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Thelma Barclay (1906-1999)

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Remembering Thelma Ursula Barclay
With much sadness we've learned of the death of a former PSTOS Chairman and "musical fixture" in the Seattle area. Although her family moved Thelma to Arkansas about ten years ago following a stroke, she is fondly remembered by many longtime PSTOS members. A Jon Hahn article published May 12, 1980 in the Seattle Post Intelligencer tells it all, parts of which are reprinted here.

Picture from a 1981 Console Magazine
Every time I hear Thelma Barclay, I want to roller skate. She plays the Mighty Wurlitzer theatre organ at Bellevue's Pizza & Pipes restaurant. And when she glides into a noon hour rendition of "Cruisin' Down The River," it brings back memories of the roller rink back home.
Thelma, who looks like a cross between Diamond Lil and Ma Perkins, has memories that go much farther back. She played piano accompaniment to Laurel & Hardy silent films at the Rose Bud Theatre back in Galesville, Wis.
"I got $1 for each show. That was a lot of money back then. I remember having each one of those dollars spread out on top of the dresser."
No one probably noticed the little black-haired Thelma, down in the piano pit of the darkened Rose Bud. Today, she's hard to miss, at center stage, every bit of her 5-foot-even frame bouncing in time to the music.
It's like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz - the tiny silver-haired lady in front of the garishly rococo organ.
She never goes anywhere without stopping to see and play the local pipe organ. "When the International Theatre Organ Society had its convention in Europe, I even was allowed to play the organ at the Cathedral of Notre Dame," she said with no small amount of pride. Theatre organ aficionados are considered a lower caste by organ purists, but the Thelma Barclays of the world blow a lot of dust off the organ's stuffy image. The theme from "Star Wars" or "Ice Castles" makes the 15-ton organ and all its 1,200-and-some-odd pipes come alive. It ain't Bach, but it's beautiful!

After teaching school as a young woman, she married Glen Barclay, a golf course superintendent and designer. His work brought them to Seattle in the late 1940s to help build the Sand Point and the Seattle Golf and Country clubs. When her husband died suddenly, Thelma went to work full time, selling organs and pianos, so she could finish raising their two sons.
Through it all, Thelmas has never stopped sharing her music with others, doing volunteer music therapy during and right after the war, and serving as staff pianist at the local U.S.O. in Madison, Wis. She's never been quite able to resist a request to play anywhere - even a private Lake Tahoe "club" she later found out was "one of those high-class shady houses." She plays for weddings, social gatherings, even funerals.
If you want to see and hear Thelma, you'll have to go for lunch - she only plays from 12 noon to 1 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. She plays requests. Just don't ask her to do Pepperoni and Cheese.

Thelma was very active in PSTOS for many, many years and is the recipient of a PSTOS Lifetime Achievement Award.

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