By the end of November 2005 I had, thanks to Chet’s genealogically inclined and adept California cousins, learned a great deal about the Helms family, the paternal side, but I knew next to nothing about the maternal side, the Dearmores.
I knew that Chet had spent his late childhood, his adolescence and his teenage years in Texas, living in close proximity to his prominent, fundamentalist Baptist preacher grandfather and his uncles, two of whom were Baptist missionaries. But that was about it.
I began researching the Dearmores and soon discovered the respective websites of Roy Dearmore, MD, and James Dearmore, the aforementioned uncles. Each website included a ‘contact’ email address so, in early December 2005, I dispatched brief notes to both sites, introducing myself as their nephew’s biographer and asking if they would be willing to talk to me.
Three weeks after sending the emails, I attended a Christmas party/pot luck buffet at Boots Hughston’s 2B1 Record’s headquarters in an industrial section of San Francisco’s Mission District. (Boots had been the primary producer of The Chet Helms Tribal Stomp in Golden Gate Park two months earlier and all of the pre-concert production meetings had been held at 2B1.)
The party that night was essentially a reunion of the folks who had worked on the Chet tribute and about 150 revelers showed up to chow down and chat people up. Midway through the festivities, I spotted Chet’s brother, John, plate in hand, perusing the long table of various vittles. I hadn’t seen John since the Tribal Stomp in October so I excused myself from whatever conversation I was involved in, if, if fact, I was involved in a conversation at all, and approached him.
After exchanging the usual how-are-you-doing? pleasantries, I told him that I had emailed his uncles, asking if they would talk to me about Chet.
John just smiled and said, “They won’t talk to you in a million years.”
I hadn’t been overly confident that I would get a response from the Reverends Roy or Jim Dearmore, but I had a sliver of hope. No longer. Maybe John was right; after all, it had been three weeks since I had contacted them, three weeks of…nothing. And I couldn’t wait a million years for a reply for obvious reasons. Nor could they withhold their replies for a million years for equally obvious reasons.
Driving home through a driving rainstorm that night, I decided to plot my next move and was a bit distressed to discover I didn’t have a next move.
But did that stop me?
Yes, it did.
I was still trying to figure our what to do when, on the morning of December 28, 2005, I flipped, kicked or clicked on my email thingie and there it was: a message from Roy Dearmore. He addressed me as ‘Mr. Hoffman,’ which was the first time I had been called Mr. Hoffman since the nuns at St. Louis School in Englewood, Colorado routinely did so in the 1950’s.
Dr. Dearmore’s email was a brief one, the contents of which shall not be revealed here, but he ended by saying he was willing to try to answer whatever questions about the Chet and the Dearmore family I might ask.
I wrote back, thanking him profusely, and began a gentle interrogation. Most of the queries I sent him were about his family’s activities in the ’40s and ’50s.
He always responded promptly, thoughtfully, and somewhat formally, and we developed a fairly regular stream of communication.
Roy Dearmore has made enormous contributions to his nephew’s biography and for that I shall be eternally grateful.