas shortages, Mal decided to give up his national calling and traveling and concentrate his calling efforts at the local level and surrounding states.

Throughout the years, Mal and Shirley have been active in the professional organization of square dancing. They were Presidents of the first Nebraska State Square and Round Dancing Convention held in Hasting in 1970. They also served on the Board of the Nebraska State Square and Round Dance Association and have been members of the Nebraska State Callers and Cuers Association.

Mal's support of square dancing and recognition as an outstanding caller was apparent when he was asked to join CALLERLAB (The International Association of Square Dance Callers) in 1975. CALLERLAB was first organized in 1974 and in the early years membership was by "invitation only." A panel of recognized callers (peers) would evaluate each potential member by considering the individuals calling skill, use of choreography, calling schedule (monthly/yearly), number of lessons given, etc.

CALLERLAB recently provided the following information about Mal. He has been a continuous member since 1975. He has attended five CALLERLAB Conventions: 1975 - Chicago; 1978 - St. Louis; 1981 - Kansas City; 1982 - Reno; and most recently 2007 - Colorado Springs. According to CALLERLAB, Mal first started calling in 1961. Next April, 2011, Mall will be recognized at CALLERLAB Convention in Las Vegas and will receive a special certificate from them for 50 years of calling.

For over 50 years Mal and Shirley (Sam) Minshall have given of their time and talent to "The Wonderful World of Square Dancing." Sam commented that they have had many "Square Dance Adventures" throughout the years. (Only a few have been listed in this narrative.) Sam said, "Great (Adventures) To Remember!" Mal summed up their many years of square dancing when he said, "BEEN A GREAT PARTY! IT'S BEEN A WONDERFUL PARTY!"

Hall Of Fame Members

Harold & Lil Bausch - inducted 2007 Bill & Phyllis Speidel - inducted 2007
Ernie & Naomi Gross - inducted 2008 Les & Doris Henkel - inducted 2008
Wes & Dorothy Mohling - inducted 2009 Ed & Shirley Claflin - inducted 2009
Jerry & Glenda Wright - inducted 2010 Ed & Phyllis Spurgeon - inducted 2010
Mal & Shirley Minshall - inducted 2010 Orvile & Arra Pittam - inducted 2011
John & Bev Chunka - inducted 2012 Jim & Carol Tucker - inducted 2015
Jerry Junck - inducted 2018     Lanny & Carol Weaklend - inducted 2021
Mike & Denise Hogan - inducted 2022