On March 10, 1919, in Amsterdam, Holland, Johanna and Simon Abcouwer became parents of a bouncing baby boy. He is still bouncing – also added a wiggle. My dad had immigrated to the U.S.A. When I was seven my mother, younger sister and I joined him in Chicago, Illinois, where I grew up. As a youngster I managed to save twenty-five cents to buy a Marine Band and did learn to play several tunes. I also became a student in the Conservatory of Music to learn to sing and dance. As a student body we did stage shows at a local cinema. For several years we did two shows per day for three days, four times each year.
In June of 1942 I enlisted and was assigned to the Army Air Force. I flew in B17 bombers as a tail gunner and toggelier. As such, I did thirty-five missions over Europe from a base in Fogia, Italy. I was discharged in 1945 with the rank of Tech Sergeant.
Because I had quit high school in my junior year, my first goal after being discharged from the Air Force was to obtain a high school diploma. That was accomplished by passing the GED test taken at the University of Chicago. I also passed their entrance exam, so I decided to try for a college degree. I was accepted by and matriculated to Augustana College in June of 1946. During my years there, I was privileged to be a member of the Chapel Choir. I was graduated in 1949 with Bachelor of Arts with majors in Business Administration and Psychology, and a minor in Christianity. It was at “Augie” that I met and married a pretty coed from St. Louis. Naturally, we made our home there. We were blessed with three children: James (MBA), Steven (PhD) and a daughter, Jo Anne, who passed away in January of 2003 at age 52.
Our home was in Kirkwood until 1982 at which time our marriage ended legally. Since I owned a shoe store in Downtown St. Louis, I decided to become a resident of the Jefferson Arms Retirement complex located at Tucker and Locust. The “Arms” had a piano bar lounge, where there was music every night by a different pianist. There was open mike, so I started singing again (not too good). It was there that I met Adele Farell, one of the pianists. She had over thirty years of professional playing at various piano bars. Our first date was to celebrate my birthday on March 10, 1984. She finally succumbed to my proposals and we were married in April 1985. We then made our home in Dogtown (a section next to the famous ‘Hill’). Although Adele passed away in November 1995 I still live there. From the time we met until her illness, she, a tenor and myself got together to do gigs at nursery and retirement homes, and other venues. We did at least three hundred and fifty performances.
I had bought a Marine Band and tried playing again. When GHC was about two years old, I saw an ad that invited players to visit. Although I was out of my element, I was invited to become a member, which I have been for at least fifteen years. Adele pointed out to me that I wasn’t playing sharps and flats. Only one thing to do – go to Boots and get a chromatic. You know the rest –