"Couples Dancing" through the 1960's was pretty much nill for the entire decade. The California West Coast Swing dancers formed "Dance Clubs" to try and keep the street dances alive (Non-Ballroom Couples dances), with West Coast being the main style in these clubs. People like Kenny Wetzel, Jack Carey, Herb and Rosalie Rosen, Dean Collins, Al White and a few others etc.
Then the 1970's came along and "Disco Dancing" became the craze. This was a good thing because it brought back "Couples "Touch" dancing together". These clubs in fear of "SWING DANCE" (All forms of swing) dying out, tried various things to stay alive. This included dancing West Coast Swing to "Disco Music," entering "Disco Dance Contests" while dancing West Coast Swing to Disco Music trying to encourage people into the dance. Plus it really fit quite well considering, and the music and was alot of fun as well.
During the early 1980's, there were a few states who had gotten Legislature to pass a bill to proclaim their dance as the official state dance of their state. About 1986/7, The "United States Swing Dance Council" (namely Robert and Connie Bryant, Ray Walker and others, based in Arizona) was born. It was during this period, that they (along with various Dance Leaders in different Regions / States) heatedly worked out the "eight basic patterns" for all the states to adopt, which eventually they pretty much did by bringing in Skippy Blair and Annie Hirsch which are two very well respected leaders in the dance community.
Taking the lead from the others before, they started a 'Pain Staking Campaign' to make "Swing Dancing" as the Country's "National Dance" which would prove very difficult and was suggested to first take on a smaller task ... To Make West Coast Swing the official State dance of California. It was not an easy task and found they needed help. Walt Harmon was assigned as the councils Legislative Liaison director who was already an active swing dancer as well as an established "Legislative Lobbyists" who had contacts with the state capitol.
Mr. Harmon started by enlisting Robert and Connie Bryant, Jack Bridges, Ray Walker, and California Senator Quentin Kopp as an "Advisory Group" to get the effort off the ground. Among other senators to help were Senator Dills, Craven, Keen and Mello. Kopp assumed that task and started writing letters to the senate seeking CO-Sponsorship. The Legislative wheels do not turn easily however and it would take certain "Lubricant" to make them turn, with popular senate support being just the right oil. Many associations jumped on board to help oil the gears such as "Arthur Murray Int'l, California Chamber of Commerce, The Rotary Club of San Francisco, Oakland Association of Insurance agents, Inc, Coca Cola USA", and others.
However, a strong resistance and dis-interest with-in the capitol seemed to prevail. Walt widened the scope with So. California being the weakest link as most of the Assemblymen were from So. California and that was where support was needed the most. Individuals were recruited thru-out California (such as myself, Ed Cirio, Phil Trau. Herb and Rosalie Rosen to name a few) to petition, write letters to the Senators, make visits to City Hall, get others to write letters to senators to pass the Bill etcetera. Just as the Bill was about to pass, the Square Dance community stepped in and gave a strong resistance, wanting Square Dancing as California's official state dance. ... To make a long story short there was a compromise between the two that each could live with.
Finally the bill was passed and West Coast Swing became the official State dance of California and Square dance as it's Official Folk Dance.
For me it was alot of writing letters, Phone calls to the senators and others, a few City Hall Visits, getting almost 9,000 names on a petition (had some help from students), Receiving Phone calls from the senators secretaries asking me to stop ... lol), and drumming up membership support for the council to fund the effort, then finally the phone calls from the assemblymen saying they would approve it.
There were others as well as I, these are the names below that helped pass this Bill that made West Coast Swing the "Official State Dance of California".
The Council Officially Thanked:
Walt Harmon, Connie Bryant, Jack Bridges, Mary Manzella, Phil Trau, Robert Bryant, Ed Cirio, Craig Hutchinson, Dottie Lovato, Chico Maize, Louise DeCarlo, Skippy Blair, Irene Reiger, Mary Collins, Rosalie Rosen, Annie Hirsch, Jack Carey, Darlene Alford, Jack Merritt, Bill Joslin, Lowell Gosser, Janet diPino, Lynda Lord, Laurie Haile', Frank Villages, Michelle Meyers (Kincaid), Cay Cannon, Lew D. Serbin, Ray Walker, Sonny Watson, Sandy Trau, Lee and Linda Wakefeild, John Duffey, John Lee, Diane Durossette, Margo Kura, Geannie Peterson, Mike Sullivan.
We were also asked to sign the Flyer and a Banner accompanying the Bill, which most of us did at the Phoenix 4th of July Dance Convention of that same year.
... Sonny Watson