Thursday, January 22, 2015


By Beatrice M. Hanson

It was the age of the jazz-time craze, when popular hit songs from the New York Musicals flooded the music stores as fast as they could be printed.
Our piano rack, at home, being thus covered with the latest songs and lyrics.
When Mother had the urge, usually in the late afternoons, before supper hour, she liked to sit at the piano, idly picking out a tune or two she felt she could master.
On a summer day, two young men appeared at our door, asking to speak to the “lady of the house.” When she was called, Mother met them with an inquiring look.
“We are piano tuners,” they told her. Do you happen to have one?
Mother nodded her head. “I do,” she answered.
“Fine,” spoke up one of the men. “Do you mind if we look it over?” “Perhaps we could tell you if it’s in good tune.” “No obligations of course.”
Mother hesitated before inviting them to step inside, and into the Parlor where the piano stood.
Seating himself on the piano stool, one of the strangers ran his hand along the key-board before playing a few chords.
“M,m-m” he said, half to himself. Then, glancing back at Mother in the background he remarked somewhat gloomily, “It sounds quite a bit out of tune. Too bad, because this is a good instrument,” peering at the name “Kimbell” inscribed on the front. “I’m sure you wish to keep it in good condition. It won't cost too much to get it back in tune. Well worth the small expense.”
Mother fought with her conscience. She realized too well it wasn’t a necessity, but the idea of having it kept in tune was a strong incentive.
“Well,” she finally replied, “if you think it needs to be done."
“Thank you, Mam,” the spokesman said, “we'll be here early in the morning.”

The following day as promised, the men arrived, carrying a battered suit-case, supposedly with the equipment needed to do the job. Folding back the piano top to expose the intricate mechanism that stood out like the skeletons of countless fingers - they began their work.
By noon, the cover was again in place. Mother, hearing them packing up, hurried from the kitchen to pay the price set upon. One of the men pulled a few worn felts from his pocket. “You see, madam, these felts have been eaten up by moths, Lucky we got the rest in time.” Mother’s eyes grew big as she listened to what “might have been.”
After playing, as proof of their work, another set of chords, they pocketed the money and left. We felt, rather hurriedly.
That evening, at the supper table, Mother explained to Papa how she happened to have the piano tuned. His answer to this was a grunt which could mean approval or disapproval, whichever way you wanted to take it.
Later that evening as Papa was reading the evening paper, his eyes were drawn to a short article warning housewives to beware of two young men in the vicinity posing as piano tuners. They carried moth-eaten felts to show proof to the gullible of the dire need of their services.
Papa threw the paper on Mother's lap then, taking his cap from the kitchen peg, stormed out the back door.
Not one of us dared say a word for Mother’s lip was in a big pout. It would be a long time before she’d be taken in again by a fast talking salesman, of that we could be sure.