Put On Your Thinking Cap . . . And Keep Warm!

January 31, 2019

Wow! The big blow and Arctic cold sure has us thinking of the so called good old days when we were kids. It also has us happy enough with this taste of the Blizzard of ’78 kind of weather to have us ready for a February thaw…now. That is not likely to happen, although the weatherman currently says rain on Monday.

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

The weatherman also says we have not seen this kind of cold “in decades” and the governor has declared a weather emergency. Sigh. The snow is one thing; serious blowing, utterly frigid cold is another. I guess Old Man Winter has truly arrived and he’s pulling out all of his tricks. So be sure to pull out all you know and be prepared for the bitter cold. This probably won’t be the only brush we’ll have with the Arctic this winter.

By the way, Ground Hog Day, February 2, marks the halfway point of official winter. Or, if you prefer, 47 days to official spring. Keep in mind that date occurs in snowy, snowy March.

It is Tuesday. Today is the day after this week’s heavy snow ‘n blow and the eve of the polar cold’s real blow into the Mitten by morning. Again, the weatherman tells us that we are somewhat fortunate in that our lakes will help to insulate us somewhat, from the cold pain. We are thankful that outside tomorrow morning it will only feel like -28* frigid degrees below zero rather than the actual -10* or the hideous -45* wind chill in the Windy City.

This kind of weather makes me think of my parents and their battles with the cold and snow through the years. Mom fought the cold on the home front. She was a pro at blocking cold air. Rugs were rolled and placed at door bottoms; blinds and curtains drawn at all the windows and unused rooms were closed.

When we lived on Blevins Street in the Turner house, Mom put up the storm windows, placed weather stripping around the old doors and did all she knew to block the drafts thus saving on fuel oil. She was a devotee of venetian blinds and they were behind heavy drawn drapes at all the windows; all that is except the enclosed, three season kind of place, front porch whose windows were covered in plastic behind roll up bamboo blinds and curtains. The expanse of single pane windows there were an entirely different challenge for her.

For a couple of reasons Mom did everything in her power to make this space usable all year long. In the small house, it was valuable, usable space. Our Christmas tree was often there, to be seen through the numerous windows. It was also home to a day bed and one of Dr. Carrow’s desks, bought by Dad at the estate auction, along with a few other furniture items. Mom added a few plants, installed a radio on the desk, hung a bunch of duck and hunting themed pictures and had it pretty comfy out there. In fact, we all found it so, most of the time.

The porch door was shut for the first winter or two of our tenure on Blevins. Then the space became somewhat of a necessity in the small house and the reason to keep it open was a big one. Literally. In the spring of 1957 a pickup truck backed up to the front door and an upright piano was rolled into the porch room. I know it is hard to believe, but I do not recall from whence it came. It was most certainly local and I suppose that it too could have come from the Carrow auction.

This piano was made to feel at home, near the front door and before I knew it I was taking piano lessons. I have a hunch that my Grandma Ward who played beautifully, was behind this instrument, and ultimately my taking piano lessons. My mother never mastered the piano and I think her musical hopes rested in me. Sadly, she was disappointed again.

I took piano lessons from our neighbor, another lifelong piano player, Pearl Austin. Once or twice a week I strolled across the street, coins in hand, for my half hour or so of instruction. I managed to get through one and a half lesson books before I was done. I may not have been able to master the piano like I mastered the typewriter keyboard, but I did enjoy the effort. I especially liked my piano lesson visits to the Austin home, even if I found the actual piano part distressing.

It is a good thing that my piano playing career ended when it did. As far as I know this is the only photo of me seriously at the piano, hands on keys.  Anyone recognize this fine oak piano?

It is a good thing that my piano playing career ended when it did. As far as I know this is the only photo of me seriously at the piano, hands on keys. 
Anyone recognize this fine oak piano?

When we moved from the Turner house to the Pines the piano went to Orville Birtles small gas station/garage on west Main, where it did see considerable use. It stood for years with its back to the front window, next to the large garage door.

So, there are a couple of things I would like to know and I’m sure someone has the answers. First, I’d like to know where the piano eventually went when it left Birtles Garage; and who besides Chris Patterson Prielipp practiced lessons on it?

I would especially like to know who else took piano lessons from Mrs. Pearl Austin besides neighbor Susan VanderWal Duddles, Linda Williams Baughan and Sandy Russell Merrifield? For that matter, I’d like to hear from anyone who took piano lessons in Marion. There were a number of ladies who gave lessons. I would like to remember them in print and recall their diligent work with Marion’s musically gifted and not so gifted children.

First and foremost do all you can to KEEP WARM this week! Secondly, give me a call 231-743-2743, or drop a line, postcardwriter59@gmail.com with your musical memories.  They’ll be greatly appreciated.

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