More Memories

Hi Thelma – I’m doing pretty well. Trying to deal with pushing 80 when I still feel like the kid walking the brook barefoot watching for turtles (painted), frogs, snakes, garnets and sandy deep holes to get nice and sopping wet in.

I thought John Seeger, Pete’s older brother who taught at Manumit, had a bio. of sorts in the Manumit web site, but can’t find it. Maybe it was an email. Anyway he mentioned Pete’s banishment and how he himself later felt persona non grata. The Board was the Board of Directors (whoever they might have been – dunno).

The story as I know it started with a new girl named Wendy going home for vacation singing I Hate War and who knows what other of Pete’s songs to her horrified parents, who then pulled her out. Although very pro-labor, the school did not want to be known as pro communist. Someone else out there must remember this. We, the students, were amazed and angry when we learned of it long after the fact. And disillusioned. Pete was a true Pied Piper and we loved his visits and learning his songs; I recall at least ten of them today (The Brothers Du Pont, Poor Mr. Morgan…. It is strange, isn’t it? But I guess it was the times.

Not deterred by the ban, Pete invited a bunch of us to come to a Hootenanny in the Bronx to perform with him some of the songs he’d taught us. We rehearsed at his apartment in the Village. On stage, he invited me to step forward alone and join him in Lally-too-dum. Stage fright reduced my voice to a faint croak, but he sang along and strummed away and carried it off. The audience – it was jammed – kept begging for encore after encore (not from me) so Pete jumped off the stage and went singing up the center aisle right out onto the street with all of us – singers and audience following him. Inspiring! A powerful guy.

His brother John later started a camp in VT called Kill-a-something which attracted lots of ex-manumitters as campers, staff and camper parents. I think he still summers there. Some ambitious person with a tape recorder (or whatever they are called nowadays) might get some good Manumit stories from him.

Hope you are well.
Best, Barbara

Hi Barbara, I, too , have an internal landscape including the Pawling Manumit. Many very fond memories. When Pete Seeger built his house in Beacon, before he launched the “Clearwater”, many of us from the Village commuted out to help with the labor. Before that, Pete married Toshi, and when Toshi’s brother Al Ohta (I have lost his Japanese given name) married (I think to someone from the Seeger clan), my girlfriend and I were invited to the celebration, held at Pete’s apartment below MacDougal Street. Hillel and Aviva were there, a sabra couple from (nascent) Israel. Hillel took that occasion to teach one and all to play the challil (Hebrew name, an open reed flute, originally from the Jordan river). Good memories, Best wishes to you, Craig Work

Dear Aulay, Yesterday, when I was doing my thing at the health club I was listening on headphones to someone (?) on some public radio station talk about American cantatas and I was about to switch when he said he would be playing Ballad for Americans. He didn’t quite have the courage to play the recording we grew up on in early Manumit days (1942) with the voice of Paul Robeson (he could have chosen the Bing Crosby version), specifically during one of those frequent all-school gatherings in the gym, when, for what occasion I can’t say, Robeson’s voice boomed around us. Even at the tender age of seven I was mesmerized. Please look up Robeson and his recordings. You can listen to the some of the Ballad on some of the sites. It’s so moving and yet evocative also of other times when Robeson, an all-round American genius, was pilloried as a Communist and nearly buried under the detritus of those vicious years. Anyway, these are some of the thoughts I had, remembering how lucky we were. Thanks, Thelma

Thelma, I’m very sorry I didn’t reply. As I read your thoughts I remember just how lucky we all were to attend Manumit. A place where, in many ways, we were truly free. Free to express are self’s, free to think and free to be young. It was a wonderful time. Aulay

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