Betty Boykin Takes Me to a Jazz Festival

I was studying jazz at Merced Junior College, learning how to play some of my favorites: Ragtime and Blues melodies on my clarinet. When I told Betty about how I loved to play, listen, and dance to this type of American-grown ethnic music, to my delight, she abruptly invited me to come with her to a weekend Jazz Festival. I had not heard about this festival, but I was sure not going to turn her down.

On Friday afternoon, I drove up the hill to Betty’s house and found a good place to park my Honda. There Betty was loading supplies into a cute little camper that was just large enough with sleeping room for two plus two seats in the front. I helped her with packing the camper, and organized the food she had bought for our trip. When we took off the sun was not yet down behind the hills. She knew how to get where we were going. I had never heard of the place, but it was only two hours away, with us winding south and east through the California foothills.

When I began to see lots of campers parked under trees, Betty told me that these were the club she belonged to called “Singles on Wheels”. This was a club for single people who arranged to go somewhere special every month. People were walking from their campers towards a brightly lit wood plank stage. There, four musicians were vigorously playing their instruments and singing, with amplifiers to disperse their jazz music out to the crowd.

Betty found a good spot to park her camper under a tree. Both of us were hungry by now, so we pulled the food she had prepared for us out of the ice box and we ate before heading down the hill to join the enthusiastic audience. We found ourselves an area on one of the benches lined up under the trees, and settled down to enjoy the music. Several groups performed, with avid applause between each set. When the program was over we hiked back to her camper and settled down for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning, after sharing fruit and cereal from her icebox, we decided to go on a hike. Walking up the hill we discovered that there were various bands scattered here and there along the trail, rehearsing their music. Later we walked back to listen to the performances scheduled on the stage, and I was glad the benches were in shade under the trees, so the hot afternoon sun was not a problem.

Betty had friends here who belonged to her group “Singles on Wheels.” They also had arrived in their campers to enjoy the festival. When evening came, they built a campfire and circled it with chairs brought from their campers. I was invited to sit down, but to my shock the chair collapsed and there I was sitting on the ground.

The “Singles on Wheels” group talked around their fire for some time, but Betty was the only one I knew, so I went back to her little camper, raided the icebox, and carried my food back to where I could watch the performers. Betty joined me and we stayed up having a good time watching the performers and listening to the songs, melodies, syncopations, and improvisations until the concert was over. We hiked back to her camper, hit the hay, and slept very well.

In the morning we made a final raid on the ice box and then got on the road. Betty drove us safely back to her house. From there, I drove myself home, where I plugged in my tapes of jazz music and re-lived the concert.


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