May 31, 2006
Where Have You Gone, Mr. Tap-Dancing
The older I
get, the more I notice oddball things.
Just the other day I was driving to work and I got to thinking about the
fact that nobody plays the accordion or tap-dances any more. I know. I
know. It’s a weird thing to think about during morning rush hour, but
I’m like that.
Heck, when I was a kid it seemed like everybody played the accordion. Or
tap-danced. Every TV variety show featured at least one accordion
player. Accordion players were also popular at wedding receptions.
Tap-dancers were all over the TV, too.
Back then, kids who were forced by their parents into taking music
lessons usually ended up tap-dancing or playing the accordion. Of every
100 kids who took accordion lessons, 99 played the accordion badly. Of
every 100 kids who took tap-dancing lessons, 99 tap-danced badly. (I
tossed this into the story for those readers who like a few statistics
with their stories.)
My mother and father forced me to take tap-dancing lessons. They
dreamed of me becoming a future Fred Astaire. I’ll never forget the
night my tap-dancing teacher, Miss Agnes Mae Sly, sent a note home with
me to give to my parents. It was six months after I took my first
tap-dancing lesson. The note said: “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Batz. Your son Bob
is a very nice boy with a great smile and a pleasing personality.
Unfortunately, he can’t tap-dance worth a diddle.”
Mom and Dad were pretty broken up by her words. Then, three days after
Miss Agnes Mae Sly penned those words, Dad told me, “You’re going to
take accordion lessons.”
“What’s an accordion?” I asked.
“You’ll find out,” he replied.
The only accordion teacher in town was a 78-year-old man named Olaf
Schmidt, who had enough wrinkles in his face to hold a three-day rain.
The first thing a kid notices when taking accordion lessons is the
incredible weight of the instrument. I swear the accordion Dad rented
for me from the Acme Accordion Store was as big as a Buick. A sedan.
Dad told Olaf Schmidt “I just know Bob is going to be a crackerjack
accordion player,” to which the teacher replied something like, “I’m
Because I wasn’t strong enough to lift the accordion, my teacher had me
lie flat on my back for my first lesson, then he laid the instrument on
top of me.
I took lessons for six months and then it was over. After that, every
time a tap-dancing accordion player appeared on TV, I could tell by the
look in his eyes that Dad was wishing it was me. . .
© 2006 North Star Writers
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