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Summertime, and the Living is Easy

May 31, 2012

1964 Christmas Parade

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Is everyone getting ready for the summer? We all are very lucky here in Los Gatos to have community members who ensure that summer after summer we have the much lauded Jazz in the Plazz, Shakespeare in the Park, the Sunday Concerts on the Civic Center lawn, the Summer Concert series at Vasona, the Carriage House Concert Series up at Villa Montalvo and the Plien Air art show at Old Town. The list really does go on and on. There is always enough to do, maybe almost too much now that the sun gets more than warm and the days get really long. The evening breeze off the Gap brings welcome relief and the occasional morning fog makes for a really good sleep-in morning.

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In the 1960s, Los Gatos was famous for its annual Christmas parade and its Strawberry Festival in the early summer, sponsored by Ming Quong Childrens Center. Within a few years the service clubs and the Chamber of Commerce began sponsoring the “festival” that had a variety of names and themes over the years but which was generally called the Los Gatos Art and Wine Festival, or even, just “the Wine Festival” by revelers far and wide.

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In those days, I forgot how, but I got myself appointed to what was then called the Los Gatos Cultural Resources Commission. Even then, I had been long associated with my art buddies between Town, Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. It was my goal, while on the commission, to make these small town bureaucrats aware of the vast artistic resources right under their noses. However, when I was appointed to the commission, they already had one project cooking, they were going to sponsor a Friday lunch concert to take place throughout the Summer. This was right up my ally, not a bad project to start with! This was like 1974 or ’76, somewhere around there, and all of the other commissioners had gray hair while I was about 24 or 25 and flourishing my really long mane and beard. A few of the others where old enough to be my great grandparents. My farm boy ways came in real handy with this bunch, they all thought I was a charmer, you know — “ah shucks ma’am, t’aint nothin’.”

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Because I knew so many of the local musicians from Mountain Charely’s, the Grog and Sirloin and the Chateau Liberté, it was no problem to fill up the calendar. Then came promotion. I talked the gig up to some of my designer friends and one, a guy who’s work was more edgy and modern than most in Los Gatos, came up with a unique and very interesting idea. As I remember, the Commission allotted, from its ridiculously insufficient budget, a pittance to this Friday lunch concert project, like maybe $200 for a summer’s worth of music. Thus, simplicity and frugality were the hallmarks of every aspect of this concert series. The designer, Don Faia, came up with an extremely simple, cheap and community involving concept. He sketched it out so I could present it to the commission.

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The idea was to print up some diamond shaped posters in just one color, flat black. To a designer, a diamond is a square tipped on its corner, like a “caution” road sign bolted to a post in front of a sharp curve. The poster would have a heavy coverage of black with a broad four or five inch border on each side. It was to be about two feet square. There would be a white square in the center, about ten inches to a side and within the square, in simple block letters, would be the essential info regarding the time and place of these lunch concerts. We would print up several hundred of these one-color posters and then distribute them to the elementary schools and have the young kids color the poster any way they wanted. We would then plaster them all over town.

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The old timers on the commission went bonzo over this idea. They even allotted a few extra bucks to the Friday Concert project so that Don could get pocket change for his professional time. Don got the posters printed and I was assigned the job of distributing the posters to the schools. Everyone was glad to get involved. The printer discounted the price, the teachers welcomed me with big smiles and the shop owners gladly let us tape the posters to their windows. This poster became a very popular project just on its own. Everyone loved it and it made Don and I recognizable names in the Town government (People would say “Oh yeah, you’re one of the guys that did that poster” . . .). Neither of us ever expected such enthusiastic support.

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I don’t know the detailed history of Jazz in the Plazz and I’m not sure if our Friday lunches evolved into Jazz in the Plazz or if there is no connection at all between them, but, people in town were making an effort, in both cases, but now-a-days they are printing up fancy, four color multi-page programs. But after all, even the strongest Oak tree springs forth from a tiny little nut.

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Wait, I think that is supposed to be “acorn.”

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