Our History

Chi-Town Squares was formed as a club in 1986/87 by Jerry Cohen and Ron Goodman. Jerry Cohen was a well known leader in Chicago's gay community and helped start many organizations. Ron Goodman was a DJ in various dance bars around the city, working at Carol's Speakeasy on Wells Street at that time.


Ron had learned to square dance in Seattle before he moved to Chicago. David Boyer, manager of CAROL'S at the time, heard of Jerry's wish to start a square dance club which he relayed to Ron. With that, CAROL'S, the last grand disco palace in Chicago, became the first meeting place of the Chi-Town Squares.

After advertising in the local gay newspapers, about thirty students formed the first class in September, 1987. Classes were held at the Wellington Avenue Church at Wellington and Broadway. A live caller was hired to teach the BMP class (basic through plus calls) the first year. A delegation from the club went to the 1988 IAGSDC (International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs) convention, Cross Trails in the Desert, in Phoenix where they were officially accepted into the association.

Chi-Town Squares has continued to grow in numbers, quality of dancing and as hosts for dances ever since. In September 1989, the club hosted its first fly-in, The Great Chicago Crossfire. That fall, the club started its first advanced level class. That fall also marked the landmark year that Lin Jarvis joined the club to teach the basic level class. Lin taught all them and advanced classes for many years. He and his wife Barb became very big supporters of the club and helped us gain acceptance in the straight square dance community.

John Oldfield, our own Club Caller, took over teaching the Advanced classes for many years.  In the fall of 1995 the club offered its first Challenge Level class taught by Saundra (Sandie) Bryant. Saundra is a very well-known international square dance caller and also big supporter of the club. Our present home is Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1640 W. Foster Avenue in Chicago. Most dances and all classes are held there. Our current club callers include Sandie Bryant, Arlene Kaspik, Michael Maltenfort, John Oldfield, Bobby Poyner, Therron Ricks, Kate Reed, and Mark Seaman!

Tenth Anniversary Poem

by Steve Wellman 

Though I haven't seen much glory yet
As the club's self-proclaimed poet laureate
My humble ego was greatly enlarged
When I was approached by the one's in charge
Who ask of me if I would say
A word or two to you today
And since we're here to celebrate
I'm happy to accommodate
I asked myself "what should I say
To make this celebration gay
'Cause happy thoughts I wish to give
I don't want to be negative
So since discretion rules the day
There's quite a bit I cannot say
"Although it would be so inviting
To talk about the petty fighting
And bickering among the board
These things" I said "must be ignored
It should not be among my jobs
To criticize the level snobs
Or those who push like macho men
Or need a shower now and then
I will not bitch when it's my turn
About those who will never learn
Of thinks Advanced is not enough
When they can hardly get though Plus
I can cannot tell them what I think
Of that putrid shade of pink
At times it is a mystery
If I am dancing with a he or she
But it would fill my soul with dread
To talk of this to them" I said
"Whiner whining over money
Callers jokes that are not funny
And Gary's little indiscretion
That thing I would never mention
I'll have to button up my lip
For though its just a Mainstream tip
Regroup is the most common call
These things I won't bring up at all
The vicious rumors we hear so much
A subject I would not touch
I said to me "Do not project
An image that we won't respect
Like how on most Sunday's without fail
While pounding down ice teas on sale
We square up in a drunken trance
And fumble through another dance
A tip we've heard a dozen times
And we break down on 'bend the line'
I also said to me "You hush
About those friends of Mary Jane Rush
The new class starting in the fall
Is well attended I recall
They're checking out the brand new meat"
I said "Now that I can't repeat
The club's disease I cannot say
Is hepatitis B or A
And I won't even start to speak
About the cliques we see each week
And I won't even start to say
Our styling is an awful way
That we do 'Sides face grand square'
to grind an ax would not be fair"
But oh my how the tongues would wag
If I ignored our things in drag
And please forgive me if I quote
From something I already wrote
"The SheDevils without regret
Exude hair spray and body sweat"
But let's not look just at the smell
Each name starts with the letter 'L'
Each SheDevil is heaven sent
And cosmetically incontinent
Applying make-up till its gone
And drunken Leda on the lawn
And the Honky Tonk Queen, Oh, yes it's true
That they've produced not one but two
And both times how they made us proud
'Cause they weren't pulled out of the crowd
No, they were contestants in the show
Unlike a certain Hamm we know
Now all along we've all been told
That Chi-Town Squares is ten years old
But we were not members formally
Until 1988
And so in closing I will state
Although it is inopportune
We're doing this one year too soon
So I propose we find a chair
And do this thing again next year