The Little Girl Who Wrote the Waltz
Certain kinds of people do not believe in coincidences: They believe everything is planned, that unseen forces coordinate life.
I’m one of those people, although it’s not always clear who’s in charge of the non-coincidence department–God, guardian angels, or whatever.
Maybe the dead do their part.
Here’s what happened a few months ago.
I flew to San Angelo for a writer thing and one of the lovely people from Stephens Central Library gave me a ride to my bed and breakfast.
I didn’t like the B&B.
Traffic was its only lullaby, as it sat right on the highway. It was crowded with so much furniture it was hard to walk through rooms, doodads covered every surface, potpourri penetrated every crack and a soundtrack featuring harps drove me crazy.
Nope, I thought, and turned to tell the hostess I was moving on.
Then I saw a piano and the rack held a piece of music so old the parchment was yellow.
I wandered over to the piano and saw
Fort Concho or Little Tot Waltz By Katie Hammons. Age 9 years. San Angelo, Tex.
Inside, it said, “Copyright, 1888, by E.W. Hammons.”
I played the piece. It was simple and plaintive, evoking couples whirling on hardwood floors, girls skirts flaring, candles fluttering, men and boys holding their partners oh so romantically.
The waltz was written in b flat, and its tempo was allegro, or lively.
Too bad I can’t reproduce the piano notes here. But if you’re musical, you can follow this little part: high A, B, F, highest D, C.
Just discovering the music made me change my mind about the B&B. I felt like someone was telling me to stay.
So I did, and got used to the smell of potpourri.
I badly wanted a copy of Katie’s music, but the B&B owner did not give me permission to take the waltz to a copy shop.
But I had a feeling.
Before I flew out I went to the West Texas Collection Archives at Angelo State University to research. And the first thing I did was ask about Katie.
They had an original Little Tot Waltz and gave me a copy! That made my week.
The collection also contained about six undated newspaper stories about the Hammons’ family.
E.W. Hammons, Katie’s father, was a traveling piano salesman and owned shares in the Artesian Well Company. The newspaper reported the dates E.W. sold pianos in Abilene and Ballenger.
E.W. must have done well. He bought a house and two lots in the “Miles Addition” for $225.
We know Katie had a B average in fourth grade, and no wonder. School principal H.V. Moulton bragged, to the paper, the grammar school had “A fine globe, fine sets of maps and charts, and our school board has ordered a set of philosophical apparatus.”
One more thing. The family moved to Waco.
What happened to Katie? Did she die from some dread disease and was photographed in her coffin, as was often done in the 19th Century?
I found out, thanks to the kind folks at Waco Historical Society!
The Hammons lived in Waco one year then moved to Tarrant County (Fort Worth), where the family was listed on the 1920 census.
In 1930, the family lived in Dallas, on Roseland Street.
In the 30s, Katie, her father and mother lived in the same house on Roseland, as did sisters Dora, Ray and Rilla, as did Rilla’s husband and three little boys.
In 1930, Katie, 43-years-old, was an organ teacher.
E.W. died on June 30, 1934, of heart disease, still living on Roseland Street.
Katherine Nanette Hammons died Aug. 21, 1962, of colon cancer.
She was 83.
Both Katie and E.W. are buried at Restland Memorial Park, in Dallas.
There you go, two quiet lives.
We have no evidence, but I believe they were a happy family.
E.W. was musical, Katie was musical, and they lived together all their lives.
How he must have loved Katie. He was so proud of his nine-year-old that he published her music.
Katie, I played your waltz today and you seemed so close, as if you stood right by the piano.
Julia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, scalpmountain.com, on Facebook, on Pinterest, on Twitter, and on Venturegalleries.com.