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Interview with Sallie Gaddy

Gaddy, Sallie
Maurer, Darlene
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming Obstacles; Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Childhood Adventures
Sallie Gaddy became a music lover as a result of her hard life growing up and learning to play the piano.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Darlene Maurer interviewed Charlotte residents to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
DM (Darlene Maurer): This is an interview of Darlene Maurer interviewing Sallie Gaddy. Sallie--.
SG (Sallie Gaddy): Hello.
DM: Sallie share your story with us.
SG: Well my story starts when I was just a small child. The first I can remember I always wanted to play the piano. That was my main goal in life, was to learn to play the piano. Where I lived was way out in the country and we didn't have a piano but we had long steps at the front which were probably eight feet long and there was a space in between where I could sit on one put my feet in between and I'd play the piano up and down the steps, from the time I can remember until I learned to play the piano. My grandmother had a piano at her house and I went to her house and I could pick out things on the piano, so I could play the piano before I ever took music. But, uh, having a piano at my house was a big thing. It was a good thing for all my family because they wanted me to learn to play the piano. And I just didn't have one at home. So when I was in the fifth grade my grandmother that lived with us had a sister who had a piano and she gave it to my grandmother so I could have it for Christmas and I started taking lessons.
DM: It was at your home then?
SG: It was at my home. They brought it to my house and I was thrilled it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me was to get a piano.
DM: Umm.
SG: So I learned to play the piano. I took piano lessons at the school. The teacher came to school and she liked me and I did well. We had lessons, it seemed like I had a lesson every day.
DM: Uh-huh.
SG: And I had a great-aunt who paid for my lessons but I do not know that. My mother would not tell me we were very poor and she did not want me to know that my great-aunt was paying for the lessons. But the first room that we had to have the piano lessons at school, this was the first year that they had lessons, there was the ladies' restroom where the teacher's went to have their, uh, when they went to the bathroom [laugh]. So it wasn't too good of a situation but finally they moved her into another room. And I expect that my great-aunt had a lot to do with getting her into the school to teach music.
DM: The teacher taught piano in the \\ ladies'--\\
SG: \\Ladies.\\
DM: Teachers' bathroom?
SG: Yes.
DM: That's worse than a closet [laugh]. That's awful.
SG: And we finally had a little room where she, she kept teaching me until I was through high school.
DM: Wow.
SG: And then I came to Charlotte, and I didn't have a piano when I moved to Charlotte.
DM: Now where was this that you grew up, what?
SG: Chesterfield. In South Carolina.
SG: Very poor country. But, uh--
DM: What's the community like? Mostly farming or what's the industry?
SG: We were, lived, lived on the farm. My grandfather farmed my dad was a mechanic but he did not he, he wanted to be a farmer. And he tried to farm but he never made any money farming. He was always an automobile mechanic but then, uh, I came to Charlotte when I got out of high school because I wanted to go to school to learn more music. I wanted to be a concert pianist, but my dad did not have the money to send me and if there was things like scholarships at the time the teachers didn't say anything about it at school. I knew nothing about things like that.
DM: What year was that?
SG: 1952 I came to Charlotte. And my, uh, my boyfriend moved to Charlotte in 1953. We got married in 1954. He wouldn't let me have a piano. So for, uh, many years I didn't have a piano, and I had a great-uncle, my grandmother, who had got the piano for me in the fifth grade, she had a brother who lived here who had a piano exactly like the one that his sister had given to me to play. And I would go to his house and play it. Every time I went I would play his piano. Then one day I went over there and the piano was gone. I said, "Uncle Charlie. Where's the piano?" "I sold it." I said, "Why did you sell it?" "I put an ad in the paper and the first person that gave me $50, I sold it." I said, "You didn't tell me. I would have bought it. I would have paid you more than $50 for it." So I still didn't have a piano. So then, in 1968, my husband moved out. The first thing I did was to go get a piano so that I could have my daughter learn to play the piano.
DM: How old was she?
SG: She was eight. She was born in '60, so she was eight years old. She took lessons through high school and then she got married several years later. And when I bought a house, she wanted to know when she could get the piano because it was really hers. So I said, "Well, I guess you can get it whenever you want it, but what, since I'm moving this is probably a good time." But in the meantime, I had bought an organ, and I like to play the organ, but not as much as the piano. It's just not relaxing to me. So a couple of years after I moved into my house, I just went out and looked for another piano. So, in my lifetime I've bought two pianos and I still like to play the piano and I play it just real often.
DM: Why? What does it do for you?
SG: It relaxes me. If I'm tense and I come home from work I just go play for 30 minutes and it's all gone.
DM: That's neat.
SG: And, uh, I've played for children's choirs and I used to play in church in Chesterfield. You know, one of the small churches, but I don't play for large choirs here. I play for the children's choir sometimes.
DM: So what's your favorite kind of music to play?
SG: Religious music hymns. I love playing hymns and hymn arrangements. I like classical music, but, you know, I haven't played it in a while so I do play some of it sometimes, but mostly I play hymns and choruses and things like that.
DM: Do you sing with it when you play?
SG: Sometimes. [Laugh]
DM: Do you great--?
SG: I sing in the choir, so sometimes I sing with them.
DM: Does it, like, fill your soul with music?
SG: Uh-huh yes. It's like a worship time, really, if I sing and play at the same time.
DM: The passion.
SG: Uh-huh. It's harder to sing and play at the same time than just play though.
DM: Umm.
SG: If I play for other people to sing I do not play. I mean I don't sing I just play [laugh] because it's harder to concentrate and do the both. And that's my piano story.
DM: That's so great. So it sounds like you passed on your love for piano to your daughter as well.
SG: My daughter does play the piano. She, she cannot play by just hearing something and playing it. She has to play by the music. Now our granddaughter is playing the, uh, flute and she is able to pick things out even on the flute. She can play, um, a couple of other instruments, the oboe, you know, some kind of another instrument that she has.
DM: Your granddaughter?
SG: Uh-huh.
DM: Yeah? So you've affected three generations then, yourself, your daughter, and your granddaughter, then, with music.
SG: My son-in-law plays the trombone so.
DM: That's really neat.
SG: I'm really looking forward to Ashley learning to play the piano, but so far she's not taken piano lessons.
DM: That's really neat.
SG: She's my granddaughter.
DM: Yeah. That's just such a passion.
SG: Yeah. And see we didn't, we didn't have TV, we didn't have radio, or anything, so that's what I did at home, I played the piano all the time.
DM: That's great we need more of that today.
SG: [Laugh] We do.
DM: Yeah I think, yeah I think we're losing.
SG: I think the TV, and, uh, is so much entertainment that people don't, they don't have time to pursue music and other things that they should be doing.
DM: The things that people did when.
SG: You've just lost art whenever you don't do that.
DM: I agree. I agree. That's really neat.
SG: Yeah.
DM: Is there any kind of music that you'd like to play that you haven't played yet?
SG: Well I'd like to take more lessons and learn to play, uh, the different times, like, you know, like, uh, the different times, like, you know, like, uh, jazz and stuff like that. I don't play at all. I'd like to learn to play different styles of music.
DM: On the piano?
SG: Uh-huh.
DM: Or the organ?
SG: No, the piano. I play the organ occasionally, but not like I play the piano.
DM: Do you have an organ at home?
SG: Uh-huh.
DM: You have both at home now?
SG: Yeah.
DM: Oh wow, that's great.
SG: Yep. I enjoy both of them but the piano is my instrument.
DM: That's great. So what do you think inspired you as a young child I mean what really?
SG: I think it was just a talent that the Lord gave me because, you know, I could hear something I could sit down and play I ( ).
DM: Before you even learned to read music?
SG: Yeah, oh yeah.
DM: Oh, that is good.
SG: I played for the kids to sing at church before I ever took music. When I was like five or six years old. I'd play for them "You Are My Sunshine" and those little songs, you've heard those songs.
DM: Yeah. Oh yeah.
SG: "Jesus Loves Me." DM: Oh great.
SG: Yeah.
DM: That's really neat, that is a gift. I think it is a gift then, yeah.
SG: Yeah. You can learn to play the piano if you don't have that talent, but, uh, it's just easier if the Lord gives you the talent to start with.
DM: I think that's great that you pursued it and kept pursuing it because a lot of people they get stopped by, "Well I, uh, I don't have a piano, so I can't, I can't do it."
SG: Yeah.
DM: Whereas you had that love in your heart as a child and you just kept, you know, "Well, OK. I don't have it now but--"
SG: Yeah.
DM: And then when the next opportunity came, you got it.
SG: Yeah.
DM: And that's, that's really neat.
SG: Yes. But I'll never forget sitting there and playing up and down that doorstep. And I'd sit there for hours.
DM: Yeah. It's almost like you could see yourself doing it.
SG: [Laugh] Yeah.
DM: And once you finally had the piano, you actually could do it.
SG: Yeah.
DM: Yeah. And that's how people could--
SG: Somebody said that I told my, uh, daddy, that I, he asked me something about a piano and I said, "Well if I had a piano I could play it," [laugh] but I don't remember saying that. Somebody told me I said that. [Laugh]
DM: Uh-huh. If you tell enough people--
SG: Yeah.
DM: You just get it.
SG: Yeah.
DM: That's so neat that is so cool.
SG: It is.
DM: That's great. So, when times get difficult, then do you hold on to what type of ( )?
SG: Well if I, you know, feel sad, I'll go play things that are happy music.
DM: Does that change your spirit a lot?
SG: It helps. It does help.
DM: That's good so you have-
SG: It's a soul thing for me, I guess. [Laugh]
DM: That's neat.
SG: Feeds my soul.
DM: So you feel more connected to God, maybe, when you play?
SG: Yeah. Depending on what I'm playing. If I'm playing hymns and I read the words as I go along.
DM: Uh-huh.
SG: Because hymns have wonderful words. Most hymns are written from scripture so that helps.
DM: That's neat. That's great. Well, thank you Sallie for sharing your story.
SG: You're very welcome.
DM: That's great.
SG: I enjoyed doing it.
DM: I didn't know that about you, so that's great.
SG: You learn something new every day.
DM: I appreciate it. Thank you.
SG: You're very welcome.