The Next Right Thing (or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Organ Campaign…)

When I was asked to join the committee steering the Campaign to Restore the Memorial Organ I thought I had a pretty good idea what I was in for. I mean, I’ve been involved with such campaigns in the past and pretty much assumed I would be attending meetings, helping out at receptions, staffing a recital or two, maybe even a phone-a-thon. But I had no idea my involvement would evolve into becoming the committee’s unofficial “historian.” In fact, I’m not quite sure how it happened. But somehow amidst the various events, the organ “salons” and the committee meetings, I found my self digging deeper and deeper into the Cathedral’s archives in search of interesting facts and historical anecdotes that might spark interest in potential donors.

So while the motivation was to help the campaign, I have to say, I had a lot of fun doing it! Digging into the archives of St. Paul’s to discover the heritage of the organ is like doing your own genealogy. There is the thrill of personal discovery of the dates and facts, and then there are the stories which bring ancestors to life with tales of the day and hardships that humble. While this is not a history of the organ or of St. Paul’s, I have gleaned tales of real people from reading vestry minutes over the decades, archived primary documents, public records, and news clippings.

Here’s some fun excerpts from what I uncovered…

The original St Pauls, 1887  (from PeriodPaper)
    •  The newly formed St. Paul’s Parish, 54 communicants, moved into their newly built and furnished church on property they owned at 8th and C streets in 1887. Reading through the vestry minutes and Rector Henry Bond Restarick’s brief hand-written history of the parish, there was a palpable excitement of buying land, designing a church, and ordering the new organ.
    • In 1883 the parish organized a “Fair”, probably a day of festivities, which included the raffle of a Crazy Quilt. The quilt sold for $225! The entire Fair netted over $1,500 to help with the Rectory Fund. Mention was made in Restarick’s short history of additional parish Fairs that were staged in subsequent years.
    • Besides a focused vestry that had at least one judge and an attorney, Holy Trinity parish (St. Paul’s parish’ prior name) also had attracted a volunteer organist in early 1883. Waldo Farrington Chase as volunteer organist and May Restarick, the rector’s wife, grew a small choral music program for the parish. In 1885, Chase and Mrs. Restarick announced the formation of the Organ Fund to buy a pipe organ for the new church. Chase performed benefit concerts to grow the fund for the $2,200 organ.
Henry Bond Restarick eventually
Bp of Honolulu
    • In early 1887 Rector Restarick ordered the organ from Hook and Hastings in Boston. A flurry of mail followed which revealed the proper signatures had not been sent to the manufacturer and the manufacturer was stopping work on the instrument. The matter was immediately taken over by one of the attorneys on the vestry. All abnormalities were straightened out in time for it to be shipped and received in the spring of 1887.
    • Waldo Farrington Chase wasted no time in sending a complimentary letter to the vestry on the sound and performance of the new organ, and proposing himself as the first organist at a salary of $200 per year. Not many months passed before the salary was raised to $300 per year. The music program grew with organ and choral performances.
    • By 1890, St. Paul’s parish with its new building and organ had grown to 325 communicants from only 54 in 1885.
Waldo Farrington Chase, from
Men of the Pacific….1902-1903
  • Chase stayed with St. Paul’s, as its paid organist, for about 10 years. During that time he pursued the diaconate, being sponsored by St. Paul’s parish. In 1891 he was ordained and stayed with the parish until about 1897. Census and marriage records show him marrying the daughter of a clergyman in Los Angeles in the late 1890’s. He then served out his life in the Los Angeles area and was ordained a priest at age 91! His obituary from 1966 shows him to be a long-lived man dying at age 104, after retiring at the age of 103 from his church in Whittier.

And that’s just a few of them…

I’m not entirely sure why the history of our Memorial Organ is so appealing to me. I suppose in part it’s because I appreciate learning how past congregations sacrificed and stretched themselves to build the church we now call our spiritual home. Somehow these stories make me feel more connected to St. Paul’s and to those that came before, most of whom probably had no idea of the legacy they were leaving. I mean, do you suppose those folks back in 1887 ever thought that their Hook & Hastings would still be playing 125 years later? Or that their little church would eventually grow to become a Cathedral for the City? Probably not. My guess is, they were all just doing what they thought was the next right thing. But then, maybe that’s how legacies are built. Not trying to do something big or grand or particularly special. But by just trying to do the next right thing.

So here’s to the campaign to restore that magnificent organ that those good folks back in 1887 struggled so mightily to bring to San Diego. Here’s to the next right thing!

Paula Peeling

Remember Sunday 18th Sept is our celebration of the conclusion of the organ campaign!  There’s still time to make a contribution.

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