~The Old Violin~
There was great excitement in the little house on the dairy. Aunt Dora was coming for a visit! Mom had put Marianne to work getting everything ready for company. The end tables were dusted with way too much Pledge. (But didn't you need that much so you could write your name in it like the lady on T.V.?) The carpets had been vacuumed and the toys were put away. One item, however, had been left out conspicuously; the old violin. Aunt Dora had given a precious gift earlier that year. When she heard that Marianne wanted to learn to play the violin she most generously offered her own instrument to her young niece. Now she was coming to pay a visit and maybe she would want to hear Marianne play a song for her!
It was always fun when Aunt Dora came. She had such a jolly laugh and the bluest eyes. She was so kind and always seemed interested in everyone. Marianne was fascinated by her large silver and turquoise bracelets and baubles, and she always wore the prettiest dresses and skirts. At last she arrived and everyone settled in for a good visit. There was laughter and exclamations of astonishment at how much Dora's nephews and nieces had grown since the last time she had come. There were stories of adventures and travels, and reminiscence about the good old days when Dora and Marianne's father George were young children. After what seemed like forever to a little girl, Aunt Dora turned to Marianne and asked if she liked playing the violin.
"Oh yes!" she proclaimed, "Do you want to hear me play a song?"
Of course I do! That would be lovely!" Aunt Dora replied.
Feeling strangely nervous, something she had not felt ever before in music class, Marianne took the old violin out of it's black case with the deep purple velvet lining, tightened up the bow hairs, and stood before her audience. All present were entertained by a squeaky version of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star". Aunt Dora clapped her hands and then raised them in the air proclaiming,
"Oh! That was just beautiful! You are doing so well!"
Then Mom suggested that Dora play a song for Marianne. Dora offered up protests of being rusty and out of practice but Mom wouldn't take no for and answer.
"You play beautifully Dora. Everyone knows it. Please?!" Mom pleaded.
Aunt Dora put out her hands and took the precious instrument from her niece, put in under her chin, raised the bow and began to play a lovely melody. Marianne was so thrilled with the sound that came out of her violin. It was rich, vibrating, and floating across all of the strings. It made her heart swell!
"I want I to play like that someday" she wished.
After Auut Dora had left, Mom reminded Marianne what a great gift had been given to her. Aunt Dora loved that instrument but had sacrificed it to allow someone she loved the chance to learn. Marianne promised she would always take care of it and practice every day.
Many years later, Dad told Marianne the very interesting story of how the old violin became part of the family. It goes something like this...
~Aunt Dora's Violin ~
It was during the Great Depression, in Mesa, Arizona and Frank & Annie Ellsworth felt grateful. They didn't want for food although sometimes it was scarce and very basic. They were blessed to have a large lot on which they grew their own vegetables and fruit. They also had chickens and cattle so there were milk and eggs. What they didn't have a lot of was money and that was the stuff that bought the extras in life. People became great barterers and traders during those days. A clean fresh egg could be traded at a store in town for a piece of penny candy, the Ellsworth children had discovered. So it was with grown-ups too. They learned to trade. My Grandpa Ellsworth was no exception. It was decided that the Ellsworth children needed music in their lives but with no instruments, and no money to buy them how was this to be accomplished?
In downtown Mesa there was a pawn shop full of goods that desperate people had come to trade. Frank visited it one day to see what was available and to his great delight he found a beautiful piano. Annie would be thrilled to have her girls learn to play. The owner of the shop showed him other instruments that had been part of the same trade, a clarinet, and a violin. A conversation followed and a deal was made. Frank went home and told Annie of his find. There was great excitement in the house! In time, he returned to the pawn shop with several year-old heifer calves to trade for the instruments. In those hard times, having milk in your house was a luxury to some. Did the broker need those cows himself or would he trade them to others who were in need? It is quite certain that many people benefited from this trade. The pawn broker told my grandfather the story of the instruments.
One day a tired, worn looking man came into the shop. He was an immigrant from Germany and a musician. He had a family to feed and was making a heart-breaking decision. He wanted to trade his beloved instruments for some cash so he could buy food . He had brought them over from the old country perhaps hoping to make a living teaching lessons. They were certainly part of his soul and a dear reminder of home. His family was hungry though, and thses instruments were the only things of real worth he had to trade. The deal was made and he surely left the shop with a heavy heart.
My Aunts Ruth and Lora learned to play the piano beautifully. Lora blessed the lives of many by being the organist in the Alma Ward in Mesa for many years. What ever became of that piano? I wish I knew. My father learned to play the clarinet and was a member of the Mesa High School marching band. He even branched out and played the tuba as well! My mother still has his old MHS band hat. The clarinet disappeared in the mid 1970's during one of our moves. Believe me, it was a very old and well-used instrument! I wish we still had it. My Aunt Dora learned the violin. She was a natural and played so beautifully. My father remember evenings around the piano with Lora and Dora playing and the family singing along. The girls would also play solos and duets. "Claire de Lune" was one of his sister's specialties. He would have tears in his eyes as he told me of those sweet family times.
I found out a little more about the instrument a few years ago when I took it in for servicing. The technician took it apart to clean it and put the sound peg back in place. On the underside of the tail piece was a tag the said Czechoslovakia. He told me that while the label inside had disintegrated he believed the instrument was European and probably late 19th to early 20th century in origin. That matched up with the story from the pawn broker.
I think of that sad man in the pawn shop now and then. I wonder how long the money lasted. I think of the years and years of joy those instruments have given my family. I hope he was blessed with all that his family needed. I think of Aunt Dora and how she gave up a prized possession for me and I wished I had practiced harder. I have passed the violin on to my daughter Sarah who plays it very well. She loves it too. Now she can tell the story to her own family someday!