Sunday, April 12, 2015

Musical Round of a Different Kind

Guest Post 
by Amy Wallace
Musical Round of
a Different Kind

Family history can uncover fascinating facts and interesting connections. A single piece of furniture, a musical instrument, brought our families together beginning in 1950 and again in the early 1990s.

The First Owners—Claude and Myrtle Wallace

In 1950, Claude and Myrtle Wallace were living in Kingman when they purchased a brand new Wurlitzer piano. Myrtle had a Stephen Foster song book and played a lot of his music. Her favorite song to play, however, was the "Blue Danube Waltz.”

Claude & Myrtle Wallace, the original piano owners

Their only child, Dean, took piano lessons for about a year or less. He stopped lessons when his teacher began playing the piano for the Meade Theater before movies. Around 1960, Claude and Myrtle moved to another home in Kingman, and the piano didn’t make the move. It was sold or given to their neighbor, Mabel Chase.

Dean standing in front of Mabel Chase's home. They were neighbors.

The Second Owner—Mabel Chase

Claude and Myrtle’s neighbor was a widow by the name of Mabel Chase. Mabel is my great-grandmother. She had one child, a daughter named Mary Elizabeth who went by Beth. After Mabel acquired the piano from her neighbors, the Wallaces, she passed it on to her daughter.

Mabel Chase, my great-grandmother.

The Third Owners—Beth and Don Jones

Beth married Ray D. Jones (Don) in 1948. They briefly lived in Kansas City, Kansas, before moving into her mother Mabel’s home on March 31, 1950. Beth and Don are my grandparents.

Their daughter Peggy was gifted at playing the instrument. During her growing up years, her parents never had to ask how her day at school had been. They could tell her mood by the piece she selected and how she played it.

Far right: Don and Beth Jones pictured shortly after they were married.
They would become the third owners of the piano. 
 Photo in front of Mabel Chase’s house with Wallace home in the background.

The Fourth Owners—Peggy and Jim Graber

When Beth and Don's daughter Peggy married Jim Graber in 1973, the piano was given to her as a wedding gift. Peggy and Jim are my parents. It was moved to their farmhouse near Belmont where Mom played it nearly every day. She played for her church, Kingman Mennonite, accompanying the congregation, playing special music, and directing the children’s choir. As the years passed, Peggy and Jim had two children: Amy (that’s me) and Jake, who both took lessons.

This is me, Amy, trying my hand at piano at the age of one.

Here I sit with my mom Peggy who was the fourth owner of the piano.

In 1991, I began dating Sean Wallace. One day we took his grandmother, Myrtle, to my parent’s home. As soon as the 93-year-old woman walked in the door, she spotted something across the room. “That’s my piano,” she said.

Sean and I exchanged a confused glance. How could a woman this age whose eyesight is less than perfect have any idea what piano this was? But she was determined. She walked directly to it, looked it over, and touched the wood and the keys.

“This was my piano,” she said again. And she began to talk about the piano, the sale of it, and the story began to unfold. It had been almost 38 years since she sold that piano to her neighbor Mabel.

The Fifth Owners—Amy and Sean Wallace

In 1996 Sean and I were married. For several years the piano remained at my parents’ home in Kingman where Mom continued to play it, and the grandkids enjoyed having recitals on it. In the mid-2000s our oldest daughter Macy began to take lessons, and my parents gave the piano to us. We moved it into our home in Cheney.

My children with the piano in
its current home in Cheney, Kansas.
When Claude and Myrtle sold the piano back in 1960, I imagine they assumed they would never see it or hear about it again. But it ended up in the living room of their grandson and then played by their great-grandchildren.

Back in 1950 their families were connected by nothing more than geography. But today their families are united by love, marriage, and family.

What an amazing legacy they left for us.

Do you have any special family heirlooms? What is the most interesting story you have learned about your family history?

About Amy Wallace

Music has always been a part of Amy
Wallace's life. As the 1995 Miss Kansas runner-up, she
sang a solo for the talent portion of the pageant.  This
professional woman, wife, and mother of three
continues to perform musically for her church,
work, and community. This is her second
Circle of Life story for the blog. To read
more about Amy and to read the first  post, click here.


  1. This is just precious. I love music. I never took lessons on anything as a child. Started violin lessons as an adult, but haven't stuck with it, though I loved it. I think writing took center stage. But just the thought gives me goose bumps and brings tears to my eyes. Beautiful heritage.

    1. Thanks Shelli, for commenting. Strings? Impressive. Amy's daughter has a beautiful singing voice too.