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West Side Stories

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When we lived on Sacramento Boulevard my mother wanted Marge and me to take piano lessons. She saw a sign, "piano teacher," around the corner on Polk Street. So she went up, and it was 50 cents a half hour. So for a dollar we could both have a half-hour lesson every week. We would go together. She would teach one of us, and the other one would sit there. So you learned a little bit from what she was telling the other one.

But very early on the teacher decided that I was the musician and Marge had no talent. Well, you know how it turned out.

When I was in seventh grade Marge and I used to play all kinds of duets--"Little Boy Blue" and "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers." Lots of stuff. We had a lot of fun. But because we didn't take lessons from the sisters, we were never asked to play the march in the school hall.

Marge played everything. She played all the standard songs. She could transpose to different keys. If it was too high for you she could play it lower. She had a notebook with chords. She always had a crowd around her when she played. With me it was. . .

But Ed used to be real nice. On Saturdays we'd be home and Marge would be out somewhere, and he'd say, "Come on. Play the piano, and we'll sing for a while." I'd play as best I could, and he'd sing. It was kind of nice.

One day the sister asked if there was anybody who knew how to play "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers." The girl who was doing the treble part wasn't in school that day. I said I could. She said go over to the convent with so-and-so and practice for a little while. So we practiced, and I was thrilled to death that I was going to play in the school hall.

We came out, put up our music, and sat at the piano. The door of the eighth-grade boys' room opened up, and out came Bud McIntyre and two other boys who said, "What are you doing here?" We said, "We're playing the march." They said, "Who played last week? The girls. It's the boys' turn this week."

I was totally devastated. The big moment in my life, and it was taken away from me just like that.

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