Wednesday Photo Challenge – Unusual

July 21, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, History, Photography, Special Occasions | 5 Comments
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Something unusual, or at least unusual to me. That is the topic of this week’s Wednesday Photo Challenge. I had a quick look through my photos and found my writers’ group Christmas party from last year.

The function was held in the common room of a retirement village – that is itself is probably unusual. But an item they have in that room is one that many people, especially young people, have never seen, and may not have even heard of.

It was a pianola, and it gave us a lot of fun and laughs whilst we early birds waited for everyone else to arrive.

A pianola is a piano with a special ability. Rolls of heavy paper are punched with the notes of particular tunes and can be inserted in a section above the keyboard. Then someone plays it by pumping a foot pedal. The quicker one pedals, the faster the music plays. The strip can be seen and often has the words to the tune alongside the punched holes, so that people around the pianola can sing it.

 

Pianola 01

Here is my husband loading one of the punched rolls into the pianola, while a friend checks what tune is held on another boxed roll.

 

 

Pianola 02

Several members of our group and their partners enjoy a singalong whilst my husband pumps the pedals.

 

Pianolas used to be popular entertainment for get-togethers of family and friends and other social events in the days before TV. They were aimed mainly at people who couldn’t actually play the piano, or who didn’t play well enough to accompany the songs that were popular at the time.

 

Have you seen, played, or even owned a pianola?

 

 

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Singing with someone special

June 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, History, War and Conflict | 4 Comments
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I shared a special two hours with Dad today. I went to pick him up and take him out for lunch. He doesn’t get out of the house much, being blind, deaf and not very strong. After all, he will be 91 in nine days.

My Dad, May 2012

As I drove down the freeway to Kiama, I faintly heard Dad singing. I listened, picked up the song – an oldie from his young days – and joined him singing it.

From that song, we went on to sing other oldies, all of which I knew too. We sang all the way to Kiama, and then, softly, we continued to sing together as we waited for our lunch to arrive. During one of those songs, tears came to Dad’s eyes and his voice broke. It was “I’m singing a song for the old folk”. Dad was remembering his dearly loved parents, who died when I was very young, and I was remembering my mother

After lunch, we drove home through beautiful green dairy country instead of on the freeway. As I drove fairly slowly along the back roads (virtually no traffic), we sang again. Dad sang the same songs over and over. He has Alzheimers and his short-term memory is exceedingly poor, so he couldn’t remember he’d already sung them. But he was happy and, to me, it mattered not at all. I sang along with him every time as if it were a new song.

He seems to remember these times when we share the past more than he does the everyday present moments, and they mean a lot to him. It was a very special time for me too. I felt privileged that I could share it with him.

Mum & Dad about 1944

When we arrived back at Dad’s home (he lives at home alone, as my mother died eighteen years ago this week), we chatted about singing, and how it raises the spirits and unites people in a special way. He said how wonderful it was as a boy and young man to hear his father’s lovely tenor singing his favourite songs from the music hall shows and the radio.

Dad has always loved singing and, in the sergeants’ mess, when he served in the Royal Air Force in WWII, he would sometimes start up a song. Others would join in and soon, thirty or more men would be singing together – popular and humorous war songs, even love songs. Dad said it was a very moving and unifying experience.

When they’d sung themselves out, one of Dad’s mates would say, “Thommo, you can’t sing to save your life, but you really get us all going”.

I remember when I was a child that we would sing together when our extended family got together, both in England and in Australia. We would sing for ages, and this is why I know so many songs from the 1930s and 40s. When we went driving in the Australian countryside in our old car, we often sang too.

Mum often had the local radio on when we were kids, so we also picked up a variety of songs from the 1950s. And even though the songs from the 60s were those of MY generation, she loved many of them too.

Later in my life, there were times when I hardly ever sang. They were the down times, when life wasn’t easy, for various reasons. Then I met my second husband. He loves to hear me sing, even though I do not have a good voice. (None of my paternal father’s offspring and descendants have inherited his lovely singing voice).

Now, I love to sing again and, when I do, I am uplifted and strengthened.

But singing with Dad is something special, remembering parents, grandparents and mates, and good times once shared, all now gone except in our memory.

 

© Linda Visman

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