Often what is appreciated by one generation is held in complete disdain by the next.

In churches we notice this with the change in worship styles.  In written communication we have gone from letters to e-mails, Facebook, and Twitter.  In pictures we have abandoned developing photographs in favor of digital images.  If handwriting still exists, writing in cursive certainly doesn’t. Rear-wheel drive has been replaced by front-wheel, or all-wheel drive.  The list is endless.

Fifty years ago one of the musical instruments of choice was the accordion!  There were no accordion jokes that you could download off Google.  Mastering the accordion was considered a worthy achievement.  It was considered cool.  We even wired them electrically so they sounded like an organ.

With Ralph Bromley, Steve Masterson, and Dan Hoath, Howy Brandt, and unknown.

Today you have to travel to Austria or travel the subways of Paris if you wish to associate with folks that enjoy the accordion.  That, or watch the Lawrence Welk show on cable.

I attended high school in the early ‘60s at Prairie High in Three Hills, Alberta.  Mr. Will Irving was the head of the accordion department.  He was a bachelor.  Apparently the squeeze from the accordion was the best squeeze of all.  I was in awe of his musical abilities.

I took up playing when I was in the tenth grade.  Truth be told, one of my major motivations was the instructor.  Her name was Kathy Miller.  She was from Peoria, Illinois (no joke).  She was in her junior year in college, and in my opinion, very attractive.  I was a self-conscious, insecure, immature adolescent suffering from low self-esteem.  Believe it or not, the accordion and Kathy helped me develop confidence in at least one area!

I had one lesson a week, 26 lessons a year.  She was my instructor for two years.  Alas, my motives for working so arduously at my daily practice sessions were not so much to master the accordion, as they were to impress Kathy.   Regardless of the motive, I did achieve a modicum of success and in time was even given students of my own as part of my student work.

I lost touch with Kathy.  Thirty-five years later we reconnected.  She and her husband Dave Johnson stopped in for a visit.  I pulled out the accordion and played for her.  I let her know the important role she played in my life those many years ago.  The shocker for me was that she barely remembered being my teacher, an instructive lesson in itself.  I apparently left little if any impression on her!

Regardless, it was a good lesson for me. We never know from one day to the next the impression we may have on those around us.

Howard Miller, the founder of Hartville Kitchen and Collectibles in Hartville, Ohio was not only one of my very first customers.  He went on to become my business mentor as well.  We would frequently have lunch together.  The last time I met with him prior to his passing, I asked him what he considered were the key ingredients for operating a successful business.  The one response that stuck with me was to give back to the community that has given so much to you.

With my daughter Anna, 2009, St. Louis, MO

I have looked for a number of ways to follow his advice, but perhaps the most unusual way of doing so has been to play accordion duets with a good friend of mine from our church, Leora Gerber.  Our most popular venues are nursing homes, sewing circles, and on the rare occasion we are asked to play in church.  We’ve noticed that those invitations have declined recently as the stewardship department informed us that each time we play the offering goes down.

Our two claims to fame are that we are seldom invited back by the same audience, and to our knowledge, no one has passed away within hours of our performing. (Speaking of which, we’ve never been asked to play at a funeral, the logic of which baffles me.) We’ve got another program scheduled in less than three weeks!  Time to dust off the accordion once again!

It is more blessed to give than to receive; Leora and I can only hope that our audience agrees.

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  1. Jon "PJ" Congo says:

    Peter, I am coming to appreciate your expressions on FB. Well done!

    (BTW, the ‘coming’ is to do with the relatively short duration of our friendship rather than FINALLY being able to tolerate your writing.)

  2. Kathy Gerber says:

    Ahhh Peter… you make me laugh.. I love your writings and you write well… you have become my Marilyn Ditto in pants!! A very talented and humorous acquaintance from Wooster. You touch my heart strings..keep writing!

  3. Kathy Gerber says:

    Ah.. you make me laugh. I love your writings and you write well..You are my Marilyn Ditto in pants! You touch my heart strings..Keep writing!

  4. Jon "PJ" Congo says:

    Peter, I feel like a young lad, welcomed by the upper classmen. Thanks.

    (I always know my place and will endeavor to keep it; perhaps, without reminding others of theirs.)

  5. Rachel Joecks says:

    Thanks for sharing such a great memory and the photo from your young years. That’s the way I remember you and the other classmates. (Will we recognize each other if we have a 50th H.S. reunion?) I would enjoy an accordion duet at church. If you need a new audience you could try touring in the Pacific NW!

    • peter says:

      Thanks, Rachel! Always good to hear from classmates, and BTW, Betty Zweifel IS planning a 50th reunion in Whistler, so will look to see you there, considering you’re already in the NW!!

  6. Dan Hoath says:

    I feel VERY honored to be part of your writings. Thank you. And excellent thoughts. Keep going.

  7. David Johnson says:

    “Peter, you made my day! I am still amazed that my teaching the accordion was even minimally effective. Thank you for your kind comments!” Kathy

    From Dave: Even a quick view of your many beautiful creations confirms the fact that you were born with an eye for beauty—“She was in her junior year in college, and in my opinion, very attractive.” I wholeheartedly agree and, obviously, my meager attempts to snare that “Beauty” on Prairie campus were effective as we have passed 46 years together.

    • peter says:

      Thanks, Dave and Kathy! My daughter now teaches violin, and she was encouraged by your influence Kathy, and that one never knows the influence they are having on the lives of their students.

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