Last month we mentioned a few of the anniversary dances that were happening at various clubs along with some tidbits from the Timberline Toppers Square Dance Club.
We would like, however, to revisit the monumental occasion that occurred on October 3, 2014. That night the oldest square dance club in America held a dinner dance, celebrating their 75th anniversary. Congratulations Kilowatt Eights! 75 years is a long time for a social group of people to remain active in a given endeavor. We wanted to explore the rich history of Kilowatt Eights in our blast but quickly realized that scratching the surface is the best we could accomplish in our allowed bulletin space. So with an admission that more will be left unsaid than said about the history of the Kilowatt Eights Square Dance Club we will attempt to get our readers, as fluently as possible, from;
here, here, and here to here .
The Kilowatt Eights (K8s) Square Dance Club was founded in the summer of 1939 by Tom T. (Joe) Lang, an assistant supervisor in the electric meter division of the Public Service Company (PSC) of Colorado (now Excel Energy). With the help of two other employees he gained the sponsorship of the PSC Employees’ Gas & Electric Club and formed a six piece band. The club became known as the G & E Square Dance Club. With permission to use the PSC’s garage at, 3rd Ave. and Lipan St., as a dance hall, the G & E Club held its first dance in October of 1939. Employees steam cleaned the floor of the garage, moved the lunch-room piano in on a flatbed trailer and brought in a second flatbed to accommodate the band in preparation for the dances. Joe Lang not only organized the G& E Square Dance Club but was the club caller from 1939 until 1956
The club danced in the PSC garage until 1942 and lost many of its members to World War II. Joe Lang renovated a small barn and named it the Hayloft where the club danced during the war. They returned to the PSC garage after the war. The club began to outgrow the garage and in 1948 moved to the Wight Building at 1433 Champa Street in downtown Denver. 1956 brought much change to the club; Joe Lang retired as the club caller; was replaced by protégé Loren Pace, who served from 1956 until 1960; and the G & E Square Dance Club became the Kilowatt Eights Square Dance Club with Reddy Kilowatt as the club symbol.
The 8th National Square Dance Convention was held in Denver in 1959 and set an attendance record for the national event of 8,824 square dancers, 3,314 from Colorado. Various members of K8s played a large part in the successful presentation of the 8th National Convention. Naming a few of the folks involved can be a dangerous endeavor as invariably some will not be mentioned. Out apologies to those we fail to give credit to. Vern and Lu Hunt served as Program Coordinators and served on the Mailing Committee as well. Lloyd and Pat Schmidt served on the PR and Publicity Committee and chaired the After Dance Events Committee, all the while being vice-presidents of the DAS&RDC.
In June of 1960, K8s club presidents Bob and Virginia Glendinning began a search for a club caller to replace Loren Pace, who had been transferred by PSC to Leadville. Charlie Tuffield was selected and started as club caller in September of 1960. His wife Jerry would become the club cuer as well. During 1962 a K8s’ dance was 50 cents per couple. The club also began dancing at the PSC Belleview Service Station in Littleton because the club was denied permission to use the auditorium of the new PSC building at 15th and Welton Streets. In the late 1960s K8’s membership began to decline due in part to the decentralized location of the club venue in Littleton. The club asked for permission of the G & E Club and PSC to open membership, as well as to hold a club office, to non-PSC employees. These requests were granted with the exception of the office of club treasurer, who still had to be an active or retired employee of PSC.
PSC decided to convert the Belleview Service Center auditorium into a laboratory in 1977 and informed K8s in January, 1978 to find a new square dance home by March; in two months! The move from Littleton to the Fellowship Hall of the First United Presbyterian Church in Englewood during the spring of 1978 began an odyssey of dance homes for K8s. Early in the 1980s the moved to Terry Elementary School in Sheridan, staying only a year before moving on to Oliver Elementary School also in Sheridan. The club lost the Oliver school venue in 1982 and on November 19, 1982 held a dance at the Grandview Grange at University Blvd. and Orchard Road. In 1983 it was on to the Glendale Fire Station at 999 South Clermont Street. The 50th Anniversary Dance, October 7, 1989, was held at the Driscoll Center on the campus of the University of Denver.*
*A side note; after completing square dance lessons, current K8s presidents Ron and Karen Dreher became active members of the club in the spring of 1989 and danced at that 50th Anniversary Dance.
In subsequent years, anniversary dances were held at the Glendale Community Center (54th), Augustana Lutheran Church (55th & 56th), Glendale CC (57th), and the Malley Community Center in Englewood (58th). The Malley Center became home to K8s on January 1, 1998.
A congratulatory letter was received by Dick and Jo King dated June 25, 1996, from American Square Dance Magazine. Following a nationwide search, and receiving documentation from Dick and Jo, the magazine declared K8s as the Oldest Square Dance Club in America. The prize for this distinction, aside from being a really cool thing, was a two year subscription to American Square Dance Magazine.
Kilowatt Eights also has a rich history of artistically designed flyers and posters promoting their dances through the years. A sampling of these is below. Sorry they are not in color.
The 2000s saw change, some of it very difficult change, in K8s. Jerry Tuffield was asked to step down as club cuer. The club has hired cuers since then. In 2001 K8s extended membership invitations to members of the disbanding Levi & Laces Square Dance Club. On January 22, 2002, Charlie Tuffield graduated his last square dance class with K8s. For in the spring of 2002 a division of music preference (old vs new) among club members culminated with the resignation of Charlie Tuffield as club caller; thus ending his 42 year club caller tenure with K8s. Many club members left as well but the club continued on. In 2004, the More Squares Square Dance Club disbanded and its members were encouraged to join K8s. Both the 65th and 70th anniversary dances, in 2004 and 2009, had Dave Guille and Bob Lyon as caller/cuer. In 2007 K8s decided to make square dance lessons more of a priority, which they had not been since the departure of Charlie T. in 2002.
Early in 2011 club presidents Ron & Karen Dreher were again concerned about dwindling membership numbers. Through diligent research by them and others, they came to the realization that the clubs that had club callers were thriving and those without club callers were having a more difficult time. Ron consulted with Bear Miller, asking if he knew of any new callers that would be available to become K8s’ club caller. Bear ID’d one caller that was returning after a 20 plus year hiatus from calling. After listening and dancing to this gentleman for a number of months, K8s’ members vote him OK! In late 2011 K8s extended an offer to Bill Heiny to become their club caller. Bill accepted their offer but due to contractual obligations he would not officially be designated as club caller until January 3, 2014. Bill did, however, begin Wednesday night square dance lessons beginning in September of 2012. He did also call a few dances during 2012.
We were not acquainted with Bill Heiny as a caller until the spring of this year but have found him to be a delight to dance to. Good choice Kilowatt Eights!
Whew! It’s hard not be long winded. We know it’s not all here and our apologies for those folks not mentioned or those not portrayed. It has been our distinct pleasure to compile this ultra-condensed history of the Kilowatt Eights Square Dance Club. We are deeply indebted to Ron and Karen Dreher for their sharing of voluminous pages of text and images on the history of K8s.
And again, as Your Council Historians we will endeavor to seek out those callers, those dancers, those communities, those events, those writings and images of the past that may enrich our own experiences as square dancers today.