|By: Paul S. Cilwa
|Page Views: 647
|Topics: #Florida #St.Augustine #Mrs.Capella #PianoLessons
|My friend, the piano teacher.
When we first moved to the Saint George Street house, my sisters wasted no time in meeting the neighbor kids. I had never been that good at making friends my own age, except when I "borrowed" my sister's friends. For example, somehow they met a girl whoaw grandparents lived on our street. Her name was Kim Bauer, and her father was the manager of the local Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum. That meant that my sisters and I could visit Ripley's for free!
But it turned out that Kim, who was actually my age (a little older than my sisters) and I had a lot in common. We enjoyed riding our bikes all over town; we both enjoyed Hardy Boys Mysteries and we both enjoyed pretending we were the Hardy Boys, or, at least, pre-teen detectives, secretly following innocent neighbors in case one of them might be a criminal. We also went to the local police department to look through the wanted posters. We never actually caught anyone, though.
I suppose Kim was what was called a tomboy, especially compared to me. It was Kim who inspired me to climb a tree for the first time. The tree was in our back yard and bore a delicious fruit called a kumquat. She and I, and sometimes my sisters and even other neighbors would all climb into the tree and snarf down all the kumquats our tummies could hold.
Across the street and to the right, on a corner, was the home of the Pacetti family: Parents Virginia and Emmett Pacetti, and their sons Dale and Randy. There was also a baby sister whose name I don't remember, but who nevertheless gained neighborhood notoriety by escaping the house while her mother was changing her diaper, running naked into the street. (Luckily, there was never any traffic. Still, I was one of the ones who'd run after her and bring her back home.)
Clear down to the other end of our block was the home of the Tully family. Mr. Tully was a banker at St. Augustine's Exchange Bank. The oldest kid, who was my sister, Mary Joan's, age, was Duayne. He had a brother, Barry, and a younger sister; but we mostly hung out with Duayne. It was he who told Mary Joan that the filling in a Fig Newton was actually made of toe jam. As far as I know, she hasn't had a fig newton since.
But directly across from our house was the home of Mrs. Capella.
I have no idea how my Mom met Mrs. Capella, but one day Mom informed me that I was to cross the street to take piano lessons from her, and have me a quarter to pay her with. Yes, that's right: Piano lessons from Mrs. Capella, in 1962, cost a quarter a half hour.
We used the John Thompson "Modern Course For The Piano". It started with a kindergarten-level starter book; I burned through that pretty quickly and then I was in Thompson's First Grade.
The problem I had was that my ability to play by ear very quickly exceeded my ability to learn to read music. Even now, I know music notation and how to pick out the notes; but I was never able to develop the skill to read and play in realtime.
I mentioned having a lack of social skills when it came to making friends my own age; but I never had a problem relating to adults, even older ones; so Mrs. Capella and I became friends. Her son lived on the second floor of the Victorian house, which had, as so many other had, been converted into a two-apartment building. Mrs. Capella was "allowed" to give piano lessons until 5 PM; but then he came home from work and did not want to hear that noise coming from downstairs! —At least, that's what he yelled the time I tried playing a little something after 5 and he came downstairs like a SWAT team to put a stop to it.
But it was okay for me to visit, as long as I didn't play the piano after hours. And Mrs. Capella had classical record albums she would loan me (that was how I first heard The Sorcerer's Apprentice). AND…she had a color television set.
I knew there was such a thing as color television. I had even imagined, correctly, how one might work. But I'd never actually seen one before. And we didn't have a television set at all. So it was quite exciting when she invited me over to watch The Jackie Gleason Show. That turned into a weekly date.
In May she announced the date of the annual piano recital. We spent weeks learning the pieces we intended to perform. In my case, by now Mrs. Capella had given up on trying to teach me to read music while playing it; so I practiced my own arrangement of The Little Drummer Boy; and that's what I played.
Although we were to move again, twice, that summer, and the piano lessons ended, I still stopped by to visit Mrs. Capella every now and then. And there's even the possibility that we remained friends even after her passing. But that's a story for another day.