Friday, October 31, 2008

Music In the Hills: Dancing

Left: Gathered for some home-made music: Sarah Blake, daughter of John Jackson and Biddie (Bragg) Blake, plays the fiddle, Richard Barrett is playing guitar. Sarah (Blake) Singleton, from Bragg Run, was an active, award winning fiddler through out her life. Richard Barrett grew up on Buffalo Run, just over the hill from Dumpling Run. Richard graduated from Burnsville High School in 1952, and later from West Virginia University . He had a long career as a scientist and was a participant in NASA’s space program.

Music In the Hills: Dancing
part 1 of 3 parts
by David Parmer

Dan & Agnes Murphy
“The furniture from the living room would be cleared out to the porch. The hooked rug was rolled up and also put on the porch. The musicians set up in the corner, and the music and dancing began,” Ethel Doyle recalled. “There was plenty of room, people stood along the walls, in the bedroom and on the porch, watched and waited their turn to dance.” The dances started early and lasted until maybe one o’clock in the morning, according to Ethel.“ Everyone had a good time; there was no fighting, and no drinking, and there was lots of good music and dancing. My stepfather Dan Murphy usually was playing the banjo and didn’t dance much, but my mother [Agnes Wanstreet] was a good dancer.” Ethel remembered at least a half dozen dances held at her home when she was growing up. “There were dances at lots of houses around Orlando. I went to several dances at the home of Jett Conrad who lived on Canoe Run.” Ethel also recalled that she went to several dances at the Bright Star at Roanoke with Mike and Marguerite Moran. “They would have the dances where they roller skated. We would go across the road to Stoneking’s to eat dinner.”

Left: Ethel Doyle
Right: Dan & Agnes (Wanstreet) Murphy's place on Three Lick

The song, “Red Wing,” came to mind as Ethel Doyle was reminiscing about the musicmaking in her home in the early 1930’s. “It was a nice song to dance to,” and “was very popular. Marion Blake and the Cole brothers always played it at the dances. I just loved it even though I was too young to do much dancing.”
Jake & Ruth Blake's Place
One of the most active dance floors in Orlando was at the home of Vayden and Ruth (Tenney) Blake. Vayden “Jake” Blake was the son of Lee and Civilla (Riffle) Blake and was “touched” by the music bug at an early age. An employee of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Vayden loved to square dance. Millie (Morrison) McNemar tells us that her foster father Bill Henline used to talk endlessly about the “all night” square dancing at the home of Vayden “Jake” Blake.

Right: Bill Henline, who loved to dance at Jake and Ruth Blake's
Left: Wayne Blake

Wayne Blake, eighty-seven years young and a son of fiddler Marion Blake, remembers going with his father Marion to Vayden’s house for square dances which lasted into the wee hours of the morning. “Jake just didn’t want to stop dancing.” Vayden’s grandson, Stanley Blake, tells us that his grandfather “didn’t want to stop dancing until he had danced with all the girls.”

Vayden and Ruth’s daughter Betty (Blake) Crites remembers “When I was growing up in Orlando I looked forward to the weekend music and dancing which took place in my home. Sometimes my mother’s sisters would come to visit. They all played the guitar. My own three sisters, Ada, Jenis, and Dove, also all played the guitar. Can you imagine all of the music!!!! The happiest time of the square dance weekends was when I got to dance,” I was very young and by far not the best dancer, but I was the happiest dancer.” [Toward the end of the evening of the dancing, as people would start going home, there would be room for youngsters like Betty Jo who then got the chance to dance.]

Betty Jo remembers that Marion Blake was one of the Saturday night musicians. Arthur Riffle would cross over the hill from his home at the head of Riffle Run and play his mandolin and guitar at the Vayden Blake square dances. Another fiddler who enlivened the dancing and played was Fred Ocheltree who was killed in action in World War II.

Dolan, Hawkins, Moran, etc
Wayne Blake also remembers dances during the 1930’s and 40’s at the home of George and Mary (Blake) Heater who lived on Grass Run. “We had several dances there.” Wayne also recalls dances at the Mike Moran Warehouse Building in Orlando, at Mike and Margurite’s home, at the Three Lick residence of John Dolan, and at the Oscar and Bernice Hawkins residence near the mouth of Oil Creek at Burnsville. Speaking of the Hawkins family, Wayne related that “there were lots of good dancers in that family.”

Right: Oscar and Bernice (Mick) Hawkins, on their honeymoon

Aunt Kate's Place
John Kilker Carney, now aged ninety-five and living in Centerville, Virginia, was born on Clover Fork, in the house that is today the charming Kilmarnock Bed and Breakfast. Kilker’s great-grandparents, Patrick and Ellen (Naughton) Carney, were both born in Ireland. Kilker recalls a musical celebration by Irish families from around the Orlando area when the James and Kate (Moran) Carney family of near Chapman completed work on a large cellar house, on top of which was built a large room with a hardwood floor to be used for dancing. At the time, Kilker was about six years of age. Most of the Orlando Irish community was present for the dance. He recalls that Mike Moran loved to dance with his sister, “Aunt Kate,” who was hostess. “They hardly missed a dance.” Kilker, who was a little too young to dance, was intrigued with all of the trips the men were making outside the cellar house to sample a product in a fruit jar. Perhaps it was a pre-arranged signal to the male dancers that a break was coming up when the musicians played the old Irish tune, “Whiskey in a Jar.” “They seemed to become more inspired in their dancing,” Kilker said.

Right: Kate (Moran) Carney & her brother Mike Moran

Figure Callers
Every square dance needs a “figure caller,” that is, someone to announce instructions to the dancers as they dance. Wayne Blake recalls some of the figure callers at dances he attended with his father Marion Blake. John Dolan, who lived on Three Lick, was a good figure caller. When there was a dance at Vayden “Jake” Blake’s home in Orlando, Jake usually called figures. Oscar Hawkins of Burnsville was a good figure caller also.

Something Lost, Something Gained
Wayne Blake wanted to be a fiddler like his dad Marion, but at the two times Wayne was ready and available to learn, his father was battling serious bouts with typhoid fever. “This was a shame because my father was the best fiddle player I ever heard.” Wayne thereafter concentrated his efforts on dancing to the music, instead of playing it, and danced every dance and at every opportunity he could. He became an outstanding clogger. He recalls on one occasion he and his clogging partners went to Buckhannon around 1988 or 1989 to dance in a Senior Olympics dance contest. The judges however deemed Wayne and his team as being “too professional” and disqualified them. Wayne’s dance group, known as the “Lewis County Swinging Seniors,” was invited three times to dance at the State Cultural Center in Charleston. He has also danced on the same floor with Governor Bob Wise, a noted clogger, in an Elkins performance.
Right:Right: Clara and Dink Skinner, Governor Bob Wise, Wayne and Jo Ann (Skinner) Blake.

Wayne ’s favorite dancing tune is “Flop Eared Mule” and a close second is “Bile That Cabbage Down.” Another popular tune for square dancers, although not so popular with Wayne, is “Golden Slippers.”

. . . . .

Comment by Luella (Cole) Ferri and Hazel (Cole) Riffle

Our father was Jesse Cole, son of Henry Harrison and Mary Jane (Heater) Cole of Three Lick. When we lived on Oil Creek, our dad used to play music with the Henline brothers, James and Charles, and also with Fred McCord who played guitar. Our father also played music with his brothers, Chuck and Dane, and with cousins, Clarence and Philip Dolan. Some of the tunes we remember them playing was “The Twelfth of January,” “Soldier’s Joy,” “The Blue Danube Waltz,” “Red Wing,” and “Sally Gooden.”

Comment by John Carney, Jr.

My parents never lost the love of square dancing that they was first introduced to on Clover Fork in the early years of the 20th century. After our family moved to Clarksburg from Clover Fork in the early 1920’s, my family would enjoy square dancing at Lake Floyd in Bristol, West Virginia, on Route 50 west out of Clarksburg.

John Carney is the son of John and Mary Clare (Dolan) Carney and grandson of James and Kate (Moran) Carney

Right: the clubhouse at Lake Floyd where dances were held.

Comment 2. by Donna Gloff
The songs mentioned in this entry are are linked to videos:
Red Wing,”
Flop Eared Mule
Bile That Cabbage Down.”
Golden Slippers.”

"Soldier's Joy"
"Whiskey in the Jar"

The videos introduce or remind the listener of the kinds of tunes that were loved. None of the performances is by Orlando musicians. In part 2 of this entry all the performances will be by folks who performed in the Oil Creek watershed.

Comment 3:
The dancing continues. About 50 yars after the events in this entry, some of the area's children formed the Lewis County Swinging Seniors. About 25 years ago, in the 1970s or 80s, the this photo was taken. The last eight of them are, left to right, Kay Miller, Clora Atchison, Shelly and Fred Movies, Ann and Wayne Blake, Melissa Skinner, Adeline Spiker.

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