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TXGenWeb - NOLAN COUNTY, TEXAS - Genealogy

"The Lone Star State"




"The Waltz You Saved for Me"
Glenda Van Zandt Stroud


Before wall-to-wall carpeting was in vogue, and before anyone could afford it, most homes had bare wood floors.   But folks could purchase patterned linoleum from Sears & Roebuck or Montgomery Ward to cover that bare wood:  it saved scrubbing the floors with lye soap and was a good way to avoid splinters.  Nobody had anything, but we all had plenty of nothing together in equal proportion so that no one felt left out.  Yet those bare or linoleum floors were the perfect setting for  country dances.

Of course, most dances were planned but many were the result of an impromptu decision. Without the benefit of telephones, a community put the word out and pretty soon everyone knew at which house to arrive a little after dark thirty.  Many people bought "Spangle Dust" at Woolworth's and kept it on hand to sprinkle over the floor as it made shoes easily glide across the floor. Corn meal was also used if the latter was considered an extravagance. As friends and neighbors arrived, furniture was moved and musicians tuned their instruments.  Waltzes and two-steps were intermingled with schottisches and polkas. There was always a square dance or two as there was usually a local caller.

First Couple right, lady in the lead,
Lady 'round the lady, gent solo,
Lady 'round the gent, but the gent don't go.

Ring-up four as you come around
Circle four with your feet on the ground.
Break and swing that pretty little thing, and
On you go to the next in the ring.
On to the next, lady in the lead,
Lady 'round the lady, gent solo,
Lady 'round the gent, but the gent don't go.

Ring-up four as you come around
Circle four with your feet on the ground.
Break and swing that pretty little thing, and
On you go to the next in the ring,
On to the next, lady in the lead,
Lady 'round the lady, gent solo,
Lady 'round the gent, but the gent don't go

Ring up four in a pretty little ring,
Once around and everybody
And we'll Promenade around the ring.


       Promenade your Partner 'round,
       Make that big foot jar the ground,
       Take those pretty girls right on around,
       When you get home just settle down, and
       Swing your Partners one and all,
       Swing them all around the hall.
       Balance to your Partners all,
       Squares your sets, and listen to the call........*



*Source:  American Square Dances of the West & Southwest - Author:  Lee Owens, 1949

Most of the time there was a potluck supper to keep the energy alive.  The playing of "Home Sweet Home" signaled that the dance was coming to a close.  No matter how late folks got to bed, the family was up early the next morning tending to the necessary chores as neither roosters nor cows allowed extra time for sleeping in..

Most homes had a piano and every community had its share of musicians.  Playing an instrument was considered by some a necessary avocation. One such person was my daddy,  Taylor James "T.J." Van  Zandt.  He was raised on an 160 acre farm at Ft. Chadbourne in Coke County, but he lived most of his life at Blackwell and Maryneal in Nolan County. He could play any instrument; however, he did not like the Jew's Harp as it made his mouth sore.  Self-taught like most local musicians, he could not read music yet he had all the music theory in his head.

The instrumental "Ft. Chadbourne Blues"  was created in the late 1930's by the Bronte Yellowjackets, a band whose members  wore white pants/shirts with yellow jackets. Daddy played sax and trombone for the group while his brother Jodie played sax..  Daddy was also  a substitute piano player for Milton Brown and the Musical Brownies prior to Brown's death in 1936. .  His style at the piano emulated that of Brown's regular piano player, "Papa" Calhoun, who was a classically trained jazz pianist.  When I hear the riffs of "Papa" Calhoun on Brown's now released CD's, I  immediately think of Daddy.

During the '30's and the '40's he made most of his wages by playing music---but working for the WPA and McDonald's Gin helped put food on the table, too. Later, when he was working for Lone Star Cement plus gauging oil wells and tending the pump jacks, time for playing dances was precious. Yet after he retired, he and his pals from the '30's regrouped for regular jam sessions. They would be playing an old tune and the rest would stop but Daddy would keep on playing the piano.
  "T.J., what's that?"
  "It's the bridge, Jack," all the while not missing a note.
  "Well, hell, I had plumb forgot that..."
Feeling for the forgotten notes,  pretty soon all had reached back into their memory and the instrumental was revived with gusto!

At Blackwell, I remember two outstanding fiddle players:  Bill Green and Harve McPeeters.  When Bill played "breakdowns" like "Eighth of January", the rosin powder left by his bow formed a cloud above the fiddle strings. He was left-handed and thus held the fiddle in his right hand and the bow with his left hand.  It always seemed that he really enjoyed such hard work "playing backwards".  In contrast, Harve had a laid-back, smooth style with his bow---whatever the tempo.  Harve also strung his bows with hair from the tails of his horses. Although rosin did have a whitening effect, his bow strings were always a mixture of gray and black hairs.  With his fiddle, Daddy liked to play  harmony to Harve's lead fiddle.

The invention of the television brought the world of entertainment into the living room. Time once set aside for a country dance diminished as Liberace and Lawrence Welk entered the living room. .  And wall-to-wall carpeting surely  added to the demise of those dances---but the memories still remain..

Tad Richards held a Birthday Party each year.  He had a huge two story barn where he held a BarBQ and had a dance each year.  This was in Coke County, but folks from Nolan County were always in attendance.  Saunders men helped with the BarBQ and T.J. Van Zandt was in charge of furnishing the musicians.

Tad Richards Birthday Party

Submitted by:  Glenda Van Zandt Stroud

When Tad Richards built the large new house on his ranch near Bronte, he also  built a huge two story barn.  The upper floor was finished hardwood because he was tired of moving furniture to have a good dance.  This is in  Coke County but people from Blackwell who lived in Nolan County were always in attendance.

Tad held a big BarBQ and dance there every year on his birthday.   My Saunders uncles usually helped with the BarBQ and my daddy, T. J. Van Zandt, was in charge of gathering up the musicians--he usually played piano.   So it could be called a real barn dance!

In this picture of the square dance, that is Tad in front with the tie, but his swinging  partner is Mrs. Charlie (Eulah) Copeland.  From L-R the "swinging" couples are Mr. Charlie Copeland [back], Tad's dtg, Ardith (I think)],  my mother Florine Van Zandt  [back], Delas Alsup, Sarah Alsup [back], my grandfather Harvie Saunders --white hair.


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