19 July 2009

Oroville house2

The living room was, to my 12-year-old imagination, huge.

Possibly this only means it was slightly larger than the living room in our Bakersfield house, but I do think it was very large. Into the front door (which, perhaps, we did not use very often) and turn right - the living room had no doors separating it from the hall, but a two-door-wide opening. It ran the depth of the house. On the right was a fireplace, again, very large. Next to that was something I thought exceedingly cool: a little cupboard opening into the living room, and with an outside door. Wood that we cut (Peter and I, using a two-man push-pull saw - what's a chainsaw?) and split went in there from the outside, came out on the inside.

Cutting that firewood almost lost me a finger joint, and did leave me with a scar I have today. Once I was idly (note: idly) chopping, with a hatchet, a finger-thin branch into lengths for kindling. Hmm... That was not the branch I just chopped, but the end-joint of the index finger on my left hand.

It didn't cut the bone and I don't think any doctoring ensued; just bandaging and being told what an idiot I was. But I am lucky (on that and other accounts) still to possess all my bodily bits and pieces.

That living room was the centre of our evening entertainment. The television was not there. This was the music room.

At the rear of the room was my mother's piano. My mother was a concert-quality amateur pianist. I wish I knew more of her training and experience. When, in 1968, my sister Robin was preparing for her final performance examination, playing a difficult modern saxophone sonata (I suppose it would be called), my mother was to be the accompanist. Having reared two girls with serious musical pretensions, I know that we paid, and paid well, accompanists for their examinations. My mother was very good. In the end, for other reasons, the examination never happened - but 'mom' - or 'mama' - would have done it and done it well.

Many evenings - I seem to recall at least a couple of times a week - we (my mother, Peter, Robin, and I) played music in that living room. My father was not musical. I think he played drums a little with us - nothing much else. But Robin on saxophone, Peter on clarinet, I on cornet, and my mother on piano, played the sort of 1930s and '40s dance band music that she liked - Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, others of that ilk - she bought music with parts and we played them. I remember those sessions with great pleasure. As we grew older I think it became more and more difficult to get us to sit down. As a father with grown children, I easily imagine the feelings with which she must have seen us get bored with doing that. Sad that one only readily empathises with one's parents when they are dead, or, as in my mother's case, far away and do not communicate readily.

There was - incidentally - an addition made to the piano later on - an electric organ. It used the piano keyboard - how did that work?? - and an enormously heavy external box full of vacuum valves. There was a little switch arrangement at the keyboard to turn it on.

I am doubting my memory. Did it really use the piano keyboard? Or did it have a keyboard of its own? Perhaps Peter recalls. I find it difficult to imagine how it linked into the keyboard of the piano - if it did. It would be much easier today, but with valves instead of transistors - and no computer logic! - impressive! My own days of electronic experimentation - the 1960s through 1980s basically - taught me how such things are done. But they took a lot of space, and lot of electrical power.

Hence the television my father built, which occupied a large-refrigerator-sized wooden rack he built. I may have to skip the dining room in order to talk about what we called the 'TV Room' - next time.


Unitman said...

I, too, have great positive memories of the Oroville house and goings on there. Incidentally, we did have a chain saw in Oroville -- a McCulloch. We used it all the time for orchard tree trimming, fire wood cutting, fence post trimming, etc. It was yellow, and Jerry had the job of keeping the chain sharp. One final note -- dance music ensemble in the living room! Dad actually played with us whenever mom could cajole him to -- the clarinet, which he had apparently learned as a child. AND, Mom got Jerry to sit in on occasion, as our drummer!!! Wild times. Then old Corliss Ware came along -- you remember, the guy Mom acquired from the State Mental Hospital who had been run over by a truck and had a silver plate in his head. Like Robin, he played the Sax, but would easily get revvved up once he started, and before long was spinning around on the floor like a top, mumbling things like "The hypotenuse of the right triangle of the moon.....", or something pretty close to that.

Anyway, those were fun days -- Mom was a great teacher, I suspect very much like her namesake and your youngest!!! Take care, Peter

John Thayer Jensen said...

I wonder if the chainsaw came later - you and I certainly did a bit of pushing and pulling with that two-man thing.

Or maybe the chainsaw was used in our music?

You know the difference between a bassoon and a chainsaw, don't you?

You can tune a chainsaw.