Playing the Player Piano

Somepianos today play automatically. It really gives you a shock to hearthem tinkering along without someone sitting on the bench. Iguess it's really great, but not too much different from aradio without advertisements or a CD -- and it takes up more room.

When wewere growing up, a bachelor down the street was moving and wanted toget rid of his player piano. My father bought it for $50 and itcame with a bench and a supply of rolls. My mother was furious,as she knew of a great many other things we needed more. We hada great time with this, singing, pumping and pretending to beplaying, and whenever there were power outages, we were the onlyfamily with house entertainment.

There wasalways lots of arguing about whose turn it was to pump, who couldsing the words printed down the side of the roll and who was incharge of the rewind. Of course, each one of us wanted to be thestar.

Even todayI remember the words to many of the songs on these rolls and I wonderwho else knows them. How about: La Paloma, La Golondrina, Ramona,Tiptoe through the Tulips, Love in Bloom, Land of Hope and Glory, TheLittle Stars of Duna and Velia from the Merry Widow? We beltedthese songs out sometimes twice or three times if we imaginedourselves super-talented and world class.

Theoretically,if there was a piano in your house someone had to learn to play itand at that time most folks hade a regular piano and there were quitea number of children forced to learn scales and marches. We alllearned Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, The Glow-Worm and FuerElise. If anyone made it to this level they were consideredgreat entertainment value for any unsuspecting visitors. We weregiven this shot at fame when half-hour lessons cost 50 cents and thisalso included theory and books about the lives of the greatcomposers.

Therewasn't too much musical talent in our family even though my fatherplayed the violin and my mother occasionally took out hermandolin. The total result was wailing and squeaking with wrongnotes and incorrect tempo until we all gave up and went off to sulk,each blaming the other for the failure of the evening and the singersfrustrated when they couldn't even get started with their renditions.

Indesperation for talent one of us was sent off for violin lessons butthe result was the same, no gift and the instrument stayed in itscase behind the dining room door.

Throughall this hope for fame, the only result is I still know the words tomany old songs, if sometimes I forget the tunes. There was amagazine called the Hit Parade where you could learn songs likeMexicali Rose, Down Argentina Way, South of the Border, Amapola, I'llSee you Again, Rose Marie I Love You and even the words to CarmenMiranda's tunes.

I alwaysthought South of the Border was the very saddest song.

It's funto remember these happy times and our musical hopes and dreams offame and fortune.