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Chuck Jones - square dance adventures

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Chuck Jones letter

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Chuck Jones - square dance adventures


Famed animator Chuck Jones (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner, and many more) was an ardent square dance enthusiast, part of the southern California boom in squares in the early 1950s. This is an excerpt from a letter to his daughter, Linda. It describes a square dance demonstration that did not run smoothly.

Another Chuck Jones letter describes how he got started as a square dancer and his horror upon discovering that round dances were part of the program.

This letter, from October 9, 1952, describes a hot dance with Ed Gilmore and the appreciation Jones feels for square dance: "I owe it a great debt indeed." Another letter, sent the next day, describes a similarly exciting time with caller Arnie Kronenberger.

A search for "square dance" on that site will bring up additional references, including an appearance on Bob Osgood's television show.

Here is the text of his square dance comments from the letter:

Remember the square dance at the opening of the service station? Not so. ‘Twasn’t a service station at all, but the opening of a new city hall and civic center at the small township of Bell, a town about opposite Westchester, but about eight miles inland. It was quite an experience. We were slated to dance on a parking lot (one square of us [from Rip ‘n’ Snort] and one of the Levis and Laces, Ralph [Maxheimer] to call), which had been covered with some kind of goop to make it danceable. The teeming multitudes were to watch us dance, be impressed, take up square dancing themselves and so live happily ever afterward.

There were several slight hitches. The impresario who had arranged the deal had gotten gutter-drunk early in the day and swarmed home in a stage of black forgetfulness. Those officials who remained were not at home, but they were certainly gorgeously looped.

If we had gone up and told them we were the trained dog act, they would have accepted us with bland faith, but they wouldn’t have known what to do about it. They didn’t know what to do with a bunch of trained square dancers either, so they stared at us in glassy contemplation then turned without another word, climbed upon a ribbon-bedecked grandstand on the other side of the City Hall and started talking to a small group of Solid Citizens arrayed before them. Most of these were in a happy state of rigidity too so things proceeded in an orderly and steamily vacuous way: drunks applauding drunks, a sweet civic picture for the multitude of frisky moppets who seemed to be everywhere under foot.

We walked pensively back to our parking lot where six or eight hangover cases were scattered around on benches provided for just such emergencies. A band now appeared. Square dance band? Nope. Twelve pieces in dress suits who climbed into another bandstand and began tootling away in stringy harmony like a poor man’s Guy Lombardo. They had never heard of us and once we had heard of them, we had no desire to repeat the experience.

Another interesting factor was the sound system provided for the girl vocalist, mm-hm, they even had one of those. This sound system had the interesting faculty of either being off altogether or on altogether. No delicate shading or foolishness like that. Part of the time this poor little dame in her flamboyant vestments was trebling away in a thin little voice that barely reached out of the bandstand and the next second she was drowned in a torrent of sound so overwhelming in its violence that she could not hear the orchestra, for this sound system not only blasted eight million decibels, but lowered the key to a thunderous base that set the electric wires vibrating clear to El Segundo. I am told that this awe-inspiring auditory spectacle had no visible effect on the drunken City Fathers who continued with untroubled eloquence their paternal maunderings.

It must have been a touching spectacle to have watched these public servants mouthing their platitudes into this great vortex of sound and to see the audience respond with soundless clapping as the thunder and storming broke around their liqueous shoulders all unbeknownst. Such is the peace of true biliousness.

Eventually Ralph got impatient and pushed his way to the turn-table, made some rapid adjustments with a nail-file, ushered the bewildered orchestra into the Men’s Room, locked the door and carried on the exhibition for one of the smallest audiences in one of the biggest arenas in square dance history. After which, we released the orchestra, most of whom had fallen asleep on toilet seats, whispered our good-byes to the one sober policeman and the firemen, who were all sober, but introspective, and pushed our way to the street through platoons of children and windrows of drunks.

An electrifying evening, all in all.

Last night we appeared on a square dance program over KECA television, sort of a barn dance deal. Very corny show, but the dancing was fun and the experience was, too. I am told by those who saw it that we looked quite good, considering what we start with, physiologically speaking.


Date Created

November 13, 1952

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