By Lu Bennett
Shell Swingers to the Martinez Swingers
Martinez Swingers (aka Shell Swingers) began in 1962 when Frenchy Deschenes and Jack Fleischman, both Shell employees, pulled together a group to dance in the Shell Club House on Arreba Street in Martinez.
Ann and Marvin Wilson (Shell Employees) came over from the Jacks and Jennys to become hard workers to make the Shell Swingers a popular Square Dance Club.
The First Caller was Joe Cook, then Don Adkins and then a couple of others before the club hired popular Joe McNamara to call for them.
Joe called rounds and squares until he retired in 1982. Joe with his taw Ruth were from Vallejo and headed several vacation trips with some of the club members. Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends the club en masse would head for Fort Bragg where we danced with the Beachcombers Club. Favorites we attended being the beach picnic and the Melodrama (Gaslight Gaities) by the Footlighters. We were lucky to have Joe step in and call for some of these events.
While Shell had their long strikes the club scrambled and found the old Pacheco Town Hall you could see the dust fly from the wooden floor when we danced. Most of the club members just dug deep into their pockets to pay the rent and keep the club together. Shell was a great place to dance with their big kitchen, wooden dance floor and lovely wrap around porch to lounge on between tips on warm summer night hoedowns. Some people told us they came for the food.
Dick Henschel and his taw, Vicky, came to the club when Joe McNamara retired in 1982. Dick has been with us until his passing in 2015 and was one of the best callers around.
Changes in management at Shell and lack of Shell members caused the club to move in 1984. With this move the club decided to change their name to the Martinez Swingers. The Martinez Swingers first danced at the Martinez Jr. High School, moving next to an Indian School and finally finding their present home at the Martinez Adult School on Alhambra Avenue.
Our club continues to have a picnic each summer, a Christmas party with dinner and Santa Claus for all of the member families and past members. We also have Thanksgiving potluck for family and friends. Recently we attended a play as a group.
We have a party night once a month. We continue to dance in local parades, at convalescent and the Veterans Hospital several times a year. All we need is to be invited and we usually can pull a couple of squares together.
Our club is open to all who love to dance. Square Dancing is good exercise and makes lasting friendships.