Dyvart Gordon Rognlien Jr.
aka Helena Handbag
01 Nov 1934 - 05 Apr 2018
Clubs & Associations
The happy times and generous spirit of twenty years of square dancing can linger a long time. Skip was Times Squares' first president, serving two terms. He also served many years working with the IAGSDC and is a past president of that board as well. Thanks, Skip.
In Their Own Words
Thanks for the Memory
One afternoon, with not much to do, I was reading the personal ads in The Native (the GLBT newspaper of the time) and there it was, a small ad announcing that a class was forming to learn square dancing! I had done lots of square dancing in Montana during my formative years and decided that it would be fun to dance in the big city. I called a friend and conned him into attending the first meeting. He agreed.
The group met at a dance studio near Times Square, the first night was sort of crazy. Ron Masker was teaching, Ken Pollack was organizing and trouble shooting. The rest of us were stumbling about trying to figure out who was dancing the female part and who "was a guy". And just what was a "do-si-do".
My friend decided that it just was not for him, and the afternoon of the second session called me to opt out. Well, I was so shy and bashful that I was really hesitant about going there alone and having to actually meet and talk to other gay men. Until then my social life consisted of backroom bars, baths and a total inability to carry on a conversation with anyone.
I decided that I would go to the class ALONE!!!! I started up the stairs and chickened out. What if I don't fit in? What if they don't like me? What if I can't remember my right from my left? I fled to the McDonald's on the ground floor of the building, ordered a cup of coffee and tried to talk myself into returning to the entrance around the corner and forcing myself to climb the three flights to the class. Finally I decided I really wanted to square dance, so with great courage I left and headed around the corner.
I made it up the first flight, paused, started up the second flight, stopped, debated, started climbing, stopped, debated, was just ready to flee uptown to the safety of my apartment when Ken Pollack appeared at the top of the stairs. "Boy, are we glad to see you. Now we have enough for three squares." Had he not appeared at that moment I am sure that I would have wimped out and gone home.
Any way, that was the beginning for me. I got to know the rest of the class. Ron had a teaching list of calls and he would learn them the night before he taught them to us. He was leaning them along with the rest of us! Ken had been to the very first IAGSDC convention in Seattle and was determined to get dancing started in NYC. We kept struggling through Basic and then Mainstream and gradually started to bond with each other. Wonderful friendships were started that still continue 20 years later. Mac and I discovered that we had a mutual friend and we were both to be attending her Christmas party. Several of the dancers knew each other from Sundance Outdoor Group.
I ran into Dick Scott and Pat McFarland shopping at Macy's. Suddenly we were not a bunch of strangers, we were becoming a "group". One night during class Ken brought up the idea of starting a club. He told us to think it over and bring in suggestions about the name, the structure, the purpose, how we would handle dues and finances.
We really got going on the name! There were several choices as I recall, one being "The Manhattan Manhandlers". My, are we lucky that we did not choose that one! Since we were meeting so close to Times Square that seemed the better choice. It did not win by much when the vote was taken.
Several members worked on bylaws. We talked for hours about club shirts, decided we could not afford them and decided on white long sleeved shirts and rhinestone encrusted bandanas around our necks. I ran across the "Brisk Set" machine the other day, ready to attach more jewels should anyone need to.
We became a club, we learned the calls, we had a graduation dance, and best of all, the entire club (except one) attended the second IAGSDC convention in Denver. I am sure that some of the other founders remember more of the details of the founding of the club. There was an election of officers, those elected met at Dick and Pat's to figure out who would fill the various positions.
Much to my surprise I was elected the first President. "He clawed his way right to the top!" said one of the other officers. It was an amazing life journey for me-from being too insecure to climb the stairs to becoming part of the founding of the Times Squares.
The friendships made then as well as in later years still endure. As recently as the 2003 blackout many of us kept in touch about events in NY. The many wonderful friends from various cities made at conventions and fly ins last to this day. Square dancing is a wonderful activity, and hopefully, the Times Squares will continue for years to come and will continue to provide friendship and fun for GLBT people. I am very proud to have been part of its beginning. —Skip Rognlien
- served as president of Times Squares, 1985-1987
- served on the IAGSDC Executive Committee as Chair, 1991-1993
Dyvart Gordon Rognlien, Jr. known by all as “Skip”, died at age 83 in OHSU Hospital, Portland, Oregon on 5 April 2018 of complications arising from a traffic collision two miles south of his home in Wheeler, Oregon on 27 March.
Born to Dyvart Gordon Rognlien and Myrna M. (Cole) Rognlien in Kalispell, Montana on 1 November 1934, he was raised in Kalispell and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Montana, Missoula. He was selected for and trained at the Balanchine School of American Ballet in Manhattan for a year before returning to his first love, theater, which he pursued for the next 50 years in New York City, Sacramento and San Francisco. He was founding President of the Times Squares square-dancing club of Manhattan.
For a time, he was a contractor with IBM’s Media Gallery, and was the principal of Staging Techniques, LLC which staged trade shows for major corporations.
He built a home and moved to Wheeler in 2010 after running a B&B in the Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood of Portland. Skip became a well-known craft artist in the Nehalem Bay area, specializing in leaded windows, fused glass, weaving, knitting and bonsai, and was a regular prize winner at the Tillamook County Fair.
He is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Phil and Mary Margaret Rognlien, of Bigfork, Montana, and a sister, Mary Salsbury, of Post Falls, Idaho.
His keen intelligence, quick wit, and multifaceted creativity will be greatly missed by many adoring friends across the country. Donations in his honor may be made to The Point Foundation (pointfoundation.org) or the Lou Stine fund of the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center of Tillamook, Oregon.
Skip Rognlien lived in Wheeler, Oregon. He died on April 5 and was 83 years old. He was a founding member of the club, served as its president from 1985-1986, and was a co-chair of the 1989 IAGSDC convention, Peel the Big Apple, which was held in New York City. He was also the person who first introduced the application of rhinestones to club paraphernalia.
If you would like to make a donation to a charity in his honor, Skip was particularly fond of these two non-profits: The Point Foundation (a national LGBTQ scholarship fund) and The Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in Tillamook, Oregon.
- 2UL | Times Squares]]
Video montage by Bob Fitterman