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March 22, 1941 - Image 1

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1941-03-22

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university Of Michigan Literary Magazine
..by John F. Bingtey

F YOU WERE a Kanuck you took
music lessons from Madame Faverau.
[If you were a Polack of a German
cu took them from Miss Brunner,
And if you were a Yankee you went up
to Old Man Thayer's. We all went up
to Old Man Thayer's and saved money
using the same books Dad had played
out of because Old Man. Thayer never
changed his system or his nomenclature.
If one member of the family took les-
suns from him, then he lumped the
whole family together and called you by
one name. He called all five of us "Bob"
because when Dad was a boy Old Man
Thayer gave him lessons too. None of us
minded being called Bob nor the music
lessons either. There were so many of
us taging at one time or another, we
felt kind of foolish if we didn't take
lessons and practice scales. Old Man
Thayer was a good teacher, I guess. but
that doesn't matter -because the story
I'm going to tell isn't about him, it's
aboon his daughter Etta and me and how
we got mixed up with the Greeks. Etta
was a queer one. She never got over
the faot that she was Old Man Thay-
es naughter, and never, even after she
ma.ri d hat Chapin boy. did she com-
pitely change her name. I never heard
anyone bot new people, and they really
dcn't count, call her anything but Etta
Thayer, and even her son Dick was
knovin as Etta Thayer's boy. Anywy.
when Old Man Thayer died, things went
right along. Etta gave out the same
pieces her father had given out, and by
the time I started to take organ lessons
from her, my niece was playing a Char-
minard Waltz from a book her grand-
father had used.
Right after I began taking organ les-
sons from Etta, her husband died and
everybody wondered how- she and Dick
were going to get along. But she man-
aged somehow - she took care of Mrs.
Fred Blodgett's half-witted Aunt Mar-
tha who lived on a pension, she gave
music lessons, she played at what few
weddings there were, and everybody
gave her clothes and stuff to eat. I'll
never forget how mad my Mother was
the day she gave Etta her old winter
coat. We couldn't afford a good car then,
only the old junk I drove, and in the
same breath that Etta thanked Mother
for the coat, she told her she had just
bought a new car. Mother was mad, and
there wasn't a bridge club in town that
didn't discuss Etta and her new car, be-
cause naturally everybody knew she was
a Thayer and never had any money.
Some said she sold the Chapin stuff to
some antique dealer, and some went so
far as to ask her if she'd sold Sarah
Chapin's old highboy. My Grandmother
was particularly interested in that old
highboy. She lived across the street from
the Chapins and when Sarah Chapin
was married Grandma was mad be-
cause her cousin Jennie had given Sarah
Chapin the highboy that Grandma
wanted. So Grandma was all out of pa-
tience when she saw it moved into the
Chapin house. Then Sarah's son John
married and the highboy went out to
Ohio with him. Grandma saw it moved
out. Tnen when John's wife died the
highboy came back home with John,
and Grandma saw it moved back in.
Then she saw it leave again for the
Thayer house when Etta married John's

'Ilblration by CLIFFORD GRAHAM

son, Richard. And then when Etta
moved back into the Chapin place,
Grandma saw the highboy had been
moved out of the house without her
knowing it. But Etta didn't sell it, and
as far as anybody could see all the
Chapin stuff was still in the house. Ev-
erybody forgot about Etta and her car
because Isabel Cole ran off and got her-
self married to a Kanuck fellow, and
everybody had that to talk about in-
stead; and believe me they talked plenty
because the Cole girls were the only fam-
ily in town belonging to the D.A.R. Ev-
erybody, you understand, could have be-
longed, but nobody but the Coles did.
SHORTLY AFTER Isabel Cole came
back to town to live, our Cousin
Clara died up in Amherst, left all her
money to the college and left us nothing
but a houseful of junk. I was working,
my brother and my sister were in college,
and my Mother said she'd be darned
if she'd spend a week in Amherst sorting
over Clara's leavings. So my Dad had
the whole houseful of stuff moved down
to our barn which didn't please me be-
cause it meant I had to keep my car
out in the yard. When it was all moved
down, Mother and I spent Saturday
mornings going over the trunks and
chests, throwing away the family letters
and pictures, and giving the rest to Miss
Thompson. Miss Thompson was sort of
a one woman helping hand society. She
knew all the poor and proud, as. we
called them. People called her up and
she came down and collected clothing
and furniture and gave them to the poor,
the Yankee poor, of course, because the
town took care of the rest of the poor.
Well, one Saturday, shortly after Eas-

ter, Mother saw Etta coming up the
walk. "Quick, John," Mother said, "Shut
the door to the barn. She's heard about
Clara and she's come down for the
pickings." When I came back in the
house, there was Etta with her mouth
opened like a bureau drawer asking
Mother if she had a cigarette. I knew
right then and there that something was
the matter, because I was the only one
in town who knew she smoked, and the
reason I knew was because I paid for my
organ lessons in cigarettes. She couldn't
very well buy them at Driscoll's because
that was where everybody traded, and if
she went any place else everybody would
think she was queer. So she asked me
to buy them for her, and I would no
more have told about them than I would
have told a thing or three else I knew.
Yet here -he was asking my Mother for
a cigares e. I could see Mother was a
little surprised, but she picked up a
pack of mine and handed it to Etta and
asked her if she'd like a cup of coffee.
"0 God!" Etta said, "who wants cof-
fee! I need something stronger than
Mother turned to me and sighed,
"Just like her cousin Howard, you know
they had to put him away."
"Well, they won't put me away," said
Etta, "and if you'd gone through what I
went through last night, you'd be up on
The Hill right now."
Up on the hill was where the Insane
Asylum was located, but because nearly
everybody in town had someone in it,
somehow it didn't sound so bad if we
called it "The Hill."
Mother and I could see that Etta
was working herself up into a state, but

my Mother was good at quieting people
down, and it wasn't long before Etta
told us about how she became mixed
up with the Greeks. The Greeks lived
on the other side of the river, and we
didn't know much about them. If we
wanted someone to cook, we called in a
Polish girl or a German. If we wanted
our floors scrubbed, we called in a Ka-
nuck girl, but we never seemed to see
much of the Greeks. Most of them
worked in the rouge room down at the
factory and some few, I guess, worked
in the mill.
Etta didn't beat around the bush, she
came right out and told us a piece of
information that three months ago any
bridge club in town would have given
a grand slam to know. "You know where
I got the money to buy my car?" Etta
asked. "I got it from the Greeks."
"Well!", said my Mother just as
though they were the whole explanation.
But not me, I wasn't going to let Etta
get away without telling us how. It's
different with my Mother. She's a New
Yorker and not much interested in town
stories, but I am, and a Thayer mixed
up with the Greeks was something that
didn't happen every day. So I encour-
aged her, which wasn't necessary be-
cause she told us the whole story and at
last even involved me with the Greeks.
IT SEEMS that right after Christmas
the Greeks learned that she could play
the organ and was looking for a job.
How they found that out I don't know,
because as far as anybody but the Yan-
kees were concerned, Etta Thayer had
just as much money as the Boswells. But
the Greeks found out and asked her,

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