The Mysterious History Of The Founding Of Phantom Squares
May 1998 Article in the Phantom Squares News Letter .. By Suzanne McCourt
It was Halloween 1986. It was a dark and dreary night ... the kind of night which might inspire a small group of kooks ... I mean to say 'friends' .. camping in the mountains north of Porterville, California to think of doing crazy things ... like starting a C1 square dance club in the San Fernando Valley ... not just a class ... not just a tape group ... but a club with regular dances, refreshments, and everything! Here is how it happened.
Pam & Larry Silverman were among the campers in the woods of Northern California on Halloween of 1986. One of the highlights of the trip was a treasure hunt and Halloween costumes were required. Pam decided that she and Larry would go as something really frightening - square dancers. They needed badges and a club to belong to and Pam thought they should have a scary name ... she decided on the 'Phantom Squares'. Pam and Larry made their first 'appearance' as Phantoms (Squares) that night.
The idea continued to haunt Pam after the Halloween party in the mountains. She and Larry decided to 'float' her idea of a C1 club called the Phantom Squares at Bob Gambells C1 class. They talked to kindred 'spirits', Tom and Kris Heffron, who were enthusiastic from the very beginning. Why? First, they like to help other square dancers and to promote square dancing in general. Secondly, they were among a growing number of SFV C1 dancers who did not enjoy the 'specter' of always having to travel an hour or more from home to attend challenge level dances. It was time to have a regular C1 dance in their neck of the woods, so they picked up the pumpkin and ran with it. The Hefrons, The Silvermans*, the Lavornes* and others, agreed to be the officers of the club called The Phantom Squares, with monthly dances on Phantom Sundays(of course), and refreshments with calories ... but only with the understanding that there wouldn't be any regular Bor-ed meetings and that every officer of the club would have a 'ghost officer'(like a ghost writer) to do the real work.
And so it started. Bob Gambell was hired to be the ghost caller for the first Phantom Squares dance in December of 1986 at Porter JHS in Granada Hills. He promoted the new club among his C1 class members and returned to call for Phantoms 1st and 2nd anniversary dances even though he had moved out of state by then.
Phantom Squares continued a close association with Michael Kellogg's C1 class from the time he took over when Bob Gambell moved to Texas. Mike has been a staunch supporter of Phantoms and has called for the club many times in the past 10 years. During the 1st five years, the structuring of the afternoon dance as a C1 workshop/dance encouraged many dancers who had been through C1 class but need some confidence building and experience with multiple callers before they danced C1 at Trailblazers and/or PACE, Mike and his wife, Jenny were personally responsible for guiding many dancers to Phantom Squares. During 1993 their C1 workshop went dark on Phantom C1 Sundays ... under the condition that the dancers would go to the Phantom Squares workshop/dance. Who could resist Mike and Jenny when they offered to accompany their students to the dance ... and all meet for dinner first!
Another early local San Fernando Valley favorite caller of Phantoms was Paul Waters. During the time that he had his C1 class at MacDonald's Barn many of his class members braved the unknown perils of Phantom Squares Sundays and happily many of them stayed with the club.
During 1993 and 1994, Presidents Sandy and Mary Brand expanded the efforts of the club to attract many new C1 dancers who were graduating from C1 classes in Orange County. They were successful in doubling attendance during their term.
1995 and 1996 marked the continuation of efforts to attract dancers to Phantom Sundays from all over Southern California. Phantom Presidents, Bob & Renee Harris, spread their enthusiasm for challenge dancing wherever they went. They sold the idea of Phantom Squares to the point of increasing the membership by 20%. Under their administration, the list of C1 callers was diversified. Today the list includes most of the early caller supporters of Phantoms as well as the newer callers who add variety to the experience of Phantom Sunday C1 dancers.
Now, after 10 years the gavel has passed to an exuberant new group of three couples - Nick and Carol Esser, Gary & Blanche Rever, and David & Linda Brahinsky - combined with the experience of Joe & Eilene Alber, who have been keeping the financial records of Phantom Squares as Treasures for the past two years. These new officers will continue to assure the exciting (If less mysterious) history of Phantom Squares for 1997 by taking on the jobs necessary to provide Southern California C1 (and C2, C3, &c4) dancers a ph-un, phriendly place to dance C1 at the Canoga Park Women's Club on the second Sunday of each month.