Guide to the Ernie Spence Papers 1955-2004

Collection number: MC 263
Size: 4 boxes (1.20 cu.ft.)

About Ernie Spence

Born in 1925, Ernie Spence grew up in Milton, MA. After graduating from Milton High School, he enlisted in the US Navy AirCorp where he served from 1943 to 1946 as an Aviation Ordinanceman Second Class. He attended Boston University, graduating in 1950 with a BS in Education and in 1951 with an M.Ed. While at school, he met Joan Harlan and they were married in 1952. In 1954, they moved to Reading, MA where three years earlier Ernie had begun his 35-year career in the Reading School system, teaching science at Parker Junior High. In 1957, he became the first principal of the newly opened Birch Meadow Elementary School, and in 1960 he became an assistant principal at Reading Memorial High School, where he remained until his retirement in 1986.

From the time he met Duke Miller in the late 1940s at Sargent Camp in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, Ernie became a fixture on dance floors all over New England. He and Joan made regular trips from the Boston area on weekends to dance to Duke's calling in Fitzwilliam, NH. Many dancers, callers, and musicians credit Ernie with introducing them to contra dancing.

In his later years, Parkinson's disease forced Ernie to cut back his dancing to just one or two nights a week. Even though his mobility then limited him to a much smaller space on the dance floor, Ernie was still among the best dancers to be found, never at a loss for a partner. David Millstone, a caller and dance historian, said of Ernie: "I loved watching his graceful carriage, his exquisite timing, the attentive smile bestowed on his partners, and the omnipresent twinkle in his eye." Ernie died aged 85 in March 2011.

Ernie Spence was a NEFFA executive board member from 1977-1984 and a founder member of the Thursday Night Dance Committee. He was also an avid photographer and took hundreds of images of dances over the years. His collection, which includes over 1000 slides, 80 prints, film and video material, as well as nearly 200 audio recordings, as well as paper materials, including NEFFA Executive Board minutes, posters, flyers, dance periodicals, was donated to the University of New Hampshire in 2011.

About the Ernie Spence papers

The Ernie Spence Papers consists of various organizational materials relating to Ernie Spence's service on the board of NEFFA from 1977-1984 and miscellaneous papers. As an avid photographer his collection includes over 1000 slides, 80 prints, film and video material, as well as nearly 200 audio tapes.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], [Folder], [Box], Ernie Spence Papers, 1955-2004, MC 263, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Donated: Jean D. Spence, 2011 (Accession number: 2011.33)

Collection Contents

Series 1: Miscellaneous papers, correspondence, dance notation, 1960-2006

Box 1
Box 1, Folder 1Correspondence to Ernie Spence from:

Florence Block, 1972 (1); Larry Jennings, undated (1); James Kennedy (includes press release announcing the 1974 debut in Fitzwilliam of "promising young caller" Tony Parkes), 1971-1974 (3); Mel King, director, South End House, Boston, 1961 (1); Dudley Laufman, 1978-2003 (3); Kathie Leitz, 1975 (1); Duke Miller, 1960-1970 (6); Robin Tranove, 1970 (1); Ed Wilfert, 1971 (1); Gene and Betsy --?, Westborough MA 1969 (1) 1969-1972

Box 1, Folder 2NEFFA Exec. Board Minutes, 1977
Box 1, Folder 3NEFFA Exec. Board Minutes, 1978
Box 1, Folder 4NEFFA Exec. Board Minutes, 1979
Box 1, Folder 5NEFFA Exec. Board Minutes, 1980
Box 1, Folder 6NEFFA Exec. Board Minutes, 1981
Box 1, Folder 7NEFFA Exec. Board Minutes, 1982
Box 1, Folder 8NEFFA Exec. Board Minutes, 1983
Box 1, Folder 9NEFFA Exec. Board Minutes, 1984
Box 1, Folder 10Event Fliers: NEFFA and others
Box 1, Folder 11Newspaper Articles, 1972-1973, undated
Box 1, Folder 12Copy of "Adventures in a Dance Hall: A study of contra dancing using ethnographic research methods" by Maggie Linnell, 1991
Box 1, Folder 13Contra Corners, Spring 1990
Box 1, Folder 14 10 NEFFA Programs, 1967-2006
Box 1, Folder 14Misc. New England Council of Round Dance Teachers Associations
Box 2
Box 2, Folder 1Index of Internatioinal Folk Dance Records, circa 1950
Box 2, Folder 2Numerical Index of Internatioinal Folk Dance Records, circa 1950
Box 2, Folder 3Record Catalogs, 1956-1959
Box 2, Folder 4Dance Notations
Box 2, Folder 5 Photocopy of article from Cape Breton's Magazine, "With Winston Scotty Fitzgerald"
Box 2, Folder 6 Photocopy of article from Yankee Magazine, "Who Still Follows The Pied Piper of Canterbury?"
Box 2, Folder 7 Misc. NECCA materials
Box 2, Folder 8 Misc. flyers
Box 2, Folder 9 Callers Clipboard, Vol. 2 no. 4-8
Box 2, Folder 10 Square Dance Class Attendance Book
Box 2, Folder 11 Dance Gypsy 1998 Dance Planner
Box 2, Folder 12 The Four Seasons Monadnock Regionaire, 1970-1971
Box 2, Folder 13 Music Book "Arkansas (Arkie) Woodchopper: Square Dance Calls with Music and Instructions"
Box 2, Folder 14 List of Digitized VHS Tapes by Ernie Spence

Series 2: Photographs and Photographic Slides, 1955-1988

Box 3
Box 3, Folder 1 Unidentified Photographs: morris dancing; contra dancing; sword dancing; socializing; vendors; court dancing; jam sessions; Vermont contra demonstration; Irish dancing; exhibits; Balkan singers; clogging; Western square dancing
Box 3, Folder 2 Tray No. 1: Country Dancing. Peterborough Country Club, NH 1955; Duke Miller (caller), Aug 1967; Francestown NH, 9/7/1970; Fitzwilliam NH, 8/28/1971; 11/6/1971; 6/3/1972; 12/2/1972; 8/3/1973; 9/1/1973; 12/1977; 9/3/1977 (Tod Whittemore, caller); Dudley Laufman, caller, 11/7/1973; news articles 1973; Carlisle Dance 5/3/74; Nelson NH 5/1976; Monadnock Dancers at Peach Blossom Festival (Canajoharie, NY.) 1976; Duke Miller, caller; Common Ground 1976; Dublin NH, 3/19/1977
Box 3, Folder 3Tray No. 2: Country Dancing. Peterborough NH 10/4/80; Nelson NH, 1/7/1978 (Kathy Torrey, caller); CDS dance Brookline 1/1978; Harrisville NH 1/1978; unidentified wedding 5/20/1978; Tod Whittemore Halloween/birthday party dance 1980
Box 3, Folder 4Tray No. 3: Country Dancing. CDS Brookline 1/1978; Fitzwilliam NH, 3/31/1978; 8/1978; 8/26/1978; 9/2/1978; 9/16/1978; Concord NH 3/31/1978; Needham MA: Whittemore Halloween party 10/30/1978; Fitzwilliam NH, Kathy and Ed Kennedy wedding 9/16/78; Nelson NH, 3/3/1979; YWCA Cambridge MA, 4/12/1978; Bob McQuillen birthday party 7/1979; unidentified dance 6/17/1979; cotillion 12/15/1979
Box 3, Folder 5Tray No. 4: Country Dancing. Brattleboro VT, 11/1/1981 (Dudley Laufman, caller); Peterboro NH 2/6/1982 (Tod Whittemore, caller); NEFFA Festival 4/1977; 4/1978; 4/1980; 4/1981; 4/1983; Jaffrey Center NH, 5/20/1978
Box 3, Folder 6Tray No. 5: Country Dancing. Cotillion - Halloween - Northfield MA; Northfield MA 6/18/82 (Four Gone Conclusions, Cammy Kaynor, caller) - Halloween dance 1982; NEFFA 1983; NEFFA? 1984; unidentified dance 12/1983
Box 4
Box 4, Folder 1Tray No. 7: Country Dancing. Chestnuts. Unidentified dance 1/1982, 5/21/1983 (outdoors), 7/1983 (outdoors), 5/1984, 10/1985, 11/1985 - Dover NH? 5/1986 - VFW Skyline Dancers 11/11/1982 - New England Chestnuts Cambridge River Festival MA 5/30/1981
Box 4, Folder 2 Margaret and Steve's Wedding
Box 4, Folder 3Dancing: Child's Play; Cotillion; Todd; Gail; Sue; Susan's Recital; 1988
Box 4, Folder 4-Unlabeled box of slides. Yankee Ingenuity, Childsplay 1985 - 1988 - Northfield MA 6/18/82 - Peterboro NH 10/4/1980 - Fitzwilliam NH 4/3/1977, 12/30/1977 - Jack O’Conner 50th birthday dance 5/13/88 - Brattleboro VT Dawn Dance 5/30/84 - Harvey Tolman on fiddle 1978 - Nelson NH 3/1979 - Unidentified dance 6/17/1979 - Cotillion 12/1988 1974-1984
Box 4, Folder 5-Kodak slide box marked “Tod”: School - Family - Church photos 1985 1988
Box 4, Folder 62 SVHS tapes:
  • Tape 1: Raw Footage of an interview at Lexington Public Library with Bicky McLain, Ethel Capps and Ann Wright, July 31, 1998. Subjects are set running; the three interviewees; Mary Newton; WWII; footwork; Frank Smithy; M.G. Carsnel; Louanne Lexs; George; Marguerite Bidstrup; music; callers; tempo, Lloyd Shaw; gender; buck dance; standardizing vs. adaptation; drinking; singing games play party; calling; new leaders; John Mansfield.
  • Tape 2: Interviews and scenic views, Sept 12, 1992; Jennifer Ramsay recital, Dec 4, 1992. Joe Begley interview. Billy Joe Bates interview. John Mansfield interview with Ruby and Clifton Caudill 1988

Series 3: Posters,

Map Drawer A12 3 Posters promoting Duke Miller, Caller at the Fitzwilliam Summer Dances, undated