Oldest Square Dance Club?
Pictured above, taken when the Kilowatt Eights danced at the PSC Garage from 1939-1942, (L to R): Andy Anderson-Violin & Bass, Stew Clark-Banjo, Russ Levine-Piano, Jim Cook-Violin, Tom Parfet-Drums, George Boles-Violin, Joe Lang-Caller.
American Square Dance magazine conducted a search for the oldest square dance club. This is the article reporting on the results, which appeared in the July 1996 issue. After that is another history of the club, written in 1974.
The Kilowatt Eights Square Dance Club
Winner of our Oldest Club Contest
by Dick and Jo King
Club Historians, Denver, Colorado
The Kilowatt Eights Square Dance Club was founded in the summer of 1939, by Tom T. (Joe) Lang. Joe, as most of his friends called him, was an assistant supervisor in the electric meter division of the Public Service Company (PSC) of Colorado.
Joe had learned to call squares in 1939 and wanted to form a square dance club of PSC employees. With the help of two other employees he gained the sponsorship of PSC Employees' Gas and Electric Club, and formed a six piece band. The club became known as the G&E Square Dance Club.
With permission to use the Public Service Company's garage as a dance hall, in October 1939, (date unknown) the G&E Club held its first dance. The club continued to dance there until 1942. The club lost many of its members because of the war. Joe Lang renovated a small barn and named it The Hay Loft, where the club danced during the war.
At the end of the war the club returned to the PSC's garage area but danced in the employees' lunchroom, which is across from the garage. In 1948 the club was moved to the Wight Building in downtown Denver and danced in the auditorium on the fourth floor.
In 1950, Joe turned the leadership of the club over to the club members. An election was held and the club had its first president. In 1956 Joe turned the calling duties over to his protégé who called for only four years. Also, in 1956 the club changed its name to Kilowatt Eights.
At the start of the 1960-81 square dance season the new club callers, Charlie and Jerry Tuffield, took over and are still club callers after 36 years, and will continue for the foreseeable future. Charlie and Jerry have been calling and cuing for 50 years.
On the 4th of October, 1996, the club will be 57 years old. Its members are looking forward to celebrating their 60th anniversary in 1999.
Kilowatt Eights Starting History
as written March l974
Probably few employees realize it, but square dancing is one of, or is the oldest Company sponsored club which is very active today.
Through the efforts of hundreds of dedicated people this club has survived and grown through its thirty-four ears of existence. It is believed that it is one of the oldest, if not the oldest club in the Denver Metropolitan area. The original Gas and Electric "G&E" Square Dance Club was organized in September 1939 and has been going strong ever since. On a Friday night, around December 18, 1939, 160 hearty square dancers ventured out to "trip the light fantastic" at the Public Service Company Garage at Third and Lipan with the mercury dipping to 18 degrees below zero.
The reprinted bulletin was drawn by Bud Hunn, an employee in the Electric Distribution Engineering Dept, now retired, publizinga a dance during the 1940-1 season. His efforts contributed much to the gowth of the club thru the years.
The trucks on the west side of the garage were removed prior to each dance, the floor was steam cleaned, and the garage started humming. At that time they had live music consisting of a piano (moved from the lunchroom), banjo played by Stu Clark (Electric Meter), drums by Tom Parlet (Stores), a fiddle and an accordian, all of which were played from a flat bed 2½ ton truck. Andy Anderson of the Gas Department was also one of the musicians. All these people have since retired. After the dance was over all the men returned the trucks, towing some too cold to start. THAT IS REAL DEDICATION! It has been said that there were always sixty to eighty spectators, with around 200 dancers.
The original dedicated caller was John "Joe" Lang, Assistant Superintendent of the Electic Meter Department (now retired). In 1942 Joe held the distinguished honorary title of "Champion Square Dance Caller of Colorado." a title the whole club was proud of.
The first "Hayloft" was a barn which was remodeled for square dancing where the group danced during World War II, located at 50 South Alcott, this building now contains six apartments. In 1946 the dances were again resumed at Third and Lipan, in the lunchroom. There were fewer people, but they were not lacking in enthusiasm. The group grew in numbers and had to move to larger (110 members+) quarters, at which time the Wight Building Auditorium at 15th and Champa was put to good use. Joe used to let us hold our "Special Dances", Christmas, New Years, etc. at his newly built "Hayloft" on Mississippi and Federal.
In 1956 the name of the club was changed to Kilowatt Eights, with Loren Pace of the Line Construction Department starting his career as a caller. He was associated with Kilowatt Eights for about four years. Loren is now in the Mountain Division. The same year Loren started calling, Lloyd Schmidt of Electric Distribution Engineering was elected President of the club, serving a little over two years. In 1959 he contributed much help, time and effort to the National Square Dance Convention which was hosted by Denver at the City Auditorium Annex. Our fair city has never seen so many "squares" before or since. The Kilowatt Eights sign still on display at the Belleview Service Center is the one that was made for the "1959 National".
Charlie Tuffield came into the scene in 1960 and has been our regular very capable caller ever since. In 1972 an Anniversary Dance was held at which both Joe Lang and Charlie Tuffield were honored. The place looked almost like a National Dance.
January 22, 1994, Charlie Tuffield called for a group of Kilowatt Eights at the Littleton Manor Nursing Home. The people greatly appreciated our coming and all the members in attendance had a great time. One lady there remembered dancing at the garage "way back when."
At our Friday night, March 1st dance we are proud to announce we had ten squares, all Kilowatt Eights except for five visiting couples. This record we intend to keep!
SDHP editor's note: The club is still operating today (2013).