Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bio #6 - Family Entertainment 1917 - late 1920s

Can you imagine living without slacks, bikinis, chewing gum, or lipstick and cigarettes? Well, we did. No radio or television either. But we never missed what we had never had. We had a gramophone that had been Grandma's with records 1/4" thick. Mom never let us play it when she was home, but if she and Dad went out of an evening to visit or to a dance, and Katherine Back came to babysit us, we could play it then. Katherine Beck was a nice jolly girl about nineteen, I guess, with red curly hair and freckles. She always made a batch of fudge and read us books or told ghost stories. We were always happy when she came for an evening, and for a number of years she was our only babysitter. Mom sold the old gramophone as it made her sad. We always seems to have a piano in the dining room. Mary was the oldest and had the first lessons. She was very good at it and after a few years, at 15, she had her first pupils, while still learning herself. She later got her A.T.C.M., "Solo Performers" and "Diploma" and taught about 35 pupils until she got married in 1942. I took piano for one year and was hopeless, so didn't go any more. Later at 10 years I took violin and really enjoyed it. I took it for seven years and between us we had lots of fun until in the late 30s and before World War II. Dad, Eddie and I played the violin (not perfectly, mind you,) Charlie was good on the piccolo, and Mary at the piano. Some friends of Mom and Dad used to come down. Mrs. Andrews, her daughter Jessie, and a man who taught flute and was a real pro player, Johnny Dickinson. So we all gathered together and played dozens and dozens of times, over the years, till it was time for us to go to bed. We went to sleep those nights to classical music, I loved it, and will always remember it.

Painting by Mabel Frances Layng, 1920
About the time we moved from 110-8th Street SE, we had a billiard table. Dad got it cheap off some man, so we all learned to play pool, snooker and billiards. Eddie was only three years old, but he had a little 3 foot long cue and a stool, and took his turn. This was at 92 - 3rd Street SE where we had moved in the February.

There is something funny I must tell you here, about Johnny Dickinson, who taught flute and piccolo. He was about four feet eleven inches tall, and very fat in the tummy. Sometimes I went along with Charlie to his lesson, and never once did we leave there without a chocolate bar each. He was an ex-player of one of the London, England symphony orchestras. He was marvelous on the flute. He was a bachelor, and Jessie Andrews and I were with him when he died of a stroke, at 70 years. He was jolly all the time and we liked him.

The scene Mom paints is charming, lively, brimming with music and laughter. She and my father encouraged music in my childhood home, too, and we would gather around the old piano and belt out choruses from "Messiah" at Christmas time, with a talented friend at the piano. My brother and I were more interested in guitars and rock music than classical. I, too, as a mother of three girls, encouraged live music in the home, accompanied by piano, or guitar or banjo, but technology had moved on, and they spent a lot of time listening to LP (long play) records. My grandchildren listen to music, but do not sing or play instruments. A beautiful tradition has died out.