By Harvey Tobkes

Harvey with the trumpet

Way back in the past, 1943 to be exact, I was 14-years-old; my father insisted I take trumpet lessons. Grudgingly, I agreed, and shortly thereafter dad struck a deal with trumpet teacher Sy Carr. Sy gave me a beautiful new trumpet, and my dad supplied 4 (“war time” rationed) new tires for Sy’s car. A bit illegal, but everyone got what they wanted, except me.

TrumpetLessons cost $5 weekly, and after only 3 weeks I was able to play notes that sounded like a cross between a Bronx Cheer and a wet fart, (it was not very melodious, more like malodorous), so I realized I had no talent and was probably tone deaf. I stuck it out, until I learned how to play Amapola, and then found a better use for the $5.

I quit going for trumpet lessons on Saturday afternoons, instead I went to the Paradise Theater located on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Yup! Me, and my trumpet resting in its Gladstone case, went to the movies. Of course, my parents, kept thinking I was going for lessons. I discovered I had enough money to have a friend join me to see the movie and afterward we usually had banana splits or Sundaes at Krum’s Ice Cream Parlor, across the street from the theater.

After they heard my 100th horrendous rendition of Amapola and nothing else but that song, my dear parents probably were thinking of offering me the $5 a week , if I would just give them a little peace and quiet. One day, to relieve my guilty conscience, I confessed my trickery.

They made a little pretense about how I should keep trying but they were smiling at each other, and finally my father said, “It’s O.K. Don’t worry about it and we will make the $5 your weekly allowance.”

At that moment I felt like Harry James.

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