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A Little Bit of History

By Susan Larsen

Sacramento Ragtime Society Newsletter–November, 1993

But Deborah Gale moved her own piano down there  for the duration. We even had a place to hold our Ragtime Corner during the Jubilee–although we had to quit at 8:00 p.m. when the place turned into a disco, and we could leave our props there at our own risk. (A microphone stand did end up missing after one Jubilee there).

One Sunday, we showed up for our monthly meeting to find Pierpoint's had scheduled a wedding reception during our time slot. The management told us that we could move our piano out to the “patio” for our meeting. But it was pouring down rain. We ended up going to the Applegate's home that day. We didn't react to that minor inconvenience and immediately find another meeting place. We waited until Pierpoint's said they were going out of business and we had to have our piano out of there within the next 3 days.

Down the street a couple buildings away, we started meeting at Fulton's Prime Rib, this time upstairs. The grand piano there had seen its better days, and had what I call a “bar top”–one designed to put and spill drinks on. Since it was a bar top; the sound didn't carry like a normal piano. The conditions at Fulton's were amiable but crowded. Very crowded.

I kept hearing negative comments about our meeting site. I wasn't terribly happy with the place either, so I thought I'd scout out what else was available. This meant visiting several sights, scoping out the piano, the acoustics, the atmosphere, the management. We had a “trial meeting” at our current location, the Hyatt Regency, and the membership who attended agreed to move our meetings there.

We have the following amenities with our current location: A decent piano that is kept in tune; a light and airy open space; plenty of seating (just ask, and they'll set up more tables); free parking within 2 blocks; handicap access to the entrance; a light rail stop within 3 blocks; a place to hold our Ragtime Corner during the Jazz Festival, with a storage room for our props; and an extremely accommodating management and staff.

The location is good for members who plan other activities in the area, such as attending the symphony, taking a stroll through Capitol Park, or shopping in our newly renovated downtown mall. We don't raise money or charge admission, so we would not be able to pay any kind of rent. All these things should be considered before finding another site, if that's what the membership wants to do. And it will take action on the part of someone who is interested in relocating the meeting site. Negative comments don't move a society.

I've been thinking about doing a history on where we've been for quite a while, but Ray's item spurred me into action. I guess I may have waited too long to write this. As I look back, my memory is not crystal clear on all events, but here's what I do recall:

The first I heard about the Sacramento Ragtime Society was by reading a 2-line blurb in the newspaper to the effect that ragtime music could be heard at the Woodlake Inn and that it was free to the public. The ironic part about it was that I had looked at that section of the newspaper on a lark. This was around October 1984.

The meeting was held in a large room at what was then the Woodlake Inn (now it's called the Radisson Hotel) at Highway 160 & Canterbury Road. The audience sat on metal folding chairs around a few small tables. The piano was a nondescript old upright. I only knew two rags at the time, and I was amazed at the variety of different rags I was hearing. I decided I'd attend meetings more often.

Somehow I kept up with where the SRS was meeting when the society left the Woodlake Inn and began meeting at the Clarion Hotel, on 16th and G Streets. I understand from people who were members before I joined, that prior to the Woodlake site the SRS had left what was then the Mansion Inn when remodeling began and returned when it became the Clarion.

At the Clarion, we had a nice little Kawai grand piano, in a cozy setting. But, one Sunday, we were surprised to find the piano locked up, and the staff telling us that we weren't appreciated that day, it being Super Bowl Sunday and all. We would be disturbing patrons who wanted to watch the football game on the television around the corner.

We found a new site soon after. This time we moved to the Alhambra Fuel & Transportation Company, on Alhambra & 28th Streets. The Alhambra had a very nice Weber grand piano, in good condition for an older piano. We even negotiated a food and drink discount with the management for SRS members on meeting days. One Sunday, we showed up for our monthly meeting and found the restaurant locked. A sign in the window said “Closed Sundays for the summer”. Or some such message. The bartender inside let us in to make a few phone calls. We put a crude sign in the window for any other SRS members who might show up and ended up going into Old Sacramento that day. I later heard that the management felt we weren't purchasing enough food & drink to make the discount offer worthwhile to them.

Our next home was in Old Sacramento, at Jon Pierpoint Daily's bar and restaurant. Pierpoint's had an upper floor and a basement section, where we met for a good couple of years. Their piano was the pits, with no bench or stool, missing key caps, probably missing strings.

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