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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

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 former NEFFA board member and founding 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 1000 slides, 80 prints, 70 film, video and audio recordings, and a few posters and 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 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
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
“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
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
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
Photo of NEFFA Demo, Worchester, 1952
Boston Globe 2005 article on Medford branch class

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

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