Richard Floyd Burdon
18 Feb 1931 - 19 Jan 2018
Heads To The Center Memorial Panel 3UR
Received 10 Year Medallion at Remake The Circle in 2003
Received 20 Year Medallion at Anchors Aweigh With a Half Sashay in 2003
Received 25 Year Medallion at Touch A Quarter Century in 2008
The Reverend Richard Burdon, Honorable Location Retired, died January 19, 2018.
Reverend Burdon began his ministry career in Central Pennsylvania, serving Dudley and Rehoboth there. In 1962 he became an elder in full connection in the Oregon Conference. He served Wallowa/Flora, American Falls/Aberdeen, and North Bend before going on Voluntary Location in 1970.
In His Own Words
Gay Square Dancing: The Beginnings of The Rosetown Ramblers
Gay Square Dancing stirred a lot of excitement when it began in Portland in the Fall of 1982. Neil Hutchens, a writer and newspaper publisher, had been dancing with a “straight” square dance club and decided to start a Gay and Lesbian club. He invited a straight lady Jan Phipps, a new caller, to teach gays square dancing! Notices were posted inviting people to give square dancing a try. I joined the second class in June of 1983. It was an historic time because there were few social organizations for gay people aside from the infamous baths and bars. We were ready for something new where friendships could be nurtured.
In the early years of our history gay square dancing was looked upon as an “intolerable” activity for gays. Straight dancers considered it to be strictly “their” thing. Nonetheless, an amazing array of people, including some with serious limitations, presented themselves as prospective students. I remember one or two legally blind persons danced with their white canes. Some deaf/hearing couples showed up to gave it a try. The club met these challenges as best we could. Hank Stack, of Channel 8 TV morning ASL interpreted news fame, undertook to develop signs for various square dance calls and taught sign classes for our members.
Being a 50-something just-out-of-the-closet gay man I was intrigued by reports of some of our Ramblers traveling to Seattle to dance with the Puddle Town club. One time they dared to dance on the deck of a ferry boat! Frequently our club members mingled for some great square dance fun. In April of 1984 the Seattle club hosted the First International Gay Square Dance Convention held at The Madison Hotel. Visionaries from several historic clubs set in motion an annual event which has attained a thirty year unbroken stream of fun, socializing, and great dancing
Jan resigned after being “our caller” for two years. We launched a futile search for a new caller. Most straight callers were cautious about their reputations so were dubious about calling for a gay group. In spite of equipment limitations we went about teaching classes with a 45-RPM record player. Several club members would often retire to JR’s West bar for snacks and perfecting our dancing.
Class graduations might have been described as “creative” although hazardous fun. One class of graduates danced with grocery bags covering their heads. Another Graduation was held at the Oaks Park roller rink. Dancers were challenged to execute the calls while wearing only ONE skate. Another time panty hose with a potato in each foot pocket was tied around dancer’s waists—it was comical to watch the flying extensions as the dancers attempted to maneuver without entwining another dancer. In time the initiation rites were tamed--probably in the interests of safety.
Some eager members formed a group called Heads to the Center after learning plus and advanced levels. That group entertained the club and visitors with dance skits complete with custom made outfits! Eventually it became evident we could not accommodate all dance levels on club nights. So HTTC became a separate club.
Detractors from the “straight world” seemed to think we had trespassed into their sacred ground of square dance. At some venues we were allowed to dance on the same floor as long as we “looked straight” [“real” boy/girl configurations]. The 1987 IAGSDC Convention we hosted at the Hilton Hotel was picketed by Pricilla and “friends”. Our guests ignored the gantlet of protesters at the entrance of the hotel and we had a memorable event. As time passed attitudes changed and now we have straight people preferring to join our clubs. We are recognized for our informality and the fun we have dancing.
The memorial service for Dick Burdon is scheduled for his birthday, Sunday Feb. 18th, 2:30 p.m.at Metropolitan Community Church, 2400 NE Broadway, Portland, OR 97232. He died on January 19, 2018.
Dick was a retired Methodist minister, and an avid square dancer. A long-time member of GLAPN, he attended our meetings as long as he was able, and he contributed an article to GLAPN.org about Portland's gay square dance group, the Rosetown Ramblers, which may be viewed at this link.
A quiet revolutionary, Dick opened his SW Portland United Methodist Church for discussion of LGBTQ issues when that was a radical thing to do, and he began scrapbooking stories about LGBTQ people in local media and church publications long before anyone else in the area began thinking about preserving LGBTQ history.