Jan 21, 2018

The Player Piano


I've never considered the fact that I came from a musical family. I've always thought of the Kender boys as more of the athletic type, the fix it kind of guys, the racing kind of kids who had go-karts, Cushman motor scooters and Whizzer motorbikes and all of us having a sports car. Yet looking back, there was always some kind of music going on in the house.

My oldest brother, Dave, had a great Slingerland drum set with the separate top hat and tom-tom. He not only played for the Chaminade Marching Band and Orchestra but was a member of the renowned Dayton Blackhawks Precision Drum and Bugle Corp. Ricky played the trumpet for a few years but never pursued it much after that except maybe getting it out on New Year's Eve and blaring it at midnight.

....And I, for some unknown reason, chose the clarinet, or perhaps it was chosen for me. I stayed with it until my bottom adult teeth started coming in and it hurt like heck to bend my bottom lip back while blowing on the reed. At least that's the excuse I was using, when it was in fact all I seemed to be able to get out of the ole "licorice stick", as Mom called it, was squeaks and noises that even made the dog yelp. I think I enjoyed taking the thing apart and cleaning it and lubricating the cork- filled connections more than playing it. Or even better was being allowed to venture downtown on the electric bus to Hauer's Music store by myself for that weekly lesson. If nothing else, my music teacher did compliment me on keeping it polished and working properly.

But there was another musical instrument that brings back some wonderful memories on this Sunday morning as I reminisce. It was the wonderful player piano that stood almost majestic down in our basement in Dayton, Ohio, placed back against a wall surrounded by the clothes washing machine and dryer, the sanitary tubs and the furnace. Collecting dust, but still always there even if it meant just a quick version of "chopsticks" when passing by.

Mom would infrequently play a song or two, usually when she thought she was alone. But on occasion as I wandered through the house without anyone knowing I was there, I could hear her tunes. She played mostly ragtime but now and then a love song. There wasn't much time for a mother of three boys to have time to herself as one could imagine. But the moments she did find time brought back memories to her that I could see in her face.

My childhood friend, "The Jer", and I would mess around with the piano while exploring through the house. One of us would get down on our knees and hand push the pedals while the other faux-played the keys at they went up and down as the roller turned the music through each song. It was magical to simply watch the piano play so many different songs all done by some genius way of poking tiny little holes in paper as it went from start to finish. And, I guess, it is time to confess, and I'll blame it on "The Jer", we would poke a few extra holes in the paper ourselves, not to be destructive, but I think we thought we were creating our own music.

The player piano was sold off during an estate sale held after my Dad had passed away and Mom had moved to Assisted Living. I'm not sure who owns it today or if it even exists.

I wish I even knew how it came into our family and even more importantly how in the world they ever got in down in the basement. David said Dad had to knock out a part of the just recently knotty-pined finished wall that he installed.

I do have a roll of music though that my sister-in-law sent to me after the piano was sold. I had forgotten about it, but touching it now brings back a wonderful time in my life that I now love sharing. The roll is called "Chapel Chimes" and ironically it came from a place called the Leyhe Piano Company in Dallas, Texas. That connection gives me chills as well. The label say it is a Library Roll and you could rent it for 15 days for 5 cents, or purchase it.

Perhaps today, if you have a special treasure in your home take it out and share it's history with a family member, maybe a child or grandchild, niece or nephew. Tell them how it played a part in your life and what it means to you today.

And now I hear my note to exit this memory. It's been a fine one.