frenchtown fiber

Chris Mundy and Kate House try to make art while navigating the crap life throws at them.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Traces Left Behind

Joe and Kate and I went to an antique mall yesterday, Gristie's in Buck's County. I was excited, because, not only had I never been to this place, but I had been itching to go antiquing for a while. I wanted to find some interesting ephemera for my collages. I found this little book with the name of a club on it, kind of like an record of dances with people. I believed that I had something from a country club, maybe with some record of this archaic ritual. The handwriting looked old, and the graphics in the book looked old. When I got home, I realized that the entries in the book started in 1982. That's not too old in my world. It has to be from before I was born to be considered old. I was reading the entries, and some of the people who signed the book had rubber stamps of themselves! One guy had glued a mini picture of himself. He seemed to be on stage with a microphone.
I Googled the name of the club, which is The Century Club in Westfield, MA. So, get this. The century club is a square dance club. Here is a quote from the website:

"The Century Club was introduced to Square Dancers at Ralph Sweets Powdermill Barn in Hazardville, Conn. on August 26, 1960. It was the idea of two couples who had graduated in May of that year. After having danced to twenty callers already they deemed it possible to dance to 100 different callers and perhaps get other dancers to circulate and dance to other callers at different clubs."

So, you send them a couple of bucks and they send you this little book, which is like a passport, and you get signatures of the different callers. It is designed to encourage people to travel and meet different square dancers. It says on the website that after you fill one book with 100 callers, your next book is GOLD! Well, my book is gold and it does indeed start with number 101. It's got the couple's name right in the front of the book, Lyle and Helen. The first 2 pages have signatures that were written on a separate piece of paper and glued in. I am thinking that this was done because they had to wait for their new book. I pulled one of the separate pieces of paper off, it was Lyle's business card. He was a travel agent. When you look through the book you can see that these people did indeed travel far and wide to square dance. Milner, North Dakota, Aurora Colorado, Bethlehem, PA, Los Angeles, California, Abilene, Texas, Altoona, PA.

At the bottom it says, "Song about a Pig."

The entries stop abruptly in 1992, at number 175. I was wondering what happened, so I Googled Lyle. I did not find an obituary for Lyle, but I did find one for Helen. She was a school nurse at Metuchen High School, and she died in 2008 at 85 years old. Lyle died in 2002.

I find this fascinating. First of all, that you can find this little thing that someone left behind, and  that you can discover a little snippet about their life just with a few keystrokes. I wish like hell I had a picture of these folks. As it is I am excited about making a collage with these pages. I've also figured out that this is why I am so interested in old things. People used them in their lives. Everyone dies, life is so short, what is left of us? Just these little traces. If we haven't done anything amazing, there is maybe a tombstone, some photographs, and now digital records.


cconz said...

Chis, What a COOl COOL story. It makes me think about all the things going by the wayside. Getting together to dance like that. PEOPLE MIGHT BE MORE WILLING TO DANCE IF THEY COULD DO IT ON THEIR "wi". i LIKE COLLECTING OLD AUTOGRAPH BOOKS AND I'D LOVE TO GET AHOLD OF OLD PASSPORTS. Bill and i want to take ballroom dancing this year. People just look at us funny, when we tell them.
Oh to listen to the utube video just hit the off button on my playlist. It's a good speech on gay marriage.

PJ2 said...

Chris, My husband and I have danced to 104 callers since 1999. We've completed our Century Club book signatures, and were trying to find more info about the Century Club when I came across your blob. I wasn't confident that the old PO Box was still valid. Still aren't but reading about your "find" is touching.

We too have square danced in many states whild traveling. It's wonderful to walk into a room as a stranger and be greated with friendly smiles and applause when you've come from a distance.

We dance weekly and attend conventions. WASCA (our local festival) draws over 1000 people and nationals boast around 8,000.

Our friends thought we were crazy when we started, but it's one of the best exercise, friendship, social parts of our lives. You discovered a whole new world didn't you? Keep up the interest in others and you will be richly rewarded, PJPJ

PJ2 said...

PS to my last comment. We have danced to Time Marriner who is a national caller. Worth the trip! PJ2