Daily Prompt: Music

“When we rejoice in beautiful scenery, great art, and great music,
it is but the flexing of instincts acquired in another place and another time.”
— Elder Neal A. Maxwell

I have always loved music. Music has a way of lifting you up if you’re feeling down. There are songs that will trigger memories that I thought were lost forever. This Daily Prompt brought up a memory of when I was a child and we lived at the Marsh Hotel.  When you passed through the lobby of the Hotel there was a dining room in the back. Yes, it was operating back then.  There was an old piano in that dining room.  I don’t remember if anyone ever played it (besides me, that is).  Whenever the dining room was closed, I would spend hours banging away on that old piano.  I picked out the usual Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.  I used to pretend I was a great piano player and spend hours making up “songs” to bang out on that old piano.  If memory serves (which it doesn’t always do) that old thing was pink.  Yes, I did say pink. Granted, it was a very pale pink.

I guess my Mom took pity on me because she started me in piano lessons. They were down the street from the Hotel in a back room of a book store. I can’t remember the name of the book store or the name of the piano teacher.  I do remember she was very nice.  I absolutely loved learning the piano.  But all good things must come to an end. I was only able to take lessons for about three months.  That’s about the time my father became quite ill and nearly died. He lost the Hotel and we had to move. I can remember my teacher telling my mother to make sure she got me back into piano lessons no matter where we went. I guess she thought I had a knack for it. She said I had covered two years of material in three months. Sadly, I never had a piano again.

Well, over 50 years later, I can’t say that anymore. Last year I found the perfect piano on Craigslist. It’s beautiful, it’s like new, and they were selling it at an unbelievable price (e.g. cheap!).  I thought there had to be something terribly wrong with it so I hired a piano tuner to inspect it for me prior to purchase.  After he had examined and tested it, he told me privately to let him know if I did not buy it because he would. Well, that was enough for me.  It’s mine and it’s everything I ever hoped it would be! Here it is:

Baldwin Piano 9-22-12

It’s mine now! Granted, for now it’s primarily just a beautiful piece of furniture. Shortly after I purchased it, I lost my job, so no piano lessons at the moment. But don’t despair. I haven’t. I have the piano I have dreamed of my whole life. I have the Schaum and Thompson piano books I had when I was 10. So, it’s not a banjo but I’m a pickin’ and a grinnin’!  I have always said if I could have spent as much time at a piano keyboard as I have at a typewriter/computer keyboard, I’d be a concert pianist!  HA!

I do so enjoy music. Lots of different genres. Some time ago, I started adding songs I liked to one of my Pinterest boards (click here). I noticed that so far I’ve been keeping pretty much to the 60’s and 70’s!

Here’s a piano medley of some hymns of Thanksgiving to enjoy (oh, to play like that!):

I listened, motionless and still; And, as I mounted up the hill, The music in my heart I bore, Long after it was heard no more.

William Wordsworth

For more interpretations of the Daily Prompt click here.

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My Downtown Playground – Part 2

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

This picture doesn’t do downtown 1950’s Van Wert justice! Of course, this particular picture is not from the 50’s but it’s the best I can do for now! But this was a big part of my playground. Growing up in a hotel without having other kids around to get into trouble with, you learn to find your own trouble!

Mary BethMy best friend (then and now!), Mary Beth, and I spent a lot of time walking Main Street, stopping after school for French fries and Green Rivers. We would occasionally switch out the Green Rivers for Cherry or Vanilla Cokes!

Directly across the street from the Hotel is the historic County courthouse. Click here for a brief history of the courthouse.

Van Wert County Courthouse

Van Wert County Courthouse

Cannons in front of Courthouse

Cannons in front of Courthouse

Mary Beth, and I used to hang out a lot at the courthouse. No, we weren’t in court. We were in and around the courthouse. We were just kids and we weren’t juvies. To continue. We’d roam the halls sometimes but mostly we spent time climbing around on the cannons. It’s amazing how fast those “horses” could go.

Memorial Hall at Courthouse

Memorial Hall at Courthouse

See that little white building with the green roof in the lower left hand corner of the picture? That’s a War Memorial building that houses a collection of photos of soldiers from Van Wert. Mary Beth and I used to wander through there looking at the pictures of the men and women who served this great country. We didn’t know any of them but it was fascinating. I know some of the photos went back to WWI.

William Edwin Carter

William Edwin Carter

Viet Nam Memorial

Vietnam Memorial

Of course, at the time, neither of us ever suspected that one of our dear elementary school friends would end up on the Vietnam Memorial Wall and have his picture placed in the Memorial Building (I don’t have a copy of it or I would post that). Dead at the age of 20. So sad for so many. But I digress. William Edwin Carter, R.I.P.

Across from the Hotel is a restaurant called “Balyeat’s Coffee Shop” that has been there what seems forever.

Balyeat's Coffee Shop

Balyeat’s Coffee Shop

Well, okay, forever to me is from 1922! That red neon sign can be spotted a mile away. The sign and the coffee shop are still there and they’re still serving excellent down-home cooking. Their pies are to die for. In fact, I wish I had one now. My family and I used to eat in there quite often. In fact, that’s one of the locations I was chatting with Cisco and Pancho.

In this old postcard, you can see the old movie theatre across the street from the Hotel at the end of the block.

Cinema

I used to spend time in there. I suppose you could say there were some perks living in the Hotel. I’m guessing now but I’m pretty sure my Dad had made some arrangement with the theatre owner to let me in for free. Otherwise, how could you explain all the times I just walked in? I know there were a few times I would take a friend or two with me. I loved that old movie house. Some Saturday mornings they would have games and contests for the kids followed by cartoons. It was a few hours of Saturday morning freedom for lots of parents! I still remember one of the contests I entered. We were supposed to fill our mouths full of saltine crackers and then whistle. For some reason, I didn’t win. Could it be that I have trouble just whistling even without anything in my mouth? Nobody would do that today because they’d be so terrified of a kid choking and the parents suing. People didn’t think that way then. Kids actually were allowed to have fun. I can still hear the roar of the laughter from probably a hundred or more kids. Boy, it got loud in there. But fun.

When you walk a couple blocks or so the other direction from the Hotel, there was Fountain Park.

Fountain Park

Fountain Park

Two acres right in downtown. It was a pretty park with swings and paths. I don’t think I spent a lot of time actually in the park because there was just so much other stuff to do. I did cut through it a lot, though, on my way to friends’ houses!

YWCA

YWCA

Last time I was home the YWCA was still there. I think Van Wert is one of the few towns that had separate YWCA and YMCA facilities. Now, this is one place where I did spend a lot of time. Nearly every Saturday morning when I wasn’t at the movie house, I was in there roller skating. Yep. I loved it. I was never a fancy skater or anything but I had fun doing it. I remember one time, a bunch of kids formed a chain and put me on the end of it. I think it was because I was small. Boy, I never let them do that to me again! I was flying. It’s a miracle I didn’t crash through a wall or something! Of course, it might not have been as bad as my memory serves!

My Mom was such a fashionista. I remember I had a special roller skating outfit. It consisted of a red satin blouse and a short black velvet skirt with red satin trim and matching red satin pants. I had a rhinestone roller skate pin that I would always wear.

Rhinestone Pin

Rhinestone Pin

I still have the pin and, as you can see, it’s missing a few of the rhinestones so I don’t wear it anymore.

I used to go swimming a lot at the Y. It was an indoor pool and the smell of chlorine was so strong I can still conjure it up. And, of course, after all that exercise of roller skating or swimming or ping pong or checkers, etc., I always had enough money in my pocket to buy a snack. It was always the same thing no matter what.

6 oz. Coca-Cola

6 oz. Coca-Cola

MoonPie

MoonPie

But my absolute favorite downtown playground activity has to be The Brumback Library! There is no way I can do justice to the beauty of this library. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. Click here for a brief history of the Library. The Brumback Library stands as the first county library formed in the United States. The building was dedicated on January 1st, 1901. It’s been renovated a couple of times and expanded but they’ve done a magnificent job of maintaining the integrity of the building. I saw it a number of years ago after the expansion.  They did a fabulous job of making everything match.  It’s such a beautiful place.

The Brumback Library

The Brumback Library

I have such wonderful memories of this library. It has been likened to a CASTLE! That’s how I always thought of it. I spent more hours in this library when I was in elementary school. Maybe that’s why I love reading so much. Not only was it a treasure trove of books, it was a fabulous place to explore! I don’t know if they still have them, but some of the upstairs walkways were made of heavy frosted glass. They were so cool! I think they may have been removed or replaced when they remodeled. There were so many stairways and alcoves to explore. I doubt the kids today would have the run of the library like we did back then. Migosh, I miss it!

Library Interior

Library Interior

Library Interior

Library Interior

Library Interior

Library Interior

I could go on and get really detailed about all the stores and alleyways and things to explore downtown. But I’m sure you’ve read enough for now. Besides, I’ve got to save some for the third and final installment on Van Wert in the 50’s.

My Downtown Playground – Part 1

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

Around 1956 my family moved to a little town called Van Wert, Ohio. Apparently Dad took it upon himself to buy an old hotel smack dab in the middle of town. It was called the Marsh Hotel or the Hotel Marsh, depending upon individual preference. This became my new stomping ground. We occupied the Manager’s Suite on the top floor.

But what–you say–did a kid do in the middle of downtown for entertainment? Well, there were lots of things to occupy my days and my mind.

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For starters, there’s the Hotel itself. How many kids get the run of the house, especially if that “house” is a hotel? Being Nancy Drew incarnate, I could run up and down those hallways and into empty rooms looking for “clues” and building cases.

There was a big formal restaurant dining room in the back of the Hotel. In that dining area sat an old piano. Gosh, I loved that old piano. I didn’t know how to play but that didn’t stop me. I learned all the easy stuff kids learn on pianos without lessons. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; Row, Row, Row Your Boat; you get the idea. Little tunes kids can pick out on their own. Of course, that was only allowed during times the restaurant was closed. We wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s appetite!

The check-in desk was full of surprises with its cubbyholes and glass display cabinet. There were boxes of cigars in the display that were for sale. I don’t like the smell of cigar smoke but I did like the smell of those cigar boxes! I had quite a collection of the old empty boxes. Most were used to store my crayons and other trinkets.

Marsh Desk

Yep, that’s me, my Mom and my faithful companion, Happy, right there at the check-in desk. It’s a pretty beat-up picture but if you look real close over my Mom’s right shoulder, you can just barely make out an old PBX switchboard. I’m guessing it was installed maybe in the 1930s or 1940s.

Antique PBX

Antique PBX

This picture is just an example of the PBX with those cords and buttons and I knew how to use it. I was able to take and place calls on occasion to help out! It was fun.

elevator handle

The hotel was four stories and had an old Otis elevator that was manually operated. It had one of those gates across the door that was shut manually. And then there was the apparatus that moved the elevator up and down. It was pushed to the right to go up and left to go down. The trick was when you stopped at each floor you had to bob up and down until you got it lined up. Otherwise, there would have been a big step up or down when exiting the elevator. I did operate the elevator on occasion. There were times when I just wanted to go upstairs and grab something out of the apartment without having to run up and down the flights of stairs so I would take the elevator. Sometimes I would even get to take the guests to their floor. Then you always said “Watch your step, please.” Of course, I  only got to do that when Shorty was busy! We had a regular bellhop named Shorty who was also the elevator operator. Such a nice man he was, too. Heck, he tolerated me, didn’t he?! Hey, I just realized. Could this be like a forerunner to video games? You don’t see the connection? Well, I had to synchronize the handle up and down to get it lined up just right with the landing.

The Cisco Kid and Diablo

The Cisco Kid and Diablo

There were definitely some perks being the young daughter of the Hotel owner. Every now and again someone famous or sort of famous would stay at the Hotel. One such individual I remember so well was Duncan Renaldo. Who is that some of you younger readers might be asking. Why, it’s the Cisco Kid! Oh, Pancho! Oh, Cisco! Leo Carrillo, who played Pancho in the TV series was traveling with him. Of course, he also brought with him his trusted horse, Diablo, but Diablo, much to my chagrin, did not stay at the Hotel. They were in town for the Van Wert County Fair. Even as a child, I knew that the Cisco Kid was a VERY handsome man! He and Pancho were talking with me and asking me if I watched their TV show. Of course I told them I did – and I did. When they asked me which day it was on TV, I couldn’t tell them. I was so embarrassed at the time. But, he was so gracious. He had such a wonderful laugh and he said I was so cute. Well, that was all I needed. I was smitten. Of course, my poor mother was just sure that I would be “discovered” and asked to go to Hollywood and become famous and rich. Ha!

From Google Images - not the actual dance troupe

From Google Images – not the actual dance troupe

One other example was a troupe of Irish dancers touring the country. If memory serves, they probably ranged in age from about 10 or 12 to about 15 or 16. Having Irish blood myself flowing through my veins, I felt as one with them! They were teaching me how to do the Irish jig and a sword dance. My, but they were a fun bunch. I was able to ride on the tour bus with them to one of their stage performances. Naturally, I fell in love with a couple of the Irish boys. They weren’t just cute – they had the neatest accents ever! They paved the way for Michael Flatley and Lord of the Dance!!

Yes, there was a lot of mischief for a young girl to get into at that old Hotel. In Part 2 I’ll move my activities to the great outdoors. Look out world, here I come!

Only Wrong Once!

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 It just goes to show that sometimes you can be too close to something to actually see it.

I believe this article about my parents came out in the Toledo Blade sometime late in 1958. Reporters for the the Blade were always passing through Van Wert, Ohio and, for some inexplicable reason, often found our family newsworthy.

I still have the bracelet and earrings that match the necklace Mom is wearing. Oh, what I wouldn’t give! Even as a child, I loved playing with her jewelry. But that’s another story!

When I reread this article, I just noticed for the first time that there is a misprint. Guess it got past the reporter, editor, typesetter, etc.! See what happens when one of your jobs has been as a proof reader? I’d better not say too much, though. I’m sure I would run across my own misprints if I were to review my entries.