Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Music that Went to War



Over the weekend I dug out my husband’s album of turn-of-the-century sheet music and divided it up into three lots to sell on e-Bay---one of Black Americana, one of WWI songs and another of popular-at-the-time music. One hundred and ten sheets and the largest lot by far was the WWI lot. I'd forgotten that we had over sixty pieces of music that had been written about the war and the mothers and sweethearts waiting on the home front. The titles alone tell a story: Will you be one of the Soldier Boys, I don’t Know Where I’m Going but I’m on my Way, I’ll Return Mother Darling, I’m Hitting the Trail for Normandy so Kiss me Goodbye, It’s a Long way to Berlin but We’ll get There, The Yanks with the Tanks will go Through the German Ranks, They are Tenting Tonight in Far off France, Three Wonderful Letters from Home, I Know They are Waiting for Me, Don’t try to Steal the Sweetheart of a Soldier, He was a Soldier from the U.S.A., There’s a Service Flag Flying at our House, Oh What a Time for the Girlies When the Boys come Marching Home, and my personally favorite They were all out of Step but Jim. 

Decades ago sheet music was collected mostly for the great graphics on the covers but they have fallen far out of favor. The values of antiques and collectibles are more fluid than many people realize but a good rule of thumb is this: Most people collect in the era that their grandparents lived during the prime of their lives and pickers need to keep that in mind if they are buying for resale. As the population ages and they start downsizing a younger crop of collectors comes along to turn another decade of old things into hot commodities like Mid-Century stuff is right now. Stuff at the top of the market only stays at the top for so long before the prices start falling. There are exceptions with longer or no windows of popularity, of course, baseball card collecting being one of them and Black memorabilia another. Of the latter, I’ve read there are two types of people who collect Black Americana: Some buy it to destroy the postcards, advertisements, nicnacks, etc., that show things like black children eating watermelons or being fed to alligators while the other set of buyers are setting up personal or public museums of black stereotyped memorabilia. Ferris State University has a Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia that tells a shocking-to-some story to those who are willing to listen and learn.

I’ll be lucky to find buyers for the sheet music who will pay more than seventy-five cents a sheet, sold in lots. If I were to e-Bay each one separately I still couldn’t get more than $3 to $12 each for the noteworthy ones but about a third would probably go unsold. Not that it matters because we didn’t have a penny invested---the music belonged to my husband’s mother. She taught piano lessons before she was married in 1918 and her maiden name is written on most of the music. Not a single piece has her married name inscribed and I found that kind of sad. She obviously loved playing. I can picture the quiet, unassuming woman I knew sitting at an upright piano letting her inner spirit out while pounding the keys to Strike up the Band Here Comes a Sailor.

I thought about offering the music on Facebook to my husband’s family like I did with the hand embroidery pieces my mom made, and I may still do that with the smallest lot of "popular" music. But Don has a lot of nieces and nephews and I’d end up mailing the sheet music all over the place. If only ten of them, for example, wanted 2-3 sheets it would run me $70 in postage, backer boards and envelopes, not to mention it would be time consuming. Plus Don’s brothers, their wives and the older nieces and nephews all got to go through the family home after his mother died and took whatever they wanted. No one wanted that sheet music back then. Someone might ask why I don’t just throw it all in the trash and save myself the trouble. I can’t do that with things that have been lovingly saved for a hundred years. One way or another the sheet music will get adopted or sold.

I always thought that my husband could play the piano by ear but now I wonder if when he was a little boy that he might have gotten some lessons from his mom. I never heard any stories of the family standing around the piano singing and her sheet music buying seemed to have dropped right off in 1918. I’m guessing her teaching opportunities dried up when she moved to the country after getting married. And it didn’t take long before life got too hard to allow much time for music, her being a farmer’s wife with four boys and a couple of hire hands to feed and do laundry for. She also kept a garden, canned for winter, raised chickens and walked several miles into town each day to sell eggs to a local grocery store.

I went through the sheet music several times looking for a cover that would look good with the color scheme I’ll be using when I move, thinking I could frame it in honor of my mother-in-law. I couldn’t find one but I’m keeping, Yes, There are no Bananas just in case I can find a place for it in the kitchen. I remember singing that song when I was a kid and the cover art reminds me of my Italian heritage for some crazy reason I can't figure out, even though the grocer who couldn’t say ‘no’ to any question was Greek. ©


27 comments:

  1. Wish I knew I could have gotten money for old sheet music. I threw away stacks! 1/2 were mine and 1/2 were an older friend of my aunts who gave me a bunch of hers that were colorful and like the one you posted. But I no longer play the piano or have a piano so there was no sense in continuing to move these from state to state. Oh well.

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    1. Trust me, they are not going to be easy to sell. I'll let you know in a week or two how I did on them. Salvation Army and Goodwill now have websites to sell antiques and collectibles, if in doubt donate stuff like this to them before throwing it out.

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  2. My parents used to sing Yes, We have no bananas when I was a child. Thanks for triggering that memory.

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    1. Me, too. Seeing that piece of music triggered a sense of fun from my childhood. It was written in 1923 which was long before either one of us was born. But it was used in popular movies in 1939, '48, '54 '61, '69, '92 and '95. So I guess we could say it never really went away.

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  3. I used to sing Yes We Have No Bananas to my kids, and I am not that old (60). Actually, just that line--it's so funny and ridiculous.

    That illustration is terrific. It would brighten up any room, and even be whimsical in a bathroom or extra bedroom. Absolutely save it!

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  4. I am glad you are keeping that one and framing it. That should give you a smile every time you see it and it will honor your mother-in-law.

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    1. I am trying to keep one of every collection I/we have/had.

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  5. What a great policy ... keep one thing from each collection! When it is wintery and you don't want to drive ... does USPS or anyone pick up your eBay packages to send?

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    1. Yes, they both do. I'll take a break between Thanksgiving and New Years. I hate dealing with the holiday gift shoppers. And I'll use the time to get my computer purged and maintained and the same with closets and stuff to go to Goodwill. But I'm leery of power outages in the other winter months so I might list 'light' until spring.

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  6. What a treasure trove you have! I learned Yes We Have No Bananas from mom, who sang constantly while I was growing up. I did the same with my kids, so they know a lot of goofy old songs, too. You picked a great one to save. I continue to admire your tenacity in sorting and downsizing. I did a closet purge today and I'm pooped. :-)

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    1. I'm amazed at how many of us have memories of that song and that makes me certain I will frame it because it will give others coming into my unit a few good memories like my blogger friends and followers.

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  7. It's so hard to understand how this stuff isn't valuable. It's not big like antique furniture. With these, one's nostalgia can be discreet. They would frame up nicely. I do hope a dealer buys each lot. Good luck.

    Love the one you're going to frame. Love that song!

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    1. I feel the same way. Sheet music that is 100 years old that survived two tornadoes---one that leveled the farmhouse---should be worth more. But a lot of the really good covers have been reproduced which doesn't help the value of anything.

      Long time no see, Flo! Are you back to blogging again?

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    2. Renovation is wrapping up [Please, Building Inspector, let me live on my first floor again!] so maybe I will resume the blog when I can sanely string 10 sentences together. Nothing has come easy. I'll tell you, I've grown a spine during the 19 months of this renovation roller coaster. Couple weeks to go

      I don't know how you managed when you had a house built, and how you find time to write now. I admire you!

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    3. I've been writing daily for so many decades I could NOT write. Glad you renovation if wrapping up. What a project!

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  8. I remember singing that as a kid also. It was a good little song. I'll have to look up all the words and teach the Grand Girls. They'll love it. I love that cover also. It is a keeper. I had to create a new blog and hope you'll jump over (Baby Blogging Boomer closed and is now Welcome to Simple.blogspot.com)

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    1. I just added your blog to my sidebar so I wouldn't lose track of where you went.

      That song sure gas endured in our memories. It's been in so many movies through the years, it's no wonder---in 1939, '48, '54 '61, '69, '92 and '95.

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  9. I continue to be amazed at all the collectibles you have and wonder how on earth you stored it all! I have maybe 4-5 big boxes of stuff from both my family and my husbands, none of it valuable as far a I know. I was intrigued by your statement that sometimes the older thing thing, the less interest there is. I've looked up an old radio I've held on to for years thinking it must be appreciating in value, but in fact it has gone down. Now I know why.

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    1. We never stored collectibles, we displayed them...showcases, albums, bug boxes, etc. Some people like to buy new stuff from HomeGoods and other decor stores, we shopped antique markets.

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    2. You could have charged admission to your home! How interesting for your guests to be able to see and enjoy your collections!

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    3. Back when my husband could talk a friend of ours gave him a telescoping pointer that people presenting power point charts etc. use because Don always has something new show and tell about. It was a joke gift that Don loved and used.

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  10. Lovely memories of your husband's piano and what ice finds! I suspect artists might be into it to use as collage pieces. I know I have a bunch for that (which I will never use since I'm not doing that anymore!) I still want to hire you for ebay...

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    1. People always want to hire me for e-Bay, but I've watched others try to start businesses of e-Baying for others and they never last more than a year. There's a lot of time involved in researching, writing up listings, photographing stuff, shipping, etc. and people don't want to pay the 30%-40% of the sale that is/was the going rate.

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  11. Fascinating. I remember my mother (born in 1921) singing Yes, We Have No Bananas to us! I had to go and find a version on Youtube and all the memories came flooding back.

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    1. I sure picked the right piece of sheet music to save, didn't I. So many of us remember that song from our childhoods.

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  12. I loved this song: "I don’t Know Where I’m Going but I’m on my Way." I need to adopt that as my theme song!

    When I played clarinet in school, choosing sheet music for various recitals and contests was great fun. The one I remember was chosen for my first solo: sheet music for Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender." I think I was in fifth grade. It's a testament to my parents and teacher that they went with it.

    I know a fellow in New Jersey who was a newspaper man for years, and who covered Broadway, off-Broadway, and so on. He's interviewed plenty of the famous people from that world. He has quite an interest in opera and historic music. I'll email him if you'd like, and ask if he'd be interested. He collects old vinyl, so he might.

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    1. That would make a great theme song!

      I can't imagine "Love me Tender" on a clarinet. I played a clarinet for about a minute and half in one of those music classes where they try to figure out what instrument you might be good it.

      Thanks for the offer of the phone call but it won't be necessary.

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