Besides babysitting, taking care of neighbor’s lawns, mail and newspapers when they were on vacation which I began at 11 years of age, I started my first job as a church organist in Pueblo, Colorado when I was 13 years old. We were a musical family and began piano lessons in Massachusetts before moving to Colorado when I was ten. Our piano teacher in Colorado expected us to practice one hour each day. Because there were four of us expected to practice, my parents purchased a second piano which was put in the finished basement.
Sometimes being the eldest meant I had to practice my hour of piano before school and playing at church daily. My father fashioned a piece of wood which I still recall to this day. He inserted the wood over the middle pedal which remained down during practice time. This meant I supposedly didn’t wake up the rest of the family while I practiced from 5-6 AM. Three of us then walked the block to church where I played the organ. We sang daily at 6:30 AM. Afterwards we walked back home for breakfast and then walked to school. My high school was about 1/2 mile away. The elementary school was three houses away. It was my mother’s task to drive us to school in the middle school and junior high years.
Before the church was built, I recall meeting in homes of parishioners and initially I and a couple others were asked to play the piano. When I finished, I was hired on the spot. I guess I made it through the music with fewer mistakes than the others. There was a one room school house out in the prairie which served as the initial building for the church which was then later built one block from our house. My father loved that one room school house because of the bell tower. This reminded him of churches in Massachusetts and Europe. I must admit that I love that sound and miss it here in Upstate New York.
I worked this first job until I was 18 and went off to college. In addition to playing daily and three times on Sundays, I played for all the weddings and funerals. It was always sad for me to get excused from school to play for a funeral and then go back to class. It was expected that I would play seven days per week and share what little I earned with my sisters. At 15 I began a part-time job at the local five and dime store called Duckwall’s. When I look back at my early work history, it was simply a preparation for the life ahead as a teacher and parent. It was always a balancing act. With hard work and perseverance, I learned that I could achieve almost anything.
The organizational and time management skills I learned in early life have remained with me for a lifetime. In college, I found my best study time to be between 4-6 AM when the dorm was quiet. During the Colorado summers when the windows were open, there seemed to be constant music coming out of our Horseshoe Drive house. One of my sisters added violin lessons and went on to become second chair in the State Orchestra for a couple of years in high school. Even with the 4-6 hours of daily practice in the summer, we participated in 4-H activities in cooking and sewing to name a few. I remember winning the Colorado Grand Championship in Food Preparation. Budgeting my time during the four hours in a glass-enclosed kitchen at the State Fair with judges watching came naturally after much practice. I will save my 4-H stories for another time.