Tom and Jane Burgin - Part 1 - interview

ZOOM0001.WAV. Burgin 1

Interviewers:  Robbie Jean Rice (RR) and Jim Haggerty (JH)

Interviewees:  Tom and Jane Burgin 


RR: Ok. All right. We're here with Tom Burgin and his wife Jane on January 23rd, 2020. We're here today to talk about dancing, mostly about square dancing and the music and memories of all of that.

 [00:00:20] RR:  So, Tom, tell us, what are your first memories of going square dancing?

 [00:00:28] Tom:  Well, I guess I'd have to go clear back to when they used to hold house dances down here at the corner in the Fraser house. They would roll up the rugs and polish the furniture up and the woodwork up the day before. And then they had room for one set in the living room and one set in the dining room. And we'd go down there.

[00:00:54] Tom:  I don't, I never danced there. I was too young. But I remember going and I remember how cold and dark it was when we went home, that's about all I could tell you about it.

[00:01:04] RR:  You didn't have far to go,

Tom:  But for a little boy, that was quite the thing..

 RR:  And did they have, like, lots of food?

 [00:01:12] Tom:  Oh, yes. Everybody brought a dish to pass. And they would dance probably till, I don't know, I'm guessing till 10:30, 11:00 o'clock. OK. Because everybody had chores in the evening. Everybody milked cows in those days. And then they would have like a dinner. And afterwards they might dance a couple, three more dances, but usually by midnight, we was about ready to go home. OK. Because everybody had to get up the next morning.

[00:01:44] JH:  You mentioned about your great grandfather, would you mention the picture you showed us, who he was.

 [00:01:50] Tom: Well, well, I have a picture here, of my great grandfather, Peter Fraser. And he was a fiddler and caller back in the 1890s, early 1900s.  (This is the) only picture I have of him. Shows him with his fiddles. I think he's right around 90 at that time.

RR:  That's amazing. That is amazing.

JH:  Any stories from or about him? 

[00:02:18] Tom:  No, not really. I do have, I do know where his call book is. His grandson, Harold Fraser has that. And he allowed me to take it here a couple years ago. And I made copies of part of the calls in that book. And out of all the calls that he had, there were only two or three that would appear on the list that I showed you here, that’s up in the Delaware County Historical Museum.

[00:02:49] RR:  So there was really different music at that time.  Interesting.

JH:  Yes, I think so.

RR: Oh, very interesting.  So what did you kids do while they were dancing?

[00:02:58] Tom:  Got in trouble.

RR:  Big surprise!

Tom:  Well, there was enough kids around, so you had plenty of people to play with. But it was kind of limited to what you could do because your parents were right there. And they kept pretty good close track. Right.

[00:03:18]  Of course, we lived on the main highway. We had to be kinda careful, anyway.

[00:03:21] JH: Right. And then, you said you had a list of these other calls somewhere? Would you say, that's what you said?

[00:03:27] Tom:  There were only two or three out. I'd have to look for you. It's nothing. But someday, someday it would be good to see.

RR:  Did you meet your wife when you went dancing?

Tom:  Yes, we did.

RR:  Oh, cool. You wanna tell that story?

[00:03:39] Tom:  Well, back about 1953.

[00:03:46] They were having a square dance up at Lynn Clark's barn up Elk Creek -   they had one every year. They’d clean the barn all out…Hay mows all out, (When) it was all (cleaned) out, they had a square dance. I think it was Arnold Truscott playing that night? Yeah. You know, Arnold would play - that was Janes’ father’s cousin.

[00:04:05] RR:  Jane's Father's cousin, “the hanging judge.”

[00:04:11] That's what Harold always called him.

[00:04:17] Tom: Anyway, my brother and Pete Clark were real good friends, they were the same age. He wanted to go up there and see Pete and go to that dance. And so I talked my folks into letting me take Dick up there and and so on, I would dance and then I'd come home. Course all this time I was driving on a junior license. I was supposed to be home by dark. But we didn't pay too much attention to that.  We went to the dance, and here was this redheaded girl.  I had seen her in high school, she was going to school.  She was a year ahead of me in school. I didn't dare ask her for a date. But anyway, we went up there. I needed a partner, so I asked if she’d dance. And I guess we danced every dance the rest of the night.

[00:05:06] And then I took her home and we had quite, quite an evening.

[00:05:13] She had an awful time convincing her folks that I could take her home. But we accomplished that goal…

[00:05:21] RR: And where, Jane, where did you grow up?

Jane: Meridale.

RR:  Oh, OK. So that was a little hike to take her home. Yeah. Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness.

[00:05:35] RR:  So what you've been studying, all of this dancing and everything, I wondered…. But you have all this information here (points to packet of papers)

Tom:  I was going to show it to you.  There’s what I’ve written.  If you want to read through it, that’s fine.  That is what I’ve written..

[00:05:53] I don't know….

[00:05:58] RR:  And this is… Yeah, OK. Bill Tweedie. Oh, I remember. So Jim was asking me on the way here, like, who were the square dance callers when we would go dancing. Oh, I don't remember. But Bill Tweedie, (Alton?) McCall. Yeah.

Tom:   Look, all of that’s for you. So.

RR:  So we can make copies of this. That would be nice if we can make copies.

Jane: Yeah.  Should I copy them?

RR:  Oh, could you do that? Would you do that for us? 

Tom:  We can. If you want to Mother?

RR:  It’s up to you, but it would be very nice if she would do that. Yeah.

[00:06:36] JH:  I mean, we would be happy to do it in return, of course. But if you would want to do that.

[00:06:39] RR:   So tell us like, was dancing the entertainment?

[00:06:49] Tom: That was pretty much the entertainment for Jane and I.  We went to movies quite often, but we’d go square dancing every week, every Saturday night, sometimes Friday night, whatever, whenever it came up and we square danced right up until 1992, I think it was.

[00:07:14] Yeah. She had knee problems and she had her knees repaired and you know, we had never danced much since then.

[00:07:22]  RR:  And did you have people that you always went with?

Tom: George Boles and his wife Janet.  We made a foursome and we went together like I’d say pretty near every Saturday night.

RR:  Okay. And where did you go?

Tom:  Over Pleasant Valley, mostly to Bruce [Hoyt, caller]. OK. Before we started going with George and Janet,

[00:07:46] we used to go to Andes, Howard Hughes. Yeah. Mm-Hmm. He was from Delhi. And he played over there and we'd go over there and dance. And I guess we went to a house dance up beyond where Phil Merrill lived.

[00:08:11] RR:  Ok. Up on, up on the Ridge Road. Oh yeah. Oh there's a beautiful house back in there. Yeah.

[00:08:19] Tom:  Set way down off the road.   

RR:   Yeah.

Tom: And I can't think of the name of the people who used to live there.

RR:  When we first moved here. Tom….

[00:08:30] RR:  He worked for Cooperative Extension, he worked there.

[00:08:33] Tom:  Tom, somebody, Jane probably can remember. I don't remember.  We liked going to the house dances, they were a lot of fun to go to.

[00:08:46] Tom:  I don't (always) like to go to people's houses, we were afraid something might get broken, you know. But we had a lot of fun doing that.

[00:08:55] RR:  Why do you think house dances were more fun than going to a gym …

Tom:  Because you got to visit a lot more people that you knew, who were right close handy. And when you went to a square dance hall like Pleasant Valley, you knew some of the people. You didn't know them all, by any means.

[00:09:14] Tom:  Right. And so we enjoyed going to the house dances.

[00:09:20] RR:  Yeah. Yeah. Because it was more your friends. Yeah.

Tom:  Yeah. You could talk about all those things that went wrong in the past week.

[00:09:32] RR:  Like how many times the manure spreader was frozen up. Yeah.

[00:09:37] JH:  How did you learn the calls and the dances?  From there, or from your family?

[00:09:43] Tom:  No. I think that the first I started learning the calls was when we used to have (dances) in school.  We had, we had a period in school at that time when you could have a choice of what you wanted to do, and one of them was to go to the gym and learn to dance.  So I’d go to the gym to learn square dancing.  It was a lot better than sitting in the library or somewhere.

[00:10:14] RR:  Can I ask you, when you say “at that time”, like the 1950s or the late 40s,

Tom:  the late 40s.

[00:10:24] Tom:  I mean, this schoolhouse out here that I went to originally closed in 1945, and between then and 1950.  [Note: Tom and Jane live in that schoolhouse now.]

[00:10:33] Tom:  It would have been in that period because I'd have been still in grade school when I started when they started taking us down to the gym.  Teachers.  That was up here at the academy. [Delaware Academy in Delhi] 

[00:10:48] RR:  Can I ask how old you are?

[00:10:50] Tom:  Eighty three.

RR:  Wow!  Good for you. Yeah, you are young! I mean, the closer we get to that age, you know,

Tom:  You kinda hate to admit it.

[00:10:59] Tom:  Yeah, that's where I'm at.

RR:  Wow. Okay. All right.

[00:11:09] JH:  So do you have somewhere a listing of the prior calls? Is that what you said about that?

Tom:  Yeah. They would be in this (Pointing to papers).


Tune List belonging to Peter Fraser, great grandfather of Tom Burgin and fiddler and caller of square dances in the late 1800s in Central Delaware County, NY.

Written March 1, 1890.  Of the tunes on the list, only 3 were on the list given to Tom by Bruce Hoyt when Tom interviewed Bruce in the early 2000s.  The list also includes the key each would have been played in on the fiddle.

Liverpool – D

Ricketts – D

Ebb Tide – C

Lamplighters – A

Key West – G

Beaus of Albany – C

Fishers – D

Devils Dream – A

Douglas Favorite – G

Speed the Plow – A

Morris – D

Arkansas Traveler – D

Bennett Jig – A

Three Miles – G

Cilage (?) – G

Green Fields – G

Huskey – G

Cuckoo – G

Flowers of Edinburgh – G

Lardners Reel – A

Ostinellis Reel – A

Rustic – D

Miss McLeods Reel – G

Hand Organ – A

Mountain Hornpipe – G

Clog Dance