Shaw recalled as ‘bigger than life’
Lloyd “Pappy” Shaw died nearly 50 years ago, but his memories live on.
His name graces the auditorium at Cheyenne Mountain School, a foundation in his name continues, and now two local dance callers are starting a monthly program at the Carriage Stop to revive the old-time square and round dances he loved (see story, Page 1).
Born in 1890, Shaw became superintendent of the Cheyenne Mountain School District at the age of 26. The school then was K- 12. He was also the high school principal and English teacher and remained in these posts until 1951.
He was controversial for abolishing football at Cheyenne Mountain early on and replacing it with dancing, reportedly because he thought the boy students got too big-headed after they won a state championship and he decided dancing would more equally involve boys and girls. He also dabbled in numerous other activities, often including students. Some of these were horseback riding, camping, gliding, skiing and nature study. Indoor activities included string figures, yoyos, play production and music.
“He was a bigger-than-life personality,” recalled Kent Obee, Shaw's grandson who was 16 when Shaw died. “He was not super-big, but he was over 6 feet tall and had a very commanding presence and a big, booming voice. One of the things that impressed me as a child was his interest in classical music. Then there were only 78s, and he had wonderful rows of albums all over his house. During the war years, he opened his house to Fort Carson soldiers who wanted to listen to classical music.”
Robbie Edwards, who danced on the Cheyenne Mountain team from grades 10 to 12 in the late '40s, recalled him as a “taskmaster” but also someone who would tell jokes and make things fun. In his English class, she said, “We wrote themes each week as if we were submitting them for publication, and he marked them with money,” she said. “That's how we bought our grade.”
The school's dance teams, using Shaw-choreographed figures from various genres, were good enough that they were able to travel around the state and even to the east and west coasts, where people paid to see their show.
The school was much smaller then. Edwards had only 27 students in her senior class of '49, she said.
Clifford and Darlene Howe, who went to Cheyenne Mountain the last two years of the Shaw era, met at the high school. “He had a funny thing,” she said. “It was 'Do-si-do or out you go,' because everyone in school danced in gym classes. You had to try out for the team, and when we were freshmen and sophomores we were able to tour - not with the top team but with the 'B' team, which meant we traveled around Colorado.”
According to Obee, Shaw's research into square dancing - leading to his book, “Cowboy Dances,” in 1939 - stemmed partly from intellectual curiosity and partly “from his desire to find something for the students to do. He believed you educate the whole person, not just to 3 p.m.”
Shaw's own participation as a dancer was cut short around 1940, as the result of an auto accident that shattered his hip. He was forced to walk about with canes after that.
With far less school standardization in those days, Shaw was able to put his personal stamp on Cheyenne Mountain, including recruiting teachers he wanted. One thing he didn't require was lesson plans. According to Obee, Shaw's thinking was, “If you don't know enough to teach kids without a plan, you don't know enough to be here.”
Fortunately for Obee, one of the teachers Shaw wanted was the man who turned out to be his father. Donald Obee, who had been a ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park, came to Cheyenne to teach biology. At the time, as he later told his son, “I wouldn't have known a do-si-do from a garden hose.” But upon his arrival, Shaw invited him to a school square dance, suggesting that his daughter, Doli, could walk him through the steps. “That's how it all began,” the younger Obee laughed.
Doli herself was an accomplished dancer. Several pictures of her, including close-ups with a partner doing the Varsouvianna, a Polish round dance, appear in Shaw's “Cowboy Dances” book, published in 1939.
Eventually, Donald Obee became a caller and president of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation.
Obee's wife, Ruth, mentioned another aspect of Shaw's personality she'd learned about. “On the first day of spring, if it was a nice day, he'd dismiss classes and tell students to go find the first anemone.”
“It must have driven the teachers crazy,” Kent added.
Westside Pioneer article