The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
Jack and Lucile McKay
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Information: Jack and Lucile McKay
Jack B. McKay was a native of Vancouver Canada. He came to San Francisco when he was 18, and there entered San Francisco State College, majoring in Sociology. Jack often said that he took every course with the word "group" in it setting the course for his life career in group work. In time he became Director of the San Francisco Council of Churches' Senior Program and later Director of the San Francisco Support Services to seniors, and a widening leadership role in professional committees working with the aging population.
He credited Grace Perryman Nicholes with getting him interested in folk dancing in 1939. He began in the folk dance movement in 1940 in northern California, two years before the formation of the Folk Dance Federation of California. Jack's group, the Fun Club, hosted the meeting in Lodi, California, in 1942, which resulted in the Federation's organization. It was at this meeting that Jack met Lawton Harris, who, five years later, founded the Stockton Folk Dance Camp, for which Jack would become director in 1967 for twenty years on Lawton's untimely death.
In November of 1944, while in the army, Jack visited the Community Folk Dance Center. Mary Ann Herman introduced him as a square dance caller from California, and before he could escape, he was calling his first square! This led to a ten-year career as a caller and teacher.
In 1946, after returning to California from the service as a Captain (he later became a Lt. Colonel), he took up calling in earnest, become a well-known national caller. In 1947, he was a substitute caller at the Stockton Folk Dance Camp, and joined the faculty in 1948. He attended Dr. Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw's Institutes at Stanford, California, in 1947 and Colorado Srings, Colorado, in 1948. Working with Lucile Czarnowski, he taught squares at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) for two years. Jack and his wife Lucile collaborated on a book, How to Teach Folk and Square Dance.
In addition to belonging to several clubs, he formed his own club, the Square Cutters. He also served the Federation as a Council Representative, chairman of the nominating committee, and in 1948 and 1949, as chairman of the two square dance jamborees.
The San Francisco Caper Cutters square dance club was formed in October 1950 by Jack who called through 1969.
When Lawton Harris died in 1967 (just six weeks before the Stockton Folk Dance Camp's 20th year was to start), the University asked the Committee to choose an new Director from within the group. The Committee chose Jack.
When Jack served as Director of Folk Dance Camp, he found that he used everything he had learned from his college groups work courses, his Army service, his administratioin of social work programs, his career as a square dance teacher, and the many years he had spent folk and square dancing. Jack's quality of leadership was uniquely his. His ability to trust those with whom he worked, and to delegate responsibility, inspired members to develop their talents. Jack said that he never took votes in Committee meetings, but worked with groups of conflicting personalities to reach consensus.
In 1987, Jack stepped down from his 20-year position as Director of the Stockton Folk Dance Camp, turning over the reigns to Bruce Mitchell. The camp, located at the Stockton Folk Dance Camp, where Jack held the academic rating of associate professor, is the premier folk dance camp in the country. Jack retained his position on the Camp Committee, however.
Jack died at home of complications from diabetes on September 3, 1999.
The Jack McKay Endowment, establish by a $50,000.00 challenge donation from Dr. Steven Turner provides funding for the extras that make camp fun.
Among Jack McKay's publications is
Dances Jack taught include Copenhagen, Doubtful Shepherd Contra, Fantasy, Golden Gate Waltz, Happy Polka, Jack O'Boy Waltz, Lonesome Shepherd, Pacific Breezes, Patience Waltz, Pizza Pie Two Step, Remember Today, San Antonio Rose, Sierra Sunrise, Star Waltz, Steppin' Out, Tammy, Tonight's the Night, and Waltz Caress.
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