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Interview with Eunice Goundrey

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Goundrey, Eunice ; Wood, Wanda


Eunice Goundrey talks about her family's past and her mother's encouragement of her dance career from her childhood through her training at Ballet Arts School (New York, N.Y.) and the Roy and Jane Dodge school and her career as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall. She discusses the impact of being a Rockette and later touring with the Roxyettes, a travelling dance group. She discusses her years teaching dance to children, methods of teaching, dancing as therapy, and highlights specific people and students that affected her in particular.




This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: Broome County Oral History Project, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information.

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Broome County Oral History Project


42:08 Minutes


Broome County Oral History Project

Interview with: Eunice Goundrey

Interviewed by: Wanda Wood

Date of interview: 22 June 1978

Wanda: This is Wanda Wood interviewing Miss Eunice Goundrey of 17 Esther Avenue, Binghamton[, New York]. The date is 22 June, 1978. Eunice, you've, um, been a dancer most of your life. And we'd like to, ah, hear some of your viewpoints and experiences in that line. Also, anything else that you want to put on tape for this historical project. To begin with, where were you born, and what was your family background?
Eunice: I was born in Binghamton, ah, in the old city hospital which is now General Hospital. Ah, my mother and father were both Binghamtonians. Ah, my mother's family was the, ah, S.J. Kelley engraving company and my father's family…ah, my granddad was Glen Goundrey. And, ah…at one time, he was a blacksmith in the area. And he went into building custom truck bodies and eventually, as he got older, was in charge of the Spaulding Bakery, ah, garage. And that's where he retired from.
Wanda: Did he have his own business, this truck building?
Eunice: Yes. On Noyes Island. Yes. Yeah. Yes. The Goundreys were originally from the Elmira area—Watkins Glen—and then they, they moved to Binghamton.
Wanda: So your early years were spent right here on Esther Avenue, were they?
Eunice: Yes.
Wanda: And you've been here ever since?
Eunice: I think I'm one of the very, one of the very few people that is still living in a home that she was brought to as a baby. [laughter]
Wanda: That's true, in this day and age.
Eunice: I've gone away and come back and decided this is where I wanted to stay.
Wanda: Well how did you get started with, with, ah, dancing? What was your, who influenced you the most on that?
Eunice: My mother.
Wanda: Your mother.
Eunice: My mother was a dancer. Ah, she had had dance training, and though she didn't go on professionally with it, everybody that I have ever talked with, ah, said that, ah, she…had that something extra special that, ah… I never saw my mother dance. And I'm sorry I didn't, but by the time I came along, you see, she had retired and had started to teach, but I—ah, there were no movies at that time for us to capture her, but, ah, she apparently was the darling of Binghamton as far as dance was concerned, and, ah, not so much now because most of her contemporaries are gone, but, ah, people while I was younger would say, "Oh your mother was absolutely, you know, just a beautiful dancer." So she started to teach, anyway, and as my sister and I came along she felt that dance was very much a part of every person's education—whether you used it or not—you benefited from it. So when we were three, four, five years old she had ballet classes and we were expected to take them. So we, ah, did our duty. And you know, Mommy was the teacher and, ah…as we got older, she felt that we should have other training besides just what she could give us.
Wanda: Was she mainly a ballet dancer?
Eunice: Yes. She did very little tap dancing, but, ah, some people come to town—ah, Lou Fields and Jack Evans, which she felt—um, were of good caliber and so she enrolled us in their school for the tap dancing and continued the ballet with us and from then on, you know, we went on. But she—ah, Mommy was the biggest influence. She never pushed either of us into the dance, but she encouraged us, and I think there's a difference.
Wanda: And did your sister continue…to dance?
Eunice: Through high school she did, but she didn't care anything about going on further with it. And, ah, when I was in high school, I was teaching for Fields and Evans and had made up my mind I definitely was never going to be a teacher. I was off to New York to perform and that's all there was to it. Well, I knew I had to go to school, you know, to get added training and so forth, but, ah, I never dreamed I would come back and be a teacher and find the fulfillment in it that I have found.
Wanda: That's marvelous. So, so where did you continue with your dance lessons after you…?
Eunice: I went to the—um, Ballet Arts School in Carnegie Hall for ballet and I also went to the Roy Dodge school, for tap. Jazz was just, just beginning to come in, so that it was just one of those things, you don't know whether it's going to take hold or not and my interest was in the tap and, and the ballet anyway, so that was where I fitted.
[Interruption from a motorbike]
Wanda: Then—ah, how long—did you live in New York while you were going to these two different schools?
Eunice: Yes—um, Shirley Lewis was a former neighbor of mine and she was at NYU at the time, and she was looking for a roommate at the time that I was looking for a place to stay. And—ah, so our mothers got together and decided that the two of us should be roommates.
Wanda: And how old were you at the time?
Eunice: Eighteen. [laughter]
Wanda: Whee—alone in the big city, eh?
Eunice: Yes. Yeah. So I went to school and—ah, for a year. Just about. Yes. And then I took the audition at...well, I decided it was about time I made some money and that was a laugh. Um—I—but I wanted to do theatrical work as opposed to nightclub work. So I took an audition at—ah—the Latin Quarter, and also at Radio City Music Hall. And the Music Hall audition came first but—ah, they said they would let us know, which is normal, and then I got a recall from Music Hall. There were about a hundred girls in the first call—in audition—and then they asked a few of us to come back again. And out of that there were another hundred that were all there for audition. And out of—well, what turned out to be about two hundred girls, six of us were chosen. And at the time that acceptance came through, ah, the day before the acceptance had come from the Latin Quarter and I was really upset because I, I didn't really want to do the nightclub work. And I thought—but, you know, I really should do something. And then the Music Hall acceptance came, so I—that's the one I took—and I've never been unhappy. Nightclub work is different than theater—ahm—it's very often—ahm—at the time—ahm—a case where you, ah, must sit down with the customers and, you know, mingle a little bit. Nothing beyond that, but…ah, between shows, I wanted the time to myself. And, you know, I wanted to be a dancer, period. And in the theater you get that—ahm, in nightclub work, you're not so apt to.
Wanda: The Latin Quarter has folded, hasn't it?
Eunice: Yes…yeah.
Wanda: And Radio City Hall has nearly folded.
Eunice: Yes, it's on its last legs. Yes. Yeah. Ahm—this, ah, last season. Where as I understand it, the state has taken over the payroll and will keep it open at least for another year.
Wanda: And with the Rockettes.
Eunice: Yes. And the Rockettes now are being starred as they ought to be.
Wanda: Good.
Eunice: Ahm—I had a notice from the alumni association saying that in this last show that they're doing, the girls are doing three different numbers instead of just one appearance, as they usually do. So the girls—I'm sure they're not getting any more money—but they are at least, you know, coming into their own. Because whenever anybody speaks about Radio City, ahm, Music Hall, it's the Rockettes that come to mind.
Wanda: Naturally.
Eunice: So, ah…but they were always kind of played down as part of the production. And now they are the featured ones. Which is good.
Wanda: So the publicity hasn't been bad.
Eunice: No. No. It's a shame, though. Now the last show before the supposed closing, the crowds were around the blocks again and, you know, people were standing in line two and three hours to get in, waiting to get in the way it used to be years ago. And since the reprieve (chuckle) has been given—ahm—the crowds are down again and, ah, so I don't know whether it's the fact that, ah, Music Hall has outlived itself. I know other large theaters in New York…got to that point, but, ah, if it has outlived itself, I will feel better that they have had a year to think it over. Ah—I was told that in December they had gotten all their union contracts signed and were breathing a sigh of relief because that gave them all another two years, you know, before this hassle would start again. And then in January the management announced that the Hall would close. So everybody was panic-struck. And—ah, you know, to me they, they were going to make a major decision with not enough time to think about it. They, to me they will never be able to replace a building like that. The—ah, it was built during the Depression when labor was cheap. Ah—it has facilities in it that probably never could be re—ah—produced, you know, this day and age. Ah—so—to have it torn down and then three or four years from now say, “Gee, you know, we don't have any facility like this." I feel in a year's time they will have at least had a chance to think it over. If then they decide to do it, I will—I will not be happy, but at least I'll feel that they have followed through.
Wanda: Do you remember the physical layout? Was it built especially for the theater?
Eunice: Yes…yeah.
Wanda: It was probably quite revolutionary at the time, then, wasn't it—when it was built?
Eunice: Yes. That stage, Wanda, is half of the size of a football field. And—ah, you know, beside all the mechanical things that I, I don't know anything about, you know, but—just to lift that huge—big—ah, front curtain took systems that were almost unheard of at the time that that was built in ‘32. So it's, uh, it was…
Wanda: What were the living facilities like in the—in the theater? Didn't you have a place—
Eunice: No, you never lived in the theater. There was an infirmary and there was a—well, like a, a den sort of thing for the girls to relax in. There was a cafeteria downstairs. That was for all the Music Hall force. Ah, anyone employed there was, you know, could eat there. Ahm…but it was, it was a glorified backstage life. Ahm—primarily dressing rooms and rehearsal halls. There is a rehearsal hall above the theater, ahm, that is, has the same dimensions as the stage. So that the 36 Rockettes, for instance, could, could get in the rehearsal hall, you know, to do a complete rehearsal…with no problems…with spacing and everything else.
Wanda: Were there backup girls to—ah, in case somebody couldn't go on?
Eunice: There were always thirty-six on stage and twelve on vacation. So if there was a problem then one of the girls on vacation would be called back in. Now you were called—ahm—it was three weeks on, three weeks on stage and one week off, but of that one week off you had to rep—I think—as I recall the week went from Wednesday to Tuesday. So you were required to be back in there on Sunday to find out your spacing from the week that you were coming in. So you didn't really have a full week off. You weren't dancing on stage, but you were, you know, required to be around. Ah—no—many a girl went on stage feeling—very badly, but ahm, the shoes went on and costume went on and the dance went on and you went off and you laid down between shows and you started all over again [chuckles] for four or five shows a day.
Wanda: And how often did they change the theme of the, the show? There was always a terrific thing about the Easter show and the Christmas show and the seasonal—
Eunice: Well, the holidays—ahm—governed the change of that particular—of the holiday shows, but basically it was the attraction of the movie that governed the stage show. If people were not coming to see the movie then we might run three weeks. If they were piling in, we might do the show for five weeks, because the, the stage show never changed unless the movie changed. So…and then, ah, we would have a week's notice because the, the planning—the preliminary work—is done far in advance for a show, but for staging it, it's all done within a week's time. So Mr. Markert, the Director of the Rockettes at the time, said that if you couldn't learn a routine in a week he couldn't use you. So you're learning one routine while you were dancing on stage doing another one, and—ah, it's an experience but it's, it's, ah…
Wanda: Must have been a fast pace.
Eunice: It was. I enjoyed it very, very much. I was also very glad to get out of it. [laughs]
Wanda: What do you suppose the average, ah, time was that a girl would stay with the Rockettes?
Eunice: I don't know the average. Ahm—some of the girls were there for years, and years and years. Ahm—one of the girls, I know, opened the Music Hall and she retired about ten years ago, you know, and I'm sure that was the exception, but—a lot of the girls stayed for a long, long time and there were others that didn't, and I was one of them.
Wanda: Do you keep in touch through this alumni association that you have?
Eunice: Yes. Ahm—during all this furor of Music Hall closing, ahm—of course there was a lot of publicity in all parts of the country. And, ah, I made a couple of phone calls to girls that I had…I knew their names but I, you know, had long since lost touch with them...but—ahm—when they wanted to interview me here on the radio, I wanted to be sure my facts were up to date, so I got in touch with one and she put me in touch with another one and—it was very interesting. There is a bond from having worked at Music Hall .. that is lasting. It doesn't make any difference whether you knew that particular person at the time or not. Ahm—the fact that you were somebody that worked in the, in the Hall, that, that makes it. So—I have a great big family that's spread all over the country.
Wanda: A very exclusive club, I would say.
Eunice: Yes. Yes. We're all very proud to have worked there and been part of it. 'Cause it's—ahm—well, it's unique. Ahm, there's no other house in all the world like that. The seating capacity is, think it's 6200. That's a lot of seats to fill every day—four times a day, and that's what it really should be doing, you see. And that's the problem now, that, ah, they're not filling those 6200 seats.
Wanda: Well, New York itself has changed so much and so people are a little reluctant to go, just for—
Eunice: I am a little reluctant to go, even—these days, ahm. If I am in the City for a dance convention or something of the sort I always go to Music Hall. I, you know I like to go and I know that's one place I can take any of my students and not have to worry about what they're going to see, but we used to always go to the last show—the nine o'clock show—and then go back to the hotel. Now we never wait for the last show, we go to the early evening, you know, six-thirty, seven o'clock, so I can get those kids in off the street.
Wanda: Sad.
Eunice: It is. So—and I know the people around the New York area itself are worse than I am. They won't, and they won’t go on the streets of New York after dark. So if that's the feeling in the metropolitan area, nothing's going to…I don't think, you know, be a great big moneymaker until the climate of the city changes. People going to theaters will get a hotel and—ah, take a cab and get a cab outside the theater and go back to the hotel. They're—ah, very much afraid to be on the streets. And when I was living down there I felt just as safe as anything. No qualms at all. I walked the streets completely by myself and—no worry at all, but I, I don't have that feeling now. And I don't think it's all me, having gotten older and looking at things differently. Ahm—when my brother-in-law was alive, ahm—and Dick was Assistant Chief of Police here, and he used to warn me, and when he and my sister were first married he never said a word. But he would say, you know, "You just—be careful where you go," and from him that was enough, because, that was enough warning. He was not an alarmist.
Wanda: So you're very lucky to be there at the time that you were, weren't you?
Eunice: I think so. Yes. Yeah.
Wanda: It would be an entirely different thing now.
Eunice: I don't really encourage my kids—ahm—to think theater and professional dance.
Wanda: Your students.
Eunice: Mm-hm. If they want to, you know, I would not discourage them, but at one time, you know, the only reason you danced was so that you could be on stage or—or—ah, continue with the dance part of it in some way and, ahm, I have felt or a long, long time and perhaps because of my mother's influence again, ah—dance should be a part of everybody's education. If, if you dance you will appreciate it, you'll also understand it better and you gain from the discipline that is required from it, as well as the grace and the poise that comes, you know, from having pursued it a little bit longer. But, ahm, I think more and more people now are looking at it that this will add to a child's education. From…as they get older what they do with it is their own business, but it's still, it's like taking piano or an instrument or it's part of the artistic education…for the youngster.
Wanda: It builds confidence.
Eunice: It does. It does.
Wanda: And poise, as you say.
Eunice: I…one of my favorite stories is, um…a dear little girl that I had years ago. Her mommy, ahm…she was a preschooler and this was such a shy child. Just, she would not come out of her little shell for anything. And we had her in class—we started in the fall, and by springtime that child was flower girl in a wedding, and the mommy said she just pranced down that aisle and nothing bothered her.
And she said, "I have to thank you, because it's the dancing class that has done it."
So it, you know…little things like that, ah, make it worthwhile.
Wanda: Not a little thing, really.
Eunice: Well, no. If you can bring a child out...yes, it's…it's a good feeling. You know that you've done something.
Wanda: Have you dealt with, ah, children with physical problems that dancing has helped?
Eunice: One of the reasons that I am in business right now is that, ah, when I first came back from New York, my mother got a call from a friend of hers saying that—ah, the lady's grandchild had been run over by a car and both her legs had been broken. Her doctor had taken her as far as he could, and now she needed some exercise—supervised exercise. And he recommended dancing. And would, this lady asked my mother if she would take this child.
And Mommy said, "No.” She had hung up her dancing shoes for the last time. But she said, "Eunice is home and maybe she would do it."
Well, when I came home I didn't want to teach. That was not—I didn't know what I was going to do, but I wasn't going to teach. So I thought it over and I thought, “Well, I'll take this child with the idea that, you know…if I decide I'm not going to do this, ahm, I will warn the grandmother ahead of time.” Well, that was perfectly Okay. So I took the child, and we began to see the improvement in her. And she was with me for quite a while, and then they moved away, and—
Wanda: How did you start with her? What did you do to begin with?
Eunice: Basic ballet exercises because the ballet will tone all muscles, and it makes them work, and…ah, with this youngster I had to be careful that she, ah…we didn't push the muscles too hard, because they were in a weakened state to begin. But, ah, she gave me back as much as I was giving her. And I found this reciprocation was apparently what I needed. The applause was not enough - performing, and I knew. I would sit in the dressing room...there had to be more to life than applause and backstage dressing rooms, and so forth. And, ah…so the more I got involved with the kids, the more satisfied I was.
Wanda: And from that one student you started taking others?
Eunice: Uh huh. And I started that child right here in the living room right in front of the fireplace. We used a dining room chair as a bar, you know, for support for her. And, ah, then the following year, ahm, I sub-leased space in the Masonic Temple from another teacher, and the year after that I was on my own. Still in the Masonic Temple, and I'm still there.
Wanda: Oh, still there?
Eunice: Yep. We did twenty-ninth year this year. In March I was teaching twenty-nine years. Wanda: How many recitals is that?
Eunice: About twenty-eight.
Wanda: Yeah?
Eunice: Mm-hm. And I have no idea the number of children I've handled, you know, in that length of time. Ahm…I would say probably close to 3,000. That doesn't seem possible! (laughter). But I'm getting, now, some children of—of students of my own, you know, that I had when they were young. It, ahm—
Wanda: Amazing.
Eunice: Yes, it it's very amazing to me because I don't feel that much older. You know, how can  these girls have babies of their own that they're bringing to me? [laughter]
Wanda: Well, it's been good for you physically, too - this sort of work, hasn't it? Keeps you young.
Eunice: I've been very happy in the business. Yes. I think anybody dealing with children...stays young. And of course the dance business is an active profession. I'm not one that can sit in a chair and teach. I'm up working with the kids and—ahm, so that does keep me physically active and I hope physically young.
Wanda: When do you start with them, what ages?
Eunice: I don't take them before they're three and a half. There are, there are teachers that will take them younger than that, but I feel that's glorified babysitting.
Wanda: Oh.
Eunice: I want them to have an attention span where I can work with them. Ahm—they are not going to be ballerinas or tap dancers—well, I don't put them in tap classes 'til they're five—but they aren't going to be little ballerinas, ahm, by the time they're four and a half. But they will at least know what it is to take a—a dance lesson, and they know that, ahm, we work for a while and we also play, but we work first and then we play. And it's, it's very nice to see these children, ahm, learn the patterns that are expected of them. And I find even with the older ones that...maybe some of the problem in today's society is that kids are not given enough responsibility. When we did recital last weekend, I had no adults backstage at all. And I never have had to have. I ask my teenagers if they will take over a group of younger children and be responsible for them so they are where they're supposed to be. And when the teenagers dance, then the little ones have to stay and watch and—ah, no hitches at all, and I have never had any problems. The older ones assume the responsibility and they know I expect it of them and, ahm…they don't let me down. So I—ahm—I wonder if, if maybe we're doing too much for our kids, rather than…
Wanda: I agree.
Eunice: …rather than, you know, making them, ahm, letting them grow up and do the things that they ought to do as young people, if we are not trying to do too much for them ourselves.
Wanda: And accept the responsibilities as they grow into it.
Eunice: Mm-hm.
Wanda: Then—ah, have you had—ah, some special students that you'd like to talk about—that made a career of it or anything like that?
Eunice: No, ahm—one of my students—ah well, we had two of the girls…audition for, ah, one of the Roxy Theater lines. That was for one of the touring lines, and they both made it, and I was naturally very proud and the kids were pleased. So they were to go to New York for rehearsal and, ah, I think they worked for maybe three or four weeks. Ah—that's the way it was when I was working for them—and then they would go on tour. And the girls were there one week and one of them got homesick, and the other one wouldn't stay without her and so that was the end of that. (laughter). But none of my other kids have been really professionally inclined. My niece is a fine little dancer, but she has done it and completely enjoyed it, but doesn't want to follow it. She thought when she started in at Harpur last year, she might want to be a lawyer—ahm—she's not so sure she wants to do that now—ahm—she's, you know, just taking a liberal arts course, but it's—ah, there again, it's her life. She must do what she wants to with it that will satisfy her, not her mother or me or anybody else.
Wanda: The dancing has been a good discipline along the way.
Eunice: Very good...very good. Ahm—and she has a real flair for it. Ahm—it's—you know, I think she could do something with it if she decided she wanted to, but apparently that's not going to fill her life for her. She wants something different. And she has taught with me, you know, on a part-time basis, and she has a great way with the kids, so—um, if she ever decides, you know, that she wants to teach as a sideline for whatever profession she chooses, she can do that and, and still, you know, enjoy her dancing. But she continued this, this year even though she has been to college and, and I have no reason to think that she won't stick with it another year or two. So it's—ah, there's a lot of self-satisfaction that comes out of it as well as satisfying somebody else. It's, it's…I, I think it's, it's a two-way street.
Wanda: Do you have any preference for, for teaching ballet or tap? What other types of dancing?
Eunice: There is modern jazz, too. Twenty years ago I would have said yes, very definitely, that I had a choice—ahm—the tap was always my favorite, but if, now, if somebody said, "You may teach one or the other," I would feel that I had lost one arm or the other if I couldn't do, you know, everything. Ah—it becomes—each is a different expression and you're able to bring different things out of different people with different types of dance.
Wanda: Modern music seems to fit in with the jazz type of dancing.
Eunice: Yes. Now...the...young teenagers—they love the jazz, and, ahm—that—a ballet background helps in that. And a little bit of tap doesn't hurt either, but—ahm—the jazz is, is an expression for the young people.
Wanda: More than an interpretive thing, isn't it?
Eunice: Well—uhm—interpretive to a point. When you're doing modern jazz you're always interpreting somebody else's choreography. In my studio it's my choreography. Ahm—the way I would choreograph a routine. I do encourage the kids to, you know, to give to me what they're feeling with what I'm also giving to them, and—ah, it's very interesting—you get different styles coming out. But I—now there are other schools that there is one style and if you study there, you know, you must have—everybody looks alike…like they came out of a machine. And I, I, I feel that—ah, you know, the kids should be encouraged to express themselves, too. If I see something I don't like, I'll tell them. But I also, if I see something I do like, I tell them.
Wanda: Do you teach—a precision routine in your classes?
Eunice: Yes. That is...I have two precision lines. The junior line I call the Goundrey Girls and the senior line are the Eunettes. And—a—so that the younger kids are working to make a place for themselves in one of these two lines. So we always close the recital with the Eunettes. That has been forever and ever and ever, and it probably will be until they roll me out in a wheelchair. [laughter]
Wanda: With a high kick, huh?
Eunice: But it's—you know we all have our, our own thing that we do, and our studio crowd now expects the Eunettes to close the show and so we do. The thing that is difficult these days is to find music for a line routine. Now that sounds strange, but the disco beat is not a precision line beat, and it's very difficult. And this year we went back to—ah, a version of “In The Mood” for the Eunette number.
Wanda: Is that a fact!
Eunice: It was a new recording, but it was in the old style and it worked beautifully. In fact the Boston Pops recorded it and so we had a fine orchestra behind us...(laughter) by recording—yep. (Phone rings) Excuse me.
Wanda: Um—could you tell us something about the connection with the Roxy road shows?
Eunice: Yes. After I left Radio City Music Hall…ehm, I, you know…went back to school for a while and—um, I decided that I still had to make some money. I was also working at Wanamaker’s in New York and—ah, I—so I took the audition and—at the Roxy—and at the time they were hiring for dancers that they sent out on the road to do State and County Fair work. And so I—they were hiring, you know, like a hundred girls. There was no competition there, not really. And so I went out on the road the first year and during the summer and, ah, thoroughly enjoyed it. However, my family was not very happy at all. When I said I was going to work in the fairs all they could see was a 'girlie' show. And—I—my grandfather, who was very influential in my life, and when I told him, he just had a fit. And I said, "Grandpa, we will play Elmira," and we were playing in front of the grandstand, which would be an arena-type—today an arena-type show. And, ahm—the Roxyettes did five numbers in the show and then there were vaudeville acts in between. It, it was a very lovely stage show—outdoor presentation. So, ahm, I knew what I was doing, but my grandfather was far from convinced, I'll tell you. And when I came, got to Elmira, he was there waiting. (Laughter). I had made the agreement with him that he would see the show and see the set-up, and if he did not approve then I would leave, I would give my notice. Well he was there—we played Elmira for the week, and he was there the first day and he met the company manager and approved of him, which was one step, and he met everyone else and I think he was there three—or four times during that week, really checkin' this thing out for his grandchild. And—he was there to see us leave on our way to Ottawa then, which was our next stop, and he kissed me and he said, "You have a good time sweetness, you're, you're in good hands." So I got back in after, off that tour—we got back in on a Sunday, and on Monday the theater called and said, "We are doing one of the routines that you did on the road and we need a replacement. Will you please come in?" So I was there then, ahm, you know, for the rest of the time that I was in New York. So, you know, that was a case where they—ahm—apparently had had good reports on me, you know, so I walked right into that—into the theater line, there was no problem. And very much enjoyed it there, but it was there that I began to wonder, you know, is there something more to this life than applause and dressing rooms and what have you?
Wanda: Was that four or five shows a day?
Eunice: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah. And then you rehearsed the one you were going to do, you know, prior to that, in the morning and between shows. But I made some awfully good friends there and I'm, I'm so glad I had the opportunity for those things. And then when I did come home and started to teach, ahm, the Roxy called me back and wanted to know if I wouldn't work summers for them. So I really had the very best of the two lives that I was leading. During the summer I would do the professional work for the Roxy, and I would come back home and open the school in October and work through until June and go into New York and do the same thing over again. And I did that for about seven years. So I finally decided, you know, you must make your choice—one way or the other—and the teaching meant more to me than the performing. And of course when, these days when you're teaching you can still perform with the kids. And so I, I've ended up doing exactly what I wanted to do. I'm so glad somebody didn't say to me, "You must work in an office the rest of your life." (Laughter). Maybe there are a lot of people who wouldn't want to teach dancing, but—
Wanda: Well, how about the costumes? Um—I happen to know that you're a pretty good girl with a sewing machine. Ah—have you always been involved in making and designing the costumes for these recitals?
Eunice: Yes. When I first started to teach we had to make all the costumes and—ah, the years have gone by, so costume business has become very commercial, and by sending measurements to various companies we are now able to buy most of the costumes at a fairly reasonable price. By the time you would figure materials and labor and, you know, having to have someone make them, least when you order them they come...they're all alike. There are very few alterations have to be done on them. They are done with elastic backs or elastic sides, you know, for the heavier child and the slimmer child—to compensate. Ahm, and from the standpoint that I am doing the direction o the show, then I choose the costumes to go with what I feel, you know, is needed. Ah—the parents all pay for the costumes and then the youngsters have them. Ah—there are always a few that I make each year. Ahm, I think I did eight or nine of them this year that—ah, well I wanted a certain thing and I didn't find it, and in one case I had three little boys in, in a tap class, and they were going to be cowboys. And the girls’ costumes that I had found were white and they were trimmed in blue and white gingham. And they were to wear the little white western hats and, you know, have a few blue spangles. So I asked the mommies of the boys to find some gingham shirt. And they scoured this town. And one of the mommies said, "The only thing we have found is a size 8 for twelve dollars." And I said, "No way." So I made them. And we came out much better financially—ahm—and I had exactly what I wanted them to have and—ah, you know, but it, it's a rare case like that, these days, that you can't really find what you're after. Ahm—but there are so many costume houses now that there's usually a pretty good variety, and I purposely don't order from one house because then it gets to be all the same style. But, ah, costuming is a lot easier now than it was twenty years ago.
Wanda: How fortunate! You'd have to have an attic overflowing.
Eunice: Yes. Ohhhh. I do have one set of Santa Claus outfits that I made for my Eunettes, and—ah, that was to be an extra number at one time, so I, I made the big coats, and the girls wear red tights, you know, because for a dancing girl you have to be able to see their legs, so—ah, the Santa Claus jackets and caps I kept myself. And at Christmas time when we go around to the nursing homes and so forth, then I bring these out and whoever happens to be in the line at the time wears them—there's no real fit to them—and, ah, that makes a very nice closing to our Christmas program, see. But—ah—yes, there are many things in my attic!
[both laugh]
Wanda: Well, and a lot of memories in your head, too, and I thank you very much—
Eunice: I've enjoyed this.
Wanda: —for telling us about it.
Eunice: It's fun to reminisce!
Wanda: It certainly is.

Date of Interview



Wood, Wanda


Goundrey, Eunice


42:08 Minutes

Date of Digitization



Broome County Oral History Project

Subject LCSH

Goundrey, Eunice -- Interviews; Broome County (N.Y.) -- History; Rockettes (Dance company); Dancers -- Interviews; Radio City Music Hall (New York, N.Y.); Ballet Arts (New York, N.Y.); Roxyettes (Dance company); Dance teachers

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This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: Broome County Oral History Project, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information.



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The Broome County Oral History Project was conceived and administered by the Senior Services Unit of the Office for the Aging. Funding for this project was provided by the Broome County Office of Employment and Training (C.E.T.A.), with additional funding from the Senior Service Unit of the National Council on Aging and Broome… More

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“Interview with Eunice Goundrey,” Digital Collections, accessed December 5, 2023,