The Flapper and the Music Man

 

poster

McMichael Band from 1930s

The story of a young, entrepreneurial couple in the 1930s who collaborated to teach music to the townspeople and their children.

“Who’s the gorgeous woman with the brown hair and finger wave?” Bill murmured to a new friend at a singles party in the 1930s. “I’m not sure. I’ve seen her here a few times. Great style, don’t you think?”

Early Years 

Florence borrowed a dress to wear to the party as her meager earnings prevented costly, stylish clothes. At age 26 her attire was classy, not spinster-like. Her pearl white, satin dress shimmered like glistening snow, accessorized with a little brown hat and clunky, brown tie shoes. She worries about finding a good man. Maybe her finger wave hairdo and friendly demeanor would attract attention.

The remnants of the Depression lingered in Central Ohio. After Bill attended college in Columbus, preparing to teach music, he settled 30 miles from his alma mater. With limited growth opportunities in Coitsville (his hometown), near Youngstown, he risked moving to Newark to investigate employment. Newark, a city of 30,500 offered better opportunities. He stayed the rest of his life.

Unemployment reached the catastrophic statistic of 25% about the time of his arrival. Finding work proved perplexing as few jobs existed in public schools. This young, inexperienced musician decided to teach private lessons. After a year of floundering, he found space for a music studio, in a big house on Hudson Avenue, along tree-lined curbs beside fancy, old homes. With plenty of space for private lessons, Bill’s friendly reputation for teaching the guitar, banjo, bass and mandolin traveled fast. His popularity around the town increased when showing off his students’ skills at club meetings and in churches.

Florence flounced by Bill with pearl earrings dancing from her earlobes at the party. As she moved towards him for a lingering, flirty handshake, she said to him, “Hi, I’m Florence. Are you enjoying the party?” His heart beat faster and faster! Her cologne lingered in the air, suggesting he should learn more about this lady.  Tall, gaunt and gracious, his attraction to Florence seemed mutual.

Florence needed a job. Bill needed someone to schedule appointments for the students and manage the accounting. He paid her a small salary and gave her mandolin lessons rather than extra money. He taught her, in her words, “Everything I know.” They married in 1934.

Growing the Business

Her musical talent blossomed, adding the piano, accordion, and guitar to her skills. Bill taught her the basics of music, which led to her teaching career. She increased his earnings by suggesting he should sell stringed instruments. Word of mouth traveled fast with moms bringing their children to learn from “the new guy in town.”

Flo & bass

Florence with her Bass

She played string bass with his 90-piece banjo band they took to contests throughout the United States, often winning top prizes. When their stringed orchestra played at the World’s Fair in Chicago, they won many awards and recognition. Imagine transporting 90 students, parents, friends and instruments cross country! He became the biggest customer in the U.S. of Gibson products during that decade. Florence suggested marketing ideas while finding locations for the student performances.

World War II

World War II raged within the first ten years of their marriage. Bill departed for the Army shortly after their daughter was born, leaving in early 1944 for the Army. How would she cope? Her tears flowed as she cringed, realizing how little she understood. How could she manage the store and teach while nurturing her baby?

Flo & baby Ruth

Note our hats.

“Whatever will I do?” she wailed. Bill’s response surprised her, “You’ll survive. I trust you.” She hired a nanny to care for the baby who helped with cooking and cleaning. She hired a sales clerk at their store, punching fear in the face. Roomers in the upstairs bedrooms added a little cash to her income while Bill continued his musical career in the service. Bill directed an Army band and played the bugle at Fort Lee, Virginia, never leaving the U.S. Failure was not an option.

Florence morphed into the predecessor of Super Woman, during his tour of duty. Her strong stamina, quick wit, and gift of gap, appealed to customers. She grasped profit and loss, bankers, and bills. Bill recognized Florence’s survival skills. When he returned after the war, she had stashed money in the bank and owned a thriving business.

The Business Roller Coaster

In the 1950s, the couple added phonographs, pianos, sheet music, records and radios. They added television, bringing more business growth. Florence worked in the store and taught music lessons. His first shop on Church Street grew. When they needed more space, they moved to South Third Street around the corner from the popular town square. They moved to another home with their young daughter. She brought her first grade class to see their new television at her house. In fact, their daughter thought all families owned a piano and implored her guests to buy a TV from her dad.

Debt for the pianos and organs caused major angst for Florence. “The bank owns us, Bill! Our names will appear in the newspaper when they come to take everything. We’ll end up in the poor house!” Bill rarely worried, leaving the troubles to her. Although the rise and fall of economic realities consumed their conversations like hail on their windows in a wind-storm, the risk of consigned pianos, organs and other products proved worthwhile.

Bill and Florence showed resilience throughout their marriage. In 1969 at age 61 Bill died of a sudden heart attack. Florence maintained the store until 1972 when she liquidated it. They both loved work. Florence taught private lessons for more than 50 years.  She worked until age 76 or 77 and died in the early 1990s.

Reality and Risk

Bill and Florence faced their struggles through reliance on each other, realistic goals and risk-taking. Although love did not necessarily solve their issues, they counted their blessings, in sync most of the time, despite their differences. Their love balanced each other’s idiosyncrasies while their self-employment enriched the community.

If you visit the natives of Newark over age 50, they probably took lessons from Florence or Bill. Their daughter remains grateful they refrained from naming her Melody, as in her words, “I didn’t want to be a walking advertisement for the music store.”

Today we see a resurgence of the entrepreneurial spirit in small towns. Entrepreneurs face the same challenges as long ago. Tenacity, respect, business savvy, and creative marketing play the same roles, which helped the Flapper and the Music Man.

Happy Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day with a special salute to my own parents.

 

 

 

10 Common Traits of Uncommon People

Guest column:

Craig Hysell shares his thoughts about uncommon people. He owns a unique training facility for body and minds in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Family Pyramid

Craig Hysell and his Family

 

4 Common Traits of Mediocre People:

  1. They have no idea what they want to do with their life
  2. They have no idea how to do what they want to do with their life
  3. They have an idea but are afraid to try
  4. They have an idea, they “tried” it and “it didn’t work” so they quit

Mediocrity is easy. It’s comfortable. The pursuit of commonality and the avoidance of adversity, criticism and the unknown are the surest possible way to die without expressing your full potential. Or worse, to die feeling like a failure. Is that you?

10 Common Traits of Uncommon People:

  • Uncommon people believe they have a purpose, know their “Why” and live their dream.Think about that. Do you know why you’re here, do you have enough stamina to live your most passionate calling and do you know what conviction(s) you will fall back on when things get hard? To establish these answers, you must accumulate life experiences and then sit down in the quiet and think. There is no timetable on this accumulation and introspection. It could take years or decades. It is constant.
  • Uncommon people are not absent of fear, they just do not let fear make their life become absent.Fear exists for all of us. But fear is crap. It is not real. It exists only in our minds. When you face your fears daily, you conquer fear. You realize that fear is indeed nonsense. It is the main control mechanism for commonality. You must not let fear, any and all fear, hold you back from pursuing your purpose.
  • Uncommon people practice self-mastery. Uncommon people work relentlessly at mastering their mind, body, emotion and spirit (the four pillars that make up your life). They harness these things through daily study and practice. They understand that without a strong mind, all else will fail. They are patient. They enjoy The Process. They are positive. They structure the development and awareness of these four pillars- their emotional content- into a daily practice. They reflect upon these four pillars daily.
  • Uncommon people are self-reliant. This does not mean that uncommon people do not ask for help: on the contrary, being part of a team is vital to growing and sharing larger success. To be self-reliant is to trust that your critical eye, your logic, your reason and your wisdom are tools enough to help you continue to grow. This is not absolutism. Absolutism is folly. This is the ability to understand what is worthless to you and what is not, no matter what the crowd may think, and pursue this relentlessly.
  • Uncommon people have an unwavering discipline. You cannot learn anything worthwhile if you are not devoted to it fully. Uncommon people are disciplined with work, with rest and with play. They make time for all of it and they are fully present at each exploration. This is a lifetime pursuit.
  • Uncommon people are obsessed with the cultivation of their purpose. Uncommon people do not complain about trivial things. They are focused on where they want to go, paying attention to each deliberate step along the way. Silly things like the accumulation of stuff and then complaining when the stuff isn’t just right or gossiping about others is not part of an uncommon person’s life.
  • Uncommon people are extremely durable. Uncommon people remain undeterred by setbacks, failure or defeat. They recognize these things as learning tools and nothing more. They do not falter or waver for long. They do not wallow in self-loathing. They possess supreme confidence in their ability to continue forward. No matter what. They are fully accountable for everything that happens in their life. With accountability comes control and with control comes the ability to change.
  • Uncommon people inspire change.Uncommon people inspire others to follow suit. They show what is possible and make it possible not only for others to come with them, but for others to improve upon what they have provided.
  • Uncommon people act. Uncommon people understand that you are what you are. Best to link your actions with your dreams and your purpose. Best to ask of yourself often, “Is this the best I can do?” Otherwise: a thought without action is simply a wish.
  • Uncommon people do not care what others think. Find your voice. As soon as you begin to talk, others want to talk over you, critique you, tell you how you should do things, twist your voice or use your message against you. Uncommon people persevere through this. They learn to ignore what others might think and realize that you cannot be all things to all people. Uncommon people speak their mind and follow their heart. Their honesty is clear, concise and principled, attracting others who are like-minded. And things begin to expand, slowly at first and then… BOOM!

You must have fun with the practice of becoming uncommon. It’s serious business to be sure, but BE something you love and enjoy,

You must practice “un-commonality” daily. You must be patient. You must shut out negativity and seek the mentorship and guidance of others who have been there before you. You must look long and hard at yourself and those around you. Is this who you want to be? You must be accountable for everything, and I mean everything, in your life. It’s all up to you. Any thought to the contrary is commonality in devious forms.

Hilton Head

Craig Hysell – owner of Conviction Training Facility

Listen. Observe. Act. Adapt. Evolve. Repeat.

“Un-commonality” should be a lifetime pursuit. There is no timetable save this: realize that you are going to die one day and you have no idea when that day will come. There is no time to waste. Meet your death with the satisfaction that you gave this life all you had to give. That will be enough to die well, perhaps even unafraid.

Thank you, Craig Hysell, for allowing me reprint a condensed and slightly revised article about uncommon people. Craig’s Conviction Training Facility in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Be sure to visit his website and his uncommon blog.

 

 

Finding a Fit after Fifty

Sometimes finding your “fit” takes time.

Linda-the-Pastor

Linda Whitworth-Reed in the Pulpit

When Linda planned to abandon her career of short-term jobs to go to seminary, she was 52 years old. She had supported her husband through seminary a decade previously. They relocated many times for his two different careers. “Now it’s my turn,” she said. “David has not received his next calling. We may need to live apart awhile. I am well aware of the challenges.”

Linda’s dad was a Presbyterian minister. He lived with them after her mother died. When David quit an excellent technical sales job to become a minister, she and her dad applauded loudly. They understood the pitfalls and pleasures of life as a minister.

“Linda,” I wailed. “You’re over 50. Are you sure you want to graduate when you are 56 years old?”

“Well,” she responded, “I’ll still be 56 or 57 anyhow.  The timing is right and I’m sure the call is real.”  The love of learning flows through Linda’s veins. Returning to graduate school would invigorate this energetic lady.

Linda’s work history is one we call “patchwork.” She’s been a French and Spanish teacher, a publisher, an Information Technology Instructor, an exercise expert and held many other jobs. Would this be another two or three-year stint? Teaching and speaking demonstrates a recurring theme in her career.

I questioned how she knew this rung in her career ladder would be a better fit.  Linda is super-intelligent, introspective and gregarious. Before her dad passed, Linda and David took her father to visit people from his past. Within a two-week period three of his friends, who had watched her grow up, inquired about “her church.” They assumed she had followed the same career as her dad and husband. That was the sign she needed. With David in transition the present looked promising for her to begin her studies. The rocky road to seminary took five years to solidify. She registered at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin. Fortunately, David became an interim pastor in Waco, 98 miles from the seminary.

With age discrimination rampant, I worried about my friend. I didn’t need to fret. Her quick smile, unconventional wisdom, and perky personality endeared her to the other students.  Linda expected to fly through all her classes, but Hebrew and Greek gave her heartburn. Although fluent in Spanish and French, she struggled.  Discussions on theology, evolution, and creationism stirred her intellect.  Text books rarely put her to sleep. Volunteer work with the homeless while in Austin opened her eyes wider to poverty. Additional study in family dynamics increased her strength in what she would face in her ministry. Driving back and forth with their two dogs to visit her husband caused horrendous challenges with time management and their schedules.

 

Linda sings

Linda Singing a Happy Song

When she graduated, David and Linda moved to a town in South Texas, a town of over 80% Hispanic. Since Linda is fluent in Spanish, she loved the ability to converse in Spanish daily. David and Linda were called co-pastors. The situation for any new pastor is challenging and this was no exception. She loved the town, the people, and the green parrot in a nearby tree. Relationship building began in earnest.

David went to serve another church as an interim pastor. She became the Senior Minister, giving her a chance for new responsibilities. Her next call took the couple to Little Rock.

My comment:

If you are thinking of becoming a minister, she cautions, you must love and learn how to cope with diverse personalities from a Christian perspective and much faith. Linda has found her niche. The job is difficult, the hardest one she’s ever had, but she loves it.  She found her niche at 57. Risky, but worth the effort and hard work.

Currently Linda has been a minster for nine years. David is “honorably retired” and finds part-time ministry and musical gigs wherever they live. He does wood-working while she writes the sermons. Now they live in Iola, Kansas.

As we worked together on this article, she stressed, “In working with myself and others in order to give myself grace, I must realize we do the best we can with what we have.”

Are you doing the best you can with what you have? From exercise guru to minister, we find peace with what we have, no matter the age or circumstances.

 

 

Loving Others

Valentine

Smile. It’s contagious. Photo by R. Glover

 

February is the traditional month we think about love. Our new President scares the “snot” right out of some. We need to love and pray for our government and leaders. I don’t want to get preachy, but, doggonit, smiling is better than frowning. Wringing our hands is not fruitful. Nasty, rude comments solve nothing.

Christian religion says, “Give it to God.” Sometimes that seems the only or best answer. We cannot help the angry police officer who is wiping spit off his face from an accused predator.  We cannot help the jerk who cuts in front of us on a busy highway. We cannot help the pilot when the plane is late. But…we can try more thoughtfulness before responding in a heated conversation. Helping others soothes the soul but fear brings a raft of emotions.

Subways

statue of liberty

Statue of Liberty from the Harbor by R. Glover

Before I visited New York City last year I feared conquering the subways. Would someone accost me? Rip my backpack off? Would I become confused traveling to the theater? A friend assured me the New York City subways are safe, but I should not stay out late. I looked at the subway map and nausea enveloped me.

The doorman at the hotel, where we stayed near Washington Park, helped me understand the reality of “uptown” and “downtown,” along with suggestions for taking the A-line or B-line for best results. His kindness and raucous laughter assuaged my fear. Only later did a recall managing the subways in France when I was 21 years-old.

Success

Never got lost! Had a great time. Glad I overcame my fear.

Fear

The French suffer a reputation for caustic communication. I know France is struggling with fear of foreigners. Many French Jews are moving (again) because of fear. Israel’s geography may change as the borders become unsafe for their citizens. The world is in chaos. Certainly, not the first or last time.

Eiffel Tower

Under the Eiffel Tower-Photo by R. McMichael

Love One Another

What can we do? We must love one another. We must try to understand and cope when our values are diverse. Each day let’s concentrate on kindness to others. At the end of each day where did we deposit kindness? At the very least, show respect.

It’s February. Hug a friend. Send a note to a neglected relative. Love others. Respect diversity and value difference. It can only make the world a better place to live.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Peace Be with Us.

10 Reasons to Read Gift of the Suitcase

 When I graduated from college I received a large, gray suitcase and a round trip ticket to work in France the summer before I started teaching. Within a few days I lose my suitcase, followed closely with the loss of my summer job. The trip changed my life forever. Travel to France taught me more than how to speak French.

You meet a co-worker, Christine. I introduce you to the baggage handler in Calais and the railroad clerk in Nice. You hear from the doctor who attended medical school in Switzerland in 1947 to help us understand how quickly we forget atrocities. My family makes a brief appearance. The return trip to Central France takes you through scenic beauty and inspirational situations.

Unexpected events, such as divorce, illness, and deaths change our lives. Flexibility, faith, and friends help us through hard times. As we travel through life we find new, meaningful ways to cope.

The book allows you to:

  1. Forget your chores for a few hours
  2. Travel to faraway places
  3. Recognize yourself in similar predicaments
  4. Laugh at mistakes
  5. Cheer when good news arrives
  6. Discover the joy in acceptance
  7. Spend less than a plane ticket
  8. Ponder your progress
  9. Consider letting go of your baggage
  10. Update your plans for your next trip

Let me know how the book impacts you. You can buy the paperback directly from me or from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IBooks. Click “Buy Now” for immediate attention.

You can purchase it through my website or Amazon and several other sources. The e-book is available for your Nook or Kindle and other distribution sources.

After you finish Gift of the Suitcase you may want to write a quick review on Amazon. You do not have to purchase the book from Amazon to write a review. May you enjoy the journey.

Children Crossing the Border

Crossing the border

Who will help the children crossing the border?

I’m fearful watching television sometimes. I suppose everyone is fearful watching TV sometimes. Today I’m fearful for the children crossing our borders. I’m fearful for what I see happening when busloads of children arrive in a small town in California, only to be heckled and turned away.

What parents would pay a smuggler to bring children across the border? Desperate parents, I’m sure. Tired parents, ones who see no future for themselves or their children. Parents who want a better life than they live, where poverty, drugs, and lack of work dominate. That’s who!

Two Sides

I understand the consternation of the people demonstrating, yet it makes me so scared to think that the melting pot, which is the United States, has no place for these children to stay. What is happening to morality? Where is the humanity?

Hatred is evil. Hatred turns to persecutions and unreasonable, yes, evil results. We must address the issue of the border children in a reasonable manner, or the situation can only escalate. If you are familiar with the stories from the Holocaust, perhaps you know someone who lost  a grandparent or aunt or uncle in the midst of the Nazi hatred which spread so quickly.  Perhaps you’ve read stories about how Jewish parents during the Holocaust left their children behind when they boarded trains to their deaths.  We need to step forward to help the children coming across our borders.

This week I heard a friend tell me that some of the teenagers are being sent to start street gangs and drug wars. Perhaps that is true. The numbers arriving are astounding. But those teenagers need homes and love with the hope of saving them from the streets. The homes where they will go need attenion quickly.

Help for the Children

We are a rich nation. We’ve had hard times. But most people do not know what it’s like to leave their homes with nothing but a backpack and a little lunch to travel miles and miles to a place where they are cooped up like the families in internment camps. They sleep on mats, not knowing what to do or how much suffering is yet to come.  How scary is that?

Crossing the Border

We need courage to help the children crossing the border.

We need to come together, especially in the southern states to reach out to help people.  Where is the morality?  Do you recall how many Jews and their supporters died in the early 1940’s?

Yes, I’m scared today. Would I take a child or children into my home? I’d be darned scared and try to minimize the risk, but sending children to internment camps without proper sanitation and adequate food is just around the corner if we don’t realize that humans are sacred beings. If you are a believer, you know that a living person is precious. These precious children need helping hands, not voices of hatred surrounding their situation. We need courage to do the right thing!