Young Harry Smith at a house show in Anacortes
Phil Elverum imagines old town musical affairs and cultural activities in 1936
I came across the old social news item below about Harry Smith and family partying with Phil Elverum’s great-grandparents and requested Phil’s interpretation. He wrote a little fan-fiction of this scene, imagined as a precursor to any late 20th century house show.
Going back to a day in June eighty-some years ago, another Anacortes American article offers background: “Rev. Venables said that having been in Anacortes for more than nine years, it was with great regret that he and his family would take leave of their many good friends (he had accepted the Parish of St. Savior’s, Victoria, B. C.) and that they would always look on their life in Anacortes with much pleasure. They have always taken an active interest in all musical affairs and contributed much to the cultural activities in Anacortes, and have made a large circle of friends.”
Young Harry Smith at a house show in Anacortes in 1936
Hey what are you guys doing after this?
Probably just going home. What a spread, right?
Oh yeah I know, Amsberry's chicken rules. I'm stuffed. Did you see Frank's plate? When do they actually leave?
Tomorrow I think. Depends on the weather but I bet it'll be fine, Victoria is close. Their place is totally empty.
Yeah, I know. I helped them load it. Messed up my back a little actually. I can only raise my arm like this high.
Oh ouch, dang.
It's fine. Anyway, McNary is saying they're doing a house show at their place. Jean and little Jeffy are doing a violin thing. Then you-know-who is going to do his "old songs" singalong stuff.
Of course. Classic. I bet he'll only sing like 30 or 40 songs.
Ha ha. Aw... man. I am beat. And we have a 6am tide tomorrow.
Come on, me and Liz are going. You guys should come.
uhhhh... fine. I hope it doesn't really go that late. If it's a small thing it'll be impossible to slip out early and we'll be pinned to our chairs. Awkward. Should we get our coats? Are they in the back?
Yeah, I think that Smith kid was going through our pockets earlier. I saw him reading the inside of your hat.
This has been so fun, thank you everyone. I do have some pamphlets on the table in the entry, please check them out. They're free. I know it's pushing midnight and some of us have fish waiting for us in the morning
(ha ha ha)
or a steamer to Canada
(ha ha ha)
but let's just do one more. This one we all know. Old Grey Mare. Let's wind it down, do it mellow, the kids are sleeping in the back room. Except you Harry, I see you back there...
(ha ha ha)
Harry, do you want to chime in here?
(Twelve year old Harry Smith at a church-crowd midnight depression era house show in Anacortes proceeds to expound on the multi-cultural pan-cosmos metaphysical history of the old song "Old Grey Mare" as it relates to prevailing local weather patterns, the shape-shifter creation myths from Mongolia to Wyoming, and astral navigation, blowing the minds of the sleep deprived congregation. He talks for 90 unbroken minutes, during which he eats a whole tray of cookies and drinks a pitcher of iced tea. People stagger out the door into a pre-dawn Anacortes June night, low tide smell on the wind.)
Venables Honored cast of characters
Reverend and Mrs. Venables Episcopal rector and wife
Geoffrey Venables teenage son - American columnist
Mrs. McNary Editor/publisher Anacortes Daily Mercury
Mrs. Ray B. Lowman Music teacher
Mr. Ray B. Lowman Community singer, salmon canner
Miss Annie C. Crosby Aunt of Henrietta Blaisdell
Mrs. A.B. Stickney Aunt of Henrietta Blaisdell
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith parents of Harry and more ...
Harry Smith as a child
Mrs. John Williams Harry Smith’s art teacher
Mrs. Louella Howard Anacortes Librarian
Mrs. Douglass Allmond publisher and park advocate with late husband