The Orange County History Center honored Pounds Studio for 70 years of teaching dance and manners to Orlando society. Pictured are Mrs. Ruth Pounds, left, founder of the studio, and her daughter, Peggy Jo Pounds van den Berg.
The mother and daughter instructors taught 70 years of dance classes between them and thousands of Orlando students. Listen as Peggy Jo Pounds van den Berg tells the history.
I’m Peggy Jo Pounds van den Berg and I say that because I was born here in Orlando and we had a studio called Pounds Studio so that’s why I put the Pounds in there. It was a dance studio. We taught teenagers mostly seventh and eighth graders and it was something that my mother started in ’34 when she was voted Best Dancer in her Orlando High School Class of ’33.
LISTEN Part I (19:07)
So a girl by the name of Jane Maguire, and Maguire Boulevard is named after her family, Jane asked mother if she would teach her to dance before prom and mother did. But Jane brought friends. I think maybe the first time mother just taught them, and then they wanted to come back. So they decided it would be a quarter each time and they put that on the mantle. But friends brought friends and it grew from there.
There was Memorial and Cherokee and they were only two junior high schools in Orlando and that’s where the classes came from, but the kids would ride their bikes over; it was safe to do. There were those two schools. When I ended up teaching I had 35 different schools so that shows you how Orlando changed. We taught 70 years between us. I started in ’53. I came home from college to help mother because by that time she was no longer teaching in her living room. But they had built a studio on Edgewater Drive…. We didn’t tell the kids they were learning ballroom dancing, so we said, “Social dancing.” Also, manners, that’s just one of the things my mother instilled.
And actually way back when my father was very young and during The Depression my grandfather had owned a crate mill where they made crates for oranges and my grandfather died and it was left to my father. And during The Depression he lost it. He did things like, one of the things he did was to teach welding at the vocational school. And he ended up teaching manners to the boys that were taking welding lessons. And then during WWII he went to Brunswick, Georgia and built the Liberty Ships. And he taught welding there in Brunswick. And I don’t know how many ships they put out every week, but I was recently in Brunswick and was reading about it. So I was real proud of my father for being responsible for those Liberty Ships which were very important during WWII.
Yes, we taught up until, I forgot what year it was, but I was 71 when I retired and that’s when The History Center honored us for our 70 years of teaching. We taught the waltz, and the foxtrot, jitterbug, cha–cha, everything, line dancing, mixers, just to make it fun for them. We would have our spring dances at the Orlando Country Club.
Later, when the Country Club had to be members with so many it just didn’t work. So we went to Isleworth and our spring dances were at Isleworth. But our Cotillion, mother had the Junior Cotillion of Orlando and the cotillions were held at the University Club.
Mother got where she couldn’t teach any longer and the classes were turned over to me. I used the studio for 16 years and she never went up on my rent. Daddy was having to change the light bulb and things up on a ladder and they were getting up in years so I said we don’t have to keep this studio. You know I can teach other places. So they put a “For Rent” sign – she had two sides – she built the first side and bought the property from the Miner family. The had Velda ice cream and the Velda lot was there. She then, after so many years she built a larger side. So she had put a sign on the smaller side “For Rent”. And somebody saw it and thought it was for sale so they wanted to but the building for a restaurant. Then someone wanted to buy it for a bank. Then someone wanted to buy it for an insurance company. And that was Ted Eidson, I had gone to school with his wife Betty… Her father had an office on Lake Eola. So that’s what we did. Mother sold the building and I then taught in Windermere, Winter Park, and South Orlando at the Fort Gatlin Recreation Center. And I did that for a number of years until I said I retire…
One week I would have the girls and we would shake hands and they would say their full name, not just I’m Betty or Mary, and then they had to introduce. When they were dancing they had to change partners and introduce each other. But I’d do the girls one week and the boys the next week… It was everything from table manners to how to treat a lady on a date. And they seated the girls properly at the Cotillion. They had to do that and if I went over to the table the young men, the gentlemen were supposed to stand.
There’s several thoughts that I would quote to the boys and girls: Manners easily and rapidly become morals. Politeness goes far but costs nothing. Want to know the real person shake his hand. The way a person shakes hands can tell more about his character than anything he says. The hand is an extension of the personality. Your handshake is of great social significance….
Then we also did the RSVP. And with the RSVP… if it says Regrets Only and you plan to attend you need not call. But people often don’t reply when they’re supposed to. We had them write and I sent samples home with them on how to write a thank you note or an acceptance… Etiquette is really the conventional rules for behavior in polite society….
You know I’d say things about go to the door for your date. You don’t just sit out and honk… Standing, of course, if a lady enters a room… You go to the door when guests leave… Gentlemen do not sit until all ladies are seated. If a couple’s walking on a sidewalk who should walk on the streetside? The man. There’s always the ‘yes, please’ and ‘no, thank you.’ Are you prompt? It is rude to keep someone waiting. If a visitor is in your home and a telephone rings, of course, if you must, answer it…, “Please excuse me.” And nowadays, it’s the phones at the table, the phones in meetings and I don’t know what it’s coming to. It’s thoughtless….
LISTEN Part II (16:31)
Teaching Manners and Dance to Adults
It was Ernst and Whinney, its Ernst and Young now. I thought that was very impressive that they wanted their young executives to know manners. And so we did something at the country club that was corporate, two to three hours. During the disco days we had adult classes also. Then another time Linda Chapin who was the county chairman asked a whole group, Tom Wilkes and one of the judges. It was a wonderful group and they wanted to learn the waltz because they were going to a ball. There were probably ten couples… What they didn’t tell me and what they probably didn’t know was that it was a Viennese waltz which is very fast… I said to them, because they invited us to go, “Well just do the same thing I taught you but faster because Viennese waltz is very fast. But that was a fun group. Then years ago a group of doctors wanted to learn the cha cha. Well, they’re used to standing, but dancing. They said the next morning the muscles in the back of their legs were very sore… I worked with different adult groups over the years. Mother started them and then when I took over I still had some adult classes….
Weddings and Careers
Marcia Anderson and Speedy Murphy met at the house when mother was teaching at home. Yes, they did marry. And then when I married in ’54 they kidnapped me and took me to their house – Martin Anderson was her father. And we went to her home to see the morning paper. Well, my husband did find me. He kind of figured it out since they kidnapped me that they’d probably taken me to their house. They were one of the couples. Skip and Carol Wilson. Well, I can’t think of all of them, but there was a lot of them. One was Keene McPherson. You know, R.D. Keene, the granddaughter and Steve Powell met there and fell in love and married. Yes, it happened.
LISTEN Part III (12:54)
Mother, particularly received so many letters. One was from Davis Gaines, who became, you know on Broadway. He was the phantom. But he said he got his first role, he was one of mother’s helpers, he got his first role because he knew how to waltz…. And then Johnny McKnight. He was in one of these pictures. He went out to Hollywood. He never had a starring role or anything. He was in many movies on the dance floor with Fred Astaire or in Towering Inferno. I can’t name all the movies, but he had a good time knowing how to dance.
Royal’s, there was another dance studio in College Park. There was a story there. They taught ballet and tap and all that. But Edith Royal started ballroom and it made mother mad. So we were up in New York at a dance workshop and we met someone who wanted a job in ballet and tap so mother invited her to come down and teach that in the small studio. Se by this time she had built the large one. And that was just because Edith Royal had gone into ballroom which was nothing but greed. Mother kind of got back with her a little bit because the girl was not with us too long….
Miss Manners of Orlando
My mother’s mother.. her mother came from Kentucky with four children, worked at Dickson & Ives as a seamstress and I think mother got 15 cents a day for her lunch. She came from hard times. She really did and she said the first tea she went to that she put lemon and sugar and cream and it curdled. The hostess said, “Ruth, would you like another cup of tea?” And she said, “Oh no, that’s the way I like it.” And she had never been to a tea before. So she learned as she went from coming from hard times to where she ended up. It’s just like she was Miss Manners of Orlando.
And as far as being involved in the community, not so much anymore. But I did work on a benefit for Lighthouse which is for the blind. And they honored Carl Langford and I was asked to speak and so I did that. And I’m not real active in Orlando Remembered, but I love it and I’ve been in it from the beginning and I actually named it. I went back so far as with that. I was asked to join it because they wanted to make money for Orlando Remembered and we thought the best way would be to have OHS, Orlando High School homecomings. And that was the classes of 1927 through “52. And I did five of those over the years. And we didn’t raise a whole lot of money because we didn’t charge a lot. But we wanted people to come and not to be concerned that it would cost too much. Those were fun. And now I just play bridge. I’m a lady of leisure. At 80 I’m just happy to be here and active…Now the members of Orlando Remembered are dwindling. Those that have been on for a long time, we’ve lost so many and including Carl Langford, Duke Crittenden, Bill Coleman and on and on, and Andy Serros who started it….
Orlando Natives and Orlando Remembered
Now I started Orlando Natives in 1990. And you have to be born in Orlando and over 50. And we have a luncheon every other year. And so that’s been going on for 25 years. And well, I got the idea 25 years ago. So that’s Orlando Natives.
Orlando Remembered… we put the memorabilia displays in the downtown buildings and that, I think, there are projects that some of them are very easy to do and some of them are very difficult because we don’t have the memorabilia. Bit we have pictures and that’s pretty much what we have to go by sometimes. But it’s, we are a committee of the Historical Society, or The History Center. Bill Coleman, this was all a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce and there were jut four of us there, I think, Bill Demetree, maybe Jack Kazanzas, he was the father of the Christmas star… and we were throwing names around and when I said, “Orlando Remembered.” That hit. And that’s when it became Orlando Remembered….
Orlando Natives… since 1990, every even year, so we just had one [luncheon] at the Rosalind Club. Before it was at the Orlando Country Club. We’ve used Dubsdread…
The City Beautiful
All I can think of is how innocent we were when we were growing up and it truly was the City Beautiful.
And then it became the Action City. And now I guess were back to the City Beautiful… I think around Lake Eola that’s beautiful, some of the things they’ve done not everything…. I was going down West Colonial, my father was driving and it was a two lane red brick road and he hit a cat. And it didn’t kill it completely and he had to put it out of its miseries. Well, I just thought, oh, please, please, no car come. Now if you can imagine West Colonial and I’m talking before Orange Blossom Trail, before Orange Avenue, and no car came. I mean that’s a small town. And they had to take all those Live Oaks out to four lane it or whatever they did. But that’s just one little thing I can think of to think how small we were and how beautiful we were. Trees are gone. And so, it’s still home and always will be.
Peggy Jo van den Berg Part II