Skip to Content
Special Home > Ernie Spence

Ernie Spence

Papers, 1918-2012

[In storage - requires 48 hour notice for use]

5 boxes (5 cubic ft.)

Acquisition: Donation, Jean D. Spence, Reading MA (accession number: 2011.03)

Partially processed: Emeline Dehn-Reynolds, April 2014; revised by Roland Goodbody, Sept 2014

About Ernie Spence

Born in 1925, Ernie Spence grew up in Milton, MA. After graduating from Milton High School, he enlisted in the US Navy AirCorp where he served from 1943 to 1946 as an Aviation Ordinanceman Second Class. He attended Boston University, graduating in 1950 with a BS in Education and in 1951 with an M.Ed. While at school, he met Joan Harlan and they were married in 1952. In 1954, they moved to Reading, MA where three years earlier Ernie had begun his 35-year career in the Reading School system, teaching science at Parker Junior High. In 1957, he became the first principal of the newly opened Birch Meadow Elementary School, and in 1960 he became an assistant principal at Reading Memorial High School, where he remained until his retirement in 1986.

From the time he met Duke Miller in the late 1940s at Sargent Camp in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, Ernie became a fixture on dance floors all over New England. He and Joan made regular trips from the Boston area on weekends to dance to Duke’s calling in Fitzwilliam, NH. Many dancers, callers, and musicians credit Ernie with introducing them to contra dancing.

In his later years, Parkinson’s disease forced Ernie to cut back his dancing to just one or two nights a week. Even though his mobility then limited him to a much smaller space on the dance floor, Ernie was still among the best dancers to be found, never at a loss for a partner. David Millstone, a caller and dance historian, said of Ernie: “I loved watching his graceful carriage, his exquisite timing, the attentive smile bestowed on his partners, and the omnipresent twinkle in his eye.” Ernie died aged 85 in March 2011.

Ernie Spence was a NEFFA executive board member from 1977-1984 and a founder member of the Thursday Night Dance Committee. He was also an avid photographer and took hundreds of images of dances over the years. His collection, which includes over 1000 slides, 80 prints, film and video material, as well as nearly 200 audio recordings (enter “Ernie Spence” in the Collection Name box), as well as paper materials, including NEFFA Executive Board minutes, posters, flyers, dance periodicals, was donated to the University of New Hampshire in 2011.

About the Ernie Spence Papers

The collection, which has been minimally processed, consists of various organizational materials relating to Ernie Spence’s service on the board of NEFFA and the Boston Branch of the RSCDS, including by-laws, minutes, event materials, such as the annual Highland Ball, publications and recordings. The arrangement described below reflects the current contents of the boxes and is not intended as a final organization.

Folder Listing

Miscellaneous papers, photographs, correspondence, dance notation
f.1 Correspondence from: Florence Block, 1972 (1); Larry Jennings, undated (1); James Kennedy (includes press release announcing the 1974 debut in Fitzwilliam of “promising young caller” Tony Parkes), 1971-1974 (3); Mel King, director, South End House, Boston, 1961 (1); Dudley Laufman, 1978-2003 (3); Kathie Leitz, 1975 (1); Duke Miller, 1960-1970 (6); Robin Tranove, 1970 (1); Ed Wilfert, 1971 (1); Gene and Betsy –?, Westborough MA 1969 (1)
f.2 NEFFA Executive Board minutes, 1977
f.3 NEFFA Executive Board minutes, 1978
f.4 NEFFA Executive Board minutes, 1979
f.5 NEFFA Executive Board minutes, 1980
f.6 NEFFA Executive Board minutes, 1981
f.7 NEFFA Executive Board minutes, 1982
f.8 NEFFA Executive Board minutes, 1983
f.9 NEFFA Executive Board minutes, 1984
Photocopy of article from Cape Breton’s Magazine, “With Winston Scotty Fitzgerald.”
Dance Gypsy 1998 Dance Planner
Paper: “Self-Test: Contradance Dependency Syndrome.”
Issues of N.O.B.C.A. Callers Clipboard: Vol. 2, Nos. 4-8 (1976)
Dance calling flier: Connie and Marianne Taylor
“Heritage Dancers from the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire”
CDS Ballot, 1976
f. 12 Paper: “Adventures in a Dance Hall: A Study of Contra Dancing Using Ethnographic Research Methods,” by Maggie Linnell, 1991
NECCA (New England Council of Caller’s Associations) 1970 Directory
Boston Branch memos, bylaws, flyers, photographs, obituaries, publicity, etc. 1948-2006:

RSCDS North America directory, 1982
Boston Branch History 1948-1973
SDCEA Articles of Organization, 1987
RSCDS By-laws
RSCDS Boston Branch booth at the 1976 Whole World Festival
Whole World Festival budget summary
History of the Scotch Bluebonnet of the Highlanders, 1958
Partial Newspaper Clipping, Highland Games 1960?
Evelyn Murray – Scroll award, 2000
RSCDS welcome fliers, 1976-77
Boston Branch workshop with Paul Sarvis, 1972
Boston Branch Budget for 1987 NEFFA food booth
RSCDS Tokyo branch newsletters, 2000. Photographs of gravestone of Jean Milligan
Music Weekend 1974-1975. Fliers – reports – programs – sheet music from the Berkeley Scottish Country Players (The Cabbage Band), 1975
Music Weekend 1976
Tenth Anniversary materials, 1960
Branch Party Flyers, c. 1986-1993
Event fliers, 1986
Dances: Hadrian’s Wall, Skullduggery. Correspondence, 1957
Boston Branch demonstration team materials
Scottish Country Dance Logo materials
RSCDS Annual General Meeting materials, 1999
Jean Milligan materials. Obituary – correspondence
Hamish kidnapping message and clues
Jeannie Carmichael – memorial materials, photograph
Muriel Gibson – obituary
Kay Jacobs – clippings – photograph – programs – correspondence
Boston Branch materials, 2005. Agendas, memos, flyers. Executive committee annual meeting minutes and budgets, 1964-c. 1980s
Boston Branch annual meeting materials, 1957-2006
Boston Branch classes memos, 1988-2004
Boston Globe 2005 article on Medford branch class
Photo of NEFFA Demo, Worcester, 1952

Photographic Slides:
NEFFA 1978-1984: morris dancing; contra dancing; sword dancing; socializing; vendors; court dancing; jam sessions; Vermont contra demonstration; Irish dancing; exhibits; Balkan singers; clogging; Western square dancing
Tray No. 1: Country Dancing. Peterborough Country Club, NH 1955; Duke Miller (caller), Aug 1967; Francestown NH, 9/7/1970; Fitzwilliam NH, 8/28/1971; 11/6/1971; 6/3/1972; 12/2/1972; 8/3/1973; 9/1/1973; 12/1977; 9/3/1977 (Tod Whittemore, caller); Dudley Laufman, caller, 11/7/1973; news articles 1973; Carlisle Dance 5/3/74; Nelson NH 5/1976; Monadnock Dancers at Peach Blossom Festival (Canajoharie, NY.) 1976; Duke Miller, caller; Common Ground 1976; Dublin NH, 3/19/1977
Tray No. 2: Country Dancing. Peterborough NH 10/4/80; Nelson NH, 1/7/1978 (Kathy Torrey, caller); CDS dance Brookline 1/1978; Harrisville NH 1/1978; unidentified wedding 5/20/1978; Tod Whittemore Halloween/birthday party dance 1980
Tray No. 3: Country Dancing. CDS Brookline 1/1978; Fitzwilliam NH, 3/31/1978; 8/1978; 8/26/1978; 9/2/1978; 9/16/1978; Concord NH 3/31/1978; Needham MA: Whittemore Halloween party 10/30/1978; Fitzwilliam NH, Kathy & Ed Kennedy wedding 9/16/78; Nelson NH, 3/3/1979; YWCA Cambridge MA, 4/12/1978; Bob McQuillen birthday party 7/1979; unidentified dance 6/17/1979; cotillion 12/15/1979
Tray No. 4: Country Dancing. Brattleboro VT, 11/1/1981 (Dudley Laufman, caller); Peterboro NH 2/6/1982 (Tod Whittemore, caller); NEFFA Festival 4/1977; 4/1978; 4/1980; 4/1981; 4/1983; Jaffrey Center NH, 5/20/1978
Photographic Slides:
Tray No. 5: Country Dancing. Cotillion – Halloween – Northfield MA; Northfield MA 6/18/82 (Four Gone Conclusions, Kammy Kaynor, caller) – Halloween dance 1982; NEFFA 1983; NEFFA? 1984; unidentified dance 12/1983
Tray No. 6: Country Dancing. Boat Dances. Unidentified boat dance 1980 – Boat dance 1981 (Tod Whittemore, caller) – Boat dance 1982 – CDS Dance Brookline 1/1978 – Peterboro, NH 11/7/1981 – Unidentified dance 6/1982, 7/1983, 10/4/1984 ,12/1986 – Unidentified function 5/1979, 10/1980 -Slide Carousel: “Tray No. 7: Country Dancing. Chestnuts”. Unidentified dance 1/1982, 5/21/1983 (outdoors), 7/1983 (outdoors), 5/1984, 10/1985, 11/1985 – Dover NH? 5/1986 - VFW Skyline Dancers 11/11/1982 – New England Chestnuts Cambridge River Festival MA 5/30/1981 -Undated color photograph of Ernie etc. dancing at formal dance -Kodak slide box marked “Tod”: School – Family – Church photos 1985 3 -Unlabeled box of slides. Yankee Ingenuity, Childsplay 1985 – 1988 – Northfield MA 6/18/82 – Peterboro NH 10/4/1980 – Fitzwilliam NH 4/3/1977, 12/30/1977 – Jack O’Conner 50th birthday dance 5/13/88 – Brattleboro VT Dawn Dance 5/30/84 – Harvey Tolman on fiddle 1978 – Nelson NH 3/1979 – Unidentified dance 6/17/1979 – Cotillion 12/1988

Side B: Mina Corson, Talk to Boston Teachers, 10/15/75
C-90 2: Side A: Bill Clement, 14 July 89 Pinewoods
Side B: Pinewoods SCD Orch. 15 July 1981
C-60 3: Side A: Bill Clement, Pinewoods 14 July 1989
Side B: Bill Clement, Pinewoods, 14 July 1989 (cont.)
C-60 4: “Tartan Stew” – Ralph Thompson, Sylvia Miskoe, Ralph Jones, R.P.Hale, Cal Howard
Textual Materials: RSCDS Boston branch 50th Anniversary Highland Ball, 2000. Photos, VHS
Photos 1: Intermediate Workshop, Salam, 1995 Photos 2: Northampton, MA correspondence and class photo, 1990 Photos 3: 1961 framed photo of a Scottish dance team posing 3 piles of 1”x1” papers with a shield and the words “Caran 2P Dannradh” 17 3”x5” paperback books from “The Pocket Edition of Scottish Country Dance Books”
“Miss. Milligan’s Miscellany of Scottish Country Dances”, vol. 1 & 2
“Thirty Popular Scottish Country Dances” pub. by the RSCDS
“Scottish Country Dancing for Schools”, pub. by Hop Scotch
Sheet music: “Three Recently Devised Dances”, St. Andrews, 1976
“A suite of three dances commemorating the Colden Jubilee of the Society, 1923-1973”
“Scottish Country Dance Book of Four Set Dances”, 1948
58 volumes of dances & musical notation, c. 1940-c.2000, incl. books 1-29 of the “Book of Graded Scottish Country Dances”

Audio Cassettes:
“Old New England” (Bob McQuillen, Jane Orzechowski and Deanna Stiles), 1996. Inscribed to Ernie by all three musicians
Duke Miller, Fitzwilliam Sept 3, 1977 Tape 3. “Tamara’s Golden (Ernie’s) Skater’s Delight.” Side 2 “Country Corners,” soundtrack
Tod Whittemore, July 3, 2004
Spence Reunion Tape 2, 2003; Peterboro Contra Ball, .
350th (?)
VHS tapes:
Raw Footage of an interview at Lexington Public Library with Bicky McLain, Ethel Capps and Ann Wright, July 31, 1998.
Subjects are set running; the three interviewees; Mary Newton; WWII; footwork; Frank Smithy; M.G. Carsnel; Louanne Lexs; George; Marguerite Bidstrup; music; callers; tempo, Lloyd Shaw; gender; buck dance; standardizing vs. adaptation; drinking; singing games play party; calling; new leaders; John Mansfield
Interviews and scenic views, Sept 12, 1992; Jennifer Ramsay recital, Dec 4, 1992. Joe Begley interview. Billy Joe Bates interview. John Mansfield interview with Ruby and Clifton Caudill
8 undated (1977-1979?)posters for the Fitzwilliam, N.H. dance – Duke Miller, caller; Bob McQuillen, Peter Barnes, Rod & Randy Miller, Cammy Kaynor, musicians