Ruth Etta (Groves) Klish, "Miss Ruth, Queen of Tap"

Ruth Etta (Groves) Klish was born 22 Sep 1902 at Antioch, West Virginia. She married Louis Klish (1908-1987) on 25 Aug 1942 at Alabama City, Alabama. She taught in Florida before moving to Michigan, where she centered her business at “Ruth’s School of Dancing” in East Tawas from 1938 through 1987.  Ruth died 16 Sep 1991, aged 88, at Tender Care Nursing Home in Tawas City, Michigan and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, East Tawas.

“Miss Ruth” introduced so very many Arenac and Iosco County youths to the performing arts. Classes were held at her East Tawas studio, but she also traveled to community centers and school gymnasiums because most students couldn’t commute. She taught tap dance, baton twirling and acrobatics. Arenac recitals were held in Au Gres, Omer, Standish and Twining. Sometimes Ruth, herself, sometimes appeared as part of the entertainment for community events. Her long-time piano accompanist was Erma (Burnside) Bellville of Whittemore.

Even fifty years after taking Miss Ruth’s classes, former students speak of her fondly. It’s said she was a good “listening ear” and that for some students she became a lifelong friend. Below the digital album are reminiscences sent to us about this well-loved instructor.

Click on the photo to start a gallery. Navigate forward and backward manually. Photo captions/descriptions accompany the photos, and also are in PDF format accessed by the links below the galleries.

Documents (10)

News Clippings (2)

One of our first requests for information about Ruth came from Neil () of East Tawas. Neil said Miss Ruth ran her dance studio in East Tawas for 30 or more years and that she offered dance classes in various Iosco and Arenac County towns.

Carol () (the daughter of Ms Klish’s pianist Erma Bellville) told us that, before moving to the Tawas area, Ms Klish had been in vaudeville and had sheet music signed by Irving Berlin who she personally knew.  Carol thought Miss Ruth had been in the circus in her early years but, after being hurt, had turned to teaching dance.

Elaine from Florida wrote us that she took tap dancing lessons from Miss Ruth in 1947-48 as well as baton twirling and acrobatics (cartwheels, handstands, headstands, etc). She especially remembers a revue at the Omer Community Hall. Elaine told us that she also learned baton twirling, acrobatics, cartwheels, handstands, headstands, etc. Elaine supplied the photo we’ve titled “B/N 1947-48 Elaine in Revue Costume.

Marie in Washington wrote “Miss Ruth was not only my dancing teacher, but a friend and second Mom for 9 years. I can still remember the many times when we climbed up on the flat roof above the dance studio, and just talked, and laid in the sun. We kept in touch over the years until her passing. She was one in a million!” Marie donated two photos that we titled “1953 Marie” and “1950s Miss Ruth.”

Delores in Kalamazoo wrote us that Miss Ruth’s piano accompanist was her Aunt Erma Burnside Bellville. Erma accompanied at classes, recitals and benefits for over 20 years, “by ear” having never learned to read music. In the later years of the dance studio, Erma made records of her music for Miss Ruth’s use. Delores (the writer, Erma’s niece)–who still has her baton–took lessons from Miss Ruth at the Arenac County Normal School at Standish and performed at the high school revues.  Recalling the skills Miss Ruth taught, Delores remembered that “Eileen from Standish was the best at back bends.”

Gene from Standish wrote, “I took lessons from Miss Ruth 5-6 years in the late 40’s, tap dancing and baton and gymnastics. I hated the gymnastics because I was never very flexible and every time I had to do a backbend, I’d fall backward on the floor. My friend Betty could tie herself in knots so that didn’t help my self esteem either! Actually the whole thing was pretty hard to swallow for an 8 year old boy, but my mother was determined that I was to be “cultured”! Every spring we had to do the recitals. My mother had to make 2 or 3 costumes for me and my little sister, and had to sew on several hundred sequins by hand on each costume. Not only did we do the recital in Standish, but for 3-4 years I also took part in the recitals in Omer, Twining, Whittemore and Tawas. I guess I lived through the whole think ok and actually can still remember some of the tap dances, although it’s not a talent that I get a lot of requests for!” Gene offered three photos we titled “Circa 1947-53 Gene in Revue,” “Circa 1947-53 Gene & Carolea” and “Circa 1947-53 Betty.”