So, this is it. It is time to finish the last blog post for my San Francisco Bay Area History class. What a whirlwind it was! I am pretty sure that I did not get lost. However, I discovered that the jungle is much bigger than I ever imagined. You may recall that I chose to focus on the history of the Plowshares Coffee House, in part, to create reasonable boundaries for my project this quarter. A couple of weeks ago, I calculated that it would take about 429 hours just to process and notate the archival material that is already in my possession. That does not include analyzing, researching context, or writing about any of it! Another thing that I hadn’t considered was the enormity of the research required to set the Plowshares history within the context of the San Francisco Bay Area and broader histories. Developing this understanding ultimately required a significant portion of my effort to date.
My plan is to use this topic in my master’s degree classes—considering the story from the perspective of different disciplines (music, history, and anthropology). At the end of my studies, I will do some sort of project—an exhibit, website, or history concert, perhaps. (Suggestions are welcome.) After I complete my degree, I will continue learning, researching, and exploring ways to share the ever expanding story on my own. If I am lucky, I will find some other people who are interested in collaborating on the research, so it does not take more than one lifetime.
This blog will continue in some form. It is a handy way to “think out loud.” In a way, the various assignments have been a mini-version of my goal to approach the research and story from different perspectives. Perhaps the blog will help others who know pieces of the story—or want to help ferret it out—to find me. Overall, blogging has been an extremely useful process. I so rarely have this sort of time to refine the writing I do for work. What a luxury. It has been fun, exciting, and exhausting. The word cloud above provides a graphic representation of where my research and explorations have taken me so far. Below, is a summary of my research to date.
I argue that the Plowshares Coffee House was a musical nexus that drew from and strengthened the Bay Area folk music scene and its diverse music communities that extend across the nation and around the world. Just as Plowshares was rooted in the musical heritage of its past, today’s vibrant and diverse folk music communities—both in the Bay Area and beyond— are part of the ecosystem that emerged from the collective dedication of performers, presenters, volunteers, audience members, and other community members.
The San Francisco Bay Area has been attracting migrants and immigrants pursuing their dreams of freedom, economic security, adventure, and new lives throughout its recorded history. The shifting demographics of the region over time reflects wars, famines, economic booms and busts, new technologies, perceived opportunities, and changing ideologies—not just locally, but also nationally and worldwide. As cultures meet, clash, blend, and change, music echoes these patterns—as demonstrated by the music presented at Plowshares.
Douglas Firth Anderson argues that the dominance of Catholics, who were the first European settlers in the region, over the later arriving Anglo-Protestants, who dominated politics and society in the Eastern United States, led to establishment of a secular and cosmopolitan society in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Gold Rush of 1848 attracted nearly 50,000 people intent on making their fortunes to the city of San Francisco. By 1870, San Francisco was a major center of immigration, with large Irish, German, Chinese, and Italian populations. By 1906, only 36 percent of the San Francisco population was religious. Cultural pluralism became the norm. Labor unions became the major political drivers. Shifts in demographics continued throughout the twentieth century, as migrants and immigrants found their way to the San Francisco Bay Area. Marilynn Johnson argues that the influx of migrant workers who came to the San Francisco Bay Area between 1940 and 1945 reshaped society, culture, and politics in the region. During the 1930s, multi-ethnic Europeans arrived with their cultural traditions and Oakies brought their country music. Robert Filene observes that the folk musics of the 1930s that the Lomaxes collected “show an underlying respect for pluralist democracy and depict an America whose strength lies in the diversity of its people and traditions.” During World War II, more than 500,000 migrant workers, including many black and white southerners, arrived in the area, bringing their own versions of country music and blues. The growth of radio and the recording industry spread folk music traditions far beyond their immediate communities.
Both the political left and the right grew along with these population booms. Joshua Paddison argues that “grassroots activism helped change the course of politics and protest in the Bay Area and influenced national debates on anticommunism, academic freedom, and civil rights.” Religions leaders, students, and activists rallied and sang in opposition to the House Un-American Activities Committee hearing on May 12, 1960. In the mid-1960s, Joan Baez led protesting University of California, Berkeley students in singing The Times They Are A-Changing and We Shall Overcome.  Alan Jabbour argues that folk music revivals tap the past to intensify the values of the present. A participant in the revival of the 1960s, Jabbour recalls how they created “music to express simultaneously our quest for cultural roots, our admiration of democratic ideas and values, our solidarity with the culturally neglected, and our compulsion to forge our own culture for ourselves.” Filene argues that in the 2000s, folk culture became a source of strength during a time of crisis. Today, in the 2010s, as we struggle out of a recession (or maybe a depression – and, hopefully, we are heading out), folk music—in its many forms—is once again resurging.
The Plowshares Coffee House existed for just two decades (1977 to 1998). It was one of the first thirty-six organizations to occupy the new Fort Mason Center, located in Golden Gate National Recreational Area, the nation’s first urban national park and now a “national model of building reuse and community programs.” Plowshares was a place where people came together to hear many different kinds of folk music. The roots of the music played at Plowshares run deep into California’s past and far beyond, reflecting the origins, cultures, and passions of the state’s migrants and immigrants. The incredibly diverse populace in the Bay Area ensured both diverse local talent and interest in a variety of musics. During just the first three years Plowshares musical offerings included bluegrass, old time and country music, Western swing, ragtime and jazz, French bourees and polkas, Cajun and South American Altiplano music, railroad and cowboy songs, activist labor songs, sea shanties, vaudeville and music hall acts, music from Russia, Kentucky and Hawaii, and folk songs. During a brief lull in popularity elsewhere in the nation, Plowshares contributed to the vitality of the local music scene and kept alive a variety of folk traditions in San Francisco, exposing local audiences to the masters and providing a training ground for those who would carry these traditions into the future. 
Some of today’s venerated folk musicians graced the stage of Plowshares early in their careers. Two of the three founders, volunteers, audience members, and many of the musicians who played there are still actively involved in music communities – volunteering, performing, teaching, and inspiring others. Plowshares attracted people like Jessica Bryan, Sally Greenberg, and Art Peterson who have continued the tradition of presenting and promoting folk music to this day. Although Plowshares is gone, the folk music ecosystem that the people of Plowshares helped nurture continues in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Freight & Salvage Coffee House, a small venue at the time, now attracts world class musicians from a great variety of folk music traditions.  The Bay Area Country Dance Society San Francisco Contra Dance series that started at Plowshares in 1980, is still a vital folk dance series—and there are many more in the San Francisco Bay Area. The San Francisco Folk Music Club, from which Plowshares emerged, continues to promote “the enjoyment, dissemination, and preservation in individual, family and community life of that acoustic music roughly defined as folk.” The San Francisco Free Folk Festival is just one of many events in a region where there are more musical choices available than any one person can track, every day of the year.
Plowshares also provides a link to the heritage of activist folk music that uses songs to carry messages of social justice and inspire change. Activist folk singers Faith Petric and Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips performed multiple concerts at Plowshares. Music continues to be an important tool for social justice. For example, Occupella uses music “to promote peace, justice, and an end to corporate domination” through weekly demonstrations. Just as the International Workers of the World published books of songs that set activist messages to popular and religious tunes in 1909, Occupella publishes similar songbooks for our times on their website.
Music reflects our history, our cultures, and our national and personal identities. We use it to create hope and jobs, to stand up for civil rights and to change the world. Music has incorporated every human expression, whether we are singing along with Gene Autry or singing the blues. Folk music, the music of folks, follows along with history, and evolves as cultures meet, creating new musics that never existed before, just as peoples change when they are exposed to each other. Music has roots that ground us in our heritage, our histories, and our identities while we grow in new directions. Plowshares Coffee House is now a part of the folk legacy. It is there for us to draw inspiration and strength.
Although my research has been primarily focused on Plowshares, I suspect that research into any of the music communities in the Bay Area (or elsewhere) will reveal their impact on society. My foray into conceptualizing a relevant exhibit for the Hayward Area Historical Society suggests the potential. There are many studies of folk musics, the folk revival movements, and folk music communities. However, these studies tend to paint broad strokes, explore a single genre, or focus on a small number of key individuals. I have found only a few studies that examine modern American folk music communities like the one that grew around Plowshares. Tanya Su-Kyung Lee argues that the Old Town School in Chicago demonstrates that the enduring legacy of folk revivals is the musical and social processes introduced into the middle-class. Paul Malkoski argues that the history of the Denver Folklore Center and Swallow Hill Music Association prove the importance of folk music to the development of American culture. Thomas Turino argues that “musical participation and experience are valuable for the processes of personal and social integration that make us whole.” These are exciting ideas that begin to address my personal interest in how music communities such as Plowshares function as nexus points in society. I look forward to pursuing this line of research in the future.
I hope you have enjoyed the journey so far—and that you will check in from time to time to see where it goes from here. Let me know what you think. Explore some of the local folk music communities. Use songs to change the world. Perhaps I will see you at a contra dance, the Freight & Salvage, or a San Francisco Folk Music Club event like the San Francisco Free Folk Festival. The final video (for now) features the Cheap Suit Serenaders playing at the Freight & Salvage last September. Tony Marcus sings Wasting My Love On You.  Marcus was the second act to perform at Plowshares on opening night. The Cheap Suit Serenaders played at Plowshares for the first time on February 18, 1979.
[Word Count: 2577]
 Feinberg, Johnathan. “Wordle,” http://www.wordle.net/, accessed May 30, 2013. The word cloud in in this blog posting was created with Wordl.net, which is a web-based utility program that generates random word clouds based upon the frequency of words in a text.
 Anderson, Douglas Firth. “”We Have Here a Different Civilization”: Protestant Identity in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1906-1909.” The Western Historical Quarterly 23, no. 2 (1992): 199-221, 201-218.
 Johnson, Marilynn S. “War as Watershed: The East Bay and World War II.” Pacific Historical Review 63, no. 3 (1994): 315-31, 317.
 Filene, Benjamin. “”Our Singing Country”: John and Alan Lomax, Leadbelly, and the Construction of an American Past.” American Quarterly 43, no. 4 (1991): 602-24, 607.
 Johnson, 315-330.
 Johnson, 323. Cohen, Ronald D. Folk Music: The Basics. New York: Routledge, 2006, 29-38.
 Paddision 201, 191.
[8i] Paddison, 197-199.
 Cohen, R., 153.
 Jabbour, Alan. “Foreword.” In Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined, edited by Neil V. Rosenberg, xi-xiii. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993, xiii.
 Filene, Benjamin. “O Brother, What Next?: Making Sense of the Folk Fad.” Southern Cultures 10, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 50-69, 55.
 San Francisco Folk Music Club, the folknik, Nov/Dec 1977 and Sep/Oct 1998.
 San Francisco Folk Music Club, the folknik, Nov/Dec 1977. Rothman, Hal K. “The Park That Makes Its Own Weather: An Administrative History of Golden Gate National Recreation Area,” San Francisco: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, 2002, 164, http://www.nps.gov/goga/historyculture/publications.htm, accessed April 21, 2013. Chatfield-Taylor, Joan. “San Francisco’s Military Base with Scenery.” New York Times, October 16, 1988, A.21, accessed April 19, 2013, ProQuest Newstand. “Fort Mason Center History Tour.” edited by U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area: National Park Service, http://www.fortmason.org/assets/File/Fort%20Mason%20Center%20History%20Tour.pdf, accessed April 23, 2013.
 San Francisco Folk Music Club, the folknik, Nov/Dec 1977 through May/Jun 1980.
 Gruning, Thomas Robert. “Crossroads of the Ordinary: Contemporary Singer/Songwriters and the Post-Revival Folk,” Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin, 2003, 9. Accessed April 22, 2013, http://search.proquest.com/docview/305300081?accountid=28458.
 Peterson, Art. Informal Interview, May 20, 2013. Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse. “About Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.” Freight & Salvage Coffee House, http://www.freightandsalvage.org/about-freight, accessed May 20, 2013. Manning, Lisa. “Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse Celebrates Grand Opening Week of New Green State-of-the-Art Folk Music Venue in Downtown Berkeley August 27-30, 2009.” Freight & Salvage Coffee House, http://www.freightandsalvage.org/press/F&S_Grand_Opening_080609.pdf, accessed May 20, 2013.
 San Francisco Folk Music Club, the folknik, May/June 1980. Bay Area Country Dance Society. “Schedule of Events January 2013.” http://www.bacds.org/calendars/2013/01/, accessed May 21, 2013. Fenton, Charlie. Informal Interview, May 20, 2013.
 By the way … That was far too brief an endeavor. I have so many exciting ideas about different ways to engage people in folk musics that I just did not have time to capture. Ask me about the instrument petting zoo sometime …
 Lee, Tanya Su-Kyung. “Music as a Birthright: Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music and Participatory Music Making in the Twenty-First Century.” Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011, 6.
 Malkoski, Paul Alexander. “Folk Music in Denver.” M.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 2007, Abstract.
 Turino, Thomas. Music as Social Life : The Politics of Participation. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008, 1.
 San Francisco Folk Music Club, the folknik, Nov/Dec 1977.
 San Francisco Folk Music Club, the folknik, Jan/Feb 1979.