When I was a lad, I was fascinated with the old upright piano that sat in our living room. It had been a self-player piano but my Dad had disabled it so his 3 kids would actually learn to play it. It was bought by my Grandpa Ledrick as a wedding gift for my Grandma Della in 1900.
The half-century from 1890 to 1940 is considered by many the “Golden Era of the Piano” in America. Before 1890 piano builders had to hand-craft the parts of the cast-metal “harp” that held all the strings. Some enterprising inventor of the industrial revolution devised a way to cast the harp as one solid metal piece. That opened the door for hundreds of furniture manufacturer to build pianos. Ads in the mail-order catalogs touted them at $35 and $50. I surmise that is where my grandpa ordered the piano and had it delivered to the railway station, which was right in front of their 2-story home at Mayflower. By the way, that 2 story mansion with galleries on the upper and lower floors, was one of the more than 200 patterns of pre-fabricated homes sold by Sears and Wards catalogs.
In those days, most parlors were graced by a piano, and one or more family member actually played it, especially in the days before phonographs and radio. The invention of the mechanical self-player mechanism for piano was instrumental in inspiring people to learn to play. Song writers like Stephen Foster, Scott Joplin, Zez Confrey and even George Gershwin and Irving Berlin drew their income from royalties from the sale of sheet music. Most folks (including us) did not yet have electricity, so phonographs were spring-wound and had disposable steel needles, like the one we owned.
In many department stores that sold sheet music, you would find a piano and a live human player who could sight-read any piece of music you placed on their piano music rack. Woolworth’s 5 and 10 cent store on Main Street in Little Rock had such a set-up, when I worked at a Main Street music store in the late 50s.
In those days, most bars had pianos. If someone who could play the piano walked in, (like me,) everybody gathered around them and asked them to play their favorite song. I was in demand as a piano-bar player in Hot Springs, Little Rock, New Orleans and St. Louis, because I could play almost any song anyone asked me to play. I still can, at age 81, if it was popular before about 1980.
That was when songs were popular on the radio for months at a time. Fans were actually interested in hearing how the player would “style” the song, and didn’t expect it to sound exactly like the record. The SONG was the thing, not the recording. If a song was very popular, many name recording artists would record it and draw off its popularity.
Those days, I regret to say, are gone. Song writers’ music styles were well known. You could often know who the composer was, just by listening.
I want to tell you about a special page I have on Facebook.
Maybe you are like me; you’d like to read the Bible, but you’re turned off by all the “thees” and “thous.” Even the new translations are hard for us to read; the ones that attempt to put The Word into easier to understand lingo.
Well, I have loved to study the Bible for many years, because I have found a new way to do it that helps me to understand it a lot better. I read and study each verse carefully and prayerfully, then I rewrite it, exactly the way I would tell it to you if we were having a conversation. I call it “The Word on the Street,” and over a year ago I started a new Facebook page to share and publish some of my paraphrasing. I would like you to go to “Bob Boyd’s Word on the Street” and check it out. Here is an example from the Gospel of John:
Here’s the New King James Version, from John 8:3-11:
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, the said to Him (Jesus,) “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now, Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finder, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
And here is my “Word on the Street” paraphrase:
In walks the scribes and Pharisees, and they’re bring a gal with them. They said, “Teacher, this gal was caught having sex with a guy who wasn’t her husband. In the Law, Moses ordered us to throw rocks at her until she’s dead. But what do you think?” (My note: They thought they had come up with a scam this time, that the Master wouldn’t know how to handle. Actually the Law ordered them to “Put to death” both the woman and the man, but didn’t say “throw rocks at them.”
Well, Jesus bent down and took to writing on the ground with His finger. (My note: Maybe He was writing their sins where they could read them? Or maybe He was grossed out by what a bunch of bad dudes they were. Or maybe He was just biding His time.)
They kept on badgering Him, so when He finally stood up, He said, “Okay. Whichever one of y’all has never screwed up, He gets to fling the first rock at her.”
I hope you’ll go and read the rest of the story from John 8, then go to my “Word on the Street” on Facebook and read my take on it. The people in the Bible aren’t just a bunch of chalk statues. They are real people, just like you and me. In my study and my writing I try to make them come to life. Please go check out my WOTS Facebook page, and give me your comments. I want to know if you think I am right on target. I want you and everyone to have a fascination and love for reading God’s Word. If we suddenly learned God has actually written a book to tell us about Himself, and about ourselves, we would dash right down to the book store and get ourselves a copy. It still outsells all other books every year, because it is the most important and precious book ever written.
I believe that even before I was born, God, our Creator, planned for me to be born. He even had a lifelong path and a plan for me, with work projects for me to do along the way. Now, sometime after I was born in that old farmhouse at Mayflower in 1936, I wandered off His path. As long as I stayed on His path, life went smoothly for me. It was whenever I got off God’s path and plan that my life started getting rough and rocky.
But I didn’t know all that at the time. For the first about 40 years of my life, I was just bumbling along, mostly off God’s path and plan, staggering around in the dark. I thought it was okay because I had forgotten how smooth and easy it was when I was on His track.
How do I know when I’m on track and when I’m off in the woods, wandering around? When I follow my own will, my own nose, and do whatever seems good and fun and right, I end up in the ditch. There is my way, and there is God’s way, the way He originally planned for me. But God is gentle and kind. He will let me stagger and bumble around as long as I like. (I’ve had a couple of instances when He had to use a baseball bat on me, but we won’t go into that.) I’m not a slow learner, but I’m a quick forgetter.
When I passed age 40, it began to dawn on me that there must be a better way for me to live. That was my Creator nudging me back to His way. I’ve spent most of the last 40 years learning to know the difference between my will and God’s will. I’ve learned that God’s plan is so much better, more interesting and delightful than anything I could make up for myself. How do I know what God’s will is, as compared to my will? He gave us all an Owner’s Manual. It’s called the Bible. Some of us use it and some don’t. I didn’t use my Owner’s Manual for many years. I tried to fix things myself instead of consulting my life-instruction owner’s manual. The results were usually what anybody would expect. I needed “tech support” and I had to ask for it. God wrote the Owner’s Manual. He was there at the beginning and He knows the end of my story and everybody’s story.
Think about your job. If you didn’t ever talk with your boss and stay in touch with him or her, how long would you be working there?
God is my Big Boss. He wants, and expects, me to check in with him every day, even several times a day. How else will I know I’m doing His work right?