Faith Petric and Estelle Freedman

Recorded December 11, 2008 Archived December 11, 2008 01:21:40 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: SFB000088


Faith Petric (93), by her friend Estelle Freedman (61) about her life as a professional folk singer.

Subject Log / Time Code

Faith describes growing up in a homestead log cabin in rural Idaho
discusses the Great Depression and how she worked her way through college at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA
she was radicalized during the Spanish Civil War and organized her first political action, “Veteran of Future Wars”
1965 March on Selma she was there helping out
worked as a shipfitter in a shipyard in Hoboken, NJ
she had a daughter out of wedlock in Mexico
her granddaughter, Alex, was raised in Ireland
Faith talks about her life as a traveling professional folk singer with the Portable Folk Festival
the San Francisco Folk Music Club started meeting at her house in the 1950s, continues to this day
Faith and Estelle sing “The Good in Living”


  • Faith Petric
  • Estelle Freedman

Recording Location

San Francisco StoryBooth


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00:04 My name is Faith Craig Patrick. I'm 93 years of age. And today is December 11th, 208 location to San Francisco and my relationship to the person who's interviewing me as it were very good friends.

00:25 My name is Estelle Freedman. I'm 61 years old today is December 11th 2008. We're here at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, and I'll be interviewing face Patrick who is a friend and role model.

00:43 I want to say at the outset that we can't possibly cover all of you are rich 93 years in the time we have but I want people to know there is a tape and a transcript of the 1993 oral history that we did together of your whole life on deposit at the San Francisco labor history archives at San Francisco State University.

01:05 Can we start with some stories from your early life you were born in 1915 and perhaps up to college. Can you talk about perhaps one of your strongest memories of that period of your life Wellness very early life. I'm the youngest of four children and we were all born in a log cabin on what it was known as a homestead Homestead was that the United States government killed off the Indians and chase them off and then gave the what gave the Indian property to people who said that they would use this Homestead been with it was a free thing cabin in which I was born was made from Kris which were cut down because of the whole Homestead was Forrest it at the time and the trees made the cabin were cut down.

01:51 Turn on that land that the family we didn't move there constantly all the time. Although all four of us were born in that cabin because my family moved a lot. My father was a school teacher Methodist Minister Carpenter review, you had to be a jack-of-all-trades in those things as farmer did all of those things. My mother was also a teacher almost she didn't read raising the kids. She didn't return to teaching until I was about the I think 7 years old was the first time she went back into teaching but it's hard I think for anyone to imagine what it could have been like 1950 and say the 1920s there were no telephones there was no electricity. There were there were no roads are no Cars Willow River Road used to be provided if you wanted to go somewhere you would have the hitch do either went horseback or in the case prints and some other farm that I speak of.

02:50 But was not in a town that was near the town of Orofino, Idaho and being very strong Methodist. We would go in on Sunday morning the four the four of us kids on straw in the back of a wagon at night. We would come home and we find out and that's dry. And we've covered with a buffalo robe were popular in the host of days, but to lie to me saying that it was Pioneer stuff makes looks to me as if I'm sinks a value that I'd I really don't have and yet I really I think it is we were in a sense really find the artist in in 1915.

03:30 And then what else about it's just to get people to try to imagine what life would be like it when two bedrooms dark you got to put away that I wouldn't even have a Coleman lantern than we had candles and kerosene. And of course everything was he to buy wood. That was only thing there was and it was automatic in those days off so I can remember going in the wagon with my father and his single wolf which meant that he reached under the under the boards that was on which we were sitting in the car. A rifle and cuz it was automatic. The Hawks were danger you argue kill them automatically then stopped to think about it. They were your enemies for what what you were bringing through because we had cows and that's on the way you had leave food. If you didn't grow if you didn't have it the worst or School buy things in you you raised all your food and it was cam.

04:27 I can I can remember my mother going down in the coming spring is coming on going down into the coal Cellar and Counting the jars of canned beans to see if we would have enough food.

04:43 But but before the cops came in again before the for the garden wood would work again eggs were put down in Brine and apples and potatoes are wooden barrels and carrots were carrots were actually buried under underground because of that one keeps them. It was a subsistence kind of life.

05:04 Before we get into your leaving that territory could you just say a word about I know I asked you this a long time ago about singing when you were young and music when you were young and what you could and couldn't sing. Well, the only thing that really would have church hymns that I can remember and I still sing a lot of them that I sing them because they're great old songs and I are on the same though. They did also have some singing in school, but the church was amazing. I could remember singing when I was three years old. You'll be your mouth and let that sound.

05:45 I'd like to get us a little further up into your life. And I know that I think of you two as one of the Ring musical person and also is a very political person and you could talk about either of those but I know that both of us became very important to you in the 1930s when you went off to the college. Could you tell me a little bit about you are formation in young adults in high school 28 in 1928 and ended the Great 1929 Rosalind all of the Brokers and I'm coming out of Windows in New York when they really hit so if it had had impacting back when I was in high school, but my graduation year we didn't get a yearbook. But before then we had a few minute crafts pages is what we had because they couldn't afford it and my high school reunions many many many years later. I was talking to a woman who

06:45 Had been going to high school in and she wore the same dress every day because that's all she had and she talked about how embarrassed her brother was to have her there, but I can remember the my last year in high school. My mother didn't get a school schools are closed. They couldn't afford to hire teachers. So there's two kids were able to go to school and tiny little house in Moscow Idaho and rented the back porch, which was him for screened-in to do college students because my school was the home of the University of Idaho also,

07:33 And so it was felt even in high school and then I stayed out of school for a year and worked for a child minder for a woman because it wasn't any money to go to school and then the next year I went anyway, even though there wasn't any money and the depression is something that anyone who's lived through it. I think had the tremendous impact on their lives you talk about people who did food is never wasted. I still I still a packrat of Ragnar Anythink so hard to part with anything so hard to let anything go because you never know when you might need it was the way it was then until I work my way through college. I had maybe I think I figured out I was working 40 hours at least a week and I had to help clean the dormitories I waited on tables. I work at a hotel also was a waitress then they

08:33 Things that Roosevelt made possible for people to do there was a National Youth Administration as well as a WPA in so long and I swear I had a job taking information about the school to the local radio station and the president of the college. I was Whitman College Walla Walla, Washington. Dr. Penrose was blind and I became his reader in my sophomore year then I read to him two hours a day for my whole college career and I've pretty well I meant it to pay for it. I think when I got out I owe them still $400.

09:13 But I know that the I didn't know then that I learned later that the teachers professors were working for half salaries at the College of that time. This is the mid-30s. But had a tremendous effect on me. I felt that the world wasn't going away should and I became very radicalized also in the 60s was the Spanish War. This is the Spanish so-called Civil War which is actually an invasion of Hitler and Mussolini had a tremendous effect on me to this day. I can come back be with me David neighborhood Lincoln Brigade archives and so on and so forth that we were convinced and eyes and give her the rest of the world acknowledges now it if they hadn't let's Bingo that the second world war wouldn't have happened because of testing ground for Hillary.

10:09 And these things made me very radical to this day. I frequently introduce myself isn't as if I'm a radical. I'm a little red people automatically think of that means come in this it doesn't it just make the orientation is a world of more equality of them or fairness. So so is socialism. I think you do anything else other musically are politically stories. You want to remember

10:37 Well, let me see kind of God will see if I have some notes Here. I remember you have to think of something my first action political action. I can think I was but I think my best friend or is Penny and I organized 8-piece strike and there was a national organization called the Student Union and somehow we got involved with that. Also, all of the United States students were keeping in touch with each other and then doing it was a time of radicalization for for many of us and we are going to raise this piece strike. We called it that Veterans of future Wars and the idea was give kids money now so they can go to school because there's a future. Where is it going to be killing their two years? So that is that is when when the thing and also among the things you don't came along when we were actually was that sometimes I get a new stop.

11:37 About time

11:39 The migratory workers and what happened to them in the dust bowl and you are aware that when you are up in Washington College, it was very romantic later on. I actually worked for the with the migratory workers in the late night movie thirties and early forties, but

11:59 I bet culminated my riding ilysm in a way I would think maybe culminated in 1965 then march on Selma. I was one of those who went to sell them for that the incredible incredible demonstration. Can you imagine the feeling of walking out of a little town marching with thousands of people between rows of soldiers who were there protect you because at Pettus bridge where they had beaten the people and giving them back when I tried to go before what happened with me. There was that the somebody said that they needed help down at the church in Montgomery some of the Montgomery March that there were the SCLC this other religious leaders were there when I needed someone answer the phone, so I thought I could stay another week and I'll I went down to that church and live there during the week and answer the phone and refer to the calls to which every one of the ministers.

12:59 Do it was directed. I never met them never met her one of them. I just went there and I slept in the in the sanctuary on the benches and it seemed to me that it was the easiest thing in the most reasonable thing in the world for somebody to bomb. That church is hot and on the windows were open and I thought why but wouldn't that was one thing I did I think in my life that really took courage was going to sell them on and Montgomery in the first place because they will never people are would like to kill us.

13:38 And I thought that that might happen and yet I felt I had no choice.

13:44 No, I just took it at 1. I thought I had no choice but it's 70. I simply had to do that. So.

13:55 Well, yes, I do. I knew a lot of songs. That's one thing about me is that I have a good and I had a very good memory and I learned many many many songs. And so I done learned a lot of songs in one of those people has more songs for the people in the Civil Rights Movement coming through. So I made a tape just for them to pass around. I had to spread around here already musically involved in the 19 thirties in the night.

14:25 Well, yeah, I don't always saying because of such a joyful thing to do high schoolers in the Glee Club and the college the same thing but then the Spanish Square I mentioned they need a song by the S6 songs for democracy and I learned those and and saying they hate living here in San Francisco that are fundraisers for this painting them fend for all kinds of things and I would be invited to these just a single made some songs. I remember one time when places that they said if anybody could think of a song I didn't know they would have to pay but I but I didn't know and I still really do know quite a lot of songs.

15:30 Yeah, I graduated in 37 and I stayed in Seattle work at Burke's Bookstore for a year that came down here thinking I would go around the world from San Francisco, but I got to my first year. I think this is the State Relief Administration and then I got a job and work for a couple of years or 3 with the farm Security Administration Roosevelt was President then and it was the first time that I've heard historically that a government helped an enormous migration of people here. They were driven out by the by the dust storms and the United States government under Roosevelt. And Taylor was in charge of that were actually we were helping these people we gave them money for gas help them move their camps were built for them to stay in and food stamps and that sort of thing. We're given to the people that help them survive.

16:23 As they were going up and down the valley is here and he died in the California since we're talking about your work. I just insert here. I know that during the war you went back East for wild. You just want to say what you were doing. Then I'm tired of sonship building Hoboken New Jersey job to have and I enjoyed it a lot but I was emotionally very distressed by what I thought was going on in the yard. They got Cost Plus that's a contract of the government Cost Plus 10% So the waist was simply enormous and it bothered me an awful lot. So I asked you was basis for my finally quitting feeling that they are taking the money from the guy. I was asked one of the supervisors a good man that done this or that he said by heat oven out of the yard in an hour and had tools were a lot of things were thrown away with exploitation that

17:23 Python very bothersome, although enjoy the work itself. And I was a good ship fitter and pay that anything else up before that your political life or your musical life in these years. I want to get your family life a little bit, but do you want to say anything about

17:41 Coming back out to the west or maybe we should but I came back. I was actually had been emotionally involved with a friend back there and we were talking about getting married and he was I was going to come back then he was going to go play with them and blah blah blah, but when I got here I arrived here I discovered that I was slightly pregnant and you don't continue to slightly pregnant. I decided already in my mind. If I got pregnant I was going to have a child that is worked out and enriched my life enormous Tammy little bit about being a mother and also nothing a grandmother. Well, I went what happened is that I went down to Mexico to have and then my daughter Carol was born in Mexico because of the Prejudice in those days of being an unwed mother and later got easier, but it was still very much to do the child was

18:41 Bastard and it wasn't easy. It was very very difficult emotionally because of the social

18:52 Not accept it so that it was a difficult time in some ways on the other hand. I did have a child and I say that because I've been moved around so much when we were when I was little I decided that we would stay right in one place. So he stayed in San Francisco and she had her out of school and high school in all right here in San Francisco.

19:26 And

19:29 Since then she went off to college and became a journalist is what happened with her which which was a lot of fun for me because we had made it kind of a rule that we would always spend Christmas together because it was a fun time and if I would every other year, I would go where she was or she would come where I was so I got to spend time in Egypt and in Brazil on visiting her which I've Loved travel. I've done a lot of it besides that but that was among the times was really good would be ghost 10 Christmas with my daughter in these various. You want to talk about your granddaughter now or save that for later Carol pad Alex she decided when she decided to have her she decided she'd have her and Ireland because she got her master's degree in Ireland. She went to Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont, which is unusual very unusual school and then she went over.

20:29 Traveling around the world. She was working on a PhD here at University of California. But when she came to Ireland she liked it so much and discovered that they were doing a master's degree of the special one. And so she stayed there and got that in 1972 that says UCD in ankle Irish literature and eventually she became a journalist. She said she wanted to do and then has been very successful way. She worked as a Stringer for the Wall Street Journal, you know for a long time and a very interesting your that weighs now that now that she's 6330 when she was born and she was forty licks her daughter was born. So I'm 93 C63 and my granddaughter Alex is 23 analysis of driving today from from Ireland or

21:29 So is she was born in us? I have spent a lot of time in Ireland because the during her early years I go over there a lot and they come over here a lot nicer than I thought. I had an opportunity to see more of her than people where they they were living round the corner from each other. Well, maybe we'll get back to Alex and performance stuff. But can I backtrack us a little about your musical life? Well, yeah where Texas was is I say during the sixties and so and I wouldn't I wouldn't then we sending frat parties and someone around here and then I decide when I got her through college I decided just to quit work. I hadn't any plans about what I was going to do next but what my life clothing into was to be a traveling professionals pokeo of folk singer started with something called the portable Folk Festival bunch of us, but no bus 1972 when we cross the United.

22:29 States as a portable Folk Festival working on parking lots in colleges music clubs in all kinds of places and I got bit by the bug I just was the life for me. I love and we were only gone three months. I would have gone on for years or so that I did on my own I did.

22:50 We're back and forth across the United States many times singing it. Things and I work at festivals.

23:03 Well, because I know so many songs. You see the any subject that you know, if you want woman songs depends on where you were singing or lullabies or love songs or work songs are political songs, whatever. They're all part of life. My feeling about folk music is that there's no aspect of human life that doesn't have folk songs about it where the rubber meets the road is where you are here folks. And so what you're saying would depend on who asked you and what what they were what particular group you were singing for you to pick that song that weird know what interest these these particular people. Would you be able to say a song that you remember?

23:48 Oh and turn your repertoire that's still in it, you know some of the some of I know you can't have favorites cuz it's like having favorite children, but just songs that you associate with or that are always part of your musical life. Well say take woman songs, I would say that so is this song about to do you hear that wind singing one woman child is the name of this book? That's what we're up for a love song when a bruise Phillips's songs.

24:20 Wood would be one of my favorites in that category, but then I know you don't friends working songs as so many of those core solid there. It is him for for workers Santa but I don't remember. I just reading a book about some friends. I made in Northern Scotland who were miners and so I know the minor is about any songs that I've done with my professional therapist in song that I would have done, but I also toured in England and Scotland and Ireland number of times.

25:07 Enjoyed it enormously and then when you are to the band I made I thought England needs and their fault cuz he's a good old timey music band. So I got one together and we've rehearsed and I made it I got the gigs cuz I've been there and I was known so and I went with a bad and that was a lot of fun. When did you start recording music?

25:37 During the 80s. When was the first one? I think I was in my sixties not 1965, but I did my first your crown or something like that.

25:49 So and you've done five six CDs now, I guess originally albums tapes and now season 3 of X-ray to Atlanta with children and then and I remember that you and Alex used to perform together. That's why I wanted to get back to her and talk about way for many years since about 1980. I traveled with a group called Chautauqua and we go use the out for a month in the Northwest and up in the way up into British Columbia Canada, and she always so we've got on stage with song and remember it.

26:38 And now I'm not coming together because sometimes I'll file forget a lot of pictures of her when she was in about 3 years old. She would see a show because your talk with me doing this to people who do the same show and she by the second time she heard it should be singing along our stalking along just with him cuz he was bringing this music into small towns. Yes, we are idea was to take live theater in the towns of otherwise might not have any we work with are local Arts departments and so on and so forth going to small communities and and I can remember someone that we were in Salmon, Idaho or we actually been several times saying what are you doing in Salmon, Idaho? Nobody ever comes to Salmon, Idaho. Yeah, that's the point if that's that's why you were there.

27:38 My talking about your post-retirement career probably should say what you were tired from. You spent many years working in the Bay Area. Yeah, a lot of them my work various government jobs quite a lot. I also work for a research firm for a very long time Private Industry in my last job was with the state of California, which is worked out. So beautifully for me very lucky that because of a Xanax state employee. I have I'm still covered by medical dental insurance and have a small pension from them in addition to a small Social Security. So that really help. When did you get involved with the San Francisco folk music club by it was in the late 50s when I first heard of it and started coming to meetings and then the person who is running with herb Jagger and he decide to go off for a while. He asked me if I would kind of do things for three months. I said, well sure, you know, so the end of that he said he was gone three months. He was gone three years when he came back.

28:38 Take it back by then. I had sort of food. I just started a newsletter what's been very important with us and going camping and all that. They were worried about the club in your role in it. Well for a while there I was a blue. I guess it kind of held it together so that my name in The Folk me to tell became synonymous, but now everybody else doesn't work and I still get quite a bit of the credit. So how many people are involved a couple hundred there more than the actual actually brought here in the Bay Area for being really asking me I'd say maybe a couple hundred. But we send the newsletter all over the place what happened with my becoming involved in folk music.

29:29 Being a singer and a performer.

29:33 As a career what I did before wasn't a career, which is jobs. I had a job, but this became a career and it's meaningful. This is very very deep.

29:45 Something I believed in something I could enjoy something that meant a lot to me.

29:51 I'm not signing the words. I want the kiss. Can I ask a question? How do you feel when you're performing at a Folk Festival or folk club or

30:02 Well, I enjoy it a lot you communicating with a lot of people in the

30:08 You don't get people to sing along. I've been out all these people weren't saying and I find when I buy do they nobody asked him. They do send people like to sing together people singing together.

30:21 The individual becomes stronger, but you also become something else. You become part of something people singing together is a

30:30 Is an experience that is important that helps it helps you in your life. It just it was a wonderful thing to be able to do something makes your life worthwhile.

30:49 We have time to talk some more about music and then some about your travels and I hope you don't mind my continuing on the music for a moment.

30:59 Who are some of your favorites musicians songwriters singers who gives you inspiration comfort?

31:10 That's a good question of certainly John McCutcheon. He's president of our Union for one thing. He has been that he's people who put their who walk their talk.

31:22 Pete Seeger, of course everybody to send that first one is a friend of mine and his wife will feel good friends and

31:36 There's so many friends. I made by we were good friends travel together times and he was a fantastic songwriter and and he also Walk The Talk he didn't just talk about it. He tried to live a life of making the world a better place for selling. It was a good thing. He wasn't some kind of a call because it was a very lot of Charisma good friend and Melvina mellow is Melvina Reynolds Agora Susan credible songwriter to this day and I'm searching for a song for particular occasion. I might have to come up with one of my lovin.

32:36 The one thing we didn't talk about about the full Club was how long is it the meeting at your house? Well,

32:49 We used to read in school, but we had to get out of it by midnight and then everybody would come to my house and I've got to thinking why do I have to carry all this stuff over there. Back of her to come to my house. Anyway face make Homebrew that was fighting attraction. Now, it's just the homemade soup, but every other week people are still Gathering feeling your house up with music and food in the area. Do you want to talk about your travels around the world or you're well? Yeah, and I do not have a lot of traveling and I've had enough of them but I think by now but I didn't find it. As I said what I came down to San Francisco was the idea of going on around the world, but then the having a child but just good indoor Interruption there. I didn't actually get around the world until she was out of college 35 years later. I did get around the world and I went at a level of a budget of $3 a day. So it was you lived the life of people in the country. So is he

33:49 It was a way to find the people if you're staying in motels and flying is something you don't I don't see how you would get there. So it was it was a great trip. It was a wonderful trip going around the world that way and it's I said when my daughter was in these various countries to get to them. We went up the Nile and moon age of went to Brazil. We we we in Egypt do you want the s-1? Yeah. Yeah, and then you travel like ordinary working people and so they do get to know a man away what the what the lies are like that's important with the cultures like a look at night. That's always a great but also touring UCF taking me to I just several tours of England Scotland and Ireland their prices. I would always fight when I was born in Australia fairly recently.

34:49 Yeah, I did. I Australia I've been there twice now and those in a way they were the crowning of my

34:56 Professional life in a way I had such a good time in Australia both times. I was there for two and a half months. I worked at 7 different festivals. I was flying all over the place people took such good care of me and all they put you on the plane. Tell me to meet you at the plane. They feed you they take you in and a lot of them.

35:17 Also smaller that's like a bison singing a music store singing a full cover to house concert or do something for the radical women of Australia lot of fun so that I was working all the time and it was an incredibly to me successful and satisfying both of those tours region. I just know that you were in your 80s at this point when you did these Australia tours weren't you? Well, you hug. I've always admired your stamina and I think I saw you performing up in Vancouver when you were in your late 80s. Yours back. That's right. That's right. We just have a few more minutes and I want to turn it over to you to think about any Reflections. I know you don't like to be asked for words of wisdom, but I'll ask you anyway, what's your secret? What would you pass on to me? If someone who thinks of you as a mentor in a role model?

36:15 To keep your spirit going in the world.

36:20 Well, I think monsters you said something about it being a

36:24 What gives me hope for the world that which is really a different question entirely.

36:30 People have to keep on keeping on 93 years is a long time.

36:38 My feeling is that I have been here a long time. I look back at That Azz what it was like in 1915 and it hardly seems possible. But what do I do think of the hope for the world? Sometimes? I have some and sometimes I don't

36:55 Human beings haven't changed much. There's a veneer rather thin veneer of quote Civilization underneath that is the violence the war so terrible violence exists in all over the world so that I brought something with crackling in here that it's called the two wolves one evening in a Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said my son the battle is between two wolves inside of us all when is evil anger and the jealousy sorrow regret greed and arrogance self-pity resentment inferiority live pulse Pride War intolerance in Eagle. The other is good just joy, peace love hope Serenity Humanity humility kindness and sympathy tolerance generosity.

37:54 Truth compassion and Faith the grandson thought about it for a minute and then he asked his grandfather which wolf will wins in the answer was the one you feed?

38:07 So how much has the world improved how much have people changed? I'm not sure.

38:16 Human beings are so complex. And so the beauty the wondering this generosity the kindness the Arts and Music and the wars in the torture that had this incredibly complex creature with an incredible capabilities summarized in the sense by that little thing I just read

38:41 I guess there's hope there's any thank you. Thank you. Give me hope and your music always gives me hope.

38:54 We've reached about our time to record, but I'd love to make a little bit of extra space if you want to share a song with them so much.

39:08 Well, this is a song that I like a lot if the fiddle strings felt Nobu stroke is a concertina Bellows broke. If no one's saying or the joke then where's the good and living for all of Life? Please like it to know it sounds so sweet and ends too soon. You'd better rising up your boo before it's time to go get Harmony.

39:39 If no one through their feet about if the Guinness boys stop making Stout, you'd forget what life is all about and soon become quite thirsty for all of Lies lazy like it to know. It sounds so sweet and ends too soon. You'd better Robin up your Bowl before it's time to go if all you own with Hawks and pond all your money spent and gone. You'd find out what you've been living on and never even knew for all of Liza's place like a to it sounds so sweet and ends too soon. You better run listen up you were born before it's time to go if the fiddle strings felt Nobu stroke if the concertina Bellows broke if Noah,

40:39 More crack the joke then where's the good in living?