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December, 2023
12-29-2023: Summer Camp Memories-I got lost in the comments to a NY Times photo essay on summer camp, photos taken by a now-pro photographer back when she was a teenage camp counselor. With a real camera. Read more

October, 2023
10-19-2023: Scared Together Now-The prompt was a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Every day as a wide field every page.” Standing outside/staring at a tree/gentles our eyes Read more

September, 2023
9-20-2023: Prompt: Wild Thing: The Seventies-I remember a different but similar song in the early days of women’s music. Not only can’t I remember who wrote it, I can’t remember any of the names of the women who didn’t write it. Read more

August, 2023
8-26-2023: The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom-In March of 1963, the sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement came to San Francisco with a huge sit-in at the Palace Hotel demanding better jobs for employees of color, who were restricted to jobs as maids and pot-washers. The sit-ins spread to auto row, where people of color could wash and polish cars but not sell them. Hundreds of people were arrested, many students among them. Read more

June, 2023
6-10-2023: Oral Tradition-Carole and I went to an art fair up in Fairfield today, and after wandering around enjoying my cousin’s husband’s metal sculptures and sitting under a wide-spreading tree eating barbecue and enjoying the music of Foxes in the Henhouse, an all woman band, we were looking at the art in the booths along the path to the parking field. One had art birdhouses, and the grey-bearded man sitting there said, “I’m a retired teacher and maker of birdhouses.” Read more

April, 2023
4-22-2023: Sing to Wake the Power Up-I couldn’t find this line again in Joy Harjo’s video to see if I got it right, but it doesn’t matter to the writing, it’s what I heard, and this writing is about me, not about Joy Harjo, and she is talking about a different kind of singing and a different kind of power. The kind I’m talking about is on view in Amandla! a video about singing in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Read more

Older Entries



Nancy Schimmel, photo by Sandy Morris

Welcome to my blog. I have been writing a biography of my mother, songwriter/activist Malvina Reynolds, but I keep getting interrupted—first by Occupy, and Occupella, a song-leading group that grew out of it, blogging at occupella.org, making a book out of the blog, Occupella: Singing in the Lifeboats. Then came The Former Guy, and now the pandemic he assisted. Both the guy and the virus are distracting, scary, and exasperating.

So on this blog I will be posting about my family (my father, William “Bud” Reynolds was an organizer of the Ford Hunger March of 1932 and other disruptions), about the process of writing the bio, and also writing about these weird times and about my own life, writing songs, walking my neighborhood, working on a fantasy novel for children. It’s a good time to be hanging out with witches, dragons and trolls. The other kind of troll.

My old blog, Writing Malvina, got interrupted too. You can find it by clicking 2010 Blog at the upper left.


Friday, Dec 29, 2023: Summer Camp Memories
Mine and other people's


I got lost in the comments to a NY Times photo essay on summer camp, photos taken by a now-pro photographer back when she was a teenage camp counselor. With a real camera. A lot of comments were about how camp had changed peoples lives. It has never occurred to me to think that—maybe because I had already spent a couple of summers away from my folks at my great-aunt Jennie’s in Santa Cruz, sometimes with a second cousin, sometimes with the kids down the block to play with. It wasn’t camp, but it definitely wasn’t a backyard-less Berkeley apartment, either. Aunt Jennie had chickens, onions and other veggies, and a bank of blackberries in her big back yard, the best-ever climbing tree in front, and I got to the beach fairly often—either a ride to Seabright Beach or I’d walk to the boardwalk from Aunt Jennie and Uncle Ed’s dry-goods store downtown.

What was different about camp was dog paddling and canoeing in a lake, the smell of vanilla pine, donning white shorts and my Camp Fire Girls bandanna every Sunday morning for an outdoor Christian service in a little amphitheater, singing “For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies/For the love that from our birth, over and around us lies,/Lord of all to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.” I remember that singing those words, under the pine trees, made me understand for the first time why some people were moved to worship a god.

I started going to that Camp Fire Camp the summer after fifth grade and loved it. Five of us stayed the whole six weeks and everybody else only two. So by week three we were the experts, trusted to be left alone to make little villages out of twigs and acorns. Of course we pushed it, and my best camp friend and I snuck across the road to decorate a little waterfall with flowers and pine cones. The Christian and the Pagan.

Some of the comments in the Times were from people who hated camp. Being molested by a counselor or bullied by other kids. The bullying seemed to be mostly in boys camps or mixed camps. I was lucky and didn’t know it.

The camp in the article was one of those lefty East Coast camps, this one actually run by a couple of members of the Seeger family. We had nothing like that in California. I didn’t know about them till I was grown up, and I envy kids who had them. They would have been such a haven in the McCarthy era of my youth.

Comment from Judith posted 12-31-2023:
I'm from the next generation down the pike of time (is there a pike of time?) and no, we never had anything like Camp Kinderland on the West Coast although I wish we did. I attended a liberal Jewish JCA camp in Barton Flats of the San Bernarfdino Mountains and that was fun. Camp Fire Girls also had a camp nearby, which was nowhere nearly as much fun... not antiwar or political in any way I recognized and I got in trouble for not wanting to call the 19 year old counselor MISS Diana instead of plain old Diana. I said I have a godmother who is older than my mother and I call her Blossom, and why do we have to call our counselors MISS? It seemed to me like what they made slaves call their owners' children and I said so. I did not go back.

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Ողջույն, ես ուզում էի իմանալ ձեր գինը.

Comment from RobertCoare posted 2-3-2024:
Hi, kam dashur të di çmimin tuaj

Comment from RobertCoare posted 2-8-2024:
Ndewo, achọrọ m ịmara ọnụahịa gị.

Comment from RobertCoare posted 2-11-2024:
Hej, jeg ønskede at kende din pris.

Comment from MasonCoare posted 2-13-2024:
Kaixo, zure prezioa jakin nahi nuen.

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Здравейте, исках да знам цената ви.

Comment from RobertCoare posted 2-15-2024:
Γεια σου, ήθελα να μάθω την τιμή σας.

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Ofokfojfief jwlkfeejereghfj iewojfekfjergij wiojewjfewitghuhwrgtjgh ewjhfwqjhdfuewgtuiwe huegfrwgyewgtywegt nancymalvina.com

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Comment from RobertCoare posted 2-24-2024:
Ողջույն, ես ուզում էի իմանալ ձեր գինը.


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Thursday, Oct 19, 2023: Scared Together Now
Another Prompt Write


The prompt was a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Every day as a wide field every page” The whole poem is here.

Standing outside
staring at a tree
gentles our eyes

We were just at Strawberry Creek Park staring at a tree. Claudia will pick one and comment on it or two and compare them. Last time we were at Live Oak Park she said, “That one looks like this one’s hippie cousin” and I saw what she meant.

Everywhere together now.
Even scared together now…
sing to me from your balcony
please!

Yes, covid brought us together, scared together. I wrote a song about the people in Italy singing together from their balconies, and at one of the Zoom sings I was going to we had people from New York and Great Britain showing up at what used to be a local group, meeting upstairs at the Unitarian Fellowship in Berkeley with people driving in from as far away as Marin and San Jose.

When you paused for a poem
it could reshape the day
you had just been living.

…as this reading and this writing does now.

I don’t know what I would have done without zoom. What I would do without zoom, because the pandemic is still on for everybody my age, whatever Biden says.

Biden. Claudia read his speech about Israel and Palestine and started talking about it at lunch and I started complaining about his unquestioning (at least in public) support of Israel. I and most of the Jews I know are not Zionists. Claudia got upset at my harangue. She went back to bed. I read a news article about the bombing of the hospital and ate cookies and ice cream, which didn’t help much. I wrote a letter to Biden and felt better.

I am reading no more news about the conflict. None. I can’t read about war. I don’t watch war movies. It’s all too stupid and crazy. I remember long ago listening to news about Algeria on KPFA every night and at one point saying, “I’m sorry the people in Algeria don’t get to opt out, but I am opting out.” And I did.

And both wars go back to European imperialism and in this case also European (and American) anti-semitism, not to the Palestinians or the Algerians. I say “and American” because we turned away boatloads of European Jewish refugees. No wonder they wanted a country of their own. But this wasn’t their own.

PS I am going to vote for Biden.

PPS I was just in a conversation about war news. The war of my childhood was WWII, and we listened to the news every night but only saw it in motion now and then in newsreels at a theater. My younger friends saw Vietnam every night on TV in their childhoods. Now we have a 24-7 news cycle and kids after 9/11 saw the same tower go down twenty times in a day and thought twenty towers had gone down. I wonder if the children of today know that the news is on repeat.

Comment from Maurice Freedman posted 10-21-2023:
Hi, Nancy,

The whole blog is wonderful. Being old and Jewish, your thoughts beginning with

"I don’t know what I would have done without zoom... :

are especially meaningful.

The PPS was brilliant and sad. It captures in a simple and brief way from WWII on, the encroaching horror and intensifying immediacy of war throughout your lifetime and mine.

Mitch

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Comment from RobertCoare posted 10-28-2023:
Dia duit, theastaigh uaim do phraghas a fháil.

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Comment from PhilCoare posted 11-20-2023:
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Comment from Nicolette posted 12-6-2023:
Greetings,

Your mother was a great hero of mine when I was young (and still is). I was stunned at the number of ways she didn't conform to anything I was being told about what little girls were supposed to do, or act like, or want. Rebellious little me loved "Boraxo" the best, although now "Magic Penny" speaks more to my adult self...


My mother ran a folk music coffee house in Glens Falls NY in the 1960s where Malvina performed. My mother got inspired by her friend Lena Spencer who ran Cafe Lena where Arlo Guthrie and Michael Cooney got their start. In the 1970s my mother ran a folk music concert series in Ticonderoga NY where Malvina stayed with us after her concert.


If you'd be interested in more recollections, to contribute to the biography you're writing or just for yourself, drop me a line nb at nicolettebonhomme dot com

Comment from RobertCoare posted 12-6-2023:
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Comment from PhilCoare posted 12-12-2023:
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Comment from RobertCoare posted 12-24-2023:
Ողջույն, ես ուզում էի իմանալ ձեր գինը.

Comment from RobertCoare posted 12-25-2023:
Dia duit, theastaigh uaim do phraghas a fháil.


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Wednesday, Sep 20, 2023: Prompt: Wild Thing: The Seventies


Renee played Chip Taylor's "Wild Thing" as a prompt for our Tuesday night write.

I remember a different but similar song in the early days of women’s music. Not only can’t I remember who wrote it, I can’t remember any of the names of the women who didn’t write it. Oh. . .okay, it probably wasn’t Cris Williamson, definitely not Margie Adam, probably not Meg Christian, but it was that era, and we did feel a bit wild. Coming out, kicking over the traces, hitting the road, doing take-back-the-night marches. I did one in San Francisco and one in Pittsburgh (the real Pittsburgh).

We weren’t wild, really, just doing things women shouldn’t do. We were supposed to hit the road with a man, if at all. The time my planned roadmate couldn’t come at the last minute and I went on a storytelling tour alone and a guy at a gas station in the midwest said, “You’re pretty far from home, aren’t you?” and I doubt he’d have said that to a man. Cris Williamson tape or Margie Adam tape in the player in the van, eating up the miles on those long straight roads, heat lightening on the horizon.

Dayum! It was Cris Williamson —with the wind blowing in the intro. Funny, the song I remember is the one in the prompt, the Chip Taylor one. It came out before Cris’. When did I hear it? I bet someone in women’s music covered it. Can’t find that on google, though. But Google says it was covered by the Muppets!

I think I’ve aged out of wild now, if I was ever there. Aged out of wilderness hikes, for sure, though there are coyotes in my central Berkeley neighborhood these days. What a different world it is now, from that one in the seventies, driving across the country in a van that probably got ten miles to the gallon, and nobody thought anything of it.


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Saturday, Aug 26, 2023: The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
I was there


In March of 1963, the sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement came to San Francisco with a huge sit-in at the Palace Hotel demanding better jobs for employees of color, who were restricted to jobs as maids and pot-washers. The sit-ins spread to auto row, where people of color could wash and polish cars but not sell them. Hundreds of people were arrested, many students among them. My mother was at the Palace Hotel sit-in (along with comedian Dick Gregory) and I stopped by on my way home from a California Democratic Clubs conference. These local sit-ins inspired my mother to write “It Isn’t Nice.” That summer, I was asked by Women for Peace to represent them, along with another member, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. My mother was young enough to enjoy much of the sixties (which were her sixties too) but she wouldn’t have wanted to spend three days and two nights on the CORE bus going to the march and another two days and three nights going home, like I did. She stayed home. The caller from Women for Peace said apologetically that they couldn’t afford plane tickets. I didn’t like flying then, so I was just as happy to take the bus.

I didn’t know the other delegate, a young black woman named Mary Ann. But we settled in to the very back seat and talked the whole way to Washington. There was a film crew on the bus, headed by Haskell Wexler, before he was the Haskell Wexler, winner of Oscars for cinematography. They were making a documentary called The Bus. We were told that if they zeroed in on us in the middle of a conversation we should just go on with it as if they weren’t there. Fine. But then when Mary Ann and I were in the middle of a conversation about the death penalty they asked us to move to different seats and start over again because the motor was making too much noise where we were. We tried starting over, but it wasn’t really the same.

The conversation I thought should have been in the film but wasn’t, was one they filmed when we were at our last stop before DC, walking towards yet another Howard Johnson’s for lunch, wondering if the weather would be as hot as this the next day, talking about what we should wear to the march, totally trivial, and we rounded the corner and saw a bunch of black kids and white kids in overalls. SNCC! Wow! This was really happening!

We were put up at a college dorm. That night we had dinner at the home of some locals who were not going to the march. They had heard there might be violence, and they were afraid. We had slept on the bus and eaten at all those HoJo’s to get here and they were right here and not going! Recently I read Nobody Turn Me Around: A People's History of the 1963 March on Washington by Charles Euchner. He writes about the real threats of violence the march organizers were taking precautions against. We were naive, which was just as well. We needed an unperturbed night’s sleep in real beds.

Back at the Women for Peace meeting in San Francisco, they had told us that they barely had money to get us there and back, and none for bail, so we were not to do anything that would get us arrested. No sit-ins, just march. We agreed. But the morning of the march, when we were waiting in the designated hotel lobby for the rest of the California delegation so we could all march together, a bunch from SNCC came in, singing and conga-lining, and Mary Ann and I just fell in with them. To hell with the California delegation! As we approached the White House on our way to the Mall, we wondered if they planned to sit in or something. They were still singing. We kept following them, singing. If we got arrested, so be it. But they passed the White House and we got to the Mall. We were at the far end of the reflecting pool from the stage. [In a crowd of 250,000, we ran into Ross Flanagan and his wife Dorothy, who had moved from San Francisco to Philadelphia.

Not only was there no violence, but I have never been in such a huge crowd of people being extra nice to each other. We listened to a lot of speeches and songs, then Mary Ann and I got restless and began to walk back to where our bus was parked, among the hundreds of busses. We were between a couple of government buildings on one of the streets leading off the mall when we heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. begin his speech. The sound system carried perfectly, so we stood and listened to the whole speech. Then we went to our bus.

There was no film crew on the trip home, and we lost some of the passengers, too, who were students going to eastern colleges. The anticipation was over and we sprawled out, tired and relaxed. We passed the time talking to various folks, and one older guy with a saxophone would play tunes and we’d try to name them. While I was in Washington, my husband and some of his friends hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney. I was sorry to miss that, but I’m glad I was where I was. I wrote a song (my first ever, aside from parodies) about going to the march. I don’t know where it is now and can’t remember it. I didn’t write another for years. I kept up with Mary Ann for a while, then we lost touch.

In 2013 I was interviewed for the Sunday Oakland Tribune fiftieth anniversary piece about the CORE bus and when I read it I found that Mary Ann Rock had died the previous week. She had become an artist and lived most of her life in the San Juan Islands in Washington.

Comment from Ruth posted 8-26-2023:
It's good to read your memories of those times. It seems to be a time for old folks to write about their memories. It is so important to write down the personal stories, so the next generation can read it. I recently finished writing about my families escape from Germany at the beginning of WWII.

Comment from Nancy Schimmel posted 8-26-2023:
Ruth--I would love to read that.

Comment from Nancy Schimmel posted 8-27-2023:
Ross Flanagan was the chair of the peace march organizing committee that met at the AFSC house in SF. He was the best meeting chair I ever knew, and this group was a handful!


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Saturday, Jun 10, 2023: Oral Tradition


Carole and I went to an art fair up in Fairfield a week ago, and after wandering around enjoying my cousin’s husband’s metal sculptures and sitting under a wide-spreading tree eating barbecue and enjoying the music of Foxes in the Henhouse, an all woman band, we were looking at the art in the booths along the path to the parking field. One had art birdhouses, and the grey-bearded man sitting there said, “I’m a retired teacher and maker of birdhouses.”

Carole said, “We’re two retired librarians.” He perked right up and started talking about teaching. We were all saying how we were lucky to work when we did; now it’s much harder.

He said, “They don’t let you be yourself in the classroom any more.” He said he taught special ed, and one class was the kids none of the schools wanted. Multiple disabilities, many of them. He gave an example of how you have to tailor your approach to the kid. I said I had a friend who sang and played guitar and chose to teach special ed partly because he had more leeway to bring music into his classroom. “I sing to the kids too,” he said, “especially this one.” And he started singing, “Love is something if you give it away, give it away…”

“My mother wrote that song,” I said.

“What?? Really?”

“Yep, my mother, Malvina Reynolds.”

He got out a notepad and a pen. “What was the name?” I gave him my mom’s name and mine and said I was a songwriter too and we both had websites and he could look us up. “I sang that song every day,” he said.

He sang it every day and didn’t know who wrote it. I’ve been saying for a long time that if any song of my mother’s passes into oral tradition and hardly anybody knows who wrote it, it will be that one. The process seems to be starting.

Comment from JoEllen Arnold posted 6-11-2023:
Wonderful story, Nancy! We sang that song at camp and in the classroom, too, but I always knew who wrote it. Why have I always known your mother’s name and work? The earliest moment of recognition is not a memory unfortunately. Thank you for your work and for keeping people aware of her work!

Comment from Jean Tepperman posted 6-11-2023:
My kids learned that in preschool and I loved it. Had no idea who wrote it until decades later.

Comment from Pam posted 6-11-2023:
Great story, Nancy! Malvina, Presente! And I'll be singing that song for days over & over now that you've replanted it in my ear-canal. . Your mama was indubitably The Queen-Mother of Righteous-Earworms-That- Bear-Repeating!

Comment from Sydney Gurewitz Clemens posted 10-24-2023:
Love reading this, Nancy. And I'm thinking, that you are ten years older than I, so you remember the Rosenberg Case and maybe Malvina was active in the local work? I have found a wonderful woman to write Helen Levitov Sobell's biography, and if you have even a tiny bit of a story for it, I'd like it. So would you comb your memory's locks for some bit of history to add to this extraordinary feminist leader of people needing justice in a period with an awful few of such? You can email it to me, or I can put you in touch with the biographer. You would like and approve of her. Most warmly, and thanks for your clear thinking over the years!


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Saturday, Apr 22, 2023: Sing to Wake the Power Up


I couldn’t find this line again in Joy Harjo’s video to see if I got it right, but it doesn’t matter to the writing, it’s what I heard, and this writing is about me, not about Joy Harjo, and she is talking about a different kind of singing and a different kind of power.

The kind I’m talking about is on view in Amandla! a video about singing in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. In one scene a street-filling crowd is singing and dancing forward. I’ve sung that way, in the Pride Parade and peace walks but we didn’t dance. I couldn’t now, but I could have then. In the video, it looks unstoppable. It isn’t, the cops have guns, but it looks, and I bet it feels unstoppable.There must have been some dancing in the Pride parades, but just having fun, not dance as a force for good. And singing does influence the cops. Betsy Rose said she could see them relax when Occupella started singing.

I think it has to be singing--though we did hire some bagpipers to lead a peace march in San Francisco back in the Sixties and it did feel like that music was propelling us. The pipers were amused to be playing for a peace march because the bagpipe is an instrument of war. Which makes me think of St. Francis’ prayer, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace,” but I bet he wasn’t thinking about bagpipes.

I miss singing live with Occupella more than I miss singing live with the Organic Women’s Chorus or at the In Harmony’s Way song circles, because singing is my political instrument, always has been. I’ve written leaflets and letters to the editor and put money in the collection can, but it’s singing that feels right for me. It never occurred to me to run for office, though my mother and my father and my mother’s father all did, or to make speeches, though my father coached me to make my first one when I was a toddler (I’ve already written about that).

Comment from Bonnie Lockhart posted 4-24-2023:
Well, yes, we did dance in the street at Pride many years with Sistah Boom! And when Sistah Boom--the all-women's samba band that played for decades of SF Pride & Dyke marches--went to DC for Gay & Lesbian Liberation (as we then called it) in 1987, a band of 50 strong, our dancers came with us! And yes, that felt unstoppable! And yes, that was both for fun and expanded freedom. My first and enduring love is singing. But for street action, there's noting quite like a big, grooving samba band moving together!


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