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Accordion courtesy of Mary Lee

old piano

“It was really precious to me because it was something that was just for me. It wasn’t something that I shared with my siblings. It wasn’t something that was handed down from my siblings. It was just mine.

When Mary was a little girl, she would often run errands for her mother. One day, she was picking up a few things at the local market, and something unusual happened.

I happened to notice this guy in the store. I don’t know why. And so I walked home, and brought these groceries home to my mom, and then someone knocked on the door. And when I answered the door this was the guy who was in the grocery store! So it was kinda like, ‘Why is this guy at my door?’ And he wanted to talk to my parents.

The man was from Milton Mann Studios in Pomona, where accordion lessons were taught.

They asked my parents to see if I might be interested in learning the accordion. I guess this was just how they found kids to learn how to play!

Mary’s parents agreed to the lessons.

So I would go down there a couple of days a week and take lessons for 30 or 40 minutes, and come home and practice on my small accordion that my parents were renting. I was in love with it! I really enjoyed playing. And after I’d taken lessons for six months or a year, my parents bought me a much larger, nicer accordion that became my own. I went on to play it for quite a while – at least 3 or 4 years at Milton Mann. And then it just became recreational.

Mary’s accordion is on display here. She recalls as a child seeing this accordion as special, because it belonged only to her.

A lot of things I had in my childhood were hand-me-downs, or things I shared with my siblings. I had two working parents with four children to raise and they were depression-era children, which means everything had to be reused as many times as we could. But the accordion was something that was specifically just mine.

In retrospect, it wasn’t just physical possession the accordion that was important, but that it enabled her to develop her own identity.

I guess it helps me find more of my own individuality. I’m in the middle- middle – I’m in the middle of four children, and I’m in the middle of three daughters. So, your identity kinda gets lost. Because you’re not the oldest daughter, you’re not the youngest daughter. You’re not the oldest child, you’re not the youngest child. So I think playing the accordion helped me to find my own identity. I’m very different than all of my siblings. I find as I’ve gotten older I’ve grown stronger, but this is probably one of my first things that was not the norm, that was extremely different.

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