View Full Version : 85 year old uker story...

08-31-2010, 04:32 PM
I work for a not for profit called "Land for Learning Institute" and we do adventure and outdoor education trips. One large portion of our business is Elderhostel (now called roadscholar) which is a network of providers (such as us) and trips for people of retirement age (and sometimes their grandchildren).
While I was at work, preparing for this weeks Elderhostel group coming, preparing canoes and lunches and such..., I received a call from my boss who was doing their check in at a nearby state park that one of the participants was a uker and proud of it, and he suggested we hide the children (my boss, an amazing guitar player, teases my ukulele ways in good fun, but hes the one that gives the opportunity to open for his well established duo, don't egg his house, hes a closet uke lover)
So as i met for dinner with the group, who had already heard about me, I was serenaded by Paul, from N. Indiana, on his Harmony baritone ukulele, (circa 1955ish, it was 4 dollars at a pawn shop at some point in the 60's) I wasn't familiar with the song exactly, some old fuddy duddy uke classic i'm sure, but of course an amazing moment, as his now frail, yet bassy voice worked on the melody. After i did my evening program, (a wild edible plant walk) I played country roads for them on my 8 string lanikai, and then showed paul some of the others i brought. After a wonderful duet of 5 foot 2 and big rock candy mountain (about the only two songs we both knew, i guess I'm yours hasn't made it into the older folks rings yet....how wonderful it must feel).
Paul's wife passed on a few years back...he has since married his "Hot new thang" 88 year old Linda...But he recalled to me, as the sun set in the state park, about how he could always get his kids to fall asleep with a lullaby on his bari. He was clearly welling up, under his stern military style, R. Lee Ermy flattop, recalling the good times he's had with that uke. So fond were he and his wife of that lullaby, that when his wife passed, her ashes, were scattered into a large pasture in the farm they worked together (his too are destined for the same field). As he watched her flow back into the field one last time, be played that lullaby...with the help of his kids singing along, (no one made it to the end without a honked tear filled note)...A life made better, and crescendo'ed with ukulele.

The final thing he said to me is "Don't put that damn thing down, Alex, You'll feel like hell sometimes, pick it up, and you can let some other moron worry about your problems for a while."

What a day.


08-31-2010, 04:45 PM
Nice, Alex.

'Tis true. Ukulele always makes us feel good. :-)

08-31-2010, 04:50 PM
Thank you, Alex.

08-31-2010, 04:55 PM
What a nice story! :)

Ya know what I always find amazing is that for the most part, old people are just like young people, only they're older. I mean, I'm about to turn 57 tomorrow and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up.

Look at people like Mick Jagger and Tina Turner. They're senior citizens for crying out loud, but still going strong and doing what they love.

I work on a veterans website with a guy who's 84 but he's still sharp as a tack and his sense of humor is awesome. You should keep in touch with Paul. He sounds like a very cool dude. :cool:

08-31-2010, 06:13 PM
Beautiful story there, and the impetus I need to put the uke in the car more often- it is just a cheapo Makala Tenor for now and the car ride may do it some good (not that it is a particularly bad player...just not the prettiest thing-needs some wear on ti to give it character).
When I had been playing all of a week (mind you, I have played other instruments for years- only the strings that are a new thing), I took it to the local History museum where I volunteer. The docent that worked the shift before me saw my ridiculously small guitar case and asked "Ukulele?"
"Yep- just learning"
"I used to play. Actually, I grew up in Hawaii and was there they dropped the bombs on Pearl Harbor...I lived right there at the base..."
OK, sufficed to say I got the best stories I have ever heard, as I have a love for history- all I had to do in return was clumsily pluck out Aloha Oe.
So be it- sage advice about not putting it down- the addiction is certainly strong enough, but the joy the little jumping flea brings is immeasurable.

Chris Tarman
08-31-2010, 07:08 PM
There is a Japanese-American gentleman in his (I'm guessing) late 60s or early 70s who goes to our church. I've known him and his wife for 16 years. A couple of weeks ago my wife sat with them at a church picnic (I'd had a bass gig out of town the night before). They asked where I was, and Tania told them I had a gig the night before. He asked what I played, and she told him I played bass but that my new love was ukulele. He said he played when he was young. Turns out he was born and raised in Hawaii (I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by that, it just never occurred to me!). In fact, my wife said he told her they went to Hawaii last year and he bought his son some kind of uke there that was supposed to be really good. She couldn't remember what he said it was, but remembered that it started with a "K". I asked her if it was "Kamaka", and she said "Yeah! That's it!". I need to get with him and see if he still remembers how to play anything. I might not learn a lot from him if he hasn't played since he was a kid, but I bet HE'D get a kick out of it!

mm stan
08-31-2010, 09:32 PM
Thanks all, they were all nice stories...I appriciate you sharing them with us...
Isn't life amazing when you meet people and they share their ukulele experiences with you!!!
Just love when you make those type of connections...MM Stan..

08-31-2010, 09:44 PM
Yes, those are good stories.

My plan is to have a decent repertoire of lullabies before the child we are trying to manufacture arrives.

Hippie Dribble
08-31-2010, 09:49 PM
thanks so much jeeper

I have had some similar experiences - as I bet have many - in my own work as an aged carer and diversional therapist. I also moonlight as a sunday school teacher and do various kids stuff in the community.

I have not found an instrument that is able to bridge the generational gap like the humble ukulele.

It is truly amazing for me, and a privilege actually, to see 80+ year olds participate in singalongs at the nursing home, smiling away and loving it, and then play the same songs next day at Sunday School and watch the kids having a ball. Many of the elderly folk have specific life memories of certain songs and the playing and singing of them helps to unlock these.

Incidentally, I watched "Stanley's Gig" last night for the first time and was again encouraged to keep on singing and strumming with the old and the young. What an instrument!!!!!!

Blessings mate and cheers. eugene

08-31-2010, 09:59 PM
Wow..I felt i just read a Nobel prize story :')

Similarly my experience, today i was walking around in the local instrumental store, looking at the same bunch of ukes they always have. Kala,Kala,Kala, and Kala. :P
Anyways, i sat down at played with the Kala tenor spruce top. Strumming to somewhere over the rainbow, a guy in a business suit came along and asked : 'Is that a ukulele you're playing, mate?'
Which then proceeded to me telling him the basic chords of somewhere over the rainbow, and half an hour later, he walked out the store with the Kala Spruce top i was playing with!

08-31-2010, 11:20 PM
Some great stories in this thread.

09-01-2010, 03:16 AM
Great story, Alex

09-01-2010, 05:24 AM
I guess there is still hope for me. At 71 (72 in December), took up the Uke a year ago and it is consuming. Getting younger all the time. Retirement is fun.

09-01-2010, 05:41 AM
Cool stories. Thanks for sharing.

09-01-2010, 03:43 PM
Love that last quote.

09-13-2010, 09:08 AM
Well I'm 72 going on 40, and enjoying my retirement years, more especially since I picked up the uke a few years ago. I love my ukes, two tenors and one Bari, and play them a lot!! There is something so lifting and joyous about the little buggers that they just make your day if you just pick them up and play them awhile. You don't have to be really "good" , just sufficient to strum enough chords and a few note picks to go along with your singing, humming your favorite songs. Of course we all strive to be Jake, James, Ken, Aldrine, Mike, and other inspirations, but our chances of becoming that good are about like winning the lottery. :) Lozark

09-13-2010, 10:35 AM
.....today i was walking around in the local instrumental store, looking at the same bunch of ukes they always have. Kala,Kala,Kala, and Kala.........
Lucky You! To have a store around my area with 4 ukes alone would be great, let alone all Kalas! :drool:

I guess there is still hope for me. At 71 (72 in December), took up the Uke a year ago and it is consuming. Getting younger all the time. Retirement is fun.

Well I'm 72 going on 40, and enjoying my retirement years, more especially since I picked up the uke a few years ago......
That's my plan! I'm 54 but am looking at the retirement years from my day job (hopefully soon) I'm retired from weekend gigging on the bass and the uke just seems like quite the good fit for me.

At the age of 77, my mother in law started taking uke lessons at her church with a group that was supposed to be for children. She heard them playing and asked if she could take lessons with them. Now 82 she has gotten my wife, two of her sisters and now me, all hooked on uke. They, along with my two step daughters, are all good singers (I am not) and we all go out to nursing homes and retirement centers and play and sing (for free of course). What a blessing it is for everybody involved!

Jerlial Prophet
09-13-2010, 04:24 PM
My Dad was a gifted musician and loved playing his Kamaka pineapple whenever he could but usually at our weekly Friday pau hana parties. Several years ago he lent it out to an incompetent individual who left it at a park one Sunday evening after playing it there, never saw it again. Fast forward several decades and I'm at the old Oahu homestead helping Dad take care of my terminally ill mother in home hospice. My sis from California comes to assist in mom care duties. Dad says me and sis should take a break and encourages us to go to the Aloha Stadium Flea Market which is always fun. While there I notice a 'ukulele vendor with various pineapple 'ukuleles. I was able to bargain a very decent sounding pineapple with hard case out of him for $70. I am hoping this 'ukulele will help cheer up Dad and Mom by reliving the old days, better times past. When we get home I hand my Dad his new pineapple and at first he is upset that I spent money on him when I'm there away from my Maui home on leave without pay scolding me that I should conserve my money. Then he opens the case picks up the 'ukulele and his face lights up with a big smile. He immediately fine tunes his new 'ukulele then starts playing it warming up for just a few seconds before he starts playing tunes like he never stopped playing. It had been over 30 years since he last picked up the 'ukulele but you'd never now. He gave me and my sis a mini concert before we had to return to mom duties. A few days later my mom took ma turn for the worse and passed away shortly afterwards in my arms giving me her last smile of approval before taking her last breath. She passed away just 1 week from their 60th anniversary. My dad never picked up that 'ukulele again, and passed away just 2 months later from a broken heart. I gave that 'ukulele to my kid sis in Florida as a memento of my dad. Thanks dad for instilling in me practically from conception my love for, and renewing my interest in the 'ukulele. The love of the ocean, and the love of the 'ukulele are two things he left me. He was 2 months from his 86th birthday when he left me.

Very touching story, both sad and sweet.