ONE DOESN’T REALLY have to tune a washtub bass, so Larry Baysinger waited patiently while the other musicians tuned their strings.
His foot rested atop the rim of the upside-down washtub. His hands held the smooth stick supporting the single string of his instrument.
An all-star jam of regular West End musicians gathered in one of the three activity rooms of Forks Long Term Care on Dec. 3. The warmth and bright lights defied the cold darkness of that Monday night.
Through a very wide doorway, music spilled out into the adjacent room where about 20 residents, staff, friends and family gathered for two hours of free evening music.
I sat next to a lady who was singing along to “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” which she said was her favorite song.
Her hands played an “air-piano” beside me while her feet tapped out a backbeat.
As I looked around the room, I saw hers were certainly not the only feet keeping time with the music. Many heads with crowns of grey hair bobbed along as well.
Seeing the faces and recalling the last names of audience members in my head, I realized the names belonged to core West End families from the past 50 years or so.
Here they all were, sharing common songs that brought back personal memories.
“This is good dancing music,” a widow told me. She added with a huge grin, “If my husband were here, he would tell me to get up because we’re going to dance.”
Just then, Dave Secord threw out a joke while Barney Munger tuned his banjo: “If a guitar player and a banjo player fall off a cliff, who will hit the ground first?”
Secord looked sideways at Munger with a smirk and said, “The guitar player, because the banjo player would have to tune up first.”
Munger retalliated with fast finger-work on “Down By the Riverside” that left Secord shaking his head with a simper.
The musicians took turns in choosing and singing the songs.
Dave Lenahan sang “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” in his coarse baritone voice and Mary Munger carried “Keep On the Sunny Side” when the audience called out and sang along with this request.
In fact, the audience sang along with most of the songs, requested or not.
It seemed as the set boogied on into the evening, the atmosphere got rowdier.
The desire to dance, inhibited by frailty, was palpable.
“You keep playing like that and we’ll have to pay to sit here,” called out a visitor in a wheelchair.
When I walked out into the hallway, the music carried throughout the entire facility.
Residents’ doors were open for those who’d rather hear music in their own space. Staff members were humming or singing as they sashayed from room to room.
When the band launched into an upbeat version of Bob Seeger’s “Old Time Rock ’n’ Roll” the lady next to me exclaimed, “Well I sure don’t need my hearing aids for this one!”
She also removed them for a song that highlighted Rosalie Secord’s gentle yodeling.
In time, the audience shrank as aides came to collect their charges and assist in bedtime routines.
One of the final songs, “Momma Don’t,” allowed for solos by each musician which seemed to be especially delightful for these folks who grew up in a generation when families played instruments together in the evenings.
“My son plays guitar and he learned it from me,” a lady reclining in a chair commented to me part way through the song.
To close the evening, everyone joined in singing “Amazing Grace,” even though a couple of folks thought “Good Night Irene” was going to be the cap.
After the music stopped, the musicians took time to walk over to people with canes, walkers and wheelchairs. They lingered in their good night wishes and said they’d be back in a couple of weeks as usual.
Zorina Barker has lived on the West End for most of her life. She is married to a Forks native who works in the timber industry. Both of her kids have been home-schooled in the wilds of the Sol Duc Valley. She can be reached at 360-461-7928 or [email protected]
West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be Dec. 25.