I Was A Caller for Many Years

As told by Serguis Moonin to Fenia Anahonak



I’m not sure when Square Dancing got started but I think it was in the Russian times. In Russian times, they started to learn how to square dance. After the person learns how to call, then he teaches someone else how to call for the dances. He was not suppose to make any mistakes, then you got the right to be a caller. You had to practice and practice with your teacher sitting and watching. The callers were not allowed to make any mistakes, so you had to really practice. Andrew Kamlock was the one who taught me.

Andrew Kamlock was born in English Bay, but moved to Seldovia. He’s not all Athabascan, he is only half way Athabascan. His Daddy’s from Karluk, Alaska his Mother was from the Seldovia. She was born Athabascan.

That’s when I moved back into Port Graham and Portlock and we used to go out dancing. When I learned I let student here, he can do I let him know we will dance tonight. Andrew, he says “he is my student here, he can do it, cause already he learned.” So then, every Saturday and Sunday we began to dance, and Names Day and Birthdays we never missed. We had to dance all the time. We had mostly square dances. I used to be a musician myself, I played the accordion. Pat Carlo, Jimmy, Mickey, and I, (there were for of us musicians), played down in Port Chatham. All the way from the beginning. When I get there I used to go square dancing. Andrew wanted to teach me and said, “Your smart. Why don’t you take over on calling on Square Dancing?” He was a pretty good caller. How he says? I says “how could I?” I will show you. I will teach you. I will teach you how to call for different steps and actions.” Some times he let me do it with the little kids just to test me. He had me do it over again and if I make a mistake I have to do it over again ‘till I got it right. He learned from Gabriel. Gabriel was another good caller. That’s what it was for every Saturday, every Names Day, every Birthday, Parties during the holidays, Christmas time and January from 8th to the 17th.during the masking times we had lots of square dancing. Because it be part time when maskers come in the dance right in the middle of the circle and then square dance any kind.

They used to dress up, especially wearing coveralls and jumpers. They were dressing like old fashioned. Sometimes when they did farmer style dancing, they wore ragged clothes. They used to call it a farmer dance. For country dancing they dressed up nice. At a square dance party you just come just the way you are. The dances usually began in the early evening.  We used to start 7:00 o’clock and keep dancing till 4:00 o’clock in the morning. Every time during week dances’ till 4:00 o’clock in the morning. Then everybody get up in time about 8:00 o’clock in the morning and then start working. Now days after when guys go to bed at 1:00 o’clock they want to sleep’ till midday. That’s wrong. Even in the summer time they used to make a square dance party.

That what they use to call it (kadrilarciqukut) that’s a square dance. Mostly sometimes just waltz and circle waltz. Tag waltz. That’s the name of it. Now we call it the new two-step. When they have a two-step it looks fun. I use to like to watch. I use to do it myself. I use to like it. My mom use to join because she liked the way I acted. Every time when a caller called a two-step, she’d come and she wanted to dance with me.

They use to come from here, Port Graham and English Bay to Portlock. I used to have an accordion and my dad, he used to like dancing too. Somebody used to come down from English Bay and Port Graham. They use to go over to Port Chatham for dances and parties. There’s a village and a kind of reef and an island right out there. My dad one time told me, ”Oh go down there, get your accordion before they find out, after the meeting they could have a big dance.” Danced with the visitors. Some I didn’t know, but it felt like dancing on air. Sounds good to get the bored feeling out of people. It made me proud. I thought I was a heck of a good musician. All by myself while the started playing. Some people says just like they were in air. Sounds good to get to Port Chatham. I’m so proud of myself.

They use to bring their fancy clothes from Port Chatham and change them when they got here. Fancy shoes too. They didn’t go back the same day and they use to go back the next day. But sometimes they use to stay a week to visit. They had dances every night, but they got tired but still played long time. Lots longer than they do now! Use to play so long that we, the players, would be making faces to keep from thinking about it! Even though the players would be laughing, the players practiced long time and it would make them mess up too much! They practiced almost every time we get the chance. We would keep the instruments in there, the dance hall, the Guitar and accordion so we could practice easier.

Jimmy used to give the one he was good! Jimmy used to give the girls bad time and make everybody laugh. The first one was polka-swing and a almon left. That’s where all the girls swing left and men to the right. Elbow-swing is just once ladies swing to the left (just once.) All of ’em round then guys grab your partners, swing ‘em around and do-si-do and dance around and around. Another one is chase the squirrel and rabbit. Nobody else does the calling except me, but I could teach or appoint someone else if I want to. I don’t cause it take a lot of practice and you have to know what to say when!

When these kids were babies and before, they used to have strict rules the kids had to go home before 9:00 at night and they could not run around when they were there, just watch and be quiet! Sixteen years old and you could stay and join in but under that age you had to be quiet and be good. The little kids were allowed to watch but couldn’t participate in the dances cause they were too young and they had to be home at a certain time even if the dance was still going. They had refreshments at the dance, tea, coffee, juice, cookies, pies, cakes, cupcakes, and any goodies. The little kids got snacks too. That was the main reason they came, on account of the goodies.




Copyright 1981,  Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.  All rights reserved

Volume 1