About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Family singalongs, organs, and connecting generations

I guess singalongs are really on my mind right now . . . perhaps that is because the one we had at Jamboree last week (see earlier posts) are still generating comments and various posts. I am grateful to the many who have advised me of the links for videos and photos posted to Facebook (check my own FB profile page to see them . . . you may need to scroll down quite a bit . . . they were posted this past week).

My friend Susan Kitchens took some of the photos and told me about how the singalong we did reminded her of the "porchsings" she had with her own family. Her recollections, along with her impressions of an Arlo Guthrie concert in 2005 really affected her, can be found on her blog - it's great reading for anyone who is interested in how music reaches over the generations to connect people.

Tomorrow is Father's Day and in the past couple of weeks - the period between my Dad's birthday (June 8) and Father's Day - I have blogged about his family (Wilcox), his artifacts that I now have stewardship over, and photos of him at different times in his life. One of the photos show Dad & me in front of his Schober organ, created from a "kit." That organ was the culmination of many years of dreaming and planning and then, finally, creating. He and Mom made the organ together - Mom became quite the solder gun queen, soon learning the finer points of the craft (at Dad's tutelage, of course). And Dad built the console in his basement workshop, choosing only the best woods. Problem: once created, the framework, which would hold 3 manuals and a full pedal board, would not fit up the basement stairs into the waiting living room (a huge space had been cleared and was all ready for its new occupant). I still remember, being fast asleep one night, the snow having just stopped outside, when I was awakened by a rumbling down the sidewalk. Our home sat on a corner so the door from the basement to the outside could take a person right to Green Bay Rd - one of the busiest streets in Wilmette, Illinois (though not all that busy on a winter night sometime around 11 pm). My brother was home from college for the weekend and had a friend over for the evening; Dad found them to be the perfect assistants. Dad removed the door from the basement to the back yard and the three guys (Dad, my brother, and his friend) muscled the organ framework up and out and, since it was equipped with casters, rolled it around the corner (past my bedroom window) to the front door. I went downstairs in time to see it slipped right into its new home against the living room wall, where it sat for the next 30 years.

Mom and Dad created the manuals and made the connections so that the organ made its first sounds before it was actually assembled (which was also a rather weird experience). I did the finish on some of the pedals . . . but my ability to apply deft (the finish Dad preferred) left much to be desired so he took that task back. Once assembled and operating, the organ was used to entertain countless people who came to visit. I was always proud to show off Dad's amazing instrument and we had many great times playing duets (me on guitar). Those are some of the best memories.

That organ has a new home now, with a "fan" of Dad's who lives in New Jersey. He has both the musical and electrical backgrounds to play and keep in good repair that organ that represents a large part of my life. Happy Father's Day, Dad; I'll play a spiritual for you at the Riverside Folk Song Society tonight.

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