Monday, July 11, 2011

A Key to the Past

My Great-Grandpa Davis was a smithy in Nebraska in the late 1800's & into the 20th century. My dad would spend his childhood summers with his grandfather in the workshop. Last week, while cleaning out more of the old shop, my dad came across an old box in the attic. Thinking it looked familiar, he brought it down & opened it.

There it was: a violin Grandpa Davis made. He made several during his life. Violin making was his hobby when he wasn't working as a smithy. He even made his own woodworking tools, according to the needs of the violin construction, like making the tiny black line in the back & front of the's not a line, it's an inlay.

During the second world war he & Great Grandma Davis decided to go to California since there was a lot more work out there. When cash got low they decided to sell a violin he had made and they were hoping for at least $250. Thank God the buyer was honest (or at least honest enough) because he said "tell ya what, I'd be willing to give ya $2000. That was a lot back then!

I recall some other stories about his violins and one in particular is my favorite. My grandmother, Dad's mom, received a violin of her dad's from him when she graduated from high school around 1915 or so. Sometime after that she lost track of it. Many decades later, sitting in church, a stranger walked up to her and asked if she was Cora Weichman. "Yes", she replied with her sparkling blue eyes and her welcoming smile. "I believe this is yours?" he said as he handed her a box with a violin...her violin. It had her name written inside and her graduation date with it. It was out of her hands over 50 years and it found its way back home to the small town of Atkinson Nebraska when that stranger could have easily sold it for quite a bit of money.

Is this that violin? No. Is it the one sold in California? No, though I sure wonder who had that one! This is another, newly discovered, piece of the past. "Charles Henry Davis, 1929" was written inside. When I held it it felt like a balloon, like I picked up a cloud. It is beautiful & apart from the strings needing replacement & the bridge needing a bit of work it is ready to fill the air with beauty. Great-Grandpa Davis was 92 when he passed in 1965. Dad turns 80 this month. I suppose his ancestors were sending him a birthday gift. He is now entertaining the idea of taking violin lessons.


Anonymous said...

What a great story. It's so nice to have something from family that is gone. Your history. The pictures are also very pretty.

Beth Crocker said...

Thanks! Your work is beautiful, I love the peonies!

Tammy Lee Bradley said...

Wonderful story. Chris would love this... he plays the fiddle. xo tam