Dancers end their promenade Club disbands after 30-some years


Friday night, Audrey Custy and her friends in the Thunderbird Twirlers do-si-doed to the calls of Baty Hall for the last time.

The square dance club of 30-some years is disbanding because Mr. Hall and his wife, Joanna, are moving to Texas.

"We took our first lessons with Baty," recalled Mrs. Custy, who is 65, a year younger than her husband, Dick. "We made friends there and just stayed with the club. Our best friends are members of Thunderbirds."

Club members realized they had to disband when the Halls announced their decision to retire to Texas, said Imelda Bergelt, the club secretary.

"We'll sure miss Baty," she added. "He has a good singing voice, and he's just a very good caller."

But that doesn't mean Mrs. Custy, who joined the club 27 years ago, is retiring her favorite, full-skirted white dress -- the one with the flowers she worked herself and the scratchy crinoline.

She and her husband plan to continue square dancing, but to the voices of different callers, she said.

"We'll probably go out as a group dancing once a month or so anyhow," she said. "It certainly will seem different, but I think most of us will keep in touch."

The Custys have been in the club longer than any of the other members, many of whom turned out for Friday's last dance to reminisce and laugh and move to the familiar calls: "Circle to the right. Single file. All right, here we go."

For three hours, old friends enjoyed one another's company, said Doris Dresser, who, with her husband, Don, has been with the club since 1968.

"It's kind of sad, but I don't believe anyone is standing around with tears in their eyes," she said. "With so many old friends, it's really a joyous occasion, a fun evening."

The Thunderbird Twirlers has been an active square and round dance club since 1959, under the auspices of the Anne Arundel Department of Recreation and Parks, the Mason Dixon Square Dance Federation and the Washington Area Square Dance Cooperative Association.

Over the years, the club has ranged from 30 to 60 members. It's one of 60 clubs in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

The Twirlers started out with a mixed group of people in their 20s, with some members as old as 70. Lately it's focused more on those in their 50s and 60s, Mrs. Bergelt said.

Under Mr. Hall's direction, the members learned the 68 basic steps of square dancing.

It takes at least a year to become familiar with all the steps, members said.

For three decades, they met for dances every other Friday and every fifth Friday of the month. Many Twirlers also dance on vacation or take trips with other square dancers.

But lately, the membership hasn't been growing the way some would like.

"We'd not been able to expand because we didn't draw new members in the past five or 10 years," Mrs. Bergelt said.

Though some members plan to join other clubs, "it's sad this regular contact is going to close off," she added. "It's been kind of a standby for a long time."

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