How this story came to me

My father-in-law, Dale Alstrom, bought a vacation home in Plumas County circa 1977. Fred was the owner of the Greenville Hotel at the time, which was close to Dale’s vacation home. They met thanks to two wife’s at the local beauty parlor. One was the wife of a man who was a retired school teacher who organized community events for the country club. The other was Fred’s wife. The first wife was telling everyone how difficult it was to find a good piano player and that her husband was desperate to find one. Of course Fred’s wife spoke up – “My husband plays piano.” So Fred ended up playing many gigs with Dale. And the rest is history as they say. They became fast friends.

Horst Ferber, 12 years old.

Dale worked with a man named Walt Tolleson, who had a band called Walt Tolleson and his Big Band. They would play all over the San Francisco Bay Area. One time Walt came up to visit Dale at his vacation home in Plumas County, and Dale got to talking about Fred and how good he was. When Walt met Fred and heard him play, he told Fred that he would hire him on if he moved to the Bay Area. Eventually Fred did just that. Like many others, Fred was now part of the “collective family” as it were.

Fred in action.

I married my wife, Erika, on September 11, 1999. I never met, nor heard about Fred. But he was there that day playing piano, with my now father-in-law Dale playing the sax, and other family playing their instruments…everyone was family. Even the caterer. It was my wedding day and I vaguely remember meeting Fred, but I did. Erika mentioned in passing his story, his time in hiding as a boy. As a playwright I was interested in asking him if he would talk to me about it…but I never actually picked up the phone.

Some years went by, and Fred passes away. We go to his memorial, where they were displaying the book, HIDING HORST, Memoirs of a Jewish Boy, by Becky White. I read the book, and read it again, and began writing and adapting it as a play. Becky was so kind and generous when I reached out telling her my wishes to write this and have it hopefully produced somewhere. All she ever asked was she be credited for the book. Her hope is that this story continues to be told. It is a great book and I recommend it to anyone. You can purchase the book at and search by title, or you can find it on Amazon.

This is the photo on the cover of the book, HIDING HORST, Memoirs of a Jewish Boy.

HARMONY IN HIDING was developed with a couple of staged readings and eventually produced in 2012 at the Ross Valley Players for their local playwright’s program called R.A.W. (Ross Alternative Works) at the time, now called New Works at Ross Valley Players.

2012 Show poster

Now here we are, telling this story again via audio podcast form. My hope is that this will reach a bigger audience. This story needs to be told now more than ever. History has a bad habit of repeating itself. I hope the world listens.