Music & French

Randoms One by One  -  # 2

We were a sort of musical family.  My father played the piano accordion and the harmonica (mouth organ) – he could not read a note of music – he played totally by ear and he played very well.

My mother had an upright piano which she had learnt on as a girl. Myself, my brother and my youngest sister learnt on that same piano.

I started on the piano in primary school and continued until I finished high school. My brother learnt at the convent where the nuns hit him across the knuckles with a ruler when he made a mistake!  My teacher, Mrs Donahue, had fingers twisted, swollen and painful with arthritis but she could still pound out a tune to show me what it should sound like.  Instead of a ruler like the nuns, she would put a coin on the top of each hand and I had to play without them falling off.

My other sister started learning guitar and not to be outdone I wanted to learn too.  It soon became apparent that my fingers and the strings did not agree with each other!  Guitar did not last long.

I had a school girl crush on the High School music teacher who seemed to be able to play every instrument ever invented. I learnt to play the clarinet with him. 

One afternoon a week I would go to clarinet lessons and another to piano lessons.  I went through stages of which one I liked best and the other would suffer. I could practise the clarinet in the kitchen – playing to my mother as she prepared dinner.  I remember playing "When The Saints Go Marching In" -  ad nauseum!!  The piano practise was lonelier as the piano was in the loungeroom which was a "shut up" room; only used when visitors came.  I have often thought I would like to take up the piano again – but that would require buying a piano……..

There were approx 500 students in our entire school (Kindergarten to Year 12) ….  hence electives in the secondary and high school were limited.  It seemed that if you were a girl you had to learn Cooking (Home Economics) and Sewing (Textiles & Design) in the years 7-10.  The boys got to do Woodwork and Metalwork – and never the sexes be mixed!!

I did not want to learn cooking or sewing  – even then I knew I was no Martha Stewart!  My father wrote to the Department of Education lamenting the lack of opportunity given to country girls and appealing to them to allow me to study something more useful – like French (my choice) – well I thought it was going to be more useful!.   They eventually agreed to me doing it by correspondence.  There was no teacher to teach me -  I would get tapes for the reel to reel machine and I got to sit in the library and teach myself.  When it came to exams one poor teacher who probably did school girl French 20 years before got to "examine" me.  I sat French in the School Certificate (year 10) and then dropped it.  I never had a conversation in French!

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14 responses

  1. Ah the memories. My brother learnt the piano accordian. Who does that to their child? I bet my Mum still has it under a bed somewhere.
    My french teacher took one look at me and decided I was her whipping girl – I am sure she would have made me wear a dunce hat if she could have. I used to be able to have a conversation in French now I can just read the menu!

  2. I liked your story because it tells it like it really is…the problem is, I just don't know how to respond. I could say I'm sorry, but that would suggest that the story was meant to be sad. I could say I'm glad that you can play a piano but perhaps that also isn't what you meant. Yeah, pianos are real expensive…Tell you what…Go buy yourself a harp, many are less than 50 bucks! {Try to find a good one though, Horner makes some good 'uns, but if you want a better sound get a Lee Osker as the reed plates are replaceable. The Lee Osker also allows one to bends notes much easier which is a definite plus if you like the blues. Plus, its portable, you could carry a harmonica in your handbag or pocket. And for those times in your life when you need to express something that no words yet invented can express, try blowing some refrain from When the Saints Go Marching In. Take the feelings from your heart and just put 'em out on the wind. You'll feel better…} Oh, and Emjay…keep smiling! πŸ™‚

  3. A very interesting story indeed. I liked the part about your father writing to the Department of Education on your behalf. So cool! Your father sounds like an interesting character. It also sounds like you had some very interesting music teachers who were actually serious about their craft. I never played a musical instrument as a child. I just couldn't get the hand of reading music– at least not in a timely fashion. I also went to a very small school. There were about 400 or less students grades 7-12 combined!

  4. By the time I was practising piano in the far away room there was an intercom type thing connected to the kitchen and I would crash and bash away and Mum could listen while she cooked. And yes, she did have it on because I'd yell into it every now and then -'did you hear that'.
    I wasn't allowed to do woodwork when we moved. No girl had ever done it before and it caused some concern with the teachers. Maybe they thought I'd distract the boys. They thought I could do cooking instead. I got to do woodwork in the end.

  5. LOL – your poor brother!! I used to think that it was daggy that my father could play it! I can't imagine anyone begging their parent to let them learn a piano accordion! The mouth organ was really cool though!

  6. Mmm – a harp? I have never thought of learning the harp – they are rather a melancholy sound I think. Sometimes hospitals/nursing homes sell off pianos cheaply – I wonder if there are any piano tuners left though.

  7. Thank you. Yes my father was very interesting. He also took an interest in my school work each day and would write notes to teachers if he didn't agree with what they were teaching or even their spelling!! I was really embarrassed taking these notes to school – I didn't dare to not give them to the teacher though. He was very strict and he could not stand stupidity.

  8. LOL – the intercom! That's funny! You would think that in 7 years they would have modern-ised their thinking a bit in schools! I wonder what made them think that girls should learn cooking – perhaps they thought all the girls were going to marry those handy boys and never leave town! – oh, that's right, they mostly did!!!

  9. Another great story, and more awesomeness. Seems like you got quite an eclectic education! I had a similar experience with the guitar, picked it up because my brother played, practised for about three days, and then quit because my fingers were becoming hard. πŸ™‚

  10. Because I was the eldest I had this feeling that I should have been able to do everything better than my siblings (I was a horribly sore loser to them in any games!). Those strings just really seemed to hurt me – I don't know how my sister did it really!

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