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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,TJ in San Diego Curious about 'The Washington Squares' (16) RE: Curious about 'The Washington Squares' 26 Feb 10


Reading Art Thieme's take on the old coffee house scene, and the media's portrayals of it, both now and then, I had a deja vu attack. In about 1958, a former chiropractor named Dave Barber moved from Los Angeles to Fresno, California and started up a little coffee house called The Renaissance. We couldn't often travel to L.A. or "The City" to places like the Ash Grove or Purple Onion, so this was our own little version.

It had the typical period decor; flat black mostly, with some overhead lighting and a little stage along one wall. People sat on pillows or at small tables. Smells from the back were of coffee, cinnamon and cloves, hot cider, etc. Because we were near enough to San Francisco, some of the "Beat" dress and manner appeared, though that era was fast disappearing both in New York and the Bay Area. It was a real eclectic mix of locals. There was always at least one table with a chess set and a couple of faux-seedy looking fellows with beards and Trotsky hats, smoking bulldog pipes and philosophizing - we thought.

The music was mostly from us local yokel folkels, from farm kids to college students, with an occasional visit from pros like a Randy Sparks (pre-New Christy Minstrels) or a Jesse "Lone Cat" Fuller, a one man band and composer of "San Francisco Bay Blues." Ed Rush and the late George Cromarty, who wrote "Plastic Jesus," were local guys.

We'd all sit around and exchange ideas, instruments - where to get a deal on a used Martin or do a special tuning, etc. It was a second home for a lot of us and a safe place to try and fail as we learned our music. A few of the people from those days are still involved in music in that region including my old mentor, Jon Adams, one of the great natural storytellers. I wonder how many of you had similar places in your own home or college towns. New thread, or retread?


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