Back from a whirlwind visit to San Francisco (photos below) — a packed house at City Lights Books, with special guests from the Fine Arts Group: Vladimir Dupre, 94, executive secretary of the Fine Arts, and Chuck Davis, 91, who taught the original members how to set type and run a printing press. I gave a short slideshow overview, then Steve Dickison, director of the San Francisco Poetry Center, set the stage for discussion on how the Fine Arts influenced the San Francisco postwar scene. Vlad and Chuck were in fine form even though the room was thick with body heat, sharing great memories and perspectives.
Did they have any sense at the time that they were doing something important, that it would influence a generation and beyond? No, they said — they were just getting through their days of planting trees and cutting trails, trying to be creative as an antidote to the drudgery.
Were they really living the ideals on the margins of the 1940s that would become the mainstream in the next generation? It certainly appears so. Civil rights: they sat at the same tables regardless of race. Equal rights: they wrote “he or she” when speaking generically of human beings. Health: They took a vote and requested that people not smoke during meals. Nutrition: They served a vegetarian as well as meat menu at dinners. Environmentalism: They wrote of the so-called “dead stumps” in the forest as the incubators of the next generation of trees. Just about any social movement you want to name from the 1960s and ’70s existed in some form at this isolated backwoods camp on the rain-soaked Oregon coast during the dark days of World War II.
And on this night 70 years later at the iconic City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, two members of this once-marginalized group got to see the difference they’d made for not just one generation but also for the ones following.
During the chaotic book-signing after the talk, as Vlad and Chuck were signing away and I was talking and making new friends, a young woman suddenly stood in front of me with the light of discovery in her eyes, a look that I have come to recognize during the past year of some twenty-odd events. “I had no idea about this,” she said, and held out her copy with Vlad’s and Chuck’s names already signed. “I can’t wait to read the book!”
L-R: Chuck Davis, Steve Dickison from San Francisco Poetry Center, and Vlad Dupre.
Space was so tight, the projector came down after the slideshow so people could see the guests of honor.
Book signing after the talk. Chuck Davis (L, seated) looking up and talking to a fan. Vlad Dupre (R, seated) signing a book.