Only in York County

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More York County music-lesson memories

Back a couple of years ago, I started asking about memories of music teachers and music lessons in York County.

Since then, I’ve shared memories here and there, including some of Keyboard Studios in this March 2013 Ask Joan follow-up.

I have some more to share today, including a special memory from a local music legend.

Blake Stough of Preserving York writes, “When I was growing up, all of my siblings took piano lessons from Miss Nace. We lived in Spring Grove, so she may have been local to that area. I was the baby of the family, and my lessons only lasted 1 month or so.

The piano wasn’t my thing, and I soon started taking drum lessons from Dave Hershey in West York by visiting this link. My older brother and 2 sisters also took piano lessons from Miss Nace. Each stopped taking lessons over time, but my brother ended up playing percussion for the York Symphony, Harrisburg Symphony, and the Spring Garden Band.”

Back in September 2011, Jim Goodling (who passed away in 2012) told me that he took piano lessons in the late ’40s and ’50s “from a Miss Miller who came to our house for the lessons. In about 1953 I started lessons above Julius Music House, which then was on West Market St… I took lessons from a Dick Gruver, who also played in a local band.” Jim was an invaluable source of memories on York County and I very much miss hearing from him, so it’s been great to have this chance to continue to share his recollections.

In this 2002 file photo from the York Daily Record/Sunday News, Sam Keeney, one of the original members of the Versetones, laughs with his fellow group members about a funny memory during a meeting to plan their farewell concert in the basement studio of Sam Keeney Organ and Piano Center, Inc. in York Township. Keeney later retired from that business and passed away in November 2012.

Another special memory I have to share is from the late Sam Keeney, who passed away in November 2012. Sam had written about our map of downtown stores, and when I asked if he was “the” Sam Keeney of local music fame, he said, “I am the organ, piano and accordion player, but I’m not sure to what degree of fame. Believe it or not, I started by trying to play the guitar in the 1940s and started accordion lessons two years later. The accordion went very well and from that instrument I went to the organ and piano; most of the playing I do anymore is at the organ – in fact when you sent me this email I was playing for the folks at Country Meadows in Shiloh. Thanks for inquiring.”

Later, Sam wrote again and added, “How well I do remember the accordion bands of the 1940s and 1950s, since I was part of the LaRose Band during those years. I began accordion lessons in the late 1940s at LaRose Accordion Studio, at 51 S. Queen Street in York. Patsy Weaver was my first instructor and then most of my years of instruction were from Leo LaRose. Everything I learned on the accordion (technic, touch, chord structure, etc.) I eventually used fully to transition to the organ. How well I recall the accordion band concerts at the various parks around town and the Halloween parades each year always were fun to prepare with decorating a flat-bed truck and hoping for good weather on parade night. Following graduation from high school I had worked for Leo LaRose for seven years before going into my own business from which I retired.”

I know the community has missed Sam greatly since his passing; it was great to be able to add some of his memories to our continued discussion on this topic that was his passion.

In another music-related topic, Michael Meckley wrote after I shared some Weaver Piano ephemera. He said, “You had 2 postcards from the Weaver Piano Co. which brought back some memories to me. My father worked his entire career at the Weaver Piano Co. He graduated from York High in 1917 in the Industrial course. When in the Industrial course you went to classes for 2 weeks and then worked in a factory for 2 weeks to learn a trade. My father worked at the Weaver Piano Co. and learned to be a cabinet maker. Upon graduation they offered him a job and he worked there until they closed in 1959. He worked his way up and was the General Superintendent when it closed. They built high quality pianos and organs but could not compete with Steinway, Chickering and other large piano companies. He got another job but died in late 1959 at the age of 59. The Weaver Piano Co. had a show room in the first block of east Market St. on the north side. The factory building still stands on north Broad St. off Philadelphia St. At the Agriculture and Industrial Museum there is a display of Weaver pianos.” I have seen that display, Michael, and it is wonderful; I hope others will visit or have already checked it out!

Finally, John Loeper mentions yet another related memory tangent. He says, “If I may suggest another possible topic for your blog… The York High band. They were huge in the ’60s and ’70s (and still may be for that matter) and I am sure there are hundreds of Yorkers who were either in the band at one time or at least remember enjoying there performances at football games and parades over the years. They were always the biggest hit of the annual York Halloween parade. As I recall, folks would not leave the parade route until the York High Band marched by. They marched on and off the football field to an original tune titled ‘We’re from York.'”

Indeed, John, I’d love to hear those memories as well!

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