Gary Chafe Oral History

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Gary Chafe Oral History


Born on September 1st, 1937 in Los Angeles, California, Gary Ray Chafe was the eldest son of Raymond Chafe and Edmee Silva. In the summer of 1947, Chafe’s father relocated the entire family to Santa Barbara following a job assignment with the Socal Edison Electric Company. Chafe’s passion for art began following the aftermath of World War II when he observed an exhibit of artwork liberated from the Nazis. He graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1955 and went on to attend Santa Barbara City College. After graduation, Chafe did a variety of jobs such as being a courier for the United Postal Office in the late 1960’s and teaching at the Adult Education Program when it was located on the Santa Barbara School of the Arts campus. His passion for art would ultimately lead him back to being a self-employed painter. Chafe has had a long relationship with the Presidio Neighborhood, including running an art studio on the 200 block of East Canon Perdido Street, and living in the apartments at the top of the Whittaker building.

Above photo: Gary Chafe with Mary Louise Days on the day of his interview.

Clip 1: What Got You Into Art? Following World War II, an exhibit of art liberated from the Nazis inspired Gary Chafe to pursue a career in art.

Clip 2: Gary discusses the creation of “New” Chinatown in the Presidio neighborhood after the 1925 earthquake.

Clip 3: Gary and friends work to make Santa Barbara bike-friendly.

Clip 4: During the 1960’s, Gary Chafe was employed as a postal courier for the post office. Couriers during this period were able to use the bus system to complete their routes, enabling them to enjoy the beautiful side of the city during their work day.

Clip 5: Set Designer: Chafe designed sets for the Alhecama Theatre alongside Mr. Freeman, the leader of the Alhecama players.

Clip 6: First Residence: Chafe’s first residence and gallery was located above the Town Market in the Presidio Area across from Jimmy’s Oriental Garden. He later moved his residence to the Whittaker Building, and his gallery just across the street at 132 East Canon Perdido.

*To hear the entire oral history interview or additional clips, please make an appointment with the Presidio Research Center at (805) 966-5073.


July 29, 2013



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Mary Louise Days


Gary Chafe


Presidio Research Center

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