Shirley Palmer – A Family Happening


When our son was in grade school his front teeth were showing signs of not being perfectly straight, so the Pediatric Dentist that I took the kids to suggested that we get him either a trumpet or a trombone and that pressure from the mouth piece pressing against those teeth would push them back, thus eliminating the need for braces! Our nephew had a trombone sitting in their closet, so the trombone it was.

We signed him up for music lessons and soon he was in the school orchestra. He enjoyed this musical diversion and took his part in the school orchestra quite seriously. At the end of the year they would put on a concert for all the parents to hear how they had or hadn’t progressed – the big event of the end of the school year.

By the time Gary was in the 6th grade (last year of grade school) he was feeling pretty confident and smart about his newly acquired talent. This particular year they decided to bring the 6 or 7 grade schools in our general area together to play a BIG concert! It was going to be played in the auditorium of San Fernando High School on a Friday night.

The morning of the concert my son reminded me at breakfast that he needed oil for his trombone slide – it was sticking and he needed the oil so it would be in perfect condition for the concert. I assured him I would run out at lunch – up to the music store in San Fernando and get the trombone oil. As fate would have it, I had one of my busiest days in escrow ever!! I had customers lined up outside my door all day long – I was lucky to get a “potty” break – no lunch – worked right through it. I was rushing so that I’d be home in time to leave for the BIG concert. I came rushing in the back door and first thing Gary asked me for his trombone oil – BAM – it hit me, I had forgotten the darn oil!!!

I apologized all over the place, trying to explain what a busy day I’d had etc etc., but kids just don’t want to hear excuses. He was mad – “How could you forget, Mom??”
My husband spoke up and said he had something that would work – so he goes in and brings out some silicone spray. He sprayed the slide – worked it up and down a few times and it was working great. Gary was happy again – his Dad was the “hero” and Mom was part way out of the dog house. We had to rush out for him to get the bus to ride with the rest of the kids up to San Fernando High School.

In our car was husband and me, my Mom (who was visiting from Seattle) and our daughter. We got up to the high school and entered the auditorium and it was huge – compared to what we had been used to for our own school concerts. They had like an orchestra pit on the floor for all the strings and then on the stage they had various risers for the students to sit on – so all could be seen. There was probably at least 60 or more kids that were going to play together – and this was big time excitement for them. The Band Master from San Fernando High School was conducting.

We took our seats – were given very nice programs with all the students names printed in them – each under their particular schools name. Listed under Canterbury Grade School was Gary Palmer, as 1st trombone. We were all so proud.

The time came for the kids to march in and it was spectacular – all they boys in white shirts, dark pants & ties and the girls in white blouses & dark skirts. They filed in according to the seating arrangements, so the trombones being on the very top tier of the stands came in first, the trumpets were next – the percussion section was set over to the side of the stage – on solid ground. The last to enter of course were the violins that were way down on the floor level circled around the conductor. Looking back there must have been at least 4 rows up on the stage and probably another 4 rows down below. The way they had it arranged you could see each and every player as the auditorium sloped up – giving us all a wonderful view.

Musicians in place – the Conductor came out to a round of applause – time for the show to begin. He picked up his baton and hit it against his music stand, which was a clue for the musicians to bring up their instruments to starting position for their first song which was to be Battle Hymn of the Republic!

Unfortunately the starting position for trombone for that song was with the slide all the way out. It happened so fast I don’t think anybody realized at first what had happened. BUT – in getting into first position Gary’s slide from his trombone went flying out into mid air – bounced down all the tiers of the stage and past the percussion and ended up in the violin section. The conductor put his baton down and motioned to Gary to come and retrieve his slide. I remember my Mother holding her program over her face and saying “That isn’t Gary is it???” There was snickering all around us as we tried not to be embarrassed. I wanted to cry – it was all my fault – that damn oil that I had forgotten –curses on Mom!!

Gary made his way down all the level on the stage – then jumped off stage into the violin section picked up his slide and then had to climb back up all the way to the top. Upon arrival at his seat – the conductor turned around to the audience and said, “We will now begin” and bowed again – took up the baton, taped the music stand and the wonderful music began. AND Gary had a death grip on his slide for the rest of the performance. Surprisingly enough he came out smiling after the concert!

It is a night forever etched in my memory – and the rest of our family. My husband learned his silicone spray was a little slicker than regular trombone oil, and my son learned how to make the best out of a very bad situation AND most of all Mom learned to pin important errands to be done at lunch time on the outside of her purse, so she didn’t slip up again!!.

By the way, when he entered Jr. High School he gave up the trombone for football. And, as a post script that mouthpiece of the trombone pressing on his teeth had pushed his teeth back, just like the dentist had said it would.

And that is one of my favorite family happenings! Now it is amusing to look back, at the time it could have been disaster (and almost was)!!

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4 Comments on “Shirley Palmer – A Family Happening”

  1. Deborah W Says:

    Love it! Have to pass this on to my brother who has 3 young ones (who have teeth that may need help) as a “better than braces” story! Thanks!

  2. Viv Ray Says:

    Great “memorable” story. Loved reading it.

  3. Marlene Caetano Says:

    Shirley, you should have been a writer! Your story is so detailed that in my mind I actually can picture this situation happening. You also put alot of character in your words. Bravo! for a wonderful story and thank God your son decided to play football!!

  4. […] mylacollier Blogged something interesting today on yourlifestory.wordpress.comHere’s a snippet: […]

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