A Letter from GARNET ROGERS
There is a scene in The Lord of the Rings where Frodo wakes up from a terrifying and nearly fatal journey, to find himself in a comfortable bed, in a quiet sunlit room, completely at ease, with no memory of how he got there.
That was somewhat the feeling I had the morning after my brother and I played our first show at the Folkway, in Peterborough, except there was no kindly wizard smoking a pipe by the bed, but rather Stan, who kicked open the door, handed me a coffee, and said, “You kept the whole town awake with your snoring last night. People were calling the police.”
Somehow, we’d unexpectedly arrived in a...okay, there’s no other word for it...magical place that bore no resemblance to the cruel, capricious and random world outside. A world that was increasingly making us feel crumpled and nearly used up, like a pack of Camels in the prison exercise yard.
The room below my bedroom, where we’d played the night before, was a lovely, sweet smelling haven, filled with kind and generous and above all, forgiving people. And we needed that forgiveness; we’d spent years fighting our way through the biker bars and bear pits that were our meagre bread and butter, and we’d lost the knack for dealing with sane and honest folk.
We weren’t right in the head.
And it showed.
Incredibly, our show had sold out in advance.
There was a small bar to retire to, filled with funny, eccentric locals, with a bar tender who had a severe case of amnesia when it came time to settle up our tabs. “I can’t
seem to find them. You must have paid and forgotten.”
There were clean, sweet-smelling rooms we could crawl to upstairs, with freshly made beds we didn’t have to shake the critters out of before retiring. And the owner of the club was not the usual cigar-chewing troll with prison tattoos and breath like a cannibal bat, but a quiet and sweet faced...okay, once again there is no other word...angel, named Widdie Hall, who gave crushing hugs, and smelled like cinnamon.
The Folkway and that beautiful town became our second home.
A quiet, sane, and blessed respite from the world that crouched, jaws open, waiting for us out past the tree line. That community gave us and so many of our fellow travellers on the road, a sense of hope, that decent caring people existed on this earth.
That maybe what we were doing had some sort of value. It might have some worth.
There just might be a future in this.
And it wasn’t a second home for just us, but for everyone who was lucky enough to coast down the hill to the light, make that left turn from 101 onto Grove Street, and to crane your neck and look eagerly down the street, to catch the first glimpse of the frame house on the left, and feel your heart lift, and your pulse quicken.
Widdie is gone now, these 35 years, to become, in her words, “a grass farmer.” And the club, which was so carefully nursed along after her death, by a score or so of
typically generous and loving people, has passed into memory as well.
What remains is the community; a community as strong and enduring as the
stones from which the town was built, and the dark hills that shelter it.
For the last nearly 50 years I’ve driven through and worked in all the provinces of Canada, and 48 of the United States, (yes, even Utah and Nevada, God help me) and I can say without a word of exaggeration there is no place, no community, like Peterborough.
It is still unique, still a haven, for anyone lucky enough to play there.
It is still a balm to the soul, just to know it exists.
That there is still a cadre of dedicated organizers, volunteers, donors and above all, audiences who support the Peterborough Folk Music concerts for 27 years, is a miracle, and I don’t use the word lightly.
As David and Susan Lord so perfectly put it, “organizing concerts is not for the faint of heart, but rather the full of heart.”
If you can find, in the fullness of your own heart, the ability to support this extraordinary musical community, you’d be helping to preserve a legacy of love and generosity and sharing that has endured for nearly half a century. And as Pete Seeger said, “Community is what will save us.”