- Associated Press - Sunday, June 1, 2014

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - If you ask longtime square-dance caller Charlie Stockman what got him hooked, he’ll point to his wife.

Stockman first took square-dance lessons at Ballenger Community Hall 20 years ago with his wife, Wanda. A few years later, a friend handed him a record and asked if he would “call,” or announce the steps, at the next dance.

“I was nervous as can be,” he said.

Since 1990, Stockman has been a caller for the Frederick County Promenaders, a square-dancing club. But it wasn’t easy to learn the art.

“Everything was difficult for me to pick up,” he said.

He attended Ed Foote’s square-dance caller workshop in Wexler, Pennsylvania, and called a memorable dance where all the attendees were wearing the same outfits.

“Every blinkin’ one of them were in the same blue and white, and had gray hair,” he said.

Stockman, 74, is known for his lighthearted and humorous calling style, or, as he describes it, “running my mouth for two hours.” While calling a dance, he said, he’s laughing with the dancers, not at them. He still uses 45 rpm records when he can find them.

He considered calling professionally, but didn’t want the extensive travel that would have been involved with the job.

“If you do that sort of work, you have to live out of a suitcase,” he said. “I can cause enough trouble around here.”

Stockman said he’s seen changes in square-dancing culture since he got started 20 years ago. He still sees dancers of all ages, but he doesn’t see entire communities turn out for an event anymore.

It’s still good exercise, he said, and a “wholesome” social activity.

“Square dancing is friendship set to music,” he said.

The last Frederick County Promenaders dance Stockman was to call was May 30, according to club co-president Jan Dommerich, but Stockman said “retirement” is not the right word for that. He intends to spend more time gardening and doing work around the house, he said, and does not plan to commit to entire seasons of dances.

Jan and her husband, Alex, also co-president of the Frederick County club, said Stockman’s departure is a big loss for the community.

Story Continues →