A list of all known club presidents can be found here.
The Arlington Heights Square Dance Club: 1948-1960
The earliest documentation retained in the "Presidents Books" (which fill four large bins) is a letter dated June 16, 1953. Club members are invited to renew their membership with dues of $10 per couple. The membership was described as "full to overflowing" (it was limited to 60 or 61 couples for quite a few years with another ten or so couples on a "waiting list" hoping to be admitted). Visitors to each dance were required to phone in advance. The guest fee was $1.50 per couple. Coffee and soft drinks were served for 10 cents apiece.
Bill Clarke was the club caller, and together with his wife Marie continued to stay active with the club as a caller and advisor for many years. Bill offered lessons in Edison Park, and his graduates were wooed by several clubs in the area.
Dances were held on the fourth Friday of each month in a local school cafeteria, and a live band (the Ranch Hands) was hired to play at three dances each year. The caller held an "instruction period" from 8 to 8:30 each night before the dance.
In June 1958, the school board agreed to a one-year trial of allowing the club two dances per month. Dances on the second Saturday were open, and all visitors were welcome. Dances on the fourth Friday were closed, but guests were permitted if reservations were made in advance ("since refreshments are served at no charge").
A newspaper item announced the opening of the '58-59 season. After mentioning the dance nights and locations, it continued on to say: "Chairman Bill Weismueller reports that the club is one of the oldest in the area, having been organized in 1948. The membership in the past several years has averaged approximately sixty couples."
The name of the club was the "Arlington Heights Square Dance Club" until the '58-59 season, but then begins to appear as the "Arlington Square Dance Club" for a time. On July 29, 1960, the club "Committee" met and discussed new badges. The committee agreed that the club would make an allowance of 50 cents per badge, and that the name "Arlington Squares" would be used. The meeting minutes continued on to say, "A committee of the Simans and the Boehms will choose the badge."
An invitation to dance on January 27th, 1961 shows our earliest record of the current club logo: the phrase Arlington Squares, with interlocked red squares drawn around the "A" and "S". Bill Clarke was the caller, admission was free, and the theme was "Square Dance for Fun in 'Sixty One".
The Arlington Squares: 1961 - 64
The Metropolitan Chicago Association of Square Dancers is formed. Club membership in the association is set at $5 per year.
On March 6th 1961, Bill Clarke suggested a "revamping" of the committee system, and proposed the the committee couple consist of four couples as officers (Chairman, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer), and seven committee heads enlisting held from the membership: Host, Special Events, Entertainment, Publicity, Decorations, Pop, and Refreshments. Much discussion followed through until another meeting on March 17 determined that the positions would be President, Treasurer, Secretary, Refreshments, Activities & Publicity, Pop, and Special Events. (The host/hostess function were to be carried out by club members as scheduled by the refreshments committee). With small changes (the addition of couples for Vice President, Lesson Assistant, Banner, and MCASD Representative), this is substantially the structure of the club Board more than 40 years later.
We're missing records of the 61-62 dance season, but do have a "member refreshment schedule" showing 41 couples serving two or three times apiece throughout the year. Both dances each month were held on Friday nights, establishing the now-familiar 2nd and 4th Friday schedule.
But there was trouble on the horizon...
An excerpt from minutes of the September 13, 1962 board meeting:
"The treasurer gave his report stating he had approximately 250.00 on hand. 130.00 of this amount left from last season and 120.00 represented receipts from applications received for the 1962-63 season. The treasurer reported that he had received either applications or deposits to hold memberships from fourteen couples."
An excerpt from a committee member's November 16th letter to the club secretary:
"Appreciating the fact, as we all do, that at present the club's solvency, precarious at best, rests on the continued support of an intangible, that is, the guests who fortunately have attended our dances in considerable number, we cannot therefore, be complacent, but quite the contrary are extremely alarmed by the fact that if there should be any further small loss in membership next year, the club in all probability would be unable to function.
"It is our suggestion that immediate action be taken in the form of a meeting of officers, extending invitations to attend, to those members and former officers who in the past have demonstrated their organizational ability and interest in the club, to inform them of the existing situation and to call upon them for their experienced assistance to again make the Arlington Squares a robust, vigorous and solvent club."
An excerpt from Bill Clarke's Jan 27, 1963 letter to the club presidents:
"I am writing you because of my deep concern for the future of our Square Dance Club. Marie and I have been associated with the club since 1954 and feel a deep sense of responsibility for the welfare of our club. We have seen the club, when it had a full membership, and several people on the waiting list, wanting to join this club when it had a vacancy. For the past few years, we have witnessed a gradual decline in membership down to the point where the club can no longer sustain itself on the membership alone. When this situation exists it is time for the existing members to be informed of same, and to try to take some immediate action to avoid our club having to fold up, due to a declining membership. I believe there are enough interested members left who would be willing to work hard to bring the club back to where it was, if they were to be contacted and were made aware of the situation, so that they could help form a line of strategy to avoid this disaster. There is still time, there may not be at the end of this season."
Later in his letter, Bill suggested that one reason for the membership decline was the clubs "semi-open" policy, where one dance per month was open to visitors. He believed that this allowed former club members to simply attend as guests and "freeload". He suggested that many of the dances should be closed (for club membership only, although guests of a member would be welcomed), and also suggested a holding special events for members outside of the dance nights: "such as a bowling party, skating party, splash party, tobogganing party, getting together to eat out and see a play downtown."
In an informal committee meeting held before the February 8th, 1963 dance the treasurer reported that the club had 28 couples "in good standing".
On Valentines Day, the committee and five other invited couples gathered to discuss the membership situation. After much discussion, the committee decided to "reinstitute the 8:00 to 8:30 brush-up period before each dance", to provide music between the square dance tips and round dances, to ask Marie (Clarke) to teach the simple round dance of the month each month, to continue to call "mixers" regularly at each dance, and to "introduce and teach new figures as they appear on the square dance scene."
The financial health of the club was considered to be better than the previous year (because of the many guests attending the dances). The club's semi-open policy was retained over Bill's objections, and the club began to consider sponsoring lessons in the Arlington Heights area.
Those lessons began September 9th, 1963, "under the auspices of the Arlington Heights Park District" in conjunction with the Palatine Squares and the Swinging Squares. Tib Tibbits was the instructor.
The health of the club's caller took a sudden turn for the worse in early November of 1963. The minutes of the Nov 13th board meeting included this note:
"A collection had been taken up for Bill Clarke. We had collected $7.50 and out of this amount was spent $6.25 for flowers. Instead of sending more flowers Russ mentioned about probably buying him pajamas as he will be wearing them for quite some time."
Guest callers were arranged for the remainder of the season, although there was a belief that Bill had hoped to return as a guest caller on January 10th, and for some of the dances in the '64-65 season. On January 2nd, 1963, Bill Clarke advised the club in a letter that although his health was improving, he needed to curtail some of his classes and calling, and would not be able to return in the spring.
1964-65: New Callers and a New Location
Lenny Roos made his first visit to Arlington Squares on January 24th, 1964, filling in for the ill Bill Clarke. That very night, he was asked to call the fourth Friday dances for the '64-65 season. The '65-66 schedule shows Lenny and Jim Smith calling all of the dances except for the club's Christmas party.
Jerry and Dot Daniels (the "Jerry Dots") take over the round dance cuing.
In the summer of 1965, the school district wrote to the club and stated that the Miner School, site of many of the clubs dances, would not be available for more than one night each month. Club Chairman Gene and Arlene Olechowski checked on other possible halls, and were asked to check St. Simons Episcopal Church. The church was available, and became the location for the fourth Friday dances during the '65-66 season.
By September, the actions taken in 1963 to increase membership were showing good effect. Membership was up to 49 couples. The treasury was up to nearly $740 (having reached a low of $280 in the spring of 1964). Tib Tibbits' beginner classes were going well, and Russ Lee had begun teaching square dance lessons in the Northbrook area. A season opening picnic at Deer Grove Forest Preserve and closing banquet had become annual traditions.
At the end of the year, the minutes of the May 1966 committee meeting showed a treasury balance of $971.86, MCASD promotion of beginners lessons, and 55 couples signed up for the banquet.
The final treasurers report on June 3rd, 1966 (after nearly $660 in banquet expenses) showed an profit of $4.68 for the year, and a closing balance of $262.89. It was a good year.
1966-67: The momentum continues
Fred Martin suggests that the club should have a "uniform" to be worn when visiting other clubs. Tib Tibbitts teaches at the Arlington Heights Field House on Mondays, while Russ Lee teaches in Northbrook on Tuesdays and Meadowdale on Wednesdays. Tib stops teaching in October, and Russ Lee takes over his class as well. The school district agrees to the use of the Miner Jr. High School twice each month. Foggy Thompson calls for the club on October 14, 1966. Teenage dancers are accepted into the club dances for 50 cents per person. Art and Marge Edgren join the club in the springtime. Membership grows to 58 couples and 5 singles. 107 people attend the season closing banquet.
1967-71: Slow Changes as the Club Turns 21
Three couples are delegated to coordinate banner stealing -- one from Northbrook, one from Chicago, and one from Arlington Heights. The Park District sponsored lessons moved to Arvid Olson's Square Dance Center on Rand Road, and were held on Tuesday nights (the same night as Russ Lee's class in Northbrook. In August, the club committee agrees to support both Tuesday night lessons -- but then discovers that Arlington is the only club providing angels to the Square Dance Center, that the quality of the instruction is lower than expected, and that there are a large number of single women in the class (which, per the club's bylaws, could not become club members without unanimous vote from the committee). A letter from the club secretary to Arvid Olson reviews the situation, and "reluctantly withdraws" the club's support for the lessons. At the same time, the Russ Lee is offered a free membership in the club in recognition of his efforts in teaching new dancers.
The Jerry Dots provide their final year of round dance cuing.
Foggy Thompson has called for the club two or three more times, and (with the strong support of club membership) is requested to replace Jim Smith as one of the clubs permanent callers for the '68-69 season.
In the fall of 1968, the club makes arrangements for Russ Lee's last year of lessons to be held in the Parish Hall of St. Simons Episcopal Church on Wednesday nights. Club members are encouraged to assist as angels, but Russ manages the lessons.
Carl and Marie Peterson replace the Jerry Dots (Jerry and Dot Daniels) as the club cuers.
Lenny Roos and Foggy Thompson share the calling duties for the year -- an arrangement that will last for more than a decade.
In June 1969, Art and Marge Edgren are asked to serve as the clubs first "Vice Presidents", with responsibility for the beginner lessons. Jack Ketcher replaces Russ Lee as instructor. Dues are $25.00 per couple for the year, and may be paid in two six-month installments. Edna and Gene Arnfield provide the round dance cuing for the year.
St. Simons becomes the location for all of the club dances, a decision that has remained for more than 30 years. Club membership has gradually declined somewhat to 41 couples, so concerted efforts are made to draw recover former members and convince frequent visitors to join. The dances have moved from semi-open to completely open (except for the Christmas party and banquet). The beginners class turns a profit of over $100, and brings several new members into the club.
January 8th, 1971, was celebrated as the club's 21st anniversary dance. By the summer of 1971, the treasury had slowly grown to slightly over $500 on hand. This was by intention -- the committee had determined that the treasury should only roll over $500 to start each year.
1973: Uncle Artie Comes to Class
Walt and Edna Edelblute, the last remaining charter members of the club, move to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, in March 1973. Gerry and May Hoffberg become the club cuers for the 1973-74 season, and Art "Uncle Artie" Edgren replaces Jack Ketcher as the lesson instructor -- a position he will hold for the next 30 years.
Over the next few years, the lessons become the primary source of new membership for the club. Artie's first class alone adds eleven couples and two singles to the club. 41 out of the 52 couples in the club participate in the banner stealing efforts -- five of those couples go out more than 20 times during the year.
In February 1975, there was serious concern about overflowing the space available for the dances. There was even a suggestion to cancel the next years beginners class because the membership might grow too large. The first dance in September of that year drew 225 people, of which 91 had registered as guests. Nineteen more couples signed up for the beginners class. A dance on the 5th Friday was added.
Membership settled down just over 60 couples on the average, and the beginner lessons continued to provide ten to fifteen couples graduating per year. In 1976-77, increases in rent from St. Simons and increasing cost of callers and cuers put upward pressure on the club membership, guest fees, and the cost of lessons -- but careful adjustments kept the finances in balance.
George and Joyce Kammerer replace the Hoffbergs as cuers in 1978, and are soon joined by Ted and Berma Holub.
1980: Begins with a bang!
From the "President's Message" in the February 1, 1980 newsletter:
"Lenny & Mary Lou Roos are relocating to Costa Mesa, Arizona immediately. Lenny, who has called squares on the fourth Fridays since 1964, will be missed. His smiling face, bubbling personality and adept use of square dance music terminology have made our square dancing a lot of fun during the past few years. Lenny and Mary Lou, Good Luck, and much happiness from all of us at Arlington Squares."
Foggy Thompson continues to call all of the 2nd Friday dances, and a slate of guest callers is quickly selected for the 4th and 5th Friday dances.
May 11th was the date of The Arlington Pearl -- the club's 30th anniversary dance. It was a good success -- heavily publicized, the Pearl drew many guests to dance to Dick Jones, a well-known national caller. It was the first time the club had sponsored a large ticket dance, and fortunately turned a modest profit for all of the hard work.
January, 1983: The club is averaging 40 member couples and 45 guest couples at each dance. St. Simons is packed, but remains the least expensive hall available. The New Years Eve dance has a special pink elephant badge. Club outfits are selected: red skirts with polka dots and a white blouse for the ladies, and black pants, white shirt, red tie and an optional red vest for the gents. The club is asked to appear at the Arlington Heights Frontier Days festival and dance on the tennis courts. In April, the board decided to keep the annual dues at $40, guest fees at $5 per couple per dance, and beginners lessons at $35 per couple per session. The club closes the season with $4300 in the bank.
1984: Foggy Thompson celebrates 15 years of calling for Arlington Squares. The Jade Jamboree (35th anniversary dance) is a financial and social success. The club goes out 119 times to 57 clubs, with 17 visits, 20 retrieves, 48 misses, and 34 steals. Al Schaffner becomes the club caller for the 4th Friday dances.
1985: Arlington Squares incorporates! Pat Ploof is the original agent for the club, and the registered board of directors are Allen and Phyllis Roos, Erv and Elsie Cambell, Chuck and Lynn Bencic, and Bob and Helen Regan.
1986: MCASD has 77 member clubs with approximately 4,800 dancers in the area. Arlington Squares has 171 members and is the third largest club in the association. Still looking for a larger hall. Fourth Friday dances now have rotating guest callers, a traditional that continues to this day. Lessons move to the Congregational United Church of Christ, just up the road from St. Simons.
1989: 540 people attend the Ruby Ramble, the 40th anniversary dance. Thirteen couples graduate from lessons and join the club. A quest for a larger hall continues, with no success. Foggy announces his retirement after the '90-91 season, and the club begins to search for a successor.
1991: In Search of a Caller (again)
Guy Adams calls six of the nine 2nd Friday dances during the '91-92 season, and Jerry Hill calls six of the nine 4th Friday dances during the following year. Rick Allison appears five times during '93-94.
In April 1994 the 45th anniversary dance, Sapphire Serenade, was a big success. Darryl McMillan and Herb Oesterle did the calling, and George and Joyce Kammerer handled the cuing duties. The next month heralds Arlington's first club-sponsored lessons at the Plus level.
1995-8: Welcome, Rick and Howard!
In September 1995, Rick Allison becomes the club caller and handles the 2nd Friday dances each month. Several couples share the cuing duties with the Kammerers until 1998, when Howard and Anna Hoffman start to handle the 4th Friday dances and are an immediate hit.
A Birthday Party! April 18,1999 is the 50th anniversary dance for
Arlington Squares. One of the largest club dances in Chicagoland history,
it sets new standards for anniversary bashes. The club's treasury grows to
somewhat over $10,000.
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2000-3: The 21st Century Dawns
A disturbing trend becomes more apparent: the number of people involved in square dancing has been steadily dropping for several years. During that time, numerous clubs have seen their membership dwindle and have troubles finding people to serve as club officers. Clubs begin to shut down -- between 2 and 5 per year for several years in a row. By 2003, MCASD membership falls from a peak of nearly ninety clubs to just 34. The Northern Illinois Square Dance association, comprised predominately of clubs in Lake County, falls to a membership of just four clubs -- one of which is also a member of MCASD. Several clubs are down to just 10 or 15 members, and the number of "independent" (unaffiliated) dancers grows as people decline to join clubs, but continue to visit dances as guests. Arlington Squares membership is down to less than 90 people, but remains one of the largest and strongest clubs in the state.
Attendance at national conventions continues a many-year trend, steadily
dropping from a high of nearly 40,000 in 1976 to below 9,000 in 2002 and below
8,000 in the summer of 2003.
The tragic events of September 11, 2001, have a dramatic impact on the nation's psyche and economy, and upon club lesson attendance as well. The club's opening night of lessons was scheduled for Sept. 11, and was immediately cancelled. That year, only three couples graduated from lessons, and the following year (beginning in 2002), only two couples graduated. In the meantime, many older member couples decide not to renew their membership for a variety of reasons: moving to warmer climates, health concerns, etc. St.Simon's makes plans to remodel the parish hall in which the club dances -- the rector suggests that a $10/dance increase in rent (the first increase in more than 25 years!) would help to pay for the remodeling, and the club offers $20/dance. Although club membership drops considerably during this time, the treasury remains strong even in the face of slowly rising costs. Most dances have between ten and twenty squares in attendance, with a few more guests than club members. In September 2003, guest fees are increased from $4 to $5 per person per dance, matching levels set by most other clubs in the area. Annual dues remain at $55 per couple.
In June, 2003, Art Edgren completed teaching his 30th year of square dance lessons. Our debt and gratitude to Artie is unbounded. That fall, Howard Hoffman began teaching our lessons, but was soon incapacitated by serious illness, and Wally Smulson stepped in to replace him for the rest of the year. But in late 2003, the economy begins to recover and lesson attendance grows again to fourteen people in December 2003.
The club's 55th anniversary dance, The Emerald Enchantment , is scheduled for May 2nd, 2004. Rick Allison (still the club caller handling each of the 2nd Friday dances), Mike Argue, and Jimmy Robison are the callers, and the Kammerers and Hoffmans handle the round dance cuing. Joyce Kammerer decides to retire after December 2004 (George had only been doing occasional rounds for the past few years), and the club signs a contract with Angie and Bob Huckeby to replace the Kammerers on 2nd and 5th Fridays.
What comes next? You can be a part of it... help us to reach our 60th Anniversary in 2008-9!