A Tale of Sheet Music

Posted with Permission of Kathryn Neufeld
(Kent Brooks’ mother-in-law) 

The last page was turned and I was sad to see there was no more music to play. For several days I had been playing through a stack of sheet music. Music that was written before my time. Some were dated as far back as 1926 but the majority showed dates in the ’40’s. Some were familiar tunes that had carried on through time, but most of the music I was experiencing for the first time.

My daughter, Heidi Brooks,  had given me the stack of music from her mother-in-law’s house. She had asked if I was interested in the music and thinking “I don’t need anything else in my house,” I said “no.” But I soon changed my mind when she said she would dispose of them. I didn’t want to see them thrown away, and besides, I didn’t have to keep them but could contact an antique dealer to see if they would purchase the music.

Juanita Huckaby had written her signature in cursive on the front of each composition. I felt like I knew Juanita from the first day I met her. She was such a down-to-earth person and she welcomed our family into her home the first time we were in Springfield, CO. However, I can probably count on one hand, maybe two, the times I actually was in her presence. After playing through all 91 songs in the pile of sheet music, I got a glimpse of a much younger woman than the one with whom I was acquainted.

Did Juanita play the piano? It was never mentioned and I never asked. She had a piano, an old grand upright, in her house. Surely she must have tickled the ivories with so much music in her possession. There was also a book to learn how to play the oboe, another book showing how to play the accordion, and a book for the Magnus chord organ. Hmm…did she ever play these instruments? I must ask her family the next time I see them.

This young woman, Juanita, must have supported the troops during WW II as so much of the music was written in the 1940’s. The lyrics alluded to times during the war and after the war. Here are a few titles: “Comin’ In On a Wing and a Prayer,” “G.I. Jive,” “I Wish I Could Hide Inside This Letter,” “Say a Pray’r For The Boys Over There,” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” Also included in the pile of music was the official song of “The Army Air Corps,” as well as “The Marine’s Hymn.”

And she must have been a young lady “up-to-date with the times” because much of the music was highlighted in Broadway shows or in the motion pictures. Famous singers adorned the cover pages of the music. Some names I recognized, such as Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Mercer. There was music by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. Many names I had never heard before. I wondered who they were and if they might have been the popular singers and song writers of the decade. It brought to mind how brief life is and within two or three decades a person may not even be a lingering memory.

Favorites of mine were the Christmas songs “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “White Christmas.”

One of the most unusual of all the sheet music was entitled “I’m a Big Girl Now.” The cover has doodles in ink pen and the picture of Sammy Kaye had been glorified with a mustache and goatee. One ear was grossly enlarged and a bow was drawn in the hair. Sammy Kaye’s name was covered with the name Ernest Bond. Also under Juanita’s signature was the signature of Ernest Bond. Who was this man? You can wonder with me as you read some of the lyrics.

Cover of I'm a Big Girl Now

Me and my childhood sweetheart have come to the parting of the ways,
He still treats me like he did in our baby days;
I’m a little bit older, a little bit bolder since both of us were three.
There’s a change in my talking, there’s a change in my walking,
He oughta take one good look at me.
I’m a BIG GIRL NOW, I wanna be treated like a big girl now.
I’m tired of wearing bobby sox like kiddies do,
I’m tired of goin’ to dances in a flatheeled shoe.
I want the boys to look at me and yell “woo-woo,”
I’M A BIG GIRL NOW.
(words and music by Al Hoffman, Milton Drake and Jerry Livingston
copyright 1946 by WORLD MUSIC, INC. 607 Fifth Ave., New York 20, NY) 

Juanita’s memory has faded, so we may never know who inscribed his name over Sammy Kaye’s. I’ll have to ask the family next time I see them.

The prices listed on the sheet music varied from 25 cents to 50 cents. I’m thinking Juanita’s parents must have had a good bank account to allow her to accumulate so much music. Or perhaps she had an after school job in downtown Springfield to get some extra spending money. Hmm…wonder if someone in her family could clue us in.

I’m keeping some of the music but wonder how much the antique dealer will think the other 81 copies of sheet music are worth? I’ll wait a while to check. I might as well enjoy playing the music one more time. Might find some interesting lyrics that I missed. And better make sure the family really doesn’t want the music. After reading the lyrics to “I’m a Big Girl Now,” my son-in-law just might want to check out some of the other lyrics and get a glimpse of his mother when she was young.

NOTE: I have a complete listing of the titles which I will add as soon as they are transcribed.

 

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