at the very beginning of our square dance life is to tell how nearly it came to never
happening. Cousins of Bill's were part of a small group of couples who met in April of 1953 to form a
square dance club, which they named Swing 'Em In Gingham. They came to see us that summer and asked
us to join them when they started dancing in September. Bill said to let us know and we would try it.
When they called us in September of 1953, I answered and told them "yes, we would come to the first
dance and try it." Well, all the way to the dance in Bethany, Bill kept saying to me, "you could have gotten
out of this if you wanted to." I reminded him that it had been his cousins who asked us and he had told
them we would come! I'd never even seen square dancing before, but we did have a fun time. On the way
home Bill said he thought you might have to be a little odd to do that stuff, but he liked the people so well
that he'd go back. So that was the beginning of our 40 years of square dancing, calling and cueing rounds.
Swing 'Em In Gingham had club callers and live music (mostly a piano player) so Bill was
urged to take that up too. His first call was "The Farmer"—how appropriate was that? By the fall of 1954
Ken McCartney and Bill had started calling most of their singing calls as duets at Swing 'Em In Gingham.
They were also cueing some round dances. Ernie Gross, who was already a well-known caller for a club in
Syracuse and was traveling all over the Midwest, became their "mentor" and helped to get them started
calling for clubs in the Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas area.
Bill and Ken were asked to be club callers for Swing 'Em In Gingham and for Beatrice in 1955.
They also became the callers for Circle Eight in Lincoln that year, as Jack Dill retired. The next year they
started calling for the Marysville, Kansas club, and the clubs in Crete and Wymore. They called for these
clubs for a number of years. In addition to their own clubs, they began to call dances and Festivals, mainly
in the Midwest for many years. Some of the special dances I recall were the dances for clubs in the
Chicago area several times a year, and the dances they called for Bill Castner's clubs in the San Francisco
area (especially one huge New Year's Eve dance and after party). They also were a part of the 3 day
Spring Fling in Gainesville, Florida that included 2 hr after parties for 2 nights. One other special dance
was the Iowa State Convention in Des Moines. Bill and Ken shared the program with Marshall Flippo,
calling to 150 squares of dancers with live music provided by a great square dance band.
There were many,
many after parties involved in all of these square dances.
We attended a number of Callerlab and National Square Dance Conventions over the years. Also,
we traveled to the Lighted Lantern Square Dance Camp at Golden, Colorado 8 times with a big group of
Lincoln dancers. After that, we attended square dance weeks for 10 years at Kirkwood Lodge in the Lake
of the Ozarks region. There were many enjoyable after parties at these camps, too. Also, Kirkwood was
where we and Steve all learned to water ski in 1961. Bill and I still slalom (on one ski), and skied until we
were 75 years old.
Other highlights in our square dance life were the 51 (each June and August) Halsey Fun
Weekends that Bill and Ken (until 1977) did with Wes Mohling of Hastings. This certainly involved many,
many dancers, a beautiful setting, a gorgeous dance floor, many square and round dance workshops,
fantastic food, many hilarious after parties, and just a lot of fun. Also, we had tons of fun at the Dam
Campout Weekends with Jerry Junck in July each year near Yankton, South Dakota. Jerry asked Bill to
work with him at the “Dam Campout” after his partner, Dennis Kelly, died tragically in 1977. Bill
accepted the honor and did 11 campouts with Jerry starting in July 1978. These were great times with
hundreds of dancing campers, after parties, and memorable Sunday morning gospel singing. I must say a
favorite after party skit, “Ode to a Grecian Urn”, was much easier to do outside at the Dam Campout than
at Halsey because of the water involved.
Another unforgettable period in our lives that was a result of Bill’s square dance calling and
cueing, were the 12 Caribbean cruises that we hosted for square dancers and friends. Lincoln Tour &
Travel called and asked us to do the first square dance cruise in 1971 on the Mermoz, a great French ship
we used 3 times. Other ships included the Italian Costa Line’s Carla C, Carnival Line’s Holiday and
others. Bill always took along his PA system, and we square danced on the ship for fun, for entertainment,
and had sessions to give other passengers a chance to try it. Usually the ship’s Captain would even join a
session. Marshall Flippo and his family went on 2 cruises with us. What a treat! The last cruise with
Flippo in 1987 also included Chris Vear, a caller originally from England and Germany. It was on the
Carnival Holiday and there were over 100 dancers, which necessitated our dancing to be on the decks. Our
last cruise, in 1992, was on a brand new ship, the Cunard’s Horizon, and included quite a group from
Lincoln enjoying numerous Caribbean islands.
We also hosted 5 trips to Hawaii, usually staying on the 4 main islands at places like the Royal
Hawaiian in Honolulu, and CoCo Palms on Maui. On our first trip to Hawaii in 1973, the cost was $600,
airfare included! On one of the trips our group attended the Hawaii Square Dance Convention, and Bill
called a couple tips. We also escorted groups for 1 week trips to Ocho Rios, Jamaica and at Sandals at
Montego Bay, Jamaica, one week to Mexico City and Acapulco, and a one week stay in the Bahamas.
Most of us got to go parasailing in Acapulco, and Bill and others had exciting scuba diving experiences on
many Caribbean islands. We also hosted 5 day busy, fun bus trips to Branson 5 times.
Until the last few years Bill called, he was farming and operating a Grade A dairy. The only way
he could have managed that and square dance calling, trips, etc., was due to the Union College (3 ˝ miles
from us) students that he hired. They were usually farm boys from Kansas and each one usually continued
to work for us for 4 years. We owe them a lot! Four became doctors (now in CA and MO) and one is a
Veterinarian in western Nebraska. They still come to see us when they come back for Alumni Weekends at
Before Bill retired, we wrote 3 round dances that were published: San Francisco Bay, a 2-Step;
Melody of Love, a waltz; I Love You So Much, a fox trot. We received Round of the Month Certificates
from numerous clubs from CA to PA, which pleased us much.
There are two after party skits that stand our in our memories. The first was when Bill had gone to
change into his silver space suit, and red helmet with an antenna and a flashing red light. He was getting
ready to do the astronaut routine at the Des Moines Convention After Party. When Bill got on the elevator,
Arthur Treacher was the only one on it. Arthur had played a butler in some movies and so forth, and was
performing in Des Moines. He took a long look at Bill, said nothing, and got off on the next floor.
The other memory comes from Marshall Flippo who said this was the funniest thing that ever
happened at Kirkwood. Bill and Ken were doing their “magician” act at an after party when I noticed
Bill’s pants weren’t zipped. I was trying to get his attention, but as usual he wasn’t going to let me tell him
anything. Ken caught on and whispered to Bill, whose head bobbed down immediately. Bill turned his
back to the audience and proceeded to milk his mistake for all it was worth by acting as though he caught
the white glove he was wearing in the zipper and couldn’t get it up. So he just turned around and continued
with the glove hanging there. That stayed in the routine from that point on.
So many people still tell us their square dance days were the happiest days of their lives. It
certainly was for us. Bill retired from calling in 1995 after getting in 40 years for each of the 3 original
clubs—Swing 'Em In Gingham, Circle Eight, and Beatrice Break and Swing. Lincoln’s 1995 Festival and
two hour After Party, when Willard Noxon, Ernie Gross, and Bill were honored, was a wonderful climax
for us. We’ve been left with so many lasting friendships and happy memories.
We thank you all!.