What started as a family fun thing for Good Samers Maggie and Louie Powell and their children in 1970 has led to a career for son Eddie, an avocation for Louie, and an actively pursued hobby for Maggie.
The activity, which has been so reward for the Powells of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, is western square dancing.
"Western is different from the old 'barn' dancing, or hoedown," explained Maggie. "The western caller uses records or tapes of popular songs to call the dance steps for dancers that are experienced. On the other hand, the barn dance or hoedown is a one-night activity, such as a church dance, where folks know few, if any, of the steps. We had tot take lessons for 30 weeks to learn the steps and the movements in western square dancing." Maggie said.
Immediately after the four members of the family "graduated" from the 30-week course, they joined the Square Wheels, a club of wester square dancers who also camp. The Square Wheels is one of more than 40 square dancing clubs in the Columbus, Ohio, area. The Powells, who had been family campers, happily combined their two favorite leisure-time activities.
Within two years their camping/dancing travel increased. "Our son Eddie got interest in dance-calling right away." Powell said. "By the time he was 14, he was an accomplished caller and in demand by clubs all over the region. Since he was too young to drive, we took him around to lots of dances."
The experience Eddie gained was of great value. Today, he is a disc jockey on a Columbus radio station and a square dance caller of national renown.
Simultaneously, Louie Powell became proficient in hoedown calling. His patient, humorous delivery of the square dance calls to first-timers has won widespread acceptance, and he has been in demand for church socials, block parties and dances. When a sponsor wants a qualified caller for dancers who know very little about square dancing, he calls Louie.
The Powells continue to camp with the Square Wheels on the third weekend each month from April to October. During the winter months, the club meets on the third Sunday to dance. Among the 41 member-couples, the Powells enjoy a "senior" status with their 17 years of membership, even though they are not charter members.
Each camp-out is a dancing camp-out. Two couples agree to act as hosts. They arrange for a campground (or a hall for dancing in the winter), select the menu and engage the services of a caller.
"Some of the callers like to camp, and they will be with us on Friday evening and we will get together for a 'come-as-you-are' dance," said Powell. "On Saturday we will have a potluck supper, or the hosts will cook chili or soup in our club kettle; then at 8 p.m., we have our dress-up dance."
The Square Wheels and the other clubs in the Columbus area pool the information about their outings and dances, publish it for their own use and pass it along for state and national use. There is an annual gathering of Ohio square dancers early in May and a national convention each year in late June. The Powells have attended several of these conventions.
"We went to the national convention in Indianapolis in 1986; there were 25,000 dancers there and nearly half of them came in recreation vehicles," Powell said. "We usually part in a fairgrounds and they try to park us by state."
Like so many people who really enjoy a hobby or a pastime, Louise Powell is a promoter of square dancing. She encourages people to take lessons and learn how enjoyable square dancing can be.
"I believe that the winter travelers through the South and Southwest would have a great time if they headed for a campground that featured square dancing." Powell said enthusiastically. "A lot of callers go South for the winter months and they are hired by the quality, resort-type campgrounds. Daily lessons are available to get people dancing at the fun level very quickly.
"Square dancing is a natural for retired folks and senior citizens," Powell said. "It is not too strenuous, but it does get the blood circulating, and it encourages people to make new friends."