ﾑFriendship set to musicﾒ A wealth of health benefits for a dollar a week
It has been said that being a part of a group or organization that requires your presence once a month brings you more happiness than a $10,000 a year raise.
If youﾒre in the market for the benefits of a $40,000 a year raise, you need to check out the Pocahontas Promenaders.ﾠ This square dance group, with 47 members on the roll, meets every Tuesday night from 7 ﾖ 9:30 p.m. at the Marlinton Elementary School gymnasium. The second Tuesday night of the month is ﾓdance night,ﾔ a time to put on the dog, with twirling petticoats and square dance attire.
For a dollar a week, you can dance the night away.
If you are new to this old-time activity, you are welcomed for free.
Aspiring dancers can join in September, there is no charge for the classes and each student is assigned an instructor/dance partner.
John Dilley, of Marlinton, a charter member of the Pocahontas Promenaders, hit the dance floor in 1984. He has partnered with an untold number of students, helping to keep the group on its feet.
The promenaders came into being as a result of the influence of Becky McLaughlin, who now lives in Florida, and her late husband, Chester. They had been members of a square dance club in Barboursville and, upon their return to Pocahontas County, gathered up a group of like-minded individuals to set their friendship to music.
Tom and Garnett Sharp, of Marlinton, two very active members of the group, are dancing into their 24th year.
ﾓIts good exercise,ﾔ said Tom. ﾓGood for your body and your mind. Youﾒve got to listen and react to what the caller is telling you.ﾔ
Students have class for one year and then, the second year, they help someone else.
ﾓYou are then called an ﾑangel,ﾒﾔ Tom said.
And he must be quite an angel, having helped 21 people through the class.
Alice Irvine, associate superintendent for operations and treasurer of Pocahontas County Schools, is one of them. She now dances with ﾓthe one that brung her,ﾔ - husband, Dolan, the county assessor.
Adding her business background to this fun activity, Alice is now president of the promenaders.
ﾓShe is the best president.ﾠ She makes it fun,ﾔ said Al Huppert, of Hillsboro.
Al and his wife, Jane, travel 45 minutes each week from their home on Briery Knob to enjoy the exercise and the fun and fellowship of the group.
ﾓWeﾒve found it to be the greatest group,ﾔ Al said. ﾓNo swearing, no drinking and nobody ever gets mad.ﾔ
It is the International Law for Western Dance that governs the promenaders. That law requires ﾓan appropriate code of conduct to enhance the public image, attractive attire, avoidance of alcohol, extending courtesy and the welcoming of others.ﾔ
The Hupperts find it to be ﾓone of the best bargains.ﾔ
ﾓWeﾒre from New Jersey.,ﾔ Al said.ﾠ ﾓUp there they advertise three lessons for $25. Itﾒs free for students here ﾖ free coffee and often free cookies.ﾔ
You come here as one, but you are dancing with seven other people.
ﾓA lot of people who canﾒt dance anymore come for the comaraderie.ﾠ People genuinely need someone.ﾠ And, here, you need seven others to pull it off,ﾔ he added.
This Tuesday night affair offers a fun way to get your exercise.
ﾓSomeone told me ﾖ I donﾒt know if itﾒs true or not- that if you danced every tip of a square dance, it is equal to five miles of walking,ﾔ said Al.
Nancy Curry and Harper Nelson, of Marlinton, were looking for a new exercise regimen when they joined the promenaders, but they have found so much more.
ﾓThatﾒs why we like it,ﾔ said Nancy, ﾓfor the exercise.ﾠ It gets us away from the TV. You meet a lot of nice people.ﾠ I didnﾒt know that John [Dilley] was my cousin until we started dancing.ﾔ
But you canﾒt have a square dance without a caller and this group has one of the best.
Billy Huffman, of Mt. Nebo, along with his wife, Greta, makes the trip to Marlinton every Tuesday evening.ﾠ Huffman has been a caller for 29 years.ﾠ This is his 24th year with the promenaders.
ﾓHe can sing like Elvis or like Hank Snow,ﾔ said Tom. ﾓMost callers can do that, but you have to have a good mind to do it.ﾔ
Gary Taylor and his wife, Becky, a teacher at Marlinton Elementary, are long-time members of the promenaders.
ﾓYou soon learn that you donﾒt know your right hand from your left,ﾔ Gary said.
Huffmanﾒs voice often rings through the sound system, ﾓYour other left!ﾔ
ﾓIf you start out with the wrong hand, you are all messed up,ﾔ said Tom.
This group is not ﾓmessed up.ﾔ They are enjoying the benefits of an age-old pastime.
Square dancing has been our ﾓofficial national folk danceﾔ since President Reagan signed an act of Congress in 1982. Going back to our English and French ancestors, square dancing incorporates traces of Scottish, Scandinavian, Spanish, and other elements, as well.
In addition, they have found a community-favorite fundraising activity.
In the fall, the members spend several days together peeling apples, eating and laughing.
Making apple butter, eating and laughing and selling apple butter to pay the caller and to support WVMR.
The group has ﾓsit-down dinnersﾔ in December and May.
ﾓGarnett is the main cook,ﾔ said Tom.ﾠ ﾓWe have pork loin roast, gravy, hot rolls.ﾠ Itﾒs a pretty good feed.ﾔ
Speaking of food, ﾓfry the oysters, dig for the clamsﾔ may sound like an ad for a seafood restaurant, but to a small percentage of the population, those words are recognized as ﾓcallsﾔ for a barn dance or old-time square dance.
The Pocahontas Promanaders are a Western Square Dance group.
Western square dance has more than 30 calls, such as Acey Deucey, Teacup Chain, Ping Pong Circulate and Load the Boat. Old-time square dance has about 18 calls.
ﾓIf I was able, I like the old style the best,ﾔ said Tom.
ﾓOld time requires more stamina. Thereﾒs a lot more swinginﾒ in the old-time. You swing all the girls.ﾠ In Western you only swing the four in your square.ﾔ
Robert Bright, of Marlinton, has swung his fair share of girls.ﾠ He has been with the group since 1985.ﾠ As proof of his commitment, he remembers his graduation day, May 28, 1986.
Bright celebrated his 80th birthday on March 10 and he is still ﾓa-swinginﾒ on Tuesday nights.
So, thereﾒs some good advice here.
Do not go gently into old age.
Kick up your heels, do-si-do, stir up a pot of apple butter with the Pocahontas Promenaders or join in a square dance in your neighborhood.
Get your toes to tappinﾒ , your mind to reactinﾒ and youﾒll soon be swinginﾒ with the best of ﾑem.
If you canﾒt dance ﾭﾖ or if you fall into the category of those who canﾒt follow directions ﾖ then sit on the sidelines and enjoy the second-hand benefits of this healthy habit.