Friends · My Thoughts · square dance · Travel

Part 2: Two Special Friends Continued!

Kathi twirling - Part 2
Kathi Twirling

Part 2 of my series on two special friends continues today. I met Kathi Raver at Duke City Singles square dance club in 1997, excited to have a younger woman to relate to—she was a teacher, too! She immediately jumped in and took part in the club’s leadership.

Kathi stood nearly six-foot-tall and I’m 5 feet 3 inches, so we were like Mutt and Jeff for sure, but we loved to dress alike with our square dance clothes. When she died, we had about thirteen outfits alike.

One year to promote the Fling, we went to TASSD (Texas Area Single Square Dancers) in Amarillo, Texas—Art Tangen, our club caller, was calling. So, we decorated our petty pants on our backside with, “I (a heart) Art!” Then we mooned him when he was calling, showing him our petti pants and our support. Someone took a picture of Kathi’s bottom, and they featured her on the TASSD newsletter the next month.

I had been the chairperson for the New Mexico Singles Fling for several years, and she became my co-chair, then chaired it for several years. I stayed onboard the committee then and did the publicity for her. We had so much fun on that committee, producing major successful event, one right after the other.

For years, we did an outfit check before a dance weekend to see what we would wear each night. Kathi made several of my square dance outfits when she was chairing the Fling. She always felt that it helped me out because she liked to sew and I did the computer stuff for us for the Fling.

In 2000, she and two other women square dancers from Albuquerque went to Oklahoma City for Dance-A-Rama, the national single square dance festival. They came home and convinced me to chair the Dance-A-Rama in Albuquerque in 2003.

To promote Dance-A-Rama, 2003, the committee traveled to Richmond, Virginia, Norfolk, Nebraska and Dallas, Texas. Those travel trips top the list of my memories with Kathi. We had a blast doing it, and again, we had a major success. After DAR, 03, we promised each other we would go into the same nursing home and remember DAR, 03 and all of our fun antics over the years.

During this time, Kathi’s melanoma came back with a vengeance after being in remission for twenty years. It broke my heart to watch my spirited, fun-loving friend slow down as she dealt with this horrible disease. She continued working and daily gave herself shots as needed.

In 2004, Kathi met Lin Miller, and immediately they connected. In 2005, I treasure the memory of being present at Festigal, an annual square dance festival in Gallup, New Mexico where they met, when Lin asked her to marry him. Her face said absolute shock.

We hung out together with my ex-husband. We danced all over the Southwest together. When we were home, we danced at Duke City Singles on Friday night, then afterwards played cards until the wee hours of the morning.

Kathi’s the one responsible for my red hair. At a dance in Norfolk, Nebraska, in 2007, we went out to have breakfast. She saw a woman standing in line in front of us. Casually, she whispered in my ear, “Go ask her what color she uses. You’d look great with red hair.”

So, I did. The women chuckled, “Hot Tamale.” I came home and colored it and loved it. I returned to my natural color after a year, but in 2013 I went back to “Hot Tamale” and have had it red ever since. Every time I color it, I think of her.

During the years, we traveled together a lot. In 2008, we went to Branson, Missouri with two other couples. We cried at the Roy Rogers Museum during the show with Roy’s grandson.

In 2008, my ex and I broke up, and Kathi and Lin took me under their wing. Kathi went house hunting with me and her sister-in-law was a realtor. She would tell her sister-in-law, “Larada can’t afford this place.”

When I moved into my new townhouse, Kathi helped me find it. After getting instructions from her brother on how to do it, she hooked up my gas dryer. She climbed behind the dryer with barely enough room to get around in. She did it to save me $85.

In thinking about relationships, Kathi had a brisk attitude about them: give your mourning time of six months, then get on with life. She had a hard time watching me deal with my recent divorce—she wanted me to move on.

Her cancer came back with a vengeance again, and she kept beating it, but she couldn’t for the last time. Her powerful spirit still shown through, though. When the ambulance drove her to the hospice in Albuquerque, they went to the wrong hospital, and she had to direct them to the right one! Leave it to Kathi.

Kathi died on November 25, 2009, eleven years ago today. I felt privileged to be by her side when she died. My heart felt shattered as I stood by her bed and witnessed her last breath after our fourteen years relationship. What a privilege to be there!

Her spirit lives on around me today—because Lin, her husband, and I ended up together and married. We live in her house she built. Some might be uneasy about this. I have never had an issue because I remembered her strong directive when my ex and I broke up—take six months and get on with life.

Lin and I had a very interesting confirmation about our relationship from a mutual friend of ours and Kathi after she died. We’re all on the committee of an annual dance, Hot August Nights. Kathi and this friend were talking in the kitchen. Kathi had been battling her last round of cancer. She watched me on the dance and told our friend, “I hope Lin and Larada get together if something happens to me. They would make each other happy.” That was August; she died in November!

So every day I get to thank Kathi for so much! The memories, the fun, the craziness an her beautiful house! And she gave me Lin!

Part 2 features Kathi; Part 1 featured Candy. I’m so fortunate to have had two friends like these two women, and I carry them with me each day.

Here’s the Gratitude Log again if you need it. I shared a couple days ago.

Do you ever buy clothes alike? Have you ever been present with a friend dying? What did you take away from it?


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?

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Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Did You Dance at Kirkwood with Flippo?

Kirkwood Lodge
Kirkwood Lodge

Kirkwood Lodge and Flippo became synonymous to square and round dancers for many decades. Kirkwood Lodge, in the Ozarks at Osage Beach, Missouri, played a gigantic role in Flippo’s success as a caller. How did this love affair start? Again, Flippo would say, “I was at the right place at the right time.”

Kirkwood played such a key role in Flip’s life, I dedicated three chapters in Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo:

  • Chapter 9 – Kirkwood Lodge
  • Chapter 10 – The Pride of Flippo’s Life, John
  • Chapter 11 – Life at Kirkwood & More.

Also, in the Members Only section of my website, I have four additional items I couldn’t include in his already sizeable biography:

  1. Origin of the Kirkwood name
  2. Flippo’s Stories About Kirkwood Employees
  3. Picture of Kirkwood Employees
  4. Picture of Kirkwood Employees

I never danced at Kirkwood Lodge, but I know many people who did. For many, the memorable experience focused on Flippo and the fun he brought to their vacation experience. Flip entertained the dancers with hilarious after party skits and routines. He wowed them with his calling and the guest callers and cuers he hired there. And finally, if you were lucky, he taught you how to water ski, one of his many athletic skills he seldom bragged about.

HOW FLIPPO ENDED UP AT KIRKWOOD LODGE

During our interviews, Flippo returned to the topic of Kirkwood Lodge and Bill Hagadorn often. Kirkwood Lodge and Flippo’s subsequent yearly tours shaped his life and calling career. For forty-two years, he called at Kirkwood, a vacation spot in the Lake of the Ozarks at Osage Beach, Missouri, then for six months, he traveled on the road with dance engagements booked from dancers he met at Kirkwood. Bill Hagadorn, the owner, hired him. As we talked one day, Flip requested, “Now we got to have a whole damn section about Kirkwood Lodge.”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 107.

In 1957 Flippo and Neeca took a square dance vacation at Kirkwood Lodge, a place suggested to them by a greyhound bus driver and his wife, who came to one of his Saturday night dances at the Hayloft in Abilene, Texas. This driver described Kirkwood and the dance program provided. He drove high school seniors there from all over the Midwest.

Flippo felt burned out on square dancing, so he planned this square dance vacation to be the end of their square dancing, but a serendipity happened. It rejuvenated them, having the time of their lives. They enjoyed it so much; they returned in 1958 and ’59. In 1960, they joined Les Gotcher, a caller they met at Kirkwood, at Eureka Springs, Arkansas, as a part of the staff.

Flippo back at Kirkwood

With the success of “The Auctioneer” in his pocket and his winning personality and voice, in 1961, Bill Hagadorn asked Flippo to become the staff caller at Kirkwood Lodge and the rest is history. Flip often said that Bill was the best boss he ever had! Flippo continued calling there for forty-two years, enlarging the senior week program and the square dance program for families.

Flippo kept up a rigorous weekly schedule [at Kirkwood] but each season differed.

Neeca described his schedule, “Flip called six nights during square dance season, every night during high school seniors, and four nights during family season.’ He kept up that pace for the six months he was at Kirkwood for forty-two years!”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 119.

KIRKWOOD BECAME THE BASE FOR HIS TOURS

“Flippo shared, “What happened was Neeca helped me a lot because guys would come to me [at Kirkwood Lodge] like from West Point, Iowa and Minneapolis, Minnesota and they’d say, ‘Hey, can you call for us?’

Neeca remembered, “We had received several booking dates, mostly from guests at the Lodge. Some were several miles apart. We were made welcome in many homes; many of these people became dear friends. Word of mouth spread quickly, and we kept getting more dates. We never in all my years found the need to write and ask for a booking.

We soon received more request than we had dates open. It was difficult to write people back and tell them he could not make; we had to turn down more than we accepted. It took some time to accept dates that would make it easier to travel. In order to accept some dates, he would only go to that area every other year. Flip was always quick to refuse full pay when the crowd was small because of the weather or some other reason. He called many dances for no pay at all.”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 163-164.

THE PRIDE OF HIS LIFE, JOHN

While the Flippos lived there, John Flippo, their son, was born, and this monumental addition to this couple made Kirkwood a special place to them.

“Neeca returned to Abilene to have him, ‘so he’s a pure Texan. They’re just thar a few days, and they came on back to the lake. He’s not enough Texan to move down thar. He’ll never leave that lake, I don’t thank.’”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 124.

And John didn’t leave. In fact, Flippo moved back to live with John at the end of his life, across the street from his beloved Kirkwood Lodge.

WHAT FLIPPO LOVED ABOUT KIRKWOOD LODGE

Flippo’s association with Kirkwood continued for four decades with a rich variety of national callers and cuers. He loved everything about Kirkwood: the dancers, the employees, and the calling and cuing staff he worked with over the years.


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 115.

The Hagadorn Era at Kirkwood Ended

Flippo and Neeca and Pat and Joyce Munn bought Kirkwood in 1973 from Bill Hagadorn.”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 146.

They owned it for twenty years, but trouble arose, so they parted ways. But Flippo only remembered this pivotal place in his life with fond memories.

When Flippo lived his last months with John near Kirkwood Lodge, he enjoyed time with lifelong friends who were dancers and callers coming across the street to see their dear friend. So, from 1957 until 2018—sixty-one years, Kirkwood Lodge played an instrumental role in his life!

I’m sorry to say that we saw Kirkwood Lodge torn down this summer—a sad end of an era!

FINALLY

To see many historic pictures from Kirkwood Lodge, join this Facebook group: Remembering Kirkwood Lodge-Square and Round Dancing.

To read about Flippo’s experience at Kirkwood in more depth and to see all the extra resources in the Members Only section on my website, buy a copy of Flippo’s book. Then email me at Larada@icloud.com and I will get you into the Members only section!

Did you dance at Kirkwood with Flippo? Share your experience—how many years? What was your favorite memory? (Scroll down to the Comments section and please share!)

Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Kirkwood

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Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo - Kirkwood

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~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

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Dancing · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · Writing

Marshall Flippo – A Success Formula That Worked

As I continue to write Marshall Flippo’s authorized biography, I ponder his life and how it unfolded. Flippo’s success as being the most famous square dance caller in the world didn’t just happen. He had friends galore across the United States and internationally, and he treated them fairly and returned to square dance clubs and festivals for decades for repeat performances at numerous places. How did he engineer such a successful career?

He always credited Neeca, his first wife, with his business success. Early on his career, she planned out a successful tour after people became acquainted with him at Kirkwood Lodge at Osage Beach, Missouri where he spent six months of his year. From the clientele that visited there, Neeca lined up a tour across America and the world, and the clubs and festivals were so pleased with Flippo’s performance, that he was repeatedly asked back—some places over thirty to forty years of continuous visitation.

Imagine that—an annual six-month tour filled to the brim with dancers who were anxious for his return every year. Marshall’s supreme memory compelled people to love him dearly because in many cases, he called them by name after his year absence. This can’t be explained or identified at face value—his people skills endeared him to the dancers.

So, what made him so successful? When asked, Flippo said it was luck and being at the right place at the right time, but there was so much more.

He was committed to his craft of square dance calling and practiced extensive hours—Melton Luttrell, his longtime caller friend, remembered him practicing singing calls while he was driving down the highway. Being on the road for six months of the year gave him ample practice time.

Another caller noted Flippo refusing to participate in an after party at a convention so he could practice his calls before the next day’s events.

Flippo’s talent of unique choreography and his wonderful singing voice won him many fans—he was a star in the square dance world to many. To hear him sing “The Auctioneer” which was his first recording and became highly successful, his clear voice and choice of popular music shines through.

Check out a snippet of Flippo’s famous singing call recorded in 1958:

https://squaredancehistory.org/items/show/160

He connected deeply with other callers who helped him. One caller mentor was Betty Casey of Abilene, Texas who had studied with Lloyd “Pappy” Shaw in Colorado Springs, Colorado and influenced Flip with Shaw’s teachings. She is the one who taught Flip to call.

Flip received more of Shaw’s dance philosophy from another mentor, Bob Osgood, the editor of the highly successful square dance magazine, Sets in Order.

Another mentor from Abilene, Texas was J. C. Wilson who took the young Flippo under his wing and help him with his rhythm and shared something unique—Burma Shave jingles that were popular at the time. J. C. used the jingles as fillers as dancers did certain calls or moves. Flip became known for his selection of these jingles and other callers followed suit and “borrowed them” from Flip.

Flippo’s career started in the late 50’s and early 60’s during a time that square dancing flourished, so he had events with record numbers outrageous in size compared to ours today. The large number of dancers increase Flippo’s popularity worldwide and the number of fans increased.

Success formulas are hard to analyze—as Flippo said being at the right place at the right time did have a impact, but his personality, talent and well-planned tour with its connection to Kirkwood put him in a place to become one of the most successful square dance callers in the world.

And, I promise you, as I continue writing this amazing book, I will continue sharing my musing with you!

Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

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Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

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