FLASHBACKS

By Katemae

The Incredible HULT !!
August 1983  

I guess we old folks use this phrase a lot, but “back in the day” there were some venues that the Grateful Dead would book and if you were able to get your money order together, and in early on the first day, you might get lucky enough to score tickets. In the early eighties mail order was the only way to get tickets in your hot little hands. The rules as to what, where, when, and how to send your money order, envelopes and index card were very precise. If you did not follow directions then you received the envelope back and were S.O.L! 

I was always pretty nervous about making sure all directions were exact, and triple checked my order requests before dropping them at the post office. Then you made sure the postmaster hand stamped the day and time on the front of envelope. This was an on-going theme every time a show was announced, especially for those much smaller venues. You’d always cross your fingers hoping your envelope was picked from the piles of requests. The Hult Center in Eugene, Oregon, was one of those venues that you prayed you would get tickets back with a congratulatory message folded around your small rectangular paper tickets. 

 

The August 29-31, 1983, shows took place in what I was told at the time, was an Opera House. The slogan they wrote on our letters was “Dress to the Hilt for the Hult!” This was also on the handouts we received when we walked into the venue. We were given a rules card upon walking in the classic Performing Arts Center, and the volunteer docents were pretty strict about their policies. Since it only held a couple thousand people they watched us like   hawks, but we complied to the best of our abilities. There were three floors of seats labeled A, B and C. Each floor had many rows of seats and were very steep on the incline.  It felt awkward when one stood up, and made dancing in front of your seat a little scary if you were in some of the first rows. Seriously, people could have easily fallen off the first two rows if they became off balance due to taking any extra-curriculars. I had seats in both higher-level seating areas and on the rails for two of the nights. And I remember not being comfortable standing up and dancing due to that feeling of being afraid of heights and falling over the edge. I boogied in my seat until I had to go to the back seats where I would not fall over the front row of the balcony. Also, I never found the elevator, if there was one, so needless to say, you had to climb lots of stairs if your tickets were on the B or even worse, the C level. 

The Hilton Hotel was next door to the The Hult Center. Being in Eugene, you could always expect some rain at any time, and sure enough the rain came down. Soon after one o’clock in the afternoon, venders would begin setting up for the day’s activities. On two of the three days, the rain started falling by 3 p.m. Since the Hilton was where most of the Dead Heads were staying, including the Grateful Dead band members, the hotel management allowed the vendors to bring the Shakedown inside to the lobby so they could still sell their wares. They were very accommodating to us as long as we respected them, and back then the scene wasn’t as big and hectic as it is now. With Shakedown inside, all the venders were happy and so were the patrons. We got to stay dry, hang out at the bar, eat and drink, and stay dry.

This is when one of my “Grateful Forever” moments occurred. While enjoying a beer with my crew, another one of our crew, Bridget, had just come up from the underground parking garage. She whispered in my ear that Jerry Garcia was alone in the garage with one of his daughters, waiting for his ride to the back door. He obviously did not want to walk through the packed lobby area. Quietly, I stood up and went to the elevator by myself. I went down to the garage, stepped out of the elevator, and there he was. Briefcase in hand and watching his daughter dancing around, he welcomed my approach. It was just the three of us! 

I got to thank him for making my life so fulfilled with his creative song writing and guitar work. He thanked me, gave me a hug, and he had his daughter take a picture for me. I was just so giddy and shocked in a way. I’d actually gotten to meet my hero. He confirmed he was waiting to be picked up to go to soundcheck. What a treat! I went back upstairs and kept my mouth shut so he could have peace and quiet for the remainder of his wait time. An hour later I finally got the nerve to show my friends my photo of Jerry and I.  It is still in a frame with the obituary Robert Hunter wrote for Jerry’s funeral.

The incredible Hult Shows were unique in so many ways. The rainy days in the Shakedown lobby, steep stairways, and my precious experience and photo will remain with me until I am no longer here. Getting to share a hug with Jerry Garcia will always be one of the greatest highlights in my lifetime. 

I love and miss Jerry to this day! 

Katemae…