A history of a piano maker's family
A number of years ago I was tuning a piano at a Senior Center in Long Island City Queens, not too far from the neighborhood I had grown up in, Astoria. As I was working, an older gentleman stopped to chat. I found out later he was 79 years old at the time and that his name was Peter. He looked nowhere near his age. In fact, he was wearing a tool belt loaded with a hammer, screwdrivers and various pliers and was doing handyman type actions at the center. Through our conversation we discovered that we were both from Astoria. he, being much older than I, informed me of what it was like living there when he was younger. We had a nice little talk and then he let me go on with my work.
As I continued, a strange feeling came upon me to ask him if he had ever known any Drasches or Speyrers (the Speyrer family was my father's mother's side of the family and was fairly well off back then and i assumed were more well known than the Drasche family). When Peter came back into the room I asked him that very question. His face turned white and he seemed to look into nothingness, but was in reality looking back as if my question had thrown him into some past time. "Drasche, Johnnie Drasche?" asked Peter. "Johnnie Drasche was my grandfather", I said, although I never called "Gramps" that. Peter continued on telling me the story of his acquaintance with my grandfather with great enthusiasm, admiration and gratitude.
My grandfather , unlike his two brothers who worked for Steinway & Sons, had opted for the other industrial job choice in Astoria at that time: lumber. Located near the Steinway factory he was a foreman in the lumber mill. Peter (at 17 years of age) had applied for a job in the mid 1920s and John Drasche interviewed him. Seeing that Peter had a good knowledge of wood, he was hired. I was told by Peter how much he loved my grandfather, little things that he remembered like getting an apple or some lunch that was brought from home and shared by Johnnie.
The mill moved to Brazil or Peru (I can't recall which) shortly after the stock market crash of 1929. My grandfather electing to stay in the States and be unemployed for a good number of years. "I always wondered what happened to Johnnie after that", said Peter. I filled him in on what I had known especially the parts about how he showed me the same love, affection and caring that he had shown Peter those many years go. I watched Peter's face as I told him the story of John Drasche's remaining years (he passed away in 1976) and it was like filling an empty treasure chest with gold.
I never saw Peter again, but that was a good day for me, him and Johnnie Drasche