About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 25 times over and a great-grandmother of 19. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega with Genealogy Journeys where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that can be found at http://genaandjean.blogspot.com and more about my own business projects is on my Circlemending website.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Instrument Inventory

On Sat., 17 October, Butch & I participated in the Corona Genealogical Society's annual Family History month event, "Stones, Bones, & Ancient Tomes," where we displayed many old (and some replica) instruments. It seems that every time we put up such a display, we end up getting more. People see that we have old instruments and immediately think that they have found a repository for their old instruments, some in much need of love and care. This was no exception. One of our friends immediately said, "I have an old mandolin and dulcimer that I know you would like!" (Why do people think that I would like more of what I already have so many of?) Well, of course he was right! He brought them to me on Monday of this week and they are, indeed, beautiful instruments (though neither has strings . . . yet). As I juggled them out to my car, I started to think about how many times this scene has repeated itself . . .

Many, many years ago, when my collection was rather minimal, we set up a small display at a family history fair and one of the people who was walking through the exhibit hall was thrilled. He said he had something we would love (there's that assessment again). He ran off and returned a short while later with a zither-like instrument, created by National probably around 1900. The back was split, the strings were rusty, but we accepted the gift with smiles. We displayed it in our living room.

As could be expected, someone coming to our home saw the zither on the shelf and said that he had one like it and had no idea what to do with it! A few weeks later it was gracing the same shelf . . . now we have 2 of these things, neither of which we play. But that same person also gave me a Cittern - a guitar-like instrument with 10 strings and a body like a pear-shaped mandolin. I understand it is to be tuned to open C . . . maybe someday I'll try it. Meanwhile, it hangs on the wall.

Another friend, visiting our home, was impressed with the many instruments and, within a few days, had placed an autoharp in our hands. The autoharp (an Oscar Schmidt, no less) had been in her possession for years and "lived" in her garage (oh, don't do that!!). But it was in good condition. We changed the strings, fixed the felts (the part of the button bars that damp the non-playing strings . . . I guess you have to be there), and I play it in some of my programs.

Then there is the very homemade dulcimer (I say "very" because this one has no scroll work, fancy decorative sound holes, or anything that is common with homemade dulcimers). But it works (sort of) and hangs over our front door (that was one we paid for because someone had bought it at a second hand shop - for $35 I think - believing that we would love it . . . we figured that it would make a nice wall hanging and so it has).

Then there are the banjos. I think they multiply when we leave the house (usually people worry about people stealing their instruments; I worry about banjos reproducing when we turn our backs). These are 4-string instruments and Butch loves them. And he plays them . . . well, some of them. One he made into a clock (very effective in that role!) and another into a sign for me to hang in our instrument booth. We still have extras, though.

Then there's the Dobro, but that's a story in itself and I'll save it for next week's blog.

So, if you have something that appears to be a musical instrument and you want to get rid of it . . . (here's where I give my address . . . NOT!). Consider Ebay!

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