It was 1957, and the big thing in my life at that time was my last year of high school. Besides working at a local grocery store after school and weekends, and babysitting whenever possible, I was very active my last year of high school: co-editor of the yearbook, school play, church organist, piano lessons, chorus, pep band, Dixieland band, marching band and concert band.
Music was my greatest interest. At that time I was taking piano lessons in Minneapolis at a music school. Although I was not anything special on the church organ, I still played all the music for each Sunday service.
I was the best on my trombone, also taking private lessons from the band director. I sat first chair (the lead position) in the only “all-girl trombone section in the state of Minnesota.” My life was great, and I already knew where I would be going to college.
At 25 cents an hour babysitting, and 50 cents an hour working at the grocery store, I saved all of the money that I earned so that I could buy me a new trombone. I chose a silver King trombone, just like Tommy Dorsey’s. I was very proud of my trombone. It cost me $300. I cared for that trombone like I would care for a baby, keeping it clean and shiny.
Off to college I went and majored in music, playing the piano and trombone daily. But unfortunately, once I graduated from college, I had very little use for my trombone. It traveled to Alaska, Turkey, Germany, Cuba, and on to Washington state, but without being played.
My life went on: teaching, marriage, children, church choirs. Once an opportunity arose at church where 20 trombone players got together and played, so I got my trombone out and played with them a couple of times.
I was so surprised that I remembered everything except G#, and even that position came back to me. Unfortunately, this group didn’t last long, so my trombone sat for about another 25 years.
Actually, I did let my son, a 5th grader at the time, take my trombone to school to learn to play in his beginning band, but the noise on that first day of band rehearsal kept him from ever going back to the band. And one of my daughters played it in college, and was told at that time (about 25 years ago) that it was probably worth at least $1,000!
Recently, another opportunity came along, and I found myself playing with a local band, but because I always played first chair, I wasn’t too happy playing 4th chair. And somehow, during all the years I didn’t use it, a huge dent appeared in the bell of the horn. It really bothered me, but it didn’t affect my playing.
I was afraid I’d have to pay about $200-$300 to get the dent out, but when I had it done, it was only $40. Once the dent was removed, I felt like it was brand new again.
However, I didn’t like going out at night to play in that group, and I didn’t want to pay $300 a year to play with them, so I quit.
Then the good news! I joined the Edmonds Senior Center and found two groups where I could play my trombone, and am very happy with that.
One group is called “The Delinquents” and we play jazz, Dixieland, dance and many other kinds of music. We have drums, piano, bass guitar, clarinet, one or two trumpets, one or two saxophones, and me – on the trombone.
The other group is an orchestra with violins, a flute, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, a baritone, keyboard and drums. We’re called the “Swingers Orchestra” and even play at retirement homes occasionally.
I was happy, but I found that my trombone was too heavy and cumbersome to carry. I decided to purchase a new case for it, thinking it would lighten my load, but when I found out a new case was almost $100, I didn’t want to spend that much.
That’s when I looked into the new “plastic” trombones. For $171 (including tax and a canvas case), I purchased a purple plastic trombone. It’s pretty and fun to play, but the best thing about it is that I can carry the instrument and case with one finger. I love my new trombone!
About Mary Lambert
Mary Lambert is active with the Edmonds Senior Center as director of the Sound Singers, and she plays trombone with two of the center's instrumental groups. Mary is finally finding time to write, something she has wanted to do since childhood.