Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Dogs Bark & The Caravan Moves On

   “In telling our stories community is created"  ~ Studs Terkel

            Summer in Isla Vista

“a what . . . a mime class?? Jon I thought we 

were going to sneak into the movies at intermission and watch

‘Woodstock’ again?"  

"Well, she just returned from France, she was studying with Marcel 

Marceau, it’s only 50 cents.” 



                            Is the fish Okay ?

The little one, barely 3 feet tall and not really able to talk, “something, 

something fish, something ok?” 

Her mom interprets, “she just wants to know if the fish is okay?”
some more,  “poo fih . . . wahah?” “ Fish in the water?

Yes, I’m going to take the fish home and put it in the water.”

A nod, "okay."  


Becca lands a nice looking string of Rubber Head salmon

 as children have been doing all summer at Jimbo's musical

clown shows 



The little rub board ~ Le petit frottoir 

      Hey Mom, Mom, the clown gave me a potato!


     Colombo & Sons


   My friend Bobby suggests I get some kind of

   a small keyboard instrument to contrast

   with my height.  I tried a concertina and a

   melodian without much success.  I head down

   to Columbus Avenue in North Beach and

   below Broadway right next to the Purple

   Onion is Colombo & Sons Accordions.  I enter

   the tiny shop where a woman is playing a small

   accordion, she says to take on camping trips.

   She sounds really good.  It doesn’t look that

   difficult after 10 years of practicing classical piano. 

Gordon sends me upstairs, "there's a whole pile of 

    these little 12 basses.  Pick one you like and check


every note and button, both in and out to make sure 

it all works and we'll get you a case.”  

Upstairs is the original shop or factory as they were 

known  in the accordion’s heyday, over 200 of these 

factories in North Beach. The floor was the original 

rough, unfinished wood boards. The walls and slanted, 

gabled ceiling are the same rough lumber.  The afternoon 

sun fills the room with golden, brown, dusty light.  

   In the center of this accordion ghost town is a 6 foot high pile 

   of these little accordions laying on top of each other. There 

    were old leather straps still hanging over the work tables and a 

   few of the work men’s tools laying around.  I picked one with a 

   pretty little celluloid tile of an Italian village on the front, 

   got my case and was on my way.  My first session I tried playing

   a melody with just the right hand,  “oh sole mio.”  " Uh oh,"

   halfway through the phrase the bellows is completely extended 

   and I’m gasping for breath too.  “That lady at Colombo was really 

 good.  This is going to take a while.”



                          Huntingto Huntington Park at Sunset

I was practicing on my first accordion in the twilight, sitting on a bench 

on the eastern edge of Huntington Park up on Nob Hill between the 

Flood Mansion and the Fairmont Hotel to the east and Grace Cathedral 

to the west.  I hear someone whistling as they are walking down 

Cushman Street, an alleyway to my left between Huntington Park and 

the Flood Mansion. Over the 4 foot high hedge between the Park and 

the Flood Mansion, “Tweedle dee, tweedle dee dee, the birds in the 

treetops on Mockingbird Hill.”  

“Hello, good evening.”

“Do you know that song,” he asks?  

“No, not yet, I’ve heard it but I’m just learning.  How do you know the 


An oddly dressed man, a short sleeved mustard brown shirt and navy 

blue work pants, out for an evening stroll.  Dressed like a refrigerator 


“I used to play it in the circus.”

“What did you do in the circus?”

Just as casually, as if he were a refrigerator repairman,

“I ate light bulbs and played the accordion with my feet.”

I found out later that was a popular carnival & circus entertainment 

in the ‘30;s, not chewing up light bulbs but putting as many things in 

your mouth as possible and/or playing a musical instrument with 

one’s feet.  Known as an ‘eccentric’ act, totally believable.  Though I 

was having enough trouble playing with my hands                                                                          






 “Manny, Manny come back, he’s not a clown, 

                   he’s just a man!”            

Putting on makeup for them first and explaining

the costume and some of the history, “with no microphones, you couldn’t 

hear talking so gestures told the story.  Their observations about what 

is real, an “older” one, “no, of course it’s not real, that's what all clowns 

wear on their nose.”

               The Pismo Beach Clam Festival.  

I meet “Crackers” the clown.  He suggests working the auto shows,

 “where the real money is.  Kids get on my nerves.”                         

“Are you a real clown?”

”Do you mean like this is what I wear at home and I’m playing music 

and I can’t find things and I’m dropping things a lot.”

“Um um, yeah.”

“Well what do you think?”

“I uh,  I think that you are , , ,”



The original was Christina Dior with just red and blue polka

dots from the Salvation Army store in downtown Santa Barbara



Yodeling with Pete

One afternoon at our group singing class

Pete Seeger arrived to look around the 

circus.  He had heard about The Pickle 

Family Circus from his interest in non profit

organizations.  The circus toured throughout

the year from Los Angeles to Seattle and

helped raise money for community groups; 

day care, senior centers, schools and food 

co-ops. who would sponsor the shows.  These

mostly small towns would help with logistics,

hosting barbecues, bake sales and other 

events to raise money.

We had finished our warm up exercises to  

help the performers who spoke in the show 

use their voices more efficiently as they 

didn’t have microphones in the ring.  Pete

explained that yodeling was breaking one’s 

voice intentionally to achieve that “yodel” 

and demonstrated a simple example.

Easier said than done for most of us.

“The key to the future of the world is 

finding the optimistic stories and letting

them be known.” Pete Seeger 

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