Marian remembers life at the music school
In 1916, Dad bought a music school, known as "The Kellerman Institute of Musical Art", and changed the name to "Munson School of Music". It was at 357 Ovington Avenue. We lived in the music school, and as it prospered, the only rooms without pianos, and not used for teaching were the kitchen, our parents’ room, and the girls’ room and the maid’s room. Henry’s room was a small room at the front end of the hall, and Alex’s room was the tower room in the front. They slept on day-beds. The bed rooms were all on the third floor. It was a wonderful house for hide and seek. On the second floor, there were three large studios with a short hall with cupboards on each side, between them. They all opened on to the main hall, where there were a front and a back staircase. Two of the studios had fireplaces with recesses above them for hiding. With four more rooms on the first floor, we had many good games. On Sunday afternoons, the Fedde boys often visited us, or Alex and Henry visited them, and I went along when I could. Dr. Fedde was our family doctor.
In 1917, Dada bought a Model T Ford which he later gave to Mother, although I don’t think she ever drove it. That meant that we could drive to Cragsmoor instead of taking the train, or riding with Dada in his Hudson. It was still quite an adventure. If we occasionally got up to 40 miles an hour, it was thrilling but scary. Every trip found us along the side of the road, with Dad fixing a tire. That meant vulcanizing the tube, so it was a real job. When Alexander was old enough to drive, he and I would go to Cragsmoor in the Model T with a lot of baggage, and the others would come later in the Studebaker touring car which we had by then. Sunday afternoons, we often took a drive around Shore Road and Fort Hamilton, or visited Aunt Helen in Flatbush.
Lawrence arrived in 1920, and what a joy he was! I never noticed anything different about Mother, but one day I looked into her cedar chest and thought it was strange to see baby clothes there. A few days later, when I heard Dad excitedly talking on the phone to Dada on a dark January morning, I put two and two together. When he came into our room, saying he had some news, I asked if it was a new baby. Lawrence never seemed to need any discipline (the rest of us had our fair share), we all felt he could do no wrong. He gave Mother nine of the happiest years of her life. He enjoyed the Staten Island ferry, and I would sometimes take him to the ferry, and for a nickel each, we could cross the Narrows several times. The Narrows is the body of water between Upper and Lower New York Bay.
Before we got too busy with homework, Mother used to call us in from play for a Mother’s Hour. She was often busy with the school, so she set aside an hour before dinner as a special time for us. I can remember making ornaments for the Christmas tree out of shiny colored paper. On Saturday nights we would have a Family Night, when we improvised entertainments of various kinds.
The Ovington Avenue house had a large back yard, which was a gathering place for the children of the neighborhood. In the wintertime, Alex sometimes flooded it with the hose, making a satisfactory skating rink. Even living in the city, we had lots of fun. There were even some stables a few blocks away, and for Henry’s birthday one year, Henry and I went there for pony rides.
A devout mother and father made God a very important part of our lives. I remember starting the day with "Devotions". Dad read a passage from the Bible and said a prayer, then we all said the Lord’s Prayer. As we left for school each morning, Mother gave us a Bible verse to repeat. Sundays were very special. We took the Fourth Avenue subway to Sunday School, which was at Trinity Lutheran Church at 46th Street and Fourth Avenue. We always stayed for church, and usually drove home to Ovington Avenue with Dada and Mormor. They drove in from Hempstead Gardens and stayed for dinner with us. When we were teen-agers, we went back to church Sunday nights and again on Wednesday nights, quite frequently. In addition, for each of us there was a year of Saturday afternoon Confirmation classes.
I have fond memories of good conversations around our old round oak dining room table. We often had interesting guests, and I enjoyed listening to them talking to our parents. Sometimes Dad would use our time together at the dinner table to tell us the stories of books he was reading. That was my introduction to books like "The Last of the Mohicans" and "The Count of Monte Cristo". Mother told us lots of stories, too. They were usually original, and often had a lesson to teach. She told us stories at bed time, and would sit in the hall, so we could all hear.
City life was much more simple then. I was sometimes sent down town on the subway to pick up some needed music from Chandler Ebel. The most memorable errand was taking a ‘cello downtown to a store that repaired instruments. I was only ten years old, and it took some ingenuity to get through the subway turnstile. Mother often took us shopping, and we noticed that she could say the magic words "charge it", and get things without handing out money. Henry and Anne Louise (whom we now call "Wiggles") went around the corner one day to a soda fountain on Third Avenue. They ordered ice cream cones, and as they reached for them, Henry said "Charge it". They were incensed when the man took back their cones. However we did get our share of treats. Dad often produced Life Savers or bags of salted peanuts from his overcoat pocket. He would also bring Mother her favorite candies which were chocolate covered cherries from Loft’s or Martha Washington creams. There were usually milk chocolates or molasses kisses at our Family Night gatherings.
Recitals were a part of our lives. Programs were given at the school by pupils, teachers and visiting celebrities. The dining room table was pushed aside, and chairs were set up in the office and dining room. Alex and I were sometimes asked to set up the chairs. There was a button on the floor near Mother’s customary seat, which buzzed in the kitchen to call the maid when she was needed. I got the idea of putting the leg of one of the chairs on the buzzer button. I never heard what happened, and I never asked, but very soon the buzzer was removed. In June, we had the June Recitals – the climax of the season. For weeks, there were rehearsals of duets, trios, quartets, and sextets. In order to get as many pupils as possible on each of the three or four programs, there were many ensembles. When the weather got hot in early June, the windows were open, and the neighbors were bombarbed with sounds. As far as I know, they didn’t complain. I got a lot of practice accompanying violin pupils, and Alex was a most efficient stage hand.
Besides music, the school also offered Elocution lessons. Anne Louise and I were enrolled, possibly to fill out the classes, and we did our share of reciting for guests and recitals. However, we didn’t always get our "pieces" learned on time. I once decided to skip the class, so I hid under Mother’s bed. The Elocution teacher, Miss Elsie K. Easton, was teaching in the Tower studio (Alex’s room) which was right next to Mother’s room. She came out in the hall and called me – but I stayed put. Then to my horror, she opened Mother’s door and called me again. I was terribly afraid that she was going to look under the bed, but luckily, she didn’t. Once she promised to buy an ice cream soda for everyone in Anne Louise’s class who learned her "piece". Louse didn’t learn hers but she went along to the soda fountain anyway, sure that Miss Easton would not leave her out. But she did!
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