Flash Back Fridays
FOLK WEEKEND 1977
Like much that happened at the lodge, the folk weekend came from an impulse. There were some talented musicians at the lodge lead by Bob Sutherland. Stevie Smith sang British drinking songs, and Rob Wood sang climbing songs, and the accountant Ross “rock spider” Nichol always sang the MONSTER MASH. They needed a sound system. The plan was to sing for staff and others in town and then pass the hat, take the cash and let Ross,who had been a roadie for a rock band, go to Vancouver and buy a sound system.
So by the summer of 1976, there was a sound system: mixing board, mikes, stands, cables, and large Trainor stand up speakers purchased by staff. Sadly, the good stuff was later stolen.
The first folk weekend was in the spring of 1977. June Simpson, Stevie Smith, Bob Sutherland, and other musical staff produced a weekend of sing along folk music and it was a terrific success.
Later prodded by Jim to have a fall get together, a year end celebration, and to have some kind of activity to assist the lodge to become a year round facility, Bob Sutherland switched the date to a long weekend in November .
In 1978 the Folk Weekend was a rousing good time and started a tradition that lasted 28 Novembers. The first few years were more end of year staff reunions with old staff returning, and new staff enjoying a break from school groups.
And then it got famous. In 1980 Quadra Island’s Smooth Edge came and played for 18 years in a row. They were a harmony singing group with some accompanying instrumental music. Later the Strathcona Choir was formed to sing such all time hits as: The Yellow Rose of T exas, Gypsy Rover, and When the Coho Flash Silver All over the Bay, all favorites of Jim.
The weekend morphed into a family event like much at the lodge because some staff or a visitor volunteered to put on a workshop in weaving, potting, folk dancing, face painting, and music lessons and of course, the Saturday night square dance.
Square dancing has a long history at Strathcona Park Lodge. In the early days, the world’s best Phys Ed teacher, Brian Creer, called the dances without a microphone. He was ably helped by Bob Sutherland on the fiddle. Later Toby Hay with his standup bass, Ean Hay (Toby’s father) on trumpet and a young woman from Cortes on the piano were members of the Strathcona Sound Section. Square dancing became an institution because everyone could participate: no skill needed.
Now with Folk Weekend electrified, the Saturday night dancing was terrific. Sometimes there would be sometimes a 100 people, children of all ages, stepping out to a Virginia reel or to just plain good music for dancing. In the early days there was lots of help from shy talented types would not play solo, but with Bob’s gentle touch others would join in with the music. The tall blonde Betsy Gregg sang like an angel. Her younger brother David later was the main beam of the Vancouver Punk scene, and she later beat cancer and still graces Quadra Island with her serenity. Annie Boulding also sang with her guitar. Other supporters included the financial advisor George Austin from Seattle, who was a stalwart. For 20 years “Reliable “George played his guitar and sang. He brought his friends from USA. Eventually George started the gospel Sunday breakfast sessions at the Folk Weekend. George was always enthusiastic and he could raise the energy level of the Barn on demand.
Bob was the M/C of Folk Weekend for 28 years. He would play music and lift up our spirits by popping in to help various musicians during the weekend.
Other musical stars included Ann Glover, David Katz, Stevie Smith….who always sang “The Oldest Swinger in Town”, Els Early who sang “Those were the days”, Harry the Cook who sang “When I first came to this land”, and Tim Tacker who sang “I have five dollars to spend on you”. Karen Schwalm played her classical guitar. Karen was the all-time greatest employee ever at the lodge. She wrote the booklet “the sundew bog” and was the administrator of everything in addition to being the program director of schools program: a job that now takes three people to do. Karen had all the schedules, all the leaders and all the activities in her head and could organize anything in a few moments.
Bob sang several now famous tunes of his own including, “The Modern Male Mantra” and “The Ballad of Jungle Jim.”
June and Bill Cannon, Celtic musicians from Denman Island played the fiddle and Bodran, and gave lessons to any and all including children.
For years and years Margo organized the list of players and kept track of who was coming and who was in what room. Later Ann Lawrence took over all the organizing. Folk Weekenders came from Courtenay, Victoria (mostly from the Victoria folk club), Vancouver, and Quadra Island. Many attendees were ex staff or tourists who had stayed at the lodge.