Besides teaching mechanical drawing, I was assigned a class in plane geometry during the winter of 25-26, Selmer Strand, the woodwork teacher, taking over one of my drawing classes. Selmer was a Swede from Minnesota. There were two other manual arts teachers, Calvin Koehn, who taught printing, and Elmer Ojala, who taught both machine shop and auto mechanics. All of us were in the north end of the high school building. The junior high school building had not yet been built so we all had students from the seventh thru the twelfth grade. Plane geometry was taught in the tenth grade.
Nina Coye, the music teacher, had taken a job teaching glee clubs and choral music in a junior high school in Grand Rapids but I still had the high school cello she had loaned me to practice on and I continued playing with the high school orchestra. The new music teacher was a young man who only remained in the Heights one year and I can't recall his name. I think it was he who organized and trained the first band in the Heights. It rehearsed on the stage of the high school auditorium and the orchestra met in the cafeteria on the third floor. There were not more than five or six students who played the violin but I got the three best ones to join with me to practice string quartets. As no one played the viola, I had to adapt the music so the viola part could be played by the third violin. We practiced after school about once a week either in the cafeteria or on the stage of the auditorium just for the pleasure of performing in a small ensemble. We played before the student body once or twice.
I started practicing the cello in earnest in 1925 and from then on hardly played the violin at all. This was the year I started playing trios-violin, cello and piano - with William Stewart and Horace Hollister, both of whom were trained musicians. Both "Stewie" and I were tenors in the Congregation Church choir which met in the church parlors on Thursday evenings for practice. Because of Horace's attractive personality and fine musicianship, he attracted good singers from other churches and built up probably the best singing group in the city of Muskegon. The four principal singers, a soprano, alto, tenor and bass, were paid but the rest of us were there because we liked the high-class music. Horace and Elsa, his wife, became my closest friends and I felt I could drop in on then any time when I was downtown and felt the need of companionship. Other members of the choir felt much the same, especially the young unmarried ones. Their apartment was on the second floor of an old house on Webster Street just a short walk from downtown. They would often invite me to accompany them when they visited members of the choir in their homes, as they frequently did. I first became well acquainted with the Cook family in that way. Three of the girls, Jayne, Winnefred, and Helen sang in the choir although old Mr. and Mrs. Cook (or Kuck) had come from Holland and were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. They both spoke with strong Dutch accents. Another family the Hollisters liked to visit was the Richards. Sally, about my age, and her brother, Frank, were choir members and there were two or three older children, at least one of them married, living at home. I think Mr. Richards owned a candy factory.
Sally and I in one canoe and Horace and Elsa Hollister in another got caught in a rainstorm once when we had paddled canoes out to the channel at the end of Mona Lake. We had to thumb rides into town, then Horace and I got up early the next day to paddle the canoes back to the icehouse where we had rented them. We started just as the sun was coming up. The lake was very foggy at first and we had trouble knowing which direction we were going, then, as we neared the icehouse the wind came up, and with no one in the front to hold them down, they became almost impossible to steer. That was my only date with Sally and I never dated any of the Cook girls. They were good fun in a crowd but not at all attractive physically, at least to me. My social life that winter was pretty much centered around the Hollister's. They treated the choir as one big family and were always cooking up some sort of party or entertainment beyond what the church services required.
There was a new English teacher on the Heights' faculty that year that I became interested in briefly as she was quite pretty. I don't remember her name now as she only taught a year or two in the Heights. She had brown eyes and hair and came from central Ohio near where my father and grandfather were born. On a canoeing trip - out to the beach again where Mona Lake flows into Lake Michigan - we discovered we were distant cousins.
Last modified on 27 November 2017 @ 19:31