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Jim Mayo Papers

Jim Mayo started dancing because his sister needed a partner at the dances in South Western New Hampshire being called by Ralph Page. Then, at the end of his freshman year at Yale, the Outing Club’s caller graduated and Jim replaced him. Ralph Page taught him the basics that summer and started him on a lifelong career. During his time in New Haven, Jim met and was guided by Al Brundage who introduced him to the modern version of square dancing.

After graduation Jim spent a couple of years in the Army at Fort Dix, NJ where he had the chance to call at the service clubs two nights a week. That experience let him do the first night of class for nearly eighteen months. The soldiers in training were new each night but the ladies were USO volunteers and quickly had the routines down cold. It taught him a lot about teaching.

Returning to New Hampshire after the Korean War ended, Jim started the first of several clubs for which he called and taught classes as modern square dancing developed alongside the very active traditional square dance activity in his home state. Over the next couple of decades Jim was an active leader in New England and called and taught classes for four clubs in addition to holding a full time job as a staff member at a research laboratory run for the U.S. Government by Mass. Institute of Technology.

In 1972 Jim was invited to the second of the organizational meetings that would result in the formation of CALLERLAB. From 1975 to 1977 he served as the first chairman of the new organization. Since then he has served continuously as a member of the CALLERLAB Board of Governors and in 2001 was elected to a third term as chairman. His long experience has been valuable to CALLERLAB and he is often consulted in the role of historian for the organization. He is one of a very small number of currently active callers who began their square dance experience before the modern form of the activity came into being.

Although Jim has traveled widely both as a festival caller and as a caller coach – his job and his pilot’s license allowed him to call and teach throughout North America and in Europe, New Zealand and Australia – he thinks of himself first and foremost as a local club caller. He started teaching callers in the late 1950s. He was the editor and a major contributor to the CALLERLAB Curriculum Guideline for teaching callers. He is most proud, however, of his more than twenty-five years as club caller and teacher for New England clubs.

As one of the few callers who began square dancing before modern square dancing evolved out of its traditional form, Jim was well equipped to write its history. In 2003 Step By Step Through Modern Square Dance History, the only book on the history of modern square dance, was published.

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