TLC logo TLC #48:  Nov. 21, 2002

Dear Hearts and Gentle People:
It's really fall. Today it's chilly and windy, leaves are swirling, and occasionally there has been frost on the pumpkin. We had a beautiful display of color this year, but it's now swirling on the ground. Also we've had lovely Indian Summer days.
The old hometown marches on. There is beautiful new copper on the Catholic Church steeple, more renovating and general sprucing up going on downtown and in the residential districts. The movie theater may be open during the Christmas holidays, along with new eating establishments.
We have an exciting project underway in conjunction with Community Concerts, Inc. Beginning in the fall of 2003 (not as far away as it sounds!) we will have a series of concerts in Lexington. More information will be forthcoming as the schedule firms up, but right now it looks as if we will have four professional, internationally known, acts perform in the Wentworth Chapel between November 2003 and April 2004. Watch for more on  Lexington Live! Performing Arts Series.
I believe I wrote in a previous issue about the collapse of the MFA grain bin. Now I have photos, courtesy of Mary Kay Wilcoxon Gooseman, which I will send separately.
Next item of business: You know the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Kansas City Star, all the big newspapers, carry a "corrections" column. Well, so does TLC. Correction: your editor misspelled Conrad Pitz's name. Sorry, Conrad. Sometimes computer gremlins strike, and sometimes brain gremlins strike. It was the latter.
On a personal note, your scribe has been busy cleaning out the attic in the old homestead. This is only of general interest because of the treasures unearthed. I found my LHS annuals, all six of them, which I had not seen since 1957, AND my Tonette music book. But so far I have not found the Tonette. The most recent treasure to appear is a photo, taken in the auditorium, circa 1948. I believe it is the piano students of Miss Bess Graves and Mrs. Virginia Waddell, pre-recital. Maybe not - most of us are smiling.
And now here's a slick segue. Barbara Lee '57 Fay writes:
Miss Bess.
I, too, took piano lessons from Miss Bess Graves from the time I was in 5th grade until 8th or 9th grade.  Her studio was in her apartment above Reed's clothing store.  My lessons were on Saturday mornings.  After the lessons, I used to treat myself to a stroll through Reed's, looking at all the fine clothing and shoes before going across the street to the water company to get a ride home at noon with my Dad.  Everyone in Reed's was very nice to me on these occasions, smiling and nodding even though they knew I wasn't going to buy anything.  One day it dawned on me (duh!) that they had heard every note I had (mis)played during my lesson upstairs!

The one thing that has not been mentioned directly about Miss Bess is that she was physically deformed and deaf.  Today we are politically correct and would call her physically challenged and hearing impaired.  To take piano lessons from someone who could barely hear is somewhat of an oxymoron, but that is why she sat on the piano bench right next to her pupils so she could hear the vibrations.  And she could hear them, all right, because I'd get the same swipe on the hands as others when mistakes were made.  I was never
"abused," but was more worried about getting the wet finger nail polish on me than anything else!  And, yes, she did have to constantly wipe away the drool from her misshapen mouth, often smearing away the heavy coats of lipstick and rouge.  And I always knew who was on the phone when I'd pick up the receiver and hear nothing but breathing (remember, I was young!) - it was Miss Bess, so I would start shouting until she could hear my "hello."

She did try to make piano playing fun for her students.  The fun part for me was playing duets with Susan Shea and Dana Lee Gray.  Susan and I usually laughed and giggled a lot while trying to count the time aloud while her mother would occasionally walk through the room and politely say that it "sounded nice."  I believe I played the bass part with Susan, and the treble part with Dana.  I do recall that Dana pounded out the bass part drowning out the melody.

Looking back today, I compare Miss Bess to characters like Phantom of the Opera or the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Within that misshapen body lived a highly spirited and passionate woman who cared deeply about her students. She pushed me to excel with more and more difficult pieces, but Chopin finally did me in!  She took me to regional contests, but I was too shy and intimidated to perform.  She even honored me by giving me her original work, "Humdinger's Slow Drag," a frenzied tromp all over the keyboard with contrapuntal chords and 3 key changes that I still have today (and still can't play!).  It was published by Elizabeth Graves Music Co., Lexington, MO, and dedicated to Kenneth Keith of KC (?)  Her composition truly reflected, I think, the intense passion she had for life and an appreciation for how much enjoyment music could bring to a person, regardless of his/her condition. What a gift for 50 cents an hour.

Carroll Lewis:
I recently chatted with "Mr. Lewis" when he played the piano for residents at Bishop Spencer Place in KC where my parents live.  He pieced together some familiar show tunes taken from classics, some patriotic songs, etc., interspersed with comments and interaction with the audience.  He mostly plays now for private parties and events (played at the opening of the new Jones Store at Oak Park Mall), and said he wasn't used to playing when people were quiet and actually listened!

He related to my parents and me that the reason he came to Lexington as a new music director was to learn to conduct an orchestra.  After the first class at LHS when "the orchestra" he had been promised turned out to be 4 violins and 6 saxophones, he marched into Leslie Bell's office, fuming.  "Leslie said, 'What's wrong, Lewis?' "  As a result, Mr. Bell was convinced that money be allocated to start elementary students with string lessons, and by the time Mr. Lewis left Lexington 5 years later, there were 250 orchestra students.  He said he was overwhelmed, however, at the size of the girls' glee club; I responded that it was because of his youth, crew cut and red convertible!
From Donna Lutz '58 Dye:
Sweet Sr. Philomena!  We called her Sr. Full-of-mean-ness when she was out of ear shot.  She was strict but she was also soft spoken & humble.  She had a way about her that made you want to do your best, and I think we all really knew that she was a very important influence in our lives---even if the realization didn't come until after graduation.
Our dear friend, Judy Ussery '58 Johnston, kept in close touch with the Franciscan nuns up to the time of her death.  She told me several years ago about a day she spent with them at their convent.  Judy drove her little sport car (I'm sure she said it was a convertible) and offered to take some of the nuns for a ride.  She said it didn't take much to coax Sr. Philomena into the car.  She was almost 80 yrs. old at the time.  Judy said Sr's veil was flowing in the breeze, she had a big grin on her face and every once in a while Judy would hear Sister's trademark "tsk."  I can see the two of them now.  What fun they had that day!
I also remember Judy hurt her arm at school one day.  We must have been in 6th or 7th grade.  The nuns didn't have a car so they let me walk Judy uptown to Dr. Brasher's office.  I don't remember why, but when we got there they told us to walk on over to the hospital.  It must have been for x-rays but I'm not sure.  I do remember that even though Judy's arm was injured, we had a great time and laughed all afternoon!  Even talking about it was a good thing it wasn't hurt too bad or she could be dead by the time she saw the doctor.
By the time we got through at the hospital; school was over for the day.  It was just the two of us.  No one asked for insurance cards or for a responsible adult!  Try that today, people!!
And now, as the sun sinks slowly in the west, we say farewell to Lexington memories for another issue.
Your devoted scribe,


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