CHICAGO – I was in high school when I heard the Weavers for the first time. That was some 55 years ago. Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hayes and Fred Hellerman helped form the arc of my life over the years and no young American, then and now, could have had better mentors to grow up with.
One summer in 1977 or 78 I was at a picnic just north of New York at Arrow Park, a large private park that had long served progressive, left and liberal communities looking to find a little R&R.
Pete came down from his home to spend the day with us and, of course, work his magic in front of a microphone. Before and after his stint on the stage he hung out and you never wondered where he was because all you had to do was find the small ever-changing crowd that sought him out.
Near the end of the day I was in the big kitchen helping clean up. It had been a perfect day; the weather, the food, the camaraderie, the reminiscing of the high and low days of the 60s and 70s and Pete.
The kitchen had a screen door and I heard a voice excusing himself and wondering if he could get another one of those ice cream bars that was served at lunch before he headed home. Yeah, it was Pete and I had the pleasure of giving him that ice cream bar.
My god, wasn’t that a time!
– Bill Appelhans
Summers with Pete
PHILADELPHIA – I heard about Pete Seeger‘s death while driving to downtown Philadelphia. If I wasn’t on the expressway, I would have pulled over to wipe my eyes and clear my head.
For three summers in the late 1940s, I was a camper at Camp Woodland in Phoenicia, New York. Pete’s father-in-law, Takashi Ohta, was the caretaker of the camp. Each summer Pete would spend several days performing for the campers. One of those summers, I was in the camp infirmary when Pete visited. He was kind enough to give me a private concert.
My brother, who was seven years older, also attended Woodland. Pete led the senior campers in the “The Lonesome Train,” a cantata about the procession of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train.
Whenever Pete was in or near Philadelphia, my wife Debbie and I made it a point to see him. He was without question one of a kind. His cultural contributions to the peoples’ struggles are a testament to the role and importance of song.
He will be missed.
– David S. Bell
Photo: Daily Worker archives/Tamiment Library (Permission needed to reprint this photo. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)