My mother had grandiose ideas for her oldest son, me. For some reason she thought that I was destined to become a pianist of grand order. She believed that it was in my genes because I had a cousin, Howard Isley the long time music teacher at Franklin High School, who was a gifted musician even though he was born with one hand. I’m told that Howard could play almost every instrument and gave lessons to many many pupils. Therefore when my mom’s sister, Aunt Dorothy, offered up an old upright piano the odyssey of my music career began.
After countless measurements my Dad decided that the big old piano would indeed go down the stairs to the basement and so the piano moving plan was soon developed. In case you have forgotten, an upright piano is a huge, awkward, and heavy piece of furniture. It was decided that we would have a family gathering at our house and at the same time move the piano from FlatRock to Greenwood. There would be plenty of help and food because my mother was the youngest of seven and so there would be plenty of strong backs to maneuver the piano to our basement.
It was a Saturday and the family gathered at the house on Madison Ave. including the livestock truck with its non-agrarian cargo, the piano. When the entire tribe had gathered and the food was brought into the house it was decided that the men would move the piano to the basement before dinner. The truck was backed up to the front door and the great moving adventure began. The piano was maneuvered into position to start the journey to the basement and if you took a head count there were seven women and the smallest two of the men upstairs, and five men and 15 kids in the basement who were I’m sure not in the way of the real movers.
The time of the downward trek was at hand and the piano started down the stairs one step at a time until ready for step number five. Stuck! Won’t budge! The top of the piano was wedged against the header over the stairs. It was about half way down the length of the piano and was indeed stuck fast. After considerable discussions it was decided by the men in the basement that the piano would be pushed back up about two steps and the top lid removed and then the piano would have plenty of clearance on the way down to the basement. The men put their shoulders to the piano and gave it all they could to go backward up the stairs. Stuck! Won’t budge!
At this point in time it must be noted that the food for dinner is getting cold and there is only one way into or out of the basement. Oh, there is no bathroom in the basement either. Remember there are 15 kids in the basement along with 5 men who cannot figure out how to resolve the dilemma. Desperate times call for desperate actions and the soon to be hero appeared at the top of the stairs. Aunt Dorothy Crafton, moms sister married to one of dads cousins, and she told the men upstairs to get out of her way and she sold the men downstairs to get the kids away from the stairs and for them to get away from the piano.
Aunt Dorothy was a “big girl”, a big boned farm girl who taught me to square dance later in my life by simply picking me up and swinging me around to where I was supposed to be when “dociedoeing “. She now stood on the stairs looking at the piano and asks if everyone in the basement was clear. When the men reported that all was clear she kicked the piano! Not the kind of kick like playing kick the can but a full, all your weight behind it kick. Boom! Boom! Boom! Kercuth! The piano went down the steps until it hit the basement floor. She then instructed that if the men would move the piano out of the way we could all eat dinner. Dinner was delicious as were all the Sandifur gatherings and I’m sure there was great laughter among the adults but I’m sure we kids had more fun playing the piano or anything else there was to play with.
Needless to say the piano was never the same after its traumatic move down the stairs. It was beyond any attempt to tune it correctly but my path to greatness as a pianist soon started and after I could play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” a better but smaller piano was purchased from my first grade teacher Mrs. Helton. It was a really pretty piece of furniture and a wonderful sounding piano. It stayed with the family long after my journey towards the concert stage ended. I think it ended not so much because I really could not play the piano, the notes on the page and the flats and sharps never made since to my mind, but because my folks could not afford to keep buying yardsticks that were required to get me to practice the piano.
The old upright piano is no more. It was removed from the basement when the house was put up for sale; one piece at a time.
Thanks for listening.