Friday, February 7, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Good-bye Marion

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.




This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is the piano.  When I was growing up in the 60’s (that’s 1960’s, thank-you), two things every family wanted in their home were a set of encyclopedias and a piano.  We had both.  Music was part of the family identity, I suppose.

Fred, Mary Eleanor, Wendy Slade Christmas 1952
Momma and Daddy were obviously proud.
I'm sure I banged out a lovely melody on my
baby grand piano that Christmas 1952.
Lucille Davis, Mary Jollette and Wendy Slade Aug 1959
Mary Jollette's "first piano" was this little upright.
Grandma Lucille Davis and I were there
to make sure Mary Jollette didn't fall off the seat.

My grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan even had a room where she kept her piano and an organ.  She always called it “The Music Room.”  You could hear those capital letters when she said the words.

We’re not musical like the Osmond family, but everyone was expected to take music lessons.

Even during the Depression, my mother was lucky enough to have lessons in piano and tap at the Harman School of Music in Shenandoah, Virginia.

Harman School of Music Shenandoah, Virginia
former Harman School of Music
Pennsylvania Avenue, Shenandoah, Virginia

It’s a tiny building.  My dad used to joke that the building was so small the little chorus line of Shirley Temple wannabes probably had to shuffle out the back door.  But it must have been a good school because Momma used to show us the hop-shuffle-down-step-step steps.  There are just some lessons you never forget. 

She was less enchanted with piano lessons though.  Momma could play by ear, but she was not much for actually reading music.  I guess she saw no need to remember “Every Good Boy Does Fine” or “Great Big Dogs Fight Animals,” much less how to count a dotted quarter note.  If she knew the tune, she could sit down and play it with a flourish.
Mary Eleanor Davis Slade Christmas Eve 1992
1993 - Momma either had been playing or was preparing
to play some Christmas carols for the kids.
Clay Pollock, Justin Anderson, Joel Pollock.

Word of her musical prowess must have spread to her colleagues at Cradock Junior High School.  When the faculty was planning a big celebration for a revered teacher who was getting ready to retire, they asked Momma to write a special song to perform at the party.  One afternoon she sat down at the piano, thought for a minute, and then with all the gusto of JoAnn Castle on the Lawrence Welk Show, Momma began playing “Toot Toot Tootsie.” 

Soon the words came: 
Good-bye Marion, Good-bye.
Good-bye Marion.  Don’t cry.
You know our thoughts of you are high
Just like the Fourth of July.

"Like the Fourth of July"? What the heck does that mean?

Well, think of it as “freewriting” or “brainstorming” in which the rule is that there are no rules.   All I can say is that my sister and I were rolling on the floor laughing.  Momma was laughing and crying at the same time, maybe because of the words, or maybe because she caught a glimpse in her mind’s eye of what it would be like to perform this little ditty for a woman who had been her mentor, a consummate educator, a much-loved teacher for decades.   

I don’t know what the final version of the song was, but this is the one that even after 40 years can be recalled in a moment’s notice.   

For more stories about pianos, please visit my friends at Sepia Saturday.  They may not always be “upright,” but they are always “grand.” 


49 comments:

  1. My family didn't have a piano, but we did have an encyclopedia.

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    1. I always felt sorry for my friends who didn't have a set of World Book or Britannica for all those reports we had to do.

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  2. What great memories! We had a piano, too—and so many fun times. ☺

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  3. We had a piano AND an organ - my sister and I took piano lessons for years and my dad took organ lessons until just a few years before his death. My daughters have wonderful memories of sitting on the organ bench while dad was playing and watching him work the pedals. And encyclopedias - that was a huge investment and something every family wanted. Remember people who would go to door and sell them? Thanks for the great memories this morning.

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    1. One of my neighbors was his church organist. He usually played in his sock feet.

      Can you imagine the life of an encyclopedia salesman knocking on doors? I know he didn't have to carry the WHOLE set, but still ....

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  4. hahahaha! good bye Marion-what a song!

    I wonder what happened to my little piano? I never really thought about where I was sitting when that picture was taken.

    Momma was a funny girl!

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    1. The bigger question is what happened to MY piano?

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  5. We had an upright that was squeezed in under the stairs...it just fit in there, and made for a cozy place to play!

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    1. I have a faint memory of an upright piano in my grandparents' house. It didn't stay.

      My parents bought a piano which was placed beside the staircase.

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  6. Great piano playing photos, and I envy the musical talent of your family! The best I could manage was to play recorder in the school band. I knew that mnemonic as Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit.

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    1. "Deserves Fruit"?? Never heard that one!

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    2. Me too, Jo. Maybe it's an Aussie mnemonic.

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  7. I remember the spaces: FACE, & ACE/Gee. Over the years I've had 4 pianos, but not all at the same time, of course. One at home until I married, and then 3 after that because we moved around so much. I play 'by ear' & music both, but mostly by 'ear'. And until only a few years ago we owned a set of encyclopedias, but the internet has cleared those bookshelves!

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    1. Yes FACE, but for me the bass spaces were All Cows Eat Grass.

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  8. Well, isn't that a rendition that wouldn't soon be forgotten?!

    Love that intonation on "The Music Room." Yes, those capital letters were made to be heard as well as seen.

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    1. Yep, obviously that rendition is still alive and well in my mind's ear.

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  9. A marvelous story, Wendy. So good it made me laugh out loud, and even sent me searching for the Harmon School of Music on Google Street View. I'm impressed that such a place has still survived on a street that has seen better days. I can imagine that many of the small town musicians in my photo collection once took lessons in a similar shack.

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    1. Now Mr. Mike, I expected you to search for the Harman Family, not Google Street View. It's much more to your liking. Mr. Harman taught music at Shenandoah College & Conservatory in Dayton, Virginia. His children ran music schools: Priscilla ran the one Momma attended, and her sister ran the one in Elkton several miles away. The whole family was musical and they often performed together. Now if we could just find a photo of the Harmans you'd be off like a shot gathering the full story.

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    2. Well wuddayaknow -- lookee here: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~bulger/harmanband.htm

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  10. What a lovely story. It seems a shame that now watching TV and playing on the computer has replaced music in many families.

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    1. I guess you're right -- if you're not the Osmonds or Jacksons, you're probably watching tv and playing games ALONE on the computer.

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  11. I liked the song - it is a tall order to write a song to farewell a teacher.

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    1. You've got a point. What WOULD you say in a farewell song??

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  12. A lovely story of piano playing memories.

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  13. What a great post...love the piano pictures!
    We had a piano...I wanted to take lessons but my mom said no because my sister did and then quit...a waste of money in her eyes. we did have a set of encyclopedias though...a little dated by the time I was writing reports- my sisters were 9 and 11 years older than me.

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    1. My parents used to get the "yearbook" that tried to update topics in the encyclopedia every year.

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  14. Enjoying reading this and looking at the photos. We're almost the same age so the photos look familiar.
    We had the encyclopedia but no piano. Everyone sang though.

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    1. We probably sang but mostly Christmas carols. We didn't know many songs, I guess.

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  15. We had a piano and a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. And a tiny piano like that one that tinkled unmusically.

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    1. I remember using Britannica at school. I believe it was considered more scholarly than World Book.

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  16. Pianos and Encyclopaedias used to go together I noticed that in someone else's photo too. A sign of the times.

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  17. Any encyclopedias we've had have been single volume editions, Now of course everything is on the internet! I don't know of a piano in any of our family's houses. Although my daughter and her husband have an electronic keyboard. I should have had a photo of one of them playing that.

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    1. I wonder if pianos will go the way of the encyclopedia. Pianos are big and expensive, but probably many families could handle an electronic keyboard.

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  18. Thanks for great memories...yes on encyclopedia, which of course was out of date by the time I needed to make any reports after 6th grade or so. Piano was supposed to come to me after years of lessons, but I went through a period of not wanting to be tied down to furniture, so it went back to my sis. She must enjoy it sometimes. I finally gave away all my show tunes, which I couldn't play without the sheet music.

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    1. My sister and I had 2 pianos to get rid of after our parents died. It's not easy.

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  19. What shines through this post is the happy childhood you enjoyed with your wonderful mother, and no wonder, she always seems to be smiling! We had a piano but I never mastered reading music; I wish I had.

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    1. Thank-you for that, Marilyn. You're so right -- I did have a happy childhood.

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  20. Pianos and Encyclopaedias in our house too, and an organ. The Harmans must have enjoyed their musical connecetion.

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    1. I've done a little reading about the Harmans, and I think they must have been a remarkable family.

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  21. Great memories. I always wanted the encyclopedias rather than the piano.

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    1. Flipping through pages of an encyclopedia can be much like a Google search.

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  22. What a fun post Wendy! My dad had a "Music Room" too when we were young. We really did call it that. Only his was the room where he had his collection of record albums, a reel-to-reel tape player, a turntable, etc.

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    1. Barry and I once had a reel-to-reel. It was a snob thing in the days of 8-tracks and cassettes. LOL

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  23. Must be an Australian thing, I grew up learning Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit and Good Boys Deserve Fruit Always. We did have All Cows Eat Grass though!

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  24. I always wanted to play the piano when I was little but it wasn't something my parents could afford. My (far away) grandparents had one though, and I banged on it all I could when we visited them

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  25. Great storytelling, great writing, most evocative.
    "You could hear those capital letters"...
    That music school surely has a gigantic basement.
    Can't be just what we see here, surely[?!?]...
    :D
    You've made enough references that I can well picture her at the piano,
    surrounded by the Osmond Brothers [and Marie too!!],
    singing that farewell song on the stage of the Lawrence Welk show.
    I leave you with a personal favorite of mine:
    http://youtu.be/-3fqJkTeDNU

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