Archive for the ‘A high note’ Category

2011 National Accordion Convention

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Almost time for the National Accordion Convention here in Dallas! My wife and I went to the 3-hr Saturday concert last year for my birthday. It was a real treat. This closing concert is open to the general public for a $10 charge.

This year it is March 12 from 7:30 to 10:30 located at the Westin Hotel in Dallas.

When’s the last time you heard an accordion orchestra do “Handel’s Messiah”? Here it is from last year…

[You can also see them do the Tara Theme from "Gone With The Wind," and others.] Some of the individual performances were even more impressive. I look forward to going back!

Frisco, or Bust!

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

StephenFriedLast night I had the pleasure of driving to the new Frisco Heritage Museum in Frisco, Texas to meet author Stephen Fried at a book-signing. [Well the drive all the way across Dallas and then some, in rush hour traffic was not a pleasure!] Stephen’s fascinating book came out this past March, and  is the most authoritative biography of one of my favorite subjects — Fred Harvey. The name of the book is “Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West.”AppetiteAmerica


Frisco is an old railroad town named after the Frisco line — the other railway, besides the Santa Fe — along which Fred Harvey had some of his dining establishments and news stands.

I got to have a tiny part in the book by giving Stephen access to scans of my collection of hundreds of Fred Harvey-related postcards, for him to choose whatever he wanted to use in the book. He ended up using 5-6. So, we’ve talked back and forth via email for some time, and finally got to meet last night on his Texas and Oklahoma tour.

Ever hear of the famous Harvey Girls? Fred Harvey is where they came from. They were so celebrated that in 1946 MGM did a musical about them starring Judy Garland. The song “On the Atchison, Topeka, and  Santa Fe” won the Oscar for best song that year.



But Stephen’s book tells the real story, focusing on the man, his sucessors, and the behind the scenes story of the hospitality empire that lasted several generations. He was very fortunate to be able to work with family members and have access to personal possessions of Fred Harvey, such as his wallet, datebook, and other early records never made public before.


My Fred Harvey Kansas City Union Station postcard used in the book

If you wish to see the first part of Stephen’s book lecture at the Kansas City Union Station, the former headquarters of Fred Harvey, check out the following video.


You may have noticed that this blog is located at That is because I have made a website featuring different Harvey House locations I have visited, with “Then & Now” pictures, using my old postcards and photos I have taken at the locations. You can even buy Stephen Fried’s book from my little Amazon store, as well as other great Fred Harvey books. I also host a Fred Harvey Discussion Group that anyone who is interested in the Fred Harvey odyssey can join. Stephen also has an interesting Fred Harvey blog.


One of my postcards used in the book


Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I did manage to take a break from hurdy-gurdy building to do one of my favorite things for Labor Day weekend — drive down to West, Texas for the town’s annual Czech festival, “Westfest.” This is over an hour away, so I don’t make it every year, and it had been  about 3 years since I’d gone.

The beautiful costumes of the various folk dancing groups is a nice antidote to blue jeans & t-shirts and other blah, unisex or over-exposed modern attire. They have folk dancing each afternoon for 6-7 hours, and I try to catch it all, except for some kids gymnastics that is always thrown in. That’s when I go get some sausage and sauerkraut. The groups include Hungarian, Czech, Ukrainian, Alpine, and Norwegian, as well as some cloggers.

I wonder if any of them are in need of a hurdy-gurdy player?


Csárdás Hungarian Dancers of Austin, Texas

2010: The Year We Make Contact

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

[That was the expanded title of the disappointing 1984 sequel to the classic, but strange "2001: A Space Odyssey," my favorite sci-fi movie as a kid in 1968. If you know anything about the original film, an alien rectangular object ends up outputting a high-pitched screeching noise. Well, here it is really 2010, and I made contact yesterday with a foreign rectangular object that showed up at my front door. However, it will take awhile before any screeching noises emanate from it. I do expect 2010 to be memorable year, due to this strange object's arrival. As Dave Bowman repeatedly says in 2010: "Something wonderful is going to happen." Except that I expect my actual 2010 will be more wonderful than the goofy sci-fi version of 2010, where Jupiter is turned into a small star, unidentified aliens oversee evolution, and everyone lives happily ever after.]

All that to say, my Hurdy Gurdy Crafters “Monarch” kit completed its 15-day odyssey from Michigan to Texas yesterday, apparently running the Postal Service gauntlet without mishap. No more fretting over whether it was lost in space, damaged by meteors, or stolen from off the front steps by aliens. Driving home from work last evening, I was relieved to spot it sitting in front of the door…


The kit was well packaged in very sturdy outer and inner boxes with styrofoam peanuts cushioning the inner box. The binder with the construction manual and the envelope containing the strings were packed outside the inner box…


Mel and Ann’s kits have a professional and attractive appearance…


The careful packing of the pieces in the box was also impressive, and must be a science of its own…


The pieces all seem to be very precisely made from quality materials using fine tools: clean and sharp edges, etc. For a detail-oriented person, it definitely passes initial inspection…


Various bags have labels listing their contents. Everything has the look of having been very well thought out and user-friendly. I haven’t totally emptied the box yet, nor completed the inventory, but I have been reading the manual, which has many color pictures illustrating each step in the process.

A recurring thought as I was browsing through the box was: “I can’t imagine Mel making all these complicated pieces.” The next thought was “I can’t imagine me putting them all together!” What have I gotten myself into? But I can’t think of making that giant leap, just taking one small step at a time.


National Accordion Convention

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

The other day the local TV news channel had an accordion player on to highlight the 2010 National Accordion Convention which was in town this weekend. Checking into it, we found out that there was a concert Saturday evening which was open to the general public. Saturday was my birthday, and since I like accordion music, we decided to do something totally out of the ordinary and drive up to the north side of Dallas to check it out.

accordionThey opened with an accordion orchestra of approximately 50 pieces that did God Bless America, then the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. That was impressive. The orchestra disbanded, and then a married couple who used to perform at Branson, Missouri performed. Several single performers followed them. The next one, Bruce Gassman, was amazing with his electric accordion. The first thing he did was the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra. [A favorite movie of mine in 1968 when I was 14.] Then he went on to a great Star Wars medley. Next it was Beatles tunes and finally James Bond themes. He was worth the price of admission all by himself. Quite a showman. I was disappointed to not find anything more about him online — videos, CDs, etc. Everyone else was very impressive, too, though. Lightning fast finger work on the keys. And mostly not your normal polka music!

We found out that their convention is normally in Dallas, so we’ll need to watch for it again in the future. No, I’m not going to learn to play the accordion – too many buttons and keys. I’m sticking to the hurdy-gurdy.