I have always been interested in music. Ever since I can remember, I have taken music lessons on different instruments. I played the trombone in the Junior High School Band and later at Ladue High School where I graduated in 1963.
After several years of college, I joined the Navy and played the bass bugle in the Boot Camp Drum and Bugle Corps in San Diego. From there, I was sent to Vietnam and served on an LST ship. On one particular night watch, I was sent to check the patrol boats tied to our ship and lost my grip on the ropes and fell into one of the rivers in the Mekong Delta. My fellow watchman threw me a life preserver, which had a light attached to it, and after seeing that I was OK, notified the Captain. This happened to be at one in the morning and all personnel were directed to battle stations for man overboard. Someone from up above must have been watching over me because all of the noise made at that time in the morning I was virtually unnoticed. I remember holding onto the life preservers and thinking that the ship was really far away from me. They finally fished me out of the river by the patrol boats about an hour later. After many days of ribbing by my navy friends, things got back to normal.
After the Navy, I came back to St. Louis to help out my dad in his manufacturing firm. My Dad had started the business about the time I was born and my earliest memories are those of working there. We had a place on Broadway in St. Louis and later moved to Washington, MO. For the most part, we have turned over the daily operations to four of our five sons.
Jessie, my wife, spent most of her working career in the business too. I helped raise Jessie’s five sons and today we have 15 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. It is always a music festival whenever we get together with the family. Several grandchildren play musical instruments and we have a fun time. So, besides the music in our lives, the children/grandchildren keep us very busy.
Over the years, I continued my interest in music. About five years ago, I was struck with the idea of playing the accordion. I rented one from Mel Bay in Kirkwood and they pointed me towards an accordion teacher named Vernon Hornung. He taught music at Roosevelt High School for 40 years and has played professionally for over 50 years. I give credit to Vern for giving me some real music knowledge.
One morning I was having coffee, MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS, and got into a conversation with a fellow who I came to know as Ernie Hackmann. It all started because he noticed I was interested in music. Later, he invited me to see the Gateway Harmonica Club perform. I had noticed Henry playing the bass harmonica at the performance and was curiously interested. Ernie kept after me to join the harmonica club but I was reluctant to commit to another weekly meeting. When he said they need a bass player, I couldn’t help but jump at the chance.
At the same time of joining the Harmonica Club, Jessie and I started taking piano lessons at Meramec Community College. Jessie has found that she, too, has a fondness for music and now takes Sax lessons while I take Clarinet lessons on Tuesday afternoons.
The harmonica club has been important to me and I would like to thank Ernie for pestering me to join, and all the members who had to endure my first year learning to play the bass.
My journey isn’t over, the best is yet to come.