There is an old song, that Willie Nelson wrote in 1980, called On The Road Again, and one part of the lyrics goes like this, “The life I love is makin’ music with my friends.” That line reminds me of a story I heard about my Uncle Larry Byer. My Grandma Byer’s house was the place to be when all the kids were home. There were always kids hanging out there, and because of the varied ages of the siblings, the ages of the visiting children varied quite a bit too. The family had always loved to sing, and several among the family members played an instrument. Grandpa Byer played the mandolin and the violin. Uncle Larry played the guitar and the mandolin, as well as the piano. My dad, Allen Spencer, and Uncle George Hushman also joined in with guitar and singing. It was like a big jam session. For the kids, like my Aunt Sandy Pattan, those jam sessions were like a big party.
Uncle Larry always had a group of friends who loved to hang out at the house…among them Bobby Boatman, Caryl Sparger, and Gene Tholl. They and the rest of the gang played music and just had a good time in general. Aunt Sandy even told me that they had a machine that recorded the songs and put them on a record. They would hang blankets to make a sound room and record their own songs. I sure wish some of those old records were still around. I would love to hear my dad, grandpa, uncles, and their friends singing and making music with their friends. One of the songs that Uncle Larry used to play for Grandma…his mom…was her favorite, “Springtime in the Rockies.” Grandma loved that song, loved hearing him play and sing it. It was a song Grandpa always sang to her, so it had a very special meaning. I’m sure it was a sweet love song to her from Grandpa.
Aunt Sandy told me that when Uncle Larry went into the Army, she really missed him, like most little sisters would. She missed his joking ways, all the friends who came over, and especially, she missed those jam sessions. Nevertheless, when he came home, it wasn’t those things that Aunt Sandy was thinking about. Her big brother was home and all she could think of was to run into his arms for a great big hug. Today would have been Uncle Larry’s 83rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Larry. I can’t wait to see you again, and get one of those great big hugs too. We love and miss you very much.
When my grandfather, Allen Spencer and my Great Uncle Albert Schumacher were young men, they were best friends. They did a lot together, including a trapping adventure, or should I say misadventure, which threatened to freeze them to death, causing them to decide that maybe the lumber business suited them better. I think maybe it did serve them better, but it wasn’t their occupations that really impressed me.
In his family history, my Uncle Bill Spencer, Allen’s oldest son, it was mentioned that Grandpa and Albert used to play the violin and the accordion at dances in the area. Then, Uncle Bill mentioned that he did to. I knew that music ran in the family, and while the ability to play an instrument passed me by, I do sing as a backup singer at my church. There are those in my family, however, who play quite well. My grandfather made sure that each of his children could play the violin, even though not all of them enjoyed it. I have to wonder if Grandpa wanted them to play because he loved it so much. I suppose that the excitement of playing in front of people and seeing them all having so much fun, was all Grandpa and Great Uncle Albert needed to be addicted…so to speak. Uncle Bill said that he played for dances too.
My girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, like many school children, played an instrument, but they continued on through high school. Neither one plays anymore, but I think the still could if they chose to. It’s one of those thing that you don’t forget, you just get a bit rusty. Still, if you continue to play, you could become quite good. My daughter, Amy’s husband, Travis and her son, Caalab both play the guitar. I don’t know how they feel about their ability to play, but I think they are both very good. They haven’t played at dances, but they have played at events where artists can go and play for others. I guess it doesn’t matter if you play at dances, for family, or for other events, being in the band is all that and more for a musician.
For all of their childhood years, my daughter Amy just wanted to be different than her big sister, Corrie. Corrie played the violin, so Amy wanted to play the clarinet. If Corrie wanted to watch Bugs Bunny, Amy wanted to watch Mickey Mouse. It wasn’t like they fought about things, because mostly they didn’t. The girls got along very well, and were always good friends. Amy just didn’t want to be mini-me to her big sister. I suppose that because they were born so close together…just eleven months apart…they seemed to be the same age by the time they could both walk. Corrie had the distinction of being the big sister, and everyone knew it, because Amy forgot to grow. At just 4’10 (which is hard for me to say, because we always thought it was 4’11, until her husband, Travis proved us wrong), there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that she was the youngest. Of course, they would have thought that if she had been the oldest too, so I guess, for Corrie’s sake it was a good thing that the shorter child was also the younger child.
For Amy, who never really felt like she was the younger child…but rather felt like they should be equal, there always seemed to be something to prove. It wasn’t exactly like a competition, but rather an opposition. She didn’t want to compete to be the best at the same things Corrie was doing, she just wanted to be her own person. That is why, no matter what the situation was, Amy wanted to do the opposite of Corrie. If Amy couldn’t be the oldest, she would have to be the opposite. There were the natural things that worked out in Amy’s favor too…being shorter, being blond while her sister was brunette, even needing glasses for distance vision, while Corrie needed them for near vision. Yes, these two daughters of mine were as opposite and opposite could possibly be.
You would naturally think that there would be nothing but fighting in our household, with all this I want to be different than her opposition going on, and sometimes you would be right. The argument was mostly with their mother though. I saw nothing wrong with both girls playing the violin, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth, and Amy quickly informed me of the error of my ways. I would have even dressed them alike, but that was also a no no! So, I learned to see these two little people, as two very different individuals…not a bad thing I suppose. And, while Amy did everything in her power to show her individuality, she loved her big sister. And, every so often, I would catch a little look…usually so subtle that it went unnoticed until years later in a picture, that told me that while Amy didn’t want to be mini-me to Corrie, she thought her big sister was pretty great, nevertheless.
My nephew, Allen is his Grandpa Spencer’s namesake. He was named Allen Spencer Beach, so that our dad’s name would be carried on for another generation, in the only way that a family of daughters could give him a namesake. While his name tied him to his grandpa, he also followed his dad’s lead, and joined the navy. Now he is a Corpsman. He has spent time at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and he is currently stationed in Yokosuka-shi, Kanagawa, Japan, at the Yokosuka Naval Base. He went to Japan in September of 2012, and has a little less than a year left in the Navy, and while he has enjoyed Japan, and feels like it has been a great opportunity, he is nevertheless ready to come back to the United States. His time in Japan has not been a lonely time however, because he met a lovely girl there named Gabby. She is also in the Navy and is a Corpsman, so they have a lot in common. They have been dating for about a year now, so we will see where that leads. Gabby is from Oregon, so where Allen will end up could be tied to how that relationship goes, but Allen has pretty much decided to go to college when his time in the Navy is done. When his mom, my sister, Caryl and her husband, Mike visited Allen in Japan in August, he and Gabby showed them all the sights, navigating the train system there like experts, even though everything was written in Japanese.
Allen is very much into photography, and has taken some amazing photographs. He has a real eye for it…one that few people possess. I particularly like the one he took of himself walking away from the camera, and holding another camera. I really wish I had saved that one, because it would have been a great one to use here. I think Allen could go into photography as an occupation, perhaps as a journalistic photographer, if that was what he decided to do.
But, Allen’s interests lie in a different direction right now, and oddly enough, that is similar to yet another relative in the family…Louis Emery Freese. While they are not blood relatives, because Louis married into our family, they share an interest in making instruments, like the guitar and violin. Louis imported his wood from Germany to make the violins he made. Crafting instruments is a wonderful skill to have, and not only would it be profitable, but it would be very rewarding too. Those instruments are beautiful works of art. The craftsman who has the skill to make those instruments has a great skill indeed. Allen says that would be his dream occupation. I hope he is able to realize that dream. Today is Allen’s birthday. Happy birthday Allen!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
Having your child on someone else’s birthday can be a very cool thing, as I have seen with my own daughter, but having your first child on your own birthday would be even more cool, if you ask me. That is exactly what happened with my grandmother and my Aunt Laura. It was like a birthday present of sorts. I know how cool that shared birthday was for my daughter, Corrie and her grandmother, Bob’s grandmother. They loved it and shared every birthday party for as long as Grandma was still alive. Corrie always felt like she was Grandma’s Girl.
In looking at my grandmother’s photo album, I could easily see that same relationship with Grandma Spencer and Aunt Laura. They liked each other…which is different that loving each other. Many people love their family members, but really don’t like some of them much. Grandma and Aunt Laura went places together, and did things together, and it didn’t seem to be just because they were mother and daughter. I have to think it was partly because of that shared birthday.
As I look at the pictures in the album, many of which my Aunt Laura is in, it occurrs to me that, now I would know her, as a child, anywhere. She was a pretty little girl with long beautiful hair…something my sisters and I also had as kids, and two of us still do. She played the violin as a child, but I’m told she didn’t like it much, and yet she loves classical music, which so often includes the violin. I guess there is a big difference between playing an instrument and listening to an orchestra. On that point, I would have to agree with her. I used to love to listen to the music wen my girls were in orchestra and band, but for me to make those instruments play anything like music…well, can you say “sick duck” or even imagine what one sounds like…that would be me trying to play Corrie’s violin or Amy’s clarinet. I guess that Aunt Laura got pretty good, as did her sister, Aunt Ruth.
My Aunt Laura would have been 101 years old tomorrow, on her mother’s 126th birthday. I know she, my dad, and my Aunt Ruth, along with many other cherished family members are waiting in Heaven for the day of our arrival, and I look forward to seeing them once again. Thinking of your both Grandma and Aunt Laura on your birthdays tomorrow. We love you very much.
On the back of the violin is a name, Allen Spencer. I assumed that it was carved lovingly into the wood by my great great grandfather when he was young. I have no way of knowing just exactly when it was written, but it would seem like something a child would do. Grandpa was born in 1826, and died in 1883, and as near as I have been able to find, the violin might have been made in 1866, which would mean that my great great grandfather was 40 years old. No matter how old he was when he engraved his name into the violin, the length of time the violin has been in our family tells me that music to some degree has been in my family for several generations. That violin was handed down from my great great grandfather, to my great grandfather, William Malrose Spencer, to my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, to my Uncle William Malrose Spencer II, who passed it on to my dad, Allen Lewis Spencer, with the request that we keep it in our family. We have had several violinists in our family, my sister Allyn, and my daughter Corrie, to name two. The violin is in great condition, and has been well used throughout the years.
My grandfather, Allen, enjoyed jamming with his brother-in-law, Albert, who was playing the accordion. I can imagine that their jam session was a lively time, as those two instruments don’t usually go together. Nevertheless, when a couple of brothers get together and try to outdo each other in their play, and from what I have seen of these two brothers, they liked to joke around. They always seem to have a twinkle in their eyes in the pictures I’ve seen. I have a feeling that the brothers could be…maybe a little mischievious.
When we received the violin, it occurred to me that this was a pearl of great price, so to speak. Maybe the name engraved on the back reduces the value in the eyes of an antique dealer, but it only increases the value to us. So often you have very little that belonged to your great great grandfather…especially when he died 73 years before you were born. That is the real thing that gives it value to me and my family. This was something that my great great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, my uncle, and my dad all took pleasure in, and something my mom, my sisters, and our families will all take pleasure in for years to come…because it was my great great grandfather’s violin.
Kids just naturally have a love of musical instruments. Almost from the time they are born, they play with rattle and other noise makers for entertainment…sometimes to the point of headaches for their parents. It is a love of beautiful music…and believe me, we all have very different ideas of exactly what beautiful music is…that leads us to try to create the music we love on our own.
At Christopher’s age, it’s all about the noise level, the louder it pops, clangs, rings, or squeaks, the better they like it. Wait…I think that part of a kids love for music last at least until their 30’s and sometimes even longer, so really Christopher is just doing what every teenager does, only with different instruments. And he was having the time of his life doing it. You can’t help but smile, even though you know that after a few minutes of cuteness, the noise probably drove his parents nuts.
As kids get bigger, their choices of instruments change, and the opportunities they have in school help with those changes. I’m sure you all remember the recorder that kids learned to play on about 4th grade. Most kids sound pretty much like I do when I play the recorder…a sick duck, but my daughter Amy had a way with the recorder. She could make it really sing. That’s why we chose the Clarinet for her when she got to fifth grade, even though her sister, Corrie had chosen the Violin. Both girls played very well all the years they played in school, and I thoroughly enjoyed going to their performances.
Christopher played the Trumpet in 5th and 6th grade, and his brother, Josh played the Clarinet in 5th grade, following in his Aunt Amy’s footsteps. My granddaughter, Shai chose not to play an instrument, but go into choir for a time. Caalab would be the one to continue in the musical world, when he decided to take up the Guitar and follow in his dad’s footsteps. He now owns several Guitars, and continues to get better and better. He takes Guitar in school, and nobody has to tell him to practice. He loves to play. Where once he had rocks in his pockets, he now has multiple picks. He may not always have his Guitar, but those picks seem to always be with him. Typical, I guess for the boys in the band.