A Bit Of The Past – From a Piano Perspective

I grew up in a small to medium sized town in Michigan called Port Huron. The town itself was sort of nondescript and was like many towns of its day—the rich people lived in one part of town, the poor in another and those who found themselves in between—well they sort of lived on the edges of where everybody else lived.

We had two high schools, a couple of radio stations, a community college, two golf courses and a sailboat marina among other attractions. In addition, the town was just across the St. Clair River from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. During my youth we would travel to hockey games across the Blue Water Bridge which joined the two towns just at the place that Lake Huron ended and the river began. If you have ever heard of the Port Huron to Mackinaw sailboat race then that would be the place where the race began every July.

It was an interesting place to grow up nonetheless and the reason I am remembering any of this is that on the way to the coffee shop tonight to take my daughter to meet a friend, I turned on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album and listened to one of my favorite songs from that time period, Norwegian Wood. And that brought back another interesting memory from that time period that I hadn’t thought about in quite some time.

Port Huron had its share of strange people who just seemed to float around. People who would show up one day and then wouldn’t be seen again for months. Stories would grow up around these people and after so long you would not know what was the truth and what was rumor.

One of these people lived just on the outskirts of my neighborhood and even though I never really learned his complete history, suffice it to say I would occasionally find myself at his house and would listen to his music and his stories. He lived in an apartment above a closed in garage which wasn’t used much as he didn’t have a car but what he did have was an old upright piano sitting against an outside wall.

I have always been fascinated by pianos and this one was in tune and everything. He told me it was for sale and even though I knew that one—my parents would never approve of me buying it and two—even if I did there was no way I could get it to my house and even if I could there wasn’t anyplace for it to live.

So, as my memory serves, for the next several months I would visit that garage and play around with my new purchase. I remember giving him twenty bucks for it and thinking back, probably knew somewhere in my mind that I was really just paying a rental fee. I even went so far as to buy the piano sheet music to Norwegian Wood and spent hours just trying to train my fingers to hit all the right keys.

Like I said, he was one of “those” people and one day I found the door to the garage locked. I hadn’t seen Jim or Joe or whatever his name was around but I had heard that his mother lived in an old house by the local beach, just a few blocks from the piano garage. It was one of those places that had seen better days and as I approached I could see all the curtains shut and noticed the grass hadn’t been cut in a couple of weeks. I knocked and waited and knocked and waited some more. Just as I was about to leave an older, somewhat disheveled artistic looking lady came to the door and asked me why I was bothering her. I told her that I had been playing the piano in her son’s garage and that the door was now locked and wondered if she knew where her son was and if she had a key so that I could open the door and get in to play the piano.

I didn’t tell her that I had “rented” it out or any of the other details of my life that pertained to the aforementioned instrument. She proceeded to tell me that he had left town again and that she really had no idea of when he would return or where he was for that matter. She indicated that there might be a key around somewhere but I could tell that she doubted my story and that that was the last time I was ever going to be in that garage.

I was disappointed as I walked away but seem to remember getting caught up in some other aspect of my life and that my piano days began to seem further and further away. I don’t remember ever seeing or thinking about my piano friend again.

That is until yesterday and the strains of Norwegian Wood wove their way into my head and then on to this cyber page.

I have had several other love affairs with pianos since that time and when I get a moment it might be interesting to tell the story of when I would sneak into the sanctuary of my church in Port Huron in order to play the great big pipe organ that sat unused all work-week long.

Enjoy your ride today and remember it is the little things in life that make the ride interesting.

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2 Responses to A Bit Of The Past – From a Piano Perspective

  1. Carey says:

    isnt it good black and white wood.please tell us about the Port Huron statement.C

  2. Terry Henry says:

    The Port Huron Statement was written at the SDS convention in Port Huron on June 15th, 1962. I would have been in the 7th grade and don’t remember hearing about it until the late sixties. Tom Hayden was one of the writers and wrote:We are people of this
    generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in
    universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit…
    I did meet John Sinclair however, who was the band manager for the MC5 and the re-organizer of the underground newspaper The Fifth Estate, which is still being published today. He was a part of the White Panther Party and now travels around and of course blogs.As an afterthought: I seem to remember that the piano in question had ivory keys so there was no black and white as they had yellowed from age.

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