R.I.P. Dorothy Chase
My wife cut out the article about the passing of Dorothy Chase. She and her husband founded the Folk Music Center and the Folk Festival in Claremont, CA. What a lot of pleasant memories I have of her and that institution. It was there almost ten years before we arrived in the town. Her husband, Charles loved to play and repair instruments of all kinds. In fact he had quite a collection of all kinds of instruments from all over the world. It became a museum and he gave tours to classrooms. I took mine there. He also had a very liberal policy about the guitars etc. hanging on the walls. Take them off and play them before you buy, try them, bring them back. I bought a guitar, a banjo and a baritone uke there that way. He also was a "peace activist" all through the 60's as was she. He had a "Poet's Post" out in front of his store where locals could "publish" post or exchange poems. I used it.
She ran classes through the City Recreation Dept. for beginning and advanced guitar and banjo for years. She held them on the first floor and on the patio of the old Memorial Park building. I took several classes. She was so patient with everyone. She had a dry sense of humor and a twinkle in her eye. She worked in the store during the week and I got to know her by recognition, not name. I bought many a music book, sheet music or novelty instrument there. Lately I have shopped there for my grandchildren. I taught recorder/flute and bought many there, plus the music for beginners there. My latest transaction was the repair and refurbishing of my baritone uke by a son or her son-in-law.
I taught her grandson, Ben Harper, at El Roble. He was a good English student and very creative writer. Now he's known in the recording industry for his song writing and performance on his "doe-brough"(?) I remember when he played in small groups and by himself at the local Claremont restaurants.
I guess it is more nostalgia than sadness I'm feeling. It was a slower, more innocent time all during the 60's and 70's. We had "hoot-nannies" and sing alongs with them and with my students. My son Brooks did pick up the banjo and still plays I think. Now, I'm moved away but I'm on their emailing list and I have gotten notices of this year's Festival. I'd go if it wasn't such a trip. One of the last recordings I bought there was a number of local groups who got together and recorded in the Old School House at Oak Glen. I wouldn't be surprised if the "Squeakin' Wheels" , one of our favorite groups, didn't have some connections with the Folk Music Center and the Chases.
Dorothy must have seen alot in her 85 years. She was born in Newton, Mass. Married Charles at 18, had four daughters and started the store in 1957. She taught thousands of people to play folk instruments, even the dulcimer. She had an interesting life with Charles. He once had the city/neighbors after him for displaying his giant, natural sculptures on his front lawn. There are still some on the back of his shed/store where the instrument repair goes on. The next generation of Chases are carrying on the business and hopefully, promoting the love of folk music that was so dear to Dorothy. Bob