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514 S. 6th Street #4

Music Tells the Story

By Nancy Nason GussPublished 2 years ago 6 min read
Her Music Tells Her Story

At 514: My Grandmother, with the family piano and its music

“Now laughing friends deride Tears I cannot hide ---- So, I smile and say, “When a lovely flame dies, Smoke gets in your eyes.” ~Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Griffin always seemed like a welcoming damp and dreary colorless town, and 514 fit right in. As we entered the house, we’d hear the radio playing from Gram’s room, and she would emerge, cigarette in hand, and smoke filling the rooms. Even if we had color photos from then, they would look very similar to those taken in black and white.

With the haze and shades that only black and white photos provide, and with as many issues that arose, there was always the music. Grams loved music. When Grams was getting ready for work, the radio was always playing the music of the day. She would sing along with the tunes as she “put on her face” as she called it. She let us watch her add each layer of “pancake” makeup, powder, and rouge. She was pretty, but with her “face on,” she was the most glamorous woman in the world.

The piano is a central connection to 514. When Grams decided to move from 514 in the early 1980s, she gave it to me, and I paid to have it brought to our first home in New Port Richey, FL. I played and played it. It stayed in our home until our son moved to his first home, and he has it now. It is an 1895 upright piano with real ivory keys, many of which chipped and were repaired, black scarlines showing where the breaks were. When one lifts the top flap, it shows its 10-year warranty. One could lift the front panel and watch as the mallets hit the strings. My understanding of its history is that Mamoo bought it used for my grandmother when Grams was a young girl.

In her diary, Grams mentioned attending piano classes, buying music, and having her friends over, and they would sing and play music together. Here are some of the entries, along with her spellings and punctuation.

Griffin, Georgia , Saturday, January 1, 1927

To-day is my birth-day. I am twelve years old. Aunt Anne gave me a beautiful gold bracelet, and mother [Lee/Mamoo] gave me some nice material for a dress. I have made a resolution to practice one hour every day on the piano. I will try to keep it. School starts day after to-morrow and I am glad of it.

Monday, January 3, 1927

This is the first day of school. We kept our same seats & that pleased me very much. This afternoon Minnie Bell came over & we got our lessons to-gether. Then we went to town. I tried to get a hat, but I didn’t find one to suit me. Tonight Albert got my tablet, but I let him keep it. Mother is going to let me take music from Mrs. Lily Dean. I start to-morrow.

Saturday, January 29, 1927

“Toe” [the cat] came back and we were all proud to have him come of course. I went to my music this morning and left my skates up there. I also saw Minnie-Belle and we had a little “chat.” Well I am real sleepy & must get to bed early.

Wednesday, January 23, 1929

Mother and Aunt Bess went to Atlanta to-day and brought me a new piano piece – “Sweet Heart on Parade.” Gee, it surely is pretty. It is turning cooler now. “Dot” and I went to ride after school – we sho’ did have a big time too. She and I are jus’ (almost) like we used to be – Gee, I sho’ do like her.

Tuesday, January 20, 1931

Had the P.T.A. play. Had my hair fixed. Got an awful cold. (Gordy sent me a piece of music – “You’re the One I Came For.”)

Grams played a beautiful piano, and many of my fondest and earliest memories were of her playing the piano and singing to us. My favorite was when she played Disney’s “When You Wish Upon a Star.” She made up her own words to this tune and sang them to me:

“Precious angel, darling girl, Sweetest in the whole wide world, You are Grandmother’s precious angel, darling girl.”

Her beautiful voice would lift above the piano, whose keys melodically played the tune. She, like my mother, had a beautiful touch when playing. She let me sit next to her as she played and sang, lifting my spirits and bringing such joy in my little body. It was one of the simple things that I remember so fondly, remembering the deep bond we had. I loved her so.

My mother kept all the music that was at 514, so upon her passing, my sister and I split the collection. I haven’t looked through it much, and for a long time they just sat stacked with my other music books, next to the piano. Some of them are not in great shape, but that may be the perfect symbol of the owners.

One day I felt compelled to go through these again. The titles screamed a description of my grandmother’s life. Many had different versions of my grandmother’s name signed or printed on the covers. The variations on the spellings, along with the dates, reflected when my grandmother acquired them. When shuffling through the titles or reading through the lyrics, my mind went to what must have caught my grandmother’s attention as she decided to buy each piece. If the piece was a gift, what prompted the giver to give her that particular music score?

Music touches the soul for a reason. It speaks to the heart and lets the listener know that he or she is not alone. Songs beloved to some remind them of longings, memories, dreams, and romance. All of these were housed at 514 and left behind by my grandmother. This is significant because Grams was not a hoarder, and too often, she tossed things that she might have been better off keeping, including people.

The music that survived and remained at 514 was there for a reason. Perhaps it’s still telling a story, the one from those who have gone before but still have a voice. One only need look at the titles, the year they came out, the notes written on them, and the lyrics to see the true feelings of their owners. It is a trip into the life of my grandmother and an important part of her story, one in which she does prevail at the end.

What music scores, albums, or CDs do you have? What stories do these tell about those who had them before you? Those who gifted them to you? Or you when you purchased them? How does music speak to you and tell stories from the past?

The later music; "Rumors are Flying" was purchased in Lakeland, where "Uncle Jimmie" lived.


About the Creator

Nancy Nason Guss

Nancy Nason Guss, a retired career educator, is Living with Gussto, a life filled with Books, Bagpipes, & Blogs. In addition to playing bagpipes, she's published pieces for all ages that process life's triumphs and tribulations.

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