“Good King Wencelas” played on the radio and bam! I thought immediately of piano lessons. I grew up in North Camden until I was eleven and I took piano lessons for one year at Holy Name School at 5th and Vine Streets.
However, I was a public school kid (John S. Read Elementary) and not Catholic. You wouldn’t think that would be a problem.
But, it was a problem with other female piano students who didn’t have a piano at home and who had to practice on the ancient upright in the second floor hallway. Each student had a special day (or two?) and a half-hour practice that the nuns scheduled. I adored the lovely and lively Sister Michael Fidelis and I didn’t want to tell her that girl bullies didn’t let me have my time.
“You’re Protestant and you don’t go to Holy Name so you have to wait until we finish,” the girls told me. They were bigger than I was so I accepted it. I found a photo of myself at that age so you can see I wasn’t tough…
I sat sadly with my music books while they stumbled through their practices. What was the worst? Being bullied, listening to their mistakes or knowing that I’d go home in the winter dark?
When they left, I would practice my lesson without anyone listening to me. Nice. Then, I realized that I could get more than the allotted thirty minutes. No one else was there that late.
I could play not only my lesson pieces, but my favorites, especially “Good King Wencelas.” I remember imagining the king’s young page in a terrible snowstorm and how he kept warm walking in the footsteps of the good king on their way to give alms to the poor. I liked the old use of English and the thought of the Feast of Stephen, December 26th–something different for me.
After my lovely solitary hour on that old piano, I’d button up my coat and walk in the dark and sometimes snow to our row house on Grant Street, humming that old song and arriving home with the last verse, “Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.”
Hoping that you, dear readers, are well…. Back again to you.
Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill