Friday, February 4, 2011

The 1929 Piano

Our parents were each very musical, but our parents were also poor. So, when my older sister begged to take piano lessons the year she turned nine years old, my father was sympathetic but explained to the itinerant teacher offering them that he could not afford either the lessons or the piano for her to practice on.

The teacher offered a deal: If our mother would give her lunch on the two days she was teaching in our little town, she would not charge for my sister's lessons. And she found an elderly lady living on our street who was willing for my sister to practice an hour a day on her piano, in return for my sister's waiting on her a bit.

After my sister had been studying and practicing diligently for about a year, our parents managed to save enough money to buy a piano. It was a Kimball and I think it arrived at the freight depot about a mile south of our house, all the way from Indianapolis, Indiana. At age two, I was too young to lay down a memory of the mule-drawn wagon that brought it to our door, but I heard the story more than once down the years.

Not only did my older sister become a very accomplished musician using that Kimball upright piano, but she gave all her little sisters their first lessons on it, also. It was a wonderful plaything to us all at first, and a source of delight to my parents, who would occasionally play it themselves.

The South Texas coastal climate is a very damp one, and in the rainy winter months, a low-wattage light-bulb was hung on the interior below the keyboard, to keep the keys from sticking. This eventually warped the entire soundboard behind the strings, but nevertheless the instrument was quite serviceable through all the time that I was growing up.

And the music we began to love when we were very young is still a joy to all of us in our old age. Here's my cat Thistle, who shares my 32-year-old Kawai studio grand with me every day:


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