Did a Music Teacher Change Your Life?

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Yes.  Yes, she did.  Her name was Frances Parr and she was my music teacher at Rosemont Elementary school in Dallas for the two years I attended there – 1963-1965.  Since two years was the longest we ever lived ANYWHERE,  I relished my time there.  It was a treat to start a school actually knowing someone.Montclair

We lived at 307 N. Montclair in Oak Cliff, a suburb (and legend) of Dallas.  Oak Cliff was a planned community.  According to the Texas Handbook Online“Oak Cliff was on the south bank of the Trinity River two miles south of downtown Dallas in central Dallas County. The original township was in the area bordered by Colorado Boulevard, Cliff Street, and Thirteenth Street”

It was a place of huge homes, massive oak trees and quiet living, and boasted the first elevated railway in the southwest.  It was the home of Jayne Mansfield, Linda Darnell (who was touted by Hollywood as the “girl with the perfect face”), Speaker of the House Jim Wright, and Michael polar bearMartin Murphy just to name a few.  It was also the home of Polar Bear Ice Cream Shops and Austin’s BarBQ.  More infamously, it was home to the Texas Theatre where Lee Harvey Oswald shot Dallas office J.D. Tippett, as well as home to Oswald himself.

High Schools Sunset, Adamson, and South Oak Cliff were once football powerhouses and boasted some of the first drill/dance teams in Dallas, boasting all-twirling drill teams and golden tuxedos.

But much more important to me was Miss Parr.  She was your stereotypical “old maid schoolteacher”, tall, thin and plain.  But I loved her.  I remember once wearing a dress that my grandmother had made me.  To me it seemed hopelessly old-fashioned and ridiculously long during the mini-skirt era, brushing my knees.  But on my way into class, Miss Parr stopped me and admired my dress.  She fingered the hand stitching on the sleeves and said “Nothing shows someone’s love for you like a hand-made garment”. It didn’t make me love the dress, but it made me love her.zum gali

Miss Parr was passionate about music. She taught us to read notes and to sing in harmony. I remember vividly singing such songs as “La Marseilles” and “Barcarolle”.  We learned four parts to “God Bless America” and to sing an Israeli children’s song “Zum Gali Gali” in a round.  I can still remember all the words to all four.

She took us to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  We learned about every piece of music on the bill and its’ composer.  She taught us to identify instruments by their sounds alone and by the feeling that their tones imparted.  “The William Tell Overture” was part of the program and since we all knew it as the theme song to The Lone Ranger TV show we were threatened with death about “riding” our seats.  At the symphony there were plenty of other students who did just that, some even yelling “Hi O Silver – Away!” but not one of Miss Parr’s students would have dared do such a thing.

My fifth grade year we also went to the opera – THE OPERA.  It was “La Traviata“.  We learned the story, the songs, the singers.  For weeks before the event we were given slips of paper on which we wrote “Don’t forget 50 cents for the Opera!”  These slips of paper we were told to wad up in a ball and slip into our socks. coin When our mothers asked us why we had a lump in our socks we were to tell her “The Opera Bug bit me!”, show her the slip of paper and get our fifty cents.  (Fifty cents people!  To see the opera!)

Miss Parr obviously did not know my mother who cared nothing about the opera, and who never noticed if I had socks on or not.  When the deadline day came I simply stole a silver 50-cent piece from her collection and took it to school.

I never had another music teacher as good as Miss Parr.  My children did – his name is Buddy Pedigo, and he made a difference in their lives too.  But I don’t think he knew about the opera bug.

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