Retro Stokes Hip to Be Square Dancing

Square dancing at Stokes in the 1970s
Photo/courtesy of Lisa Ericson

It was truly terrifying. The mandatory square dance at the Fair Haven sixth graders’ Stokes State Forrest trip.

True horror story. The mere thought of that little dosey doe your partner (once a year … far away from school … in the woods) gave many a pre-teen more jitters than the thought of the Jersey Devil showing up at the campfire.

But, it was done … over and over again. Year after year. Fair Haven Knollwood School students prepped for their annual week-long school in the good ole outdoors by being on their best behavior. You could even say with certainty that they not only walked the Stokes walk, they danced it. They had to.

Oh, it’s been going on for decades now — the Stokes trip, that is. More than five, to be exact. But, is there still a square dance night? Hmmm.

We’ve heard that the plug has been pulled on many pranks, but what about the two-stepping and swinging your partner … and, of course, the line-up. Many sweaty little hands were wrung in anticipation of the person with whom they’d have to swing, bow and curtsey, and, yikes, maybe even hold hands — sweaty hands.

There were always bound to be grim greetings laced with the fear of the ole “grab your partner” idea. But, in the end, as with all Stokes memories, there were smiles. Lots of smiles. Sometimes the smiles could even be seen during the dancing.

This Retro Pic of the Day offers a peak into one smile-laden square dance moment among friends Lisa Ericson and Edmund Tompkins.

Monday was Ed’s birthday and, guess what? These two hip Stokes square dancers are still friends. And while Ed tells us that he has no memory of Stokes, except when he was chosen to be a CAT counselor as a senior at RFH, Lisa’s memory is flush with hometown happy times.

There was a reason why she was smiling and not terrified in this shot. It was the practice session for the main event. Ed was her friend then, too. So, that’s why she looks so content and confident.

The sweaty palms came later on that night at “the big dance” under the stars — or, rather, open pavilion.

“I did something that I regret to this day,” Lisa said. “One of the RFH seniors who were there helping chaperone the trip was an incredibly handsome guy named Chuck Quinn. He was assigned to my group and I had a HUGE crush on him. That night, he asked me to dance and I was too self conscious to say yes. He valiantly tried several times and I could never muster the nerve. What a silly sixth grader I was back then!”

Awwwww. Chuck? Up for a little dosey doe nearly half a century later? Thing is that the RFH senior counselors, or CATs, were assigned certain things. I know, because I was one of those CATs. One of those things was to dance with the sixth graders. Little did Chuck Quinn know that his prospective junior dance partner was harboring very sweaty palms and a big ole crush.

Ain’t Stokes and growing up in Fair Haven memories grand?

Now, about the hipness of that square dance …

What was your favorite Stokes event? Most terrifying?

Happy Birthday, Ed!