Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Black Eye

Many years ago, I remember reading something that Marjorie Guthrie had said : "Kids must live and love in a make-believe world, before they can exist in a real one". That may not be an exact quote, but it's close. I remember it because I was in the process of moving through the make-believe part when I read it.

It was something that some folks at Grace Methodist Church of Winfield clearly understood, and which they put into practice when they opened a coffee house called the Black Eye on Halloween night in 1966. It was student-run, and except for the obviously illegal stuff, they could pretty much do whatever they wanted. There was music by aspiring local singers, and occasional small concerts by folks coming up from Oklahoma City or down from Wichita. There were poetry readings, drama students rehearsing scenes, and budding pundits espousing the wisdoms of the day. The people that I have talked to from that time are still amazed, forty years later, at what a tremendous gift they had been given in the form of a little cinder-block building across the street from their school, where they could play and sing and act and dance out the future that they each so carefully stalked.

I've yet to discover the reasons why it was four years before Southwestern put on another folk festival, but it seems like the "Eye" is the one thread that ties the two festivals together. It is possible that it's existence built the base of players and singers that would be able to appreciate (and invite their friends and family to) the final folk festival in 1971.

And all those others that followed, you know, out at the fairgrounds.


1 comment:

wordnerd said...

I wish I could have hung out with you at Winfield! I went to the Austin City Limits festival instead and had an amazing time. (Funniest incident: The younguns were all prepared to hero-worship Dylan but then got all horrified by his singing, or lack thereof. Overheard comment: "No one told me he'd be bleating like an old goat!" And this would be news in what way? I thought he was amazing.) Part of me wanted to be wandering Walnut Valley, though. No shade at smalltown Kansas midway atmosphere...I'll be at WVF 08 for sure!

Regan aka wordnerd