At 89, Ernie Kinney is the oldest active square dance caller in the world. That’s according to CALLERLAB, the International Association of Square Dance Callers.
The former Marine and schoolteacher has called all over the world and in all 50 states. These days, he’s still in demand — just sticking a little closer to his longtime Fresno home. He calls every Monday night in Hanford, about 45 minutes away. And every Thursday, dancers dressed in Western wear can find him calling for the Travelin’ Pioneers Square Dance Club at the Clovis Senior Center outside Fresno.
“I’m the only caller who still uses 45 rpm records. That’s all I have. I don’t want to do that other stuff. I’m not gonna be here that much longer anyway,” he says. “I’m gonna retire probably in 15 years.”
Mirdza Ward does round dance cueing and has spent plenty of time around Kinney.
“You go to other states and you talk to your square dance friends and they cannot get over that we can dance to Ernie Kinney every week!” she says. “They’re very jealous of that.”