Can you imagine a player piano being the center of entertainment in your home?
It takes a pre-TV world view. More to the point, it takes a world view that predates the idea that a television is THE hub of entertainment in a home. I'm 48, so, of course, I've never known a time before TV — but I do remember a time when the TV wasn't THE end-all, be-all.
At one time, the kitchen radio captured our attention — and three morning memories, circa 1972, stand out:
1. Listening for school closings on snowy days.
2. Listening to Paul Harvey.
3. Hearing the “theme song” for Evangel Temple Assembly of God in Fort Smith every morning during its short radio devotional, which I learned years later was “Ode to Joy,” the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
A few years later, the Radarange, Amana's brand-name microwave oven, often became our entertainment center — for the sheer novelty of it.
But let's be honest: Not even a Radarange could steal attention from the real entertainment in the kitchen: Mama working at the stove, especially when it was candy-making time, which meant fudge, with black walnuts from the back pasture, or caramel corn — laid out and cooling everywhere.
Sometimes the center of entertainment was my big brother's stereo system: 8-tracks of The Beatles, Three Dog Night, The Doors, Steppenwolf and the like.
Sometimes it was something funky like a lava lamp, or wave machine or one of those lights that moved psychedelic images around to the beat of whatever music was on.
In other words, the TV was not always “it” like it later became in the 1980s, and into the 1990s — although personal computers and now handheld devices are challenging TV's long reign.
Which gave me ears to hear Steve Evans the other day when he was talking about how cool it was back in the day to have a player piano. His father's store in Warr Acres, Albert Evans Piano Co., is being sold and the remaining inventory liquidated today starting at 10 a.m. at Louis Dakil Auctioneers, 200 NW 114.
Steve, his brother, Phillip, and their sister, Elaine Evans Walters, took me down their Memory Lane. Here are some snippets from Steve that couldn't fit in the feature story I had in Friday's paper:
• “The player piano was kind of like the big-screen TV of its day. Everybody wanted one and wished they had one,” he said. “The whole family would gather around the player piano and they would sing songs and really have a fun time. It was good to put the kids on the player piano and let them pedal away and get rid of a lot of (that) high energy.”
• “They punched paper, like the early computers worked off of punch cards. An interesting thing that a lot of people don't know is they work off of vacuum. When you pedal the pedals it's actually sucking air through the whole system,” he said.
• “Nowadays, people just love to hear a player piano, especially if it's a little out of tune — they sound a little bit better if they're a little bit out of tune. They had an attachment called a rinky-tink attachment that gave them a little bit of a metallic sound,” he said. The effect later became known as a honky-tonk sound. “If it was a party, you just put on a paper roll and started pumping the pedals, or if it was electric you could plug it in — and you had an instant party.”
To the Evans family and their father's legacy.