November 27, 2011

Making Music, 1967 ^

July 10, 1967.  Doug Cartledge on violin, Lesley Wilson on 5-string banjo, Elmer Wilson on guitar.

Elmer Wilson and some friends rented a school bus on what was Albert Gmelch's property on the north shore.  If you drove straight up the main road, not turning at the pear trees, and continued down the dirt / gravel road, you'd pass Carrie High's house (now Bob White's) on the right and Albert's (now the Middle Bass Inn) on the left before driving into the lake. Between the houses and the water was a silver school bus, which is where the Wilson family vacationed.

Originally, I think Elmer and John rented the bus merely for fishing trips.  Amy and I got to go out with them sometimes; we were experts at baiting hooks with worms but were both unnerved by the enormous sheephead Amy caught that lay on the floor of the boat groaning.  Elmer worked at a glass factory and got four weeks vacation a year, so he'd come up often during the summer.  Then the whole family started coming, which is when the major music / singalong sessions in Elmer's kitchen began.

Lots of people used retired school buses for vacationing at Albert's.  None of them had bathrooms, although some of the houses further down the line west of Albert's house surely did.  Otherwise, Albert's outhouse was the communal toilet; and if you wanted to bathe you could have yourself a sponge bath or take a bar of soap along into the lake.

Yeah.  Bathing in the lake, back when Lake Erie was a pool of water, arsenic, Lake Erie water snakes, flammable materials, and dead fish floating to shore.  Good times.

When I say music-making, I mean playing and singing until two in the morning.  Elmer would sometimes have his daughter Penny play guitar, and he'd pick up on the ukulele.  The adults, especially the musicians, had shots of whiskey between sessions.  We kids would walk down to our house sometimes, watching our shadows grow in the moonlight and the quartz glittering on the road. When the monument was turned off, there was true natural darkness, dependent on the phase of the moon, and the stars!-- if you never lived far away from the electrified world, you've never seen the true depth, breadth, and number of stars.

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