Image: Robert Carl Kramp, born Robert C. Strike, 1918-1974.
As I described this series of blogs yesterday, I am posting images of my ancestors which depict something unique about their life. Here, Dad is playing his guitar. He played by himself most of the time, in the quiet corners of the house. But when he was growing up in Ramey, Clearfield County, PA, he told me he had a grand old time jamming with the other boys and young men in the neighborhood. Several years ago, I talked to one of Dad’s neighborhood chums, Cecil Lloyd, about these musical get-togethers occurring in the late 1920s and 1930s. By the time I saw Cecil, all the boys had grown up, moved away from Ramey, and started their own families. Cecil was now a grandfather, and Dad had already passed away.
“What kind of songs did you used to play”, I asked.
“Oh, that was the time of the Cowboy movies, y’know. We would play cowboy songs. ‘I’m an old cow hand’ … and stuff like that. There was one that Albert [Johnson] liked. I don’t remember the name of it, but it went something like [Cecil begins to sing] … the riders of perdition are posted in every … [starts to laugh]. We’d harmonize y’know.”
“I remember one time Albert and I sang at a Major Bowes contest down in Houtzdale. Sort of like the old ‘Skip O’Day’s Amateur Hour’ on the radio. You probably don’t remember anything like that. Anyway we took second place. Albert’s father got right up there with us and played the fiddle”
“Did Pop Kramp ever join your jam sessions?”
“No, he was more to himself. Although he was never mean to us kids, or anything like that.”
“I remember he’d mumble to Bob all the time. I don’t recall that he was a good talker. Maybe because he was from Germany. He seemed to have an accent; he didn’t talk much. He’d tell Bob to do this or that. I remember how he used to talk. And I was a devil to mimic people. He’d say something to Bob, and when we’d get away, I’d say Bobdo-wob-di-bob-dobob-way. I couldn’t understand what he’d said, and we’d laugh about it.”
“I recall Bob had to do chores around the farm. He used to grind up chicken bones to feed the chickens. I always thought that was something- feeding chickens their own bones.”
Cecil Lloyd lived in Altoona , PA, when I interviewed him. I always wanted to return and reminisce with him some more. But on my last trip to Altoona, I discovered that Cecil died in August 2004. I ran across his obituary while researching at the library. It read in part, “was a member of Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church for more than 40 years, where he sang in the Chancel Choir. … Mr. Lloyd was a longtime salesman, who enjoyed SINGING, hunting, fishing and golfing.”
One day I saw Dad had modified his guitar. Some of you may know of the hands-free harmonica holder that the 1970s singer, Bob Dylan, hung around his neck. That device was a little uncomfortable and could slip when you played it. So, Dad improved on the device by mounting the harmonica with two pieces of bent wire attached to his Martin guitar with screws (cringe). He would have to sit in a chair to play both instruments together.
Though Dad was quite modest about playing guitar in front of anybody, we used to force him to sing “Edelweiss” while playing the guitar-harmonica combination. Very Sweet.
The best legacy and gift Dad left me was he taught me to play the guitar. The banjo came later.