Jim Asher and Ida Rolf
Dave Sheldon: Jim, what is the history of the first few Boulder classes?
Jim Asher: The first class in Boulder got organized in 1973 because Emmett Hutchins was practicing in Boulder, wanted to teach there, and also thought Ida would enjoy the town. So, Ida came out to teach and I was the assistant. Emmett found models at the college and we held class at the Highlander Hotel on 28th St. In those days, east of 28th was totally undeveloped, so some of the students would camp out behind the hotel. (Editor’s note: 28th St. is now a main thoroughfare.) The hotel was happy to have us and actually gave us a sweet deal on rent. Remember, back then Boulder was a small college town without too much going on.
A few months later Peter Melchior and Emmett also taught a class at the Highlander. Peter and Susan Melchior soon moved to Boulder and Ida really liked this – in a way, it kind of sealed the Boulder deal for her.
In the summer of 1974, Ida came back and taught an advanced class. For this, we rented out a fraternity house for ten weeks – it was a great place to have class. Afterward, we started looking at property to buy. Real estate was super cheap back then, and the low prices were also a factor to start in Boulder. We ended up buying what is now the Solstice Center on Pearl St. and 3rd.
DS: What role did Boulder’s natural environment have on the decision?
JA: Ida loved the outdoors! And she loved the mountains. She also loved hot-tubs, but that’s another story. I would take her for rides on the weekend in my Volvo wagon. She liked going with me because I didn’t bother her, I wouldn’t ask her Rolfing questions as we were riding along. She knew that if she wanted to be quiet she could be quiet, and if she wanted to talk, she could talk. From Boulder, you could be out in the mountains in five minutes. Sometimes she’d talk about Walter, her late husband, and the time they used to spend in the Canadian Rockies. Those memories were very important to her. And when we weren’t driving in the mountains, Ida could go on hikes and walks around Boulder. Occasionally, she’d rent a little four-speeder and drive herself into the hills.
Spending time with her grandchildren in the outdoors was also extremely important to Ida. She’d slap her hands and say, “I’ve got to spend more time with my grandkids.” She really liked the idea that she could enjoy the outdoors with her grandkids in the same town she was teaching in. This was a huge thing for Ida, she used to rave about it, how she got to enjoy the mountains around Boulder with her grandkids!
DS: Who was living in Boulder back then? Did the population influence the decision?
JA: When Ida came to Boulder, she saw lots of people hiking and riding their bikes, and felt that it was a healthy community. Alfalfa’s Market had just opened and you could get your vitamins and homeopathics in Boulder. She viewed this as different from the California drug scene. But don’t get me wrong, she loved what Californian had to offer. At Esalen, Ida would drive herself down dirt roads, and when the road stopped, she’d just park and go for a little walk into the woods.
DS: How was the decision to choose Boulder officially made?
JA: At the time, Ida was hoping to get three schools started. Something in Florida and California, and something in the middle that turned out to be Boulder. In California, Ida had been teaching at Esalen and in San Francisco. She thought this California school would be more psychologically oriented. In Florida the first class was sponsored by the University of Miami. In exchange, Ida would give an open lecture at the science auditorium and doctors were given permission to occasionally sit in on classroom lectures. Ida also allowed medical students to study the changes the classroom models experienced from Rolfing as part of their Ph.D.s. She thought that a Florida school would be more research oriented. Boulder would be in-between, a combination of science and psychology.
So anyway, we all got together for a meeting. It was Ida, me, Emmett, Peter, Michael Salveson, Caroline Widmer, and a secretary, Jane Hale. There were also two psychics there, Wayne and Bella from California. Ida liked to get physic readings occasionally, and liked Wayne and Bella. They came into town and Emmett set them up with clients. They did a reading and said Boulder would be a great place to start the school, that the mountains would be a source of positive energy. But for Ida, this information was secondary to Boulder being so close to nature, having a healthy community, being the home of both Emmett and Peter, and being a wonderful place for her grandkids.
So, we had this meeting and Ida said, “Well, what do you think?” She wanted to include the whole faculty in the decision and invited us all to speak our minds. I thought, “What’s not to like?