FolkBlog contributor Sue Barrett looks back on the life of Faith Petric.
Faith Craig Petric was born in a log cabin in Idaho on 13 September 1915 and passed away in San Francisco, California, at midnight on Thursday 24 October 2013, aged 98.
As the night breeze swept through Australia’s Port Fairy Folk Festival on a Friday evening in early March 1998, American performer Marcy Marxer was huddled against the cold. Nearby, Cathy Fink was buzzing – she had already introduced folksinger Faith Petric to the Port Fairy crowd and was now listening to Katy Moffatt yodelling.
Among the songs sung by Cathy and Marcy that night on Stage 4 were ‘Shady Grove’, ‘Orange Cocoa Cake’ and ‘Blue Love’. While Faith had sung ‘Highway Hunter’, ‘As Long as the Grass Shall Grow’, ‘You Ain’t Done Nuthin’ If You Ain’t Been Called a Red’ and more.
While chatting with Marcy and Cathy, the talk turned to Faith Petric. And it was Marcy, if memory serves me right, who suggested that I interview Faith – “She won’t be around for ever.”
A few weeks later, I interviewed Faith Petric for the first time – at a little table, in an upstairs venue at Australia’s National Folk Festival in Canberra, with passers-by interrupting every so often to say hello to Faith.
And thus began a friendship that lasted more than 15 years.
Late last year, Faith wrote saying, “I’m back home in San Francisco and expect to stay here for a while. Have a wonderful 2013!”. And just a few weeks ago, I sent Faith a card for her 98th birthday.
Faith Craig Petric was an American folksinger, whose father was an itinerant school teacher/carpenter/farmer/Methodist minister.
After graduating from Whitman College (Walla Walla, Washington) in 1937, with radicalism planted deep, Faith worked at a Seattle bookstore, then had her heart captured by San Francisco (“I watched the 1938 Labor Day parade; tears in my eyes as the Longshoremen’s unit marched in silence…frighteningly powerful. A socialist world owned by idealistic labor was surely only a few years away.”).
Faith Petric brought her daughter up in San Francisco – as a single mother, without back up.
In the late 1950s, Faith became involved with the San Francisco Folk Music Club (which for more than 50 years has been meeting every other Friday at her home), then took to the road as a folksinger after retiring from her 9 to 5 job with the California State Department of Rehabilitation in 1970.
In addition to her involvement with the San Francisco Folk Music Club, Faith Petric was involved with many other organisations and causes, including the Freedom Song Network, People’s Music Network, Children’s Music Network, Raging Grannies, Industrial Workers of the World and American Federation of Musicians (being the oldest member of Local 1000 AFM, at the time of her death).
Faith wrote ‘The Folk Process’ column for Sing Out! magazine and had a vast repertoire that included songs by Utah Phillips, Malvina Reynolds, Jean Ritchie, Tom Hunter, Hazel Dickens, Biggs Tinker, Van Rozay, Carole Etzler and Lou and Peter Berryman.
Faith Petric was many things – politically engaged, thoughtful and caring, smart and knowledgeable. She loved a joke and could be quietly “outrageous” in delivering messages (who else could get away with singing, ‘The Priest Song’, in public). She had an affinity with nature and enjoyed the quirky things of life (like orphaned socks). Faith spoke lovingly of her daughter and her granddaughter. And so many people speak lovingly of Faith.
Over the past 15 years, Faith shared many thoughts…