top of page

Player Piano Enigma

Samantha Beaudecker, Iowa, USA
June 1998

First if I may I would like to fill you in on some background Information. We live on an old farm away back in the bushes in Pomeroy Iowa, and are subject to frequent power outages. Because of this we must make due without TV and radio sometimes. Many a night we listen to old records on the wind-up Victrola (a record player from the '20' wind it up to make it play, and the records have only one song on each side)or pumped our way through songs on the player piano (a piano that will play itself when a special paper roll is inserted.)

One particularly nasty night in early May we had a house full of relatives, and Charley was in his den looking over some railroad timetables for some project or other he was involved in; and, true to form, the lights flickered, dimmed, and died. In that order. We were prepared with the oil lamps and, like time and time before, filed into the dining room for a dose of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart", "Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet (with the blue ribbons on it)" and all the big numbers like those. We had hoped the player piano might entertain my nephew Carl enough to make him forget there was a storm on, as he has a strong aversion to storms of any kind. All went well until a particularly close lightning strike, which startled Carl who was rocking back in his chair, and he tipped all the way back and bumped his head on the radiator knob. I stopped pedaling the piano and went to the kitchen to get a bag of ice, and on the way in, I was nearly run down by our Basset Hound, LawnBo. He Ran like the dickens into the living room where the piano playing had picked back up again. I didn't recall having heard this song before, and it kind of caught me off guard, as I thought we had played every roll at least once. It was a slow, dreamy waltz, and it sounded better than I thought that old piano could play. Apparently Charley's auntie Louise knew it, because I heard her singing to it. When I came Back into the room Carl was already asleep in his momma's lap, and Louise stopped me passing by to tell me the motor for the piano had shut off on its own, and that she wanted a copy of that roll. I asked her who had gotten that song out to play and she said "you did. It's the one you were just starting to play when Carl tipped." I Must have looked a sight! I ran over and Backed the roll up enough to see the label. "Twilight Time" it read. But the song that played was not "Twilight Time"...I know that as a fact as that is one of my favorite rolls and I play it frequently. Just to be safe I played a ways into it, and like the label said, it was "Twilight Time". No more, no less. Also I asked her who was pumping the pedals. "Nobody, the motor was on", was the answer I got. But the piano has no motor, and even if it had one, without electricity it would be worthless. Needless to say we all were shaken up by it, except for little Carl, who was still asleep on his Momma's lap. The storm was pretty much spent, so all of us crept off to bed. As I tucked Carl in he asked who the "auntie" was that played the piano when I left. I couldn't answer. I simply didn't know. As an afterthought I asked Louise the name of the song that was playing and she said it was "Whispering Hope," an old gospel song.

Later I went through some old records until I found the song, and Louise was right. It was "Whispering Hope."

Carl seemed to shed his fear of the weather that night, and the next summer I heard him singing "Whispering Hope" in the back porch. When I asked him where he heard the song he told me he had "picked it up someplace" and let it drop at that.

Make of this what you will. I have.

Samantha Beaudecker, Iowa, USA
00:00 / 01:04
bottom of page