THIS AND THAT: The Classroom

by Dale Davis

In the early eighties Benny was a sixth grade student in a New York State Literary Center program on Ancient Greece that integrated ancient Greek literature in
English translation, as the inspiration for student writing, with the school’s Social Studies curriculum on Ancient Greece. It was a two-month residency with sixth grades in two schools. I invited poet, Greek translator, and Harvard professor, Robert Fitzgerald to work with me for two days. We were reading his translation of The Odyssey.

The day Robert Fitzgerald arrived, a student in the first class asked him how he became interested in Greek. He replied it was when his sixth grade teacher wrote two Greek words on the blackboard. The Greek words in English meant “horse river” or “river horse,” the English equivalent of hippopotamus. He wrote the words on the blackboard.

Benny copied the words on a piece of paper. The teacher said, “Benny is taking down what is on the board in Greek. He doesn’t know Greek.” Robert Fitzgerald replied, “No one told him that.” He concluded the class by reading aloud from The Odyssey, Book One, in Greek.

Greek

Following his two days in the schools a New York Times reporter asked him what the difference was between a sixth grade classroom and Harvard. “None,” he replied. “A classroom is a classroom.”

In early nineties a fourth grader asked me, “How do you spell dealer, like in drug dealer?” The girl sat at a table on the left in the back of the room. I asked her why she wanted to know. “There is no place I like to go,” she said. “There are drug dealers outside the apartment and inside my mother hits me.” She had a round scar on her forehead. Later the teacher told me her mother had burned her with a cigarette lighter.

She was tiny, fragile, and such delicate features. She was labeled “learning disabled.” “I am in fourth grade, in a special place in fourth grade,” she wrote. D E A L E R.

As an artist educator, Teaching Artist, and Executive Director of an arts education organization I work in classrooms. I teach. I have worked with all levels of students from second grade to graduate school. I have reported cases of child abuse, gleaned from writing handed in to me. A student, a thirteen year old, wrote she learned she was H.I.V. positive when she found out she was pregnant. For a while I placed a drawing given to me by a young man whose father was arrested for murder on my refrigerator. I worked with his brother, also.

In the nineties I had an eight year old tell me, “My life is too sad to write about.” She did not write; she sat and watched me. On the last day I was in her classroom, I wrote, “My life is to sad to write about” on the top of her paper. I suggested I would write a line and she would write a line. She wrote, “This never happened before and I do not want to tell nobody.” After several more lines from each of us, she wrote, “My father did something really bad.” She was in the room when her father murdered someone.

I think about the classrooms I have been in. I think about what I will do in the classroom with the incarcerated youth I am working with this week. Whose writing will I use to motivate and inspire these young men? What are their writing and their language arts skills telling me they need?

I have never talked down to a student. What is a classroom but honesty and curiosity, a place of learning, an apprenticeship for living in a very real world.

I learn from the young people with whom I work. What I learn expands my reading list, what I listen to, and my assignments. It renews and revitalizes my commitment to the classroom. This is the age where the internet, schoolhouse shootings, Facebook, Twitter, unemployment, single mothers, absent fathers, mental illness, drugs, alcohol, violence, twenty-four hours news, bullying are part of our culture. Education is the news. I am interested in how young people interact with the complex of information that is our lives today.

I have found reading and writing are dynamic experiences when they augment and sustain communication among students and teachers. Reading and writing contribute to a classroom community.

A question. There are no right or wrong answers. This is not a test. Questions integrating the students’ experiences and interests offer the challenge and flexibility to embed the basic skills of literacy in contemporary and meaningful societal problems. This offers us who work in classrooms the opportunity to become students of our students, to reflect on what is important to our students, what our students are listening to, seeing, thinking, and learning outside of the classroom.

When there is so much emphasis on testing today where is there space for the imagination, for original thought? How does this speak to how we value a young person as an active, critical participant in our world? How do we validate young people’s perceptions of the world?

My best education for teaching has consisted of being in schools, coming to know and respect all children, responding to what I observe.

Toni Morrison once stated she wrote Sula and The Bluest Eye because they were books she wanted to read. No one had written them, so she wrote them. In the late eighties the New York State Literary Center began to publish the books I wanted to read. No one had published them, so the New York State Literary published them. Beginning in 2000 we produced CD’s. I have now edited and published six hundred books of the writing of young people and produced thirty-two CD’s.

I first tried video by renting a camcorder and taking it with me to the Clash of The Titans concert at Darien Lake. I arrived at the concert two hours early, turned on the camcorder and began to interview anyone who would talk to me in the parking lot. The parking lot was a sea of Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer t-shirts. The mood was festive; everyone wanted to talk about his favorite band.

The lens of the camcorder surprised me. I didn’t need a book to tell me when to zoom, when to pan. It was as if everything I had ever watched was with me. People wanted to know if I was with a TV. station. Several young men commented on my age. I asked them about education. I told them I was planning to use the footage with teachers. I asked questions about school, about what they thought was important, about what they thought was important for a teacher to know. I kept the camcorder running, and I listened. What stayed with me from all of the responses from the mostly white, young male audience was the way they perceived themselves to be stereotyped dumb-kid, not worth much by the school establishment, by what they thought the heavy metal t-shirt, long hair look said. One group of young men spoke with me for over half an hour. When we finished I thanked them and asked why they were willing to give me so much time. “Maybe we can make it better for a little metal head coming up.”

In 1992, following a pilot project at an alternative high school, the New York State Literary Center established The Communication Project, a reconception of what is taught to youth with severe learning, behavioral, social, and emotional needs. In the mid-nineties, The Communication Project expanded to residential placement and juvenile detention sites, day treatment programs, and long-term suspension programs. My research continues and continues to encompass how literature, writing, history, and communication are taught to a population referred to as high risk or beyond risk.

I am a writer writing who is also an educator; the roles have been blurred until they are now indistinguishable. My work with students reflects my own reading. My bookshelves continuously expand. In the early nineties I choose a hip-hop aesthetic: a willingness to confront social issues and humor. I recycle what I read, see, listen to, selecting and combining poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. I mix styles, critics, poets, novelists, musicians. I take apart work eclectically to create new work. In short my method is like the DJ who chooses to speak by sampling.





Dale Davis established The Sigma Foundation, a limited edition, private press with Dr. James Sibley Watson, Jr., avant-garde filmmaker and publisher and editor of The Dial magazine, the leading modernist journal of arts and letters. The Sigma Foundation published the work of Margaret Anderson, Mina Loy, and Djuna Barnes. The Sigma Foundation’s books are in many permanent collections, including The Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library at Yale University and The Collection of American Women at Smith College. 1979, she co-founded The New York State Literary Center with the late A. Poulin, Jr. where she continues as Executive Director. Writers, editors, and artists who have worked with Dale Davis as integral parts of NYSLC’s programs included Homero Aridjis, William Bronk, Kenneth Burke, Robert Creeley, Malcolm Cowley, Robert Fitzgerald, Kamilah Forbes, Jonathan Galassi, Hugh Kenner, Ted Kooser, James Laughlin, Ruth Maleczech, Emir Rodriguez Monegal, Octavio Paz, William Stafford, Carrie Mae Weems, and Eliot Weinberger.

Dale Davis lectured and has conducted teacher education programs in Juneau Alaska, Honolulu, Hawaii, Portland, Oregon, the Mississippi Delta, and throughout the country. As a recognized expert on Youth Culture, she served as a consultant to The Children’s Dignity Project, ABC Network and was selected to participate in Harvard University’s Institute on The Arts and Civic Dialogue, established by playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith. Her work with young people in the juvenile justice system was the subject of a Fox News Documentary.

As an advocate for Teaching Artists, Davis was one of the founders of the Association of Teaching Artists in 1998. In 2006 she became the Association of Teaching Artists’ first Executive Director. She has presented on Teaching Artists and The Association of Teaching Artists throughout the country. In 2011, Davis conveyed the first national gathering of Teaching Artists, the Teaching Artists Forum, at the Center for Arts Education in New York City.

Dale Davis’ own writing has appeared in publications from The Iowa Review to Op-Ed page of The New York Times. Recent publications include chapters in Unseen Cinema and Classics In The Classroom. She is presently working on a book on the high risk adolescents with whom she works. The working title is One Kid.

THIS AND THAT: Publishing Djuna Barnes

by Dale Davis

Sigma, the name evolved from Dr. James Sibley Watson, Jr. signing his letters to me with the Greek

sigma


It was Dr. Watson’s idea that he and I publish books. We founded a press in the tradition of a private press. It was not an alternative or small press. It was to be a personal response to our reading of literature.

Our agreement, as publishers, was the same agreement Dr. Watson had with Scofield Thayer when they published The Dial, 1920 – 1929. Both partners would agree on the merits of the writing and that it should be published. When Dr. Watson suggested a lawyer for our incorporation, I translated an anonymous poem from The Greek Anthology as a guidepost for our editorial policy.

Do you think
this grove
is consecrate,

the books by the plane-tree,

that we
will guard it,

and if a true lover has come

we crown him with ivy.

In 1979 when Octavio Paz was in Rochester to participate in a New York State Literary Center program, he introduced me to the poetry of Mina Loy. The poem was “Mexican Desert.” It was published in The Dial, June 1921 (Volume LXX, Number 6). Paz remarked that she was one of the greatest poets of the century. I had never heard of her.

I looked for more of her work, looked for everything and anything by her I could find. I came back to The Dial. “The Pamperers,” a play, was published in The Dial, July 1920 (Volume LXIX, Number 1). “Perlun” was published in The Dial, August 1921 (Volume LXXI, Number 2), the same issue as Ezra Pound’s “Three Cantos.” “Poe” was published in The Dial, October 21, 1921 (Volume LXXI, Number 4), along with writing by Mary Butts, Hart Crane, E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. “Apology of Genius” was published in The Dial, July 1922 (Volume LXXIII, Number 1). “Brancusi’s Golden Bird” was published in The Dial, November 1922 (Volume LXXIII, Number 5), along with a photograph of Constantin Brancusi’s “The Golden Bird.” The same November 1922 Dial also contained T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and reproductions of two drawings by Pablo Picasso.

Kenneth Rexroth was the next person to speak of Mina Loy to me. He called her a great writer and had urged James Laughlin of New Directions to publish her. Other than Lunar Baedecker, Contact, Dijon, 1923 and Lunar Baedecker & Time Tables, Jargon Society, Highlands, 1958, I could not find any books by her in print. Rather than do a scholarly paper on Mina Loy, I decided to publish her. I began by writing to a former publisher of hers, Dr James Sibley Watson Jr., who lived in Rochester.

Dr. Watson responded, “I recall how delighted we were at The Dial with Mina Loy’s poems. They stopped coming, and we heard that she had married a prizefighter and gone to live somewhere in South America. I had a book of her poems” (December 15, 1980).

A former student of mine, Leigh Giurlando, a senior at Smith in 1980, was studying printing with Harold McGrath in Northampton as she wanted to “make” a book for her senior project. She contacted me in the fall for suggestions of what to publish. My immediate response was Mina Loy’s “At The Door of The House,” originally published in Others, An Anthology of The New Verse, edited by Alfred Kreyborg (Alfred A. Knopf, 1917). Twenty-seven copies of At The Door of House were handset in Bembo type and printed on Rives Heavyweight by Leigh Giurlando for her newly established Aphra Press. I wrote the introduction.

I urged Leigh to do a second book of Mina Loy’s, her sequence, “Love Songs.” Roger Conover contributed the manuscript. His “Notes on the Text” states, “Here the sequence has been restored to the original order and Mina Loy’s editorial corrections instated to give us the first reliable text of the forgotten “Love Songs” in sixty-four years.” Twenty-five hand bound copies of Love Songs were handset in Bembo and printed on Rives Heavy weight. Love Songs was dedicated to Kenneth Rexroth. I introduced the book with a quote from Djuna Barnes’ “The Passion.” “She set her tea cup down with a slight trembling of the hand, then added with mordant acerbity, ‘But if a little light man with a beard had said ‘I love you,’ I should have believed in God.”

Two books in print and no means to print others. Then along came Candace Lorimer, a graduate student in printing at Rochester Institute of Technology who was looking for a book to print for her graduate work. I wanted to see Mina Loy’s “Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots,” “Giovanni Franchi,” and “Three Moments In Paris” in one book. They had originally been published in Rogue I, 1915, Rogue II, 1915, and Rogue II, 1916. I agreed to advise and work with her if we could publish Mina Loy.

A stipulation of using the Cary Graphic Arts Collection of letter press machines and fonts was that RIT’s The Press of The Good Mountain had to be listed as publisher and the book could not be sold. Virgins Plus Curtains was published in an edition of eighty copies, composed on Deepdene types and printed on Fabriano Roma paper (Fabriano Roma paper had to be dampened and printed damp). Typography, printing, and binding were by Candace Lorimer, advised by RIT faculty member Archie Provan, at the School of Printing, Rochester Institute of Technology. I wrote the introduction and dedicated the book to Kenneth Rexroth who had had a severe heart attack around Christmas in 1980 and suffered a stroke in the spring of 1981. Twenty copies were given to Roger Conover to give to Mina Loy’s family. This was agreed upon for permission to print the poems.

Thanks to Jonathan Williams in 1982 The Jargon Society published Mina Loy’s The Last Lunar Baedeker, edited and introduced by Roger Conover.

Djuna Barnes also had been published in The Dial. I had included a quote from “The Passion” as an introduction to Love Songs. Discussions with Candace Lorimer led me to think of publishing a one act play because of the typographical challenge of not having the book appear as a script but have it emerge as its own art form on the printed page.

Djuna Barnes’ first collection, A Book (1923), included her one act play “To The Dogs.” She was thirty-one. Her second collection, A Night Among The Horses (1929), also included “To The Dogs.” Then a jump. In Selected Works of Djuna Barnes (1962), “Spillway” included some of the stories in different form that had appeared in A Book and A Night Among The Horses. None of the one act plays were included.

The omission of “To The Dogs” became reason to publish it. The characters were Helena Hucksteppe and her neighbor Gheid Storm. Dr. Watson and I immediately knew what we wanted to publish and why.

Helena: You will not even recall having seen me.
Storm: Can memory be taken too?
Helena: Only that memory that goes past recollection may be kept.

A copyright search turned up that “To The Dogs” was copy written by Djuna Barnes on September 27, 1920 and A Book was registered in the name of Boni and Liveright, Inc. on September 28, 1923 and renewed by Djuna Barnes on December 7, 1950.

I wrote to Djuna Barnes on October 7, 1981 asking for permission to publish “To The Dogs.” I included a copy of Virgins Plus Curtains. I let her know the book would not be for sale; it was a readers’ tribute to her writing. It would be printed on hand-made paper with hand-sewn binding.

She wrote back on November 6, 1981.

Thank you for sending a copy of your publication of the book of poems by Mina Loy.

If you wish to print my play, To The Dogs, you have my permission.

Please let me know when it will appear, and kindly send me a few copies,

With all good wishes.

One hundred and ten copies of To The Dogs were printed. The types were Linotype Granjon and Monotype Garamond display. Books with numbers 1 through 85 were printed on Tovil paper, made in England by Barcham Green Mill (paper had to be dampened for printing for the type to be richer on the page), and the remaining twenty-five copies on Monadnock Caress. Typography, printing, and binding were by Candace Lorimer at the School of Printing, Rochester Institute of Technology.

I wrote a two-line poem to introduce the book.

Is there any way      we touch
but in the moment      we dream the same dream

Dr. Watson wrote a foreword. He concluded:

“In the preliminary description of the cast, Gheid Storm is treated as a pretentious and stupid male. Yet as the play progresses it is the same Storm who perceives that Helena Hucksteppe has much to offer, something that might even aspire to be termed, ‘life, life itself.’ Conversely she would ask more of her lover than such a man as Storm could understand or was capable of giving. A good man, Storm, respectable and all that; but he could hardly be expected to see beyond his own personal needs.”

I shared progress, paper choices, and that each copy would be bound in its own slip case with Djuna Barnes on February 3, 1982.

Dr. Watson died on March 31, 1982. Before he died he had arranged for his old friend and Dial contributor Kenneth Burke to participate in a New York State Literary Center Program in a middle school. Burke learned of Dr. Watson’s death when I picked him up at the airport. He taught with me in the New York State Literary Center program the next day.

I mailed Number 1 of To The Dogs to Djuna Barnes on April 19, 1982. I wrote her a second time in care of Frances Monson McCullough, a Senior Editor at The Dial Press who worked with Barnes, on May 26, 1982. I let her know that Number 2 was given to Dr. Watson’s widow, that I had Number 3, and Candace Lorimer, Number 4. I asked her if she wanted additional copies to let me know, and also to please let me know if there was anyone to whom she wished to have copies sent.

Frances McCullough wrote me in June and August 1982. She delivered the copies to Djuna Barnes, along with my letter. Barnes was pleased and commented, “Well, this is gorgeous, but what about the money.” She had forgotten the details. Djuna Barnes died on June 18, 1982. Frances McCullough had been in Rochester viewing Dr. Watson’s films when she died. She had a plaque made for Djuna Barnes with her epitaph on it and had it placed on Storm King Mountain where Djuna Barnes was born.












Dale Davis established The Sigma Foundation, a limited edition, private press with Dr. James Sibley Watson, Jr., avant-garde filmmaker and publisher and editor of The Dial magazine, the leading modernist journal of arts and letters. The Sigma Foundation published the work of Margaret Anderson, Mina Loy, and Djuna Barnes. The Sigma Foundation’s books are in many permanent collections, including The Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library at Yale University and The Collection of American Women at Smith College. 1979, she co-founded The New York State Literary Center with the late A. Poulin, Jr. where she continues as Executive Director. Writers, editors, and artists who have worked with Dale Davis as integral parts of NYSLC’s programs included Homero Aridjis, William Bronk, Kenneth Burke, Robert Creeley, Malcolm Cowley, Robert Fitzgerald, Kamilah Forbes, Jonathan Galassi, Hugh Kenner, Ted Kooser, James Laughlin, Ruth Maleczech, Emir Rodriguez Monegal, Octavio Paz, William Stafford, Carrie Mae Weems, and Eliot Weinberger.

Dale Davis lectured and has conducted teacher education programs in Juneau Alaska, Honolulu, Hawaii, Portland, Oregon, the Mississippi Delta, and throughout the country. As a recognized expert on Youth Culture, she served as a consultant to The Children’s Dignity Project, ABC Network and was selected to participate in Harvard University’s Institute on The Arts and Civic Dialogue, established by playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith. Her work with young people in the juvenile justice system was the subject of a Fox News Documentary.

As an advocate for Teaching Artists, Davis was one of the founders of the Association of Teaching Artists in 1998. In 2006 she became the Association of Teaching Artists’ first Executive Director. She has presented on Teaching Artists and The Association of Teaching Artists throughout the country. In 2011, Davis conveyed the first national gathering of Teaching Artists, the Teaching Artists Forum, at the Center for Arts Education in New York City.

Dale Davis’ own writing has appeared in publications from The Iowa Review to Op-Ed page of The New York Times. Recent publications include chapters in Unseen Cinema and Classics In The Classroom. She is presently working on a book on the high risk adolescents with whom she works. The working title is One Kid.






Notes:
Dale Davis. “ . . . And Melville Webber.” Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1893 – 1941, Edited by Bruce Posner. Anthology Film Archives. New York: 2001.
Djuna Barnes. “Head of A Polish Girl” (drawing). The Dial, March 1930 (Volume LVIII, Number 3).
Djuna Barnes. “To The Dead Favorite of Liu Ch’e.” The Dial, April 1920 (Volume LXVIII, Number 4).
Djuna Barnes. “Pastoral.” The Dial, April 1920 (Volume LXVIII, Number 4).
Djuna Barnes, “First Communion.” The Dial, August 1923 (Volume LXXV, Number 2).
Djuna Barnes. “Rudolph Schildkraut” (drawing). The Dial, April 1923 (Volume LXXIV, Number 4).
Djuna Barnes. “The Passion.” The Selected Works of Djuna Barnes. Spillway / The Antiphon / Nightwood. Farrar Straus and Giroux. New York, 1962.
Djuna Barnes. A Book. Boni and Liveright, Inc. New York, 1923.
Djuna Barnes. A Night Among The Horses. Horace Liveright. New York, 1929.
Douglas Messerli. Djuna Barnes: A Bibliography. David Lewis. New York: 1975.

Selected Bibliography of The Writing of Mina Loy:
Mina Loy. “Three Moments in Paris.” Rogue I, 1915.
Mina Loy. “Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots.” Rogue II, 1915.
Mina Loy. “Giovanni Franchi,.” Rogue II, 1916.
Mina Loy. “The Pamperers.” The Dial, July 1920 (Volume LXIX, Number 1).
Mina Loy. “Two Water Colors.” The Dial, April 1921 (Volume LXX, Number 4).
Mina Loy. “Mexican Desert.” The Dial, June 1921 (Volume LXX, Number 6).
Mina Loy. “Perlun.” The Dial, August 1921 (Volume LXXI, Number 2),
Mina Loy. “Poe.” The Dial, October 1921 (Volume LXXI, Number 4).
Mina Loy. “Apology of Genius.” The Dial, July 1922 (Volume LXXIII, Number 1).
Mina Loy. “Brancusi’s Golden Bird.” The Dial, November 1922 (Volume LXXIII, Number 5).
Mina Loy. Lunar Baedecker. Contact Editions. Dijon, 1923.
Mina Loy. Lunar Baedeker and Time-Tables. Introductions by William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth and Denise Levertov. Drawings by Emerson Woelffer. The Jargon Society (http://jargonbooks.com/index.html). Highlands, 1958.
Mina Loy. At The Door of The House. Introduction by Dale Davis. Aphra Press. Northampton, 1980.
Mina Loy. Love Songs. Dedicated to Kenneth Rexroth. Aphra Press. Northampton, 1981.
Mina Loy. Virgins Plus Curtains Poems by Mina Loy. Dedicated to Kenneth Rexroth. Introduction by Dale Davis. The Press of The Good Mountain. Rochester, 1981.
Mina Loy. The Last Lunar Baedeker. Edited and introduced by Roger Conover. Designed by Herbert Bayer. The Jargon Society. Highlands, 1982.
Mina Loy. Insel. Edited by Elizabeth Arnold. Black Sparrow Press. Santa Rosa, 1991.
The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy. Roger L. Conover, Editor. Farrar Straus Giroux. New York, 1996.
The Lost Lunar Baedeker Mina Loy. Edited by Roger L. Conover. Carcanet Press. Manchester, 1997.
Stories and Essays of Mina Loy. Edited by Sara Crangle. Dalkey Archive Press. Champaign, 2011.

This and That: Bill Gratwick

by Dale Davis

Linwood, New York, (Post Office, Pavilion, New York), thirty-five miles southwest of Rochester, fifty-five miles due east of Buffalo, fourteen miles east of Avon, in Livingston County, the Genesee Valley.

My father (William Henry Gratwick, Jr., 1870- 1934) selected this land we live on during the year 1899 by taking two-hour trips from Buffalo on the milktrains of all the railroads leaving the city. He looked out of the window on one side going out, and the other coming back.

On the day he traveled the Lackawanna he noticed after about fifty miles that the landscape began to look promising. So he got off the train, walked up the sloping fields to a ridge, ate his picnic lunch in the doorway of an old barn overlooking the entire Genesee Valley, and realized that here was the place he been looking for.

He bought this farm on the York-Pavilion Road, Livingston County, and three adjoining farms, about 350 acres in all. The family started living here in 1900 and as been living here ever since.

William Gratwick, My, This Must Have Been a Beautiful Place When It Was Kept Up, As Documented in the Year 1965.



“Bill, why is there a new bridge in the garden,” I asked on a fall afternoon in 1983. “Cross it and see if you know the answer,” Bill replied. I did. As I crossed the new bridge Bill had placed in the Italian Garden and looked out, I was surrounded by a panorama of the Genesee Valley. I knew.

Linwood was built in 1900 as the summer estate of William Henry Gratwick, Jr., a Harvard-trained architect, who climbed the hill and looked at the view. Thomas A. Fox of Boston, a close friend of John Singer Sargent, designed the gardens and grounds at Linwood, including the Italian Garden

Now her son has taken up her
old ideas formally
shut out

by high walls from the sheep run.
It is a scene from Comus
transported

to upper New York State.

From William Carlos Williams, “The Italian Garden”



This is not a history of Linwood. Linwood was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. There is a history available, completed in 2008. This is, also, not a biography of Bill Gratwick. He is the author or two books documenting his life: My, This Must Have Been a Beautiful Place When It Was kept Up, As Documented in 1965 and The Truth Tall Tales and Blatant Lies. This is also not a scholarly examination of William Carlos Williams in Western New York. Emily Mitchell Wallace has written a thorough study (Emily Mitchell Wallace. “Musing in the Highlands and Valleys: The Poetry of Gratwick Farm.” William Carlos Williams Review 8, no. 1, Spring 1982).

Bill Gratwick (William Henry Gratwick III, 1903- 1988) was not a footnote. He was a Harvard graduate (A.B. in History 1926, Master’s in Landscape Architecture, 1929) sculptor, librettist, author, horticulturalist, landscape architect, breeder of horses and sheep, photographer, filmmaker, and hybridizer of tree peonies (with Hamilton College Professor A. P. Saunders and artist Nassos Daphnis).

His was the art of surprise, of delight, of exuberance. He gave himself everywhere, from the paths he mowed that took the eyes down the unexpected, to the installations he created just waiting to be photographed. His was the art of seeing and sharing that vision, a gift he generously gave. There has never been a group exhibition of the work of the photographers who photographed at Linwood. The photographers include Ansel Adams; Walter Chappell; Phillip Elliott; Joan Lyons; Beaumont Newhall; Minor White; and Charles Arnold, Professor of Photography R.I.T., and his many, many students.

Come I will delight you and yet Bill’s was a subtle gift.

William Carlos Williams wrote in The Autobiography, “Bill, whose genius for the impromptu is never at a loss for expression.” Bill Gratwick’s art was the moment.

These are a few of the moments Bill Gratwick gave to me.

The first time I visited Linwood I brought every reference to William Carlos Williams and the place and its inhabitants as part of me. At the sight of Bill’s place and Tree Peonies in bloom I shed all references and looked and looked and looked.


Tree Peonies are native to western China and parts of Tibet. The Chinese collected them for centuries, almost eliminating them from the wild, for planting in the gardens of the imperial palace and temples. These plants were so revered that the rulers declared that only persons of great wealth or high position were of sufficient stature to grow them, a way which continued for generations.

Europeans first became aware the Moutans through Chinese art collected by early traders and importers, but the spectacular plants were written off, at that time, as products of artists’ imagination.

Michael Dodge. “Tree Peonies, Carrying on an Age-Old Tradition, American Breeders are Improving the King of Flowers.” Horticulture, August 1978, pps. 37-38.




The arrival of Tree Peonies to Pavilion, New York is well documented in both of Bill’s books.

My first response to both Bill and to his place was not to have one question. Questions were unnecessary; there was only to look, to see, to experience. Art was everywhere, Tree Peonies in bloom, every corner, everywhere. The fountain on arrival announced entering a place unlike no other, a place created for arrival.

Someone once asked Bill why all his work on Tree Peonies when it took a generation for a new hybrid to bloom and the blossom was so short lived. Bill answered, “You want something that will bloom all summer, plant Petunias or Pansies.”

That fall afternoon in 1983 I was at Bill’s place to finalize Bill and Harriet Gratwick’s (who were separated) donation of letters and manuscripts to The Poetry Collection, SUNY Buffalo, founded by Bill Gratwick’s brother-in-law, Charles Abbott. Among the donation: Letters from William Carlos Williams; Typed manuscript of Williams’ poem “Rogation Sunday”; Manuscript of “Hymn for Rogation Sunday,” Poem, Williams Carlos Williams, Music, Thomas Canning; Programs from the performance of “Hymn for Rogation Sunday,” at Rural Life Sunday, My 18, 1947, 7:30 p.m., at the Livingston County Pomona Grange; at the Lily Pond, August 13, 1950; and at the Eastman School of Music, July 30, 1951; One typed manuscript outline of Acts I and II of Williams’ play Tituba’s Children (written as “Juba’s Children” on the manuscript outline). Sometime earlier during the summer Bill asked me to look at the contents of an envelope and see what ought to be done.

Bill’s topics of conversation on that fall afternoon included Williams’ variable foot and Hugh Kenner’s “Rhythm of Ideas,” which had appeared in The New York Times Book Review on September 18. Bill recited lines of Williams from memory.

That same fall of 1983 I was invited by the William Carlos Williams Society to present something in honor of Williams to follow the Centennial Dinner of the William Carlos William Society at the Harvard Club in New York on December 29. Harriet and Bill Gratwick’s belief in “Hymn for Rogation Sunday” led me to suggest a performance of the hymn at the Harvard Club as a tribute to the “Poet Laureate of the Tree Peonies,” a salute to the ceremony, suggested by Bill Gratwick, in which Williams was crowned by Harriet Gratwck at the Lily Pond (The Autobiography, pps. 326-327).


William Carlos Williams reading “Rogation Sunday” at the Lily Pond, Linwood, 1950
Photographer Not Identified



The Director of Performing Arts in a school district where I was conducting a New York State Literary Center program, believed it would be possible to perform “Hymn for Rogation Sunday” at the Centennial with twelve high school students. He found the students, two trumpet players, two trombone players, two sopranos, two altos, two tenors, and two bases and rehearsed the students every morning for an hour and a half before school began from mid-November right through to the performance in December. We raised the funds to get everyone to NYC.

About one week before the performance Bill hooked up a sled to the back of the tractor. He drove and I rode on the sled. He stopped at particular trees, selected specific branches, and after cutting the branches handed them to me. He also included cattails that he waded into the icy water of the pond to get.

Nassos Daphnis and I brought the branches into the Biddle Room at the Harvard Club, where the dinner and the performance were to be held that evening, on the morning of December 29 , while the students rehearsed to test the acoustics. Nassos created flowers from the branches that he placed around the room.

Following the performance that evening, Nassos and I found a pay phone at the Harvard Club and debated whether or not to call Bill. It was past 8:00 p.m., the time Bill went to bed. We called. Bill wanted to know about the scholars. Nassos told Bill about seeing “the boys,” Williams’ sons, and how they both touched and examined each branch.

     This is our world and this
     is our message to world and to each other

          From William Carlos Williams, “Rogation Sunday”


In 1984, the New York Center for Visual History was filming Voices and Visions, hour-long documentaries on American poets for PBS. Bill was contacted about the film they were making on Williams. Jill Janows, Senior Producer and writer for the Williams film, wanted to know if Bill could be interviewed and whether they could film at Linwood. Lawrence Pitkethly was the Executive Producer, and Richard P. Rogers was the Director. Bill had little feeling one way or the other about the interview and filming at his place. He told me it was up to me, but with the condition we see the Ezra Pound film, directed by Lawrence Pitkethly, and the work of Richard P. Rogers, who would be directing the film. “Look at the work” was a mantra of Bill’s. The Ezra Pound film was sent, and Richard Rogers sent a copy of his film Quarry, a look at teenagers who hung around the Quincy Quarry in the early 1970s. Quarry was a poignant coming-of-age film.

When the film crew arrived at Linwood for two days of shooting, as they got out of the car the first thing they saw was a red wheelbarrow glazed with water. The footage of Bill Gratwick and Linwood was not included in the final film, Voices and Visions : William Carlos Williams. However, in October 1986 as part of “On the Work of William Gratwick,” co-sponsored by the Art Department, State University of New York at Geneseo and the New York State Literary Center, with funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, Jill Janows and Richard Rogers showed rough assembly/outtakes/Bill Gratwick, “The New York Center for Visual History on William Gratwick,” that Richard Rogers had put together. Bill was moved. “It was fabulous footage,” Jill Janows said of the footage they shot at Linwood over the two days. We just couldn’t use it in the Williams film. Bill Gratwick stole the show.”

The letters and manuscripts Bill handed to me in 1983 to look over and see what ought to be done, contained correspondence between Harriet Gratwick and William Carlos Williams. In 1947 Harriet Gratwick started the Linwood Music School and asked Williams to write a poem to celebrate the planting of the seeds in spring. She wanted the poem for a special Rogation Sunday observance for the Livingston County Pomona Grange. Harriet and Bill Gratwick invited Thomas Canning of the Eastman School of Music to set the poem to music to be performed at the Lily Pond. “Hymn for Rogation Sunday” was performed at the Lily Pond on August 13, 1950. William Carlos Williams was there, and he read the poem before it was performed.

The letters also mentioned Harriet Gratwick’s founding of the York Opera Company in 1948 and that Bill and Harriet Gratwick were interested in doing a modern opera. They asked Williams for a libretto that would fit their needs and the needs of other similar groups with amateur voices. Williams was aware that a relative of Harriet Saltonstall Gratwick’s was a judge in the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692, as he was writing “Tituba’s Children” for the York Opera Company. It was decided that “Tituba’s Children,” a powerful look at American culture of the time, was not the gay satire Bill and Harriet were looking for. Harriet Gratwick hoped someone would pick it up and give it a good production.

In 1987 I was conducting a New York State Literary Center program in a suburban high school. An English teacher asked me for suggestions for a play for the drama club that would fit well with the program. No one had ever performed “Tituba’s Children” (in Many Loves and Other Plays by William Carlos Williams, dedicated to Harriet and Bill Gratwick). Thanks to permission from New Directions, The New York State Literary Center proudly sponsored the premier performance of “Tituba’s Children” at Penfield High School on March 27 and 28, 1987. William Gratwick and Robert Creeley came with me to speak with the cast during rehearsals.

Sometime during the fall 1983, in the Italian Garden, Bill reached out with his right arm, spread his arm to the length and breadth of the Genesee Valley and said, “This is the ‘Rogation Hymn.” “It is all around you.”

In the spring of 1984 I walked around Linwood by myself, over the fence and into the sheep meadow, back over the fence and into the Italian Garden. I read “Rogation Sunday” aloud to myself at the spot where Bill had said, “This is the ‘Rogation Hymn.” From the Italian Garden I wandered into the Dwarf Village (Bill had all of the fountains on), then by the tennis court, and somehow I found myself on a path of blue flowers, Scilla, blue flowers and tulips in light purple shades I had never seen before. The path led me to the Lily Pond.

Just as the Tree Peony gives itself away in its bloom, so did Bill give himself away.

—Dale Davis
ddavis (at) nyslc (dot) org


Notes:

Karen Cowperthwaite. “Two Gardens and A View: Revealing the History and the Future of An American Country Place in Western New York – Linwood.” College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, Syracuse: Project Report Submitted in Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Master of Landscape Design, 2008.

Michael Dodge. “Tree Peonies, Carrying on an Age-Old Tradition, American Breeders are Improving the King of Flowers.” Horticulture, August 1978.

William Gratwick. My, This Must Have Been a Beautiful Place When It Was Kept Up, As Documented in the Year 1965. Pavilion: William Gratwick, 1965.

William Gratwick. The Truth Tall Tales and Blatant Lies. Rochester: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1981.

The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams. New York: New Directions, 1967.

William Carlos Williams. “The Italian Garden.” Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems, Collected Poems 1950 – 1962. New York: New Directions, 1962.

William Carlos Williams. Many Loves and Other Play. New York: New Directions, 1961.




Dale Davis established The Sigma Foundation, a limited edition, private press with Dr. James Sibley Watson, Jr., avant-garde filmmaker and publisher and editor of The Dial magazine, the leading modernist journal of arts and letters. The Sigma Foundation published the work of Margaret Anderson, Mina Loy, and Djuna Barnes. The Sigma Foundation’s books are in many permanent collections, including The Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library at Yale University and The Collection of American Women at Smith College. 1979, she co-founded The New York State Literary Center with the late A. Poulin, Jr. where she continues as Executive Director. Writers, editors, and artists who have worked with Dale Davis as integral parts of NYSLC’s programs included Homero Aridjis, William Bronk, Kenneth Burke, Robert Creeley, Malcolm Cowley, Robert Fitzgerald, Kamilah Forbes, Jonathan Galassi, Hugh Kenner, Ted Kooser, James Laughlin, Ruth Maleczech, Emir Rodriguez Monegal, Octavio Paz, William Stafford, Carrie Mae Weems, and Eliot Weinberger.

Dale Davis lectured and has conducted teacher education programs in Juneau Alaska, Honolulu, Hawaii, Portland, Oregon, the Mississippi Delta, and throughout the country. As a recognized expert on Youth Culture, she served as a consultant to The Children’s Dignity Project, ABC Network and was selected to participate in Harvard University’s Institute on The Arts and Civic Dialogue, established by playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith. Her work with young people in the juvenile justice system was the subject of a Fox News Documentary.

As an advocate for Teaching Artists, Davis was one of the founders of the Association of Teaching Artists in 1998. In 2006 she became the Association of Teaching Artists’ first Executive Director. She has presented on Teaching Artists and The Association of Teaching Artists throughout the country. In 2011, Davis conveyed the first national gathering of Teaching Artists, the Teaching Artists Forum, at the Center for Arts Education in New York City.

Dale Davis’ own writing has appeared in publications from The Iowa Review to Op-Ed page of The New York Times. Recent publications include chapters in Unseen Cinema and Classics In The Classroom. She is presently working on a book on the high risk adolescents with whom she works. The working title is One Kid.

THIS AND THAT: Sifting Through New York State Poets In The Schools

By Dale Davis

As Executive Director of the Association of Teaching Artists, I hear from many Teaching Artists, academics, and graduate students on a wide range of topics. Last week, for example, I received an email from a doctoral candidate who is completing her dissertation on the intersection of the world of the arts and the world of education. She was looking for information on the “history/results/impact” of the New York State Poets in the Schools program. I worked in the program in its early days both as a poet who went into schools and as Coordinator of the Rochester region. The program brought many of us into public schools who otherwise would not have entered a public school classroom. As Bill Zavatsky recounted, “We were pioneers. We flew by the seats of our pants. It was baptism by fire.” Our love of poetry drove us; we brought contemporary poetry and writing to children and teachers. It was ideal; we worked with what we loved, and it opened a new world both for our students and for us.

Looking through several articles written in the past ten years on the history of artists in education, I found the groundbreaking work in the writers in the schools programs, Teachers & Writers Collaborative and New York State Poets in the Schools, missing from most.

This is not a straight-line story. This is by no mean a definitive or complete look at the emergence of these early programs that helped pave the way for Teaching Artists in public education. There are curves and detours everywhere. The story begins, I think, with public funding for the arts. Funding was made available for poets to go into public schools. Governor Nelson Rockefeller backed the New York State Council on the Arts, established in 1960 through a bill introduced in the New York State Legislature. The New York State Council on the Arts began as an arts council in 1961. It became the model for the National Endowment for the Arts.

In September 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act that established the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. An appropriation of $2.5 million was signed on October 31, 1965. Among the initial grant recipients were the American Ballet Theater, The Martha Graham Dance Company, choreography fellowships to Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Jose Limon, and Paul Taylor, and a pilot program in New York City, Detroit, and Pittsburgh entitled Poets in the Schools. The National Endowment established Poets in The Schools in 1966 through funding to The Academy of American Poets. The pilot featured Denise Levertov, Robert Lowell, Howard Nemerov, Allan Tate, and Robert Penn Warren, to name a few, who read their poetry and answered questions.

Teachers & Writers Collaborative, founded in 1967 by a group of writers and educators who believed that professional writers could make an important contribution to the teaching of writing and literature, received its initial funding in 1968 from the Office of Health, Welfare, and Education, along with some money from a Ford Foundation grant to Columbia University where it was originally housed.

In 1970, Galen Williams, the director of the 92nd Street YM-YWHA Poetry Center, with funding from The New York State Council on The Arts, started Poets & Writers as an organization to provide fees for readings and workshops for writers. In 1973 New York State Poets in the Schools began as part of Poets & Writers. As part of Poets & Writers, New York State Poets in the Schools received funding from the Office of Health, Welfare, and Education. Funding was also received from the National Endowment for the Arts. This funding was folded into funding for the first Poets & Writers Directory of Writers. In 1977, Poets in the Schools had become so big that Myra Klahr who had been at Poets & Writers for three years working with Galen Williams agreed to lead a new independent organization, New York State Poets in the Schools, as Executive Director.

1970 saw the publication of Kenneth Koch’s, Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry. This event is an important part of the story. Kenneth Koch began working with children at P.S. 61 in New York City in 1968. The Academy of American Poets funded his visits at first. Teachers & Writers supported his work following the initial Academy of American Poets funding. Ron Padgett’s “Forward” to Wishes, Lies, and Dreams captures the excitement surrounding the first publication of the book.

By 1974, Artists-in-Schools, whose Pilot was Poets in The Schools, reached more than 5,000 schools in all fifty states, including hundreds of thousands of children and teenagers in the dance, crafts, painting, sculpture, music, theater, film, folk art, and design.

When New York State Poets in the Schools began, in addition the to New York City poets, Dick Lourie was the Ithaca Coordinator, Neil Baldwin, the Buffalo Coordinator, Jo Mish, the Oneonta Coordinator, and I was the Rochester Coordinator. This is not a complete list. My lens is memory.

In the beginning it was one day here, two days there, “Johnny Appleseed stuff,” as Bill Zavatsky described it. The one day visits grew to where poets were paid $75.00 a school day for conducting three hour-long classroom writing workshops for students and one workshop for teachers daily. The poet was in the school for the entire school day, available to meet with teachers and students during non-teaching periods. Five days was the minimum residency, later extended to six days. Coordinators were paid $100.00 per school for setting up and reporting on a residency. In a few years poets fees were raised to $100.00 a school day. $75.00 in the 1970’s is worth approximately $325.00 today. $100 in the 1970’s is worth approximately $430.00 today.

You never knew if you would see the child again. We did though. Some stayed in touch. We found some of those children later in the Iowa Writers Workshop, at Johns Hopkins, a book of poetry, a novel.

We learned from one another. The Executive Director called statewide meetings once a year. Some years school personnel were present, and we gave presentations on our work in the classrooms. Other years the poets met, and we presented our work in classrooms to one another for critiques. New York State Poets in the Schools developed a training program for poets that included mentoring new poets.

I hope that anyone reading this who was part of the New York State Poets in the Schools program in the seventies will email me their thoughts on the impact working in the program had on them, their careers, and their students. I am presently working on compiling the experiential knowledge of Teaching Artists in the artists’ own words for the Association of Teaching Artists.

Results/Impact: Phillip Lopate’s Journal of a Living Experiment: A documentary history of Teachers and Writers Collaborative and the writers-in-the-schools movement comes to my mind immediately, as does as did his Being With Children.

Being with Children, first published in 1975, was out of print for years. It is classic on a writer’s relationship to writing and to working with young students. Many New York City poets worked for both Teachers and Writers and New York State Poets in the Schools.

Results/Impact: Writers in the Schools in Houston was founded by Philip Lopate and Marv Hoffman in 1983, with support and guidance from Teachers & Writers Collaborative.

Results/Impact: An interview with Dick Lourie in the Somerville News Blog, 2005.

Doug Holder: ‘Hanging Loose’ makes a point of publishing High School age poets. Was there, and is there a big need for this in the publishing world?”


Dick Lourie: We have been publishing these poets since the magazine started. Two or three of us were always involved with poetry in the schools. I worked with kids in New York State, for instance. So we’ve always been interested in this. 
We were seeing some astonishing high school work, so it seemed appropriate to give high school writers a place for their work, that was not just a high school publication, but a professional journal. We did it, we still do it, and we have put out three anthologies of high school writing.

Results/Impact: In 2006 Bill Zavatsky wrote in The Poetry Foundation on holding it all together to make a living as a writer in the schools and also be a publisher and writer.

“The only population groups that I haven’t served are the unborn and the dead, and there must be ways for a poet to get to them!”

Bill Zavatsky became a teacher and taught at Trinity School in Manhattan for twenty-four years. He does not think he ever would have become a teacher were it not for the poet in the schools programs, “programs founded on the fact that you were a writer.”

Results/Impact: In 1979 I founded the New York State Literary Center with the late Al Poulin. I did not plan to become an artist educator, a Teaching Artist. I somehow arrived when invited by Galen Williams to teach poetry in public schools in the Rochester area. I had no idea what I would do, but I said yes.

My education for this career was reading, writing, research, personal experience, and observation. I founded the New York State Literary Center based upon what I learned in New York State Poets in the Schools. I wanted the New York State Literary Center’s programs to be interdisciplinary and project based. Experience taught me that children are empowered when their perceptions are validated instead of trivialized. I have edited over five hundred books and produced thirty-one CDs of the writing of young people based upon my belief that their voices are an integral part of NYSLC’s work.

In researching for this column I came across “Lost & Found,” a piece Myra Klahr wrote on New York State Poets in the Schools in 1978.

The piece is about children and language. She included my work in a fourth grade classroom in a suburban school district. Alexander Rossi was a student in that class. Alex was ten and aware of his imminent death from leukemia. I visited him in the hospital. Before he died he wrote a poem and gave it to me when I visited him.

My lion grows old and wise.
He goes with me wherever I go.
He knows what I think. Whenever I
     get lost in dreams
he comes and shows reality.
I’ll never forget him ever.



I listen carefully. My experience has taught me that children carry important news.




Notes

Thank you to Kathleen Masterson, Program Director: Literature, Arts Education, the New York State Council on the Arts; Robin Reagler, Executive Director, Writers in the Schools, Houston; Nancy Larson Shapiro, Director, Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1979-2005; Amy Swauger, Director, Teachers and Writers Collaborative; Galen Williams; and Bill Zavatsky.


Gerald Benjamin and Norman T. Hurd. editors. ). The Builder. Rockefeller in Retrospect: The Governor’s New York Legacy. Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, Albany, 1984.


Kenneth Koch. Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry. Harper/Perennial Edition,1999.


Phillip Lopate. Journal of a Living Experiment: A documentary history of Teachers and Writers Collaborative and the writers-in-the-schools movement. Virgil Press, 1979.


Phillip Lopate. Being With Children. New Press 2008.


Telephone conversation with Galen Williams, October 25, 2012.


Telephone conversation with Bill Zavatsky, October 26, 2012.

Dale Davis
ddavis (at) nyslc (dot) org
October 2012




Dale Davis established The Sigma Foundation, a limited edition, private press with Dr. James Sibley Watson, Jr., avant-garde filmmaker and publisher and editor of The Dial magazine, the leading modernist journal of arts and letters. The Sigma Foundation published the work of Margaret Anderson, Mina Loy, and Djuna Barnes. The Sigma Foundation’s books are in many permanent collections, including The Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library at Yale University and The Collection of American Women at Smith College. 1979, she co-founded The New York State Literary Center with the late A. Poulin, Jr. where she continues as Executive Director. Writers, editors, and artists who have worked with Dale Davis as integral parts of NYSLC’s programs included Homero Aridjis, William Bronk, Kenneth Burke, Robert Creeley, Malcolm Cowley, Robert Fitzgerald, Kamilah Forbes, Jonathan Galassi, Hugh Kenner, Ted Kooser, James Laughlin, Ruth Maleczech, Emir Rodriguez Monegal, Octavio Paz, William Stafford, Carrie Mae Weems, and Eliot Weinberger.

Dale Davis lectured and has conducted teacher education programs in Juneau Alaska, Honolulu, Hawaii, Portland, Oregon, the Mississippi Delta, and throughout the country. As a recognized expert on Youth Culture, she served as a consultant to The Children’s Dignity Project, ABC Network and was selected to participate in Harvard University’s Institute on The Arts and Civic Dialogue, established by playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith. Her work with young people in the juvenile justice system was the subject of a Fox News Documentary.

As an advocate for Teaching Artists, Davis was one of the founders of the Association of Teaching Artists in 1998. In 2006 she became the Association of Teaching Artists’ first Executive Director. She has presented on Teaching Artists and The Association of Teaching Artists throughout the country. In 2011, Davis conveyed the first national gathering of Teaching Artists, the Teaching Artists Forum, at the Center for Arts Education in New York City.

Dale Davis’ own writing has appeared in publications from The Iowa Review to Op-Ed page of The New York Times. Recent publications include chapters in Unseen Cinema and Classics In The Classroom. She is presently working on a book on the high risk adolescents with whom she works. The working title is One Kid.

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Neil Baldwin
Neil Baldwin

Reading Dale's reminiscent essay by chance on a grey Saturday afternoon brought back memories of those 'PITS' days 1974-1977, with…