Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I sold my trumpet on eBay today

(Goodbye old friend.  There was a brass-full of memories in this trumpet.)

It was exciting at first.  I listed the starting bid at $275.  Bids began to come in immediately.  $311. The inquiries also began: "Are there any scratches or dents?  Can you send me more pictures?  How much to mail it to Spain?  How much to Germany?"  I put my trumpet on eBay for 7 days, and it was turning out to be a long week mentally.  Initially, I just wanted to get rid of it, but by Day 4, I wasn't so sure.

The instrument was a Conn Constellation, made in Elkhart, Indiana.  After extensive research on the internet, I concluded it was a model 28A, built in 1959.  My mother bought the horn used from my trumpet instructor Max Beck for $200, which was a princely sum for our family in 1962.  But the trumpet I had used in high school in the early 1960s had been lugged around the country by my wife and me for more than 40 years.  I tried to play it once or twice during that time, but my lip was gone and I didn't have the energy to start over with the lip building business.  My son tried it for a while when he was young, but it didn't take.  It was apparent that if I kept the memento, it would never be used by me.  $411.  What to do with it?  It makes a lousy door stop.

As the week progressed, the memories associated with that old brass thing came flooding back to me.  I remember going over to Steve Wyandt's house, where he played drums and I played my trumpet.  We would listen to records of Louis Armstrong or Jonah Jones first and then we would play and try our best to sound just like them. I remember practicing in the upstairs bedroom where my brothers and I grew up on Rice Avenue, where my mother made me play for an hour a day.  That was the deal if she was going to pay for private lessons.  The first time I played those black marks on the page that represented notes, and realized that I knew the song I was playing, was magical.

I was a pretty good trumpet player at Lima Senior High.  I sat first or second chair in a 15-member trumpet section all three years in concert band.  I was a squad leader in the first line of our 96-member marching band.  I played in a swing band called the Swingphonettes; we played at some high school dances, much to the disappointment of the student body.  What's the problem?  I didn't see what Paul Anka had that we didn't have.  I was good, but I wasn't the best.  In concert band,  I'll never forget watching Delores Taylor, who was the best trumpet player we ever had, play the trumpet solo in Haydn Trumpet Concerto in Eb. (For a fantastic rendition of this moving concerto, watch Wynton Marsalis play this at Wynton Marsalis plays Haydn Concerto).  I felt pride as we accompanied her.  What made her performance all the more unbelievable was that Delores wore braces on her teeth.  Ouch!  $456.45.  

Being in the first line in marching band had its advantages.  You were right behind the majorettes--I  remember those legs as though I was still that horny adolescent boy.  I remember the hot practices in August behind the high school (which is now gone), and our hazing of sophomores entering the band for the first time.  How green they were.  I remember the ranting and raving of our emotional band instructor Bill Stein.  Man, could he get angry.  I remember Norman Meyers yelling words of encouragement at me from the second line as we took the field on a crisp autumn evening during the pre-game ceremonies.  It was Friday night and the stands contained thousands of the town's football fans.  I remember the lush green grass under our feet as we played the national anthem in front of that huge flag. 

I remember concerts in the high school auditorium, and bus trips to other schools and the feeling of being a "visitor" on their field, and the competition at Sectionals.  How nerve-wracking.  I remember all the camaraderie, the competitiveness, the hard work, the satisfaction, and the legs.  Those memories were rich and by Day 5 of the eBay cycle I was ready to bid on my own trumpet. $493.  Management denied me this option.

As we moved into the final hour of bidding on Day 7 for the most valuable childhood possession I ever owned, my emotional attachment seemed to dissipate as the trumpet with which I had spent so many hours transformed merely into an object I was selling.  $532.50$537.50.  Sold to the gentleman from Florida!  And so it goes. We buy, we use, and we sell.  We are born, we live, and we die.  It is a law of nature.  Nothing mysterious about it.  But I was exceptionally thoughtful and silent on the ride home from the post office.


  1. I'd like to think I'll hold onto my saxophone until I can pass it on to someone like my uncle did for me. I'll always remember teaching myself how to play Black Dog by Zeppelin in 5th grade

  2. It looks like you're playing Taps for your own trumpet in that picture

  3. I could have donated my trumpet to someone instead of selling it, but I needed scotch.

  4. Someone just commented to me today that I need to do the same thing with too many mementos, like a set of rock-em sock-em robots from back in '66. However, in a way, it would be sad. I still get into my recordings of the Andrews sisters and Patti Page, oh well, maybe I will hold out a while longer, my supply is still intact.

  5. what a great post, tom - sent me down memory lane a bit - especially thinking of the old lima senior, and friday night football games - EVERYBODY went - kids, teachers, parents, grandparents, and just plain ol' lima-ites who wanted to support the local team. that tradition is fading in too many places! and don't feel too bad about the trumpet - you can buy a really nice doorstop with $537.50...leigh braley

  6. You can put that money next to your first communion cash!
    Or buy some really good cigars.

  7. You know Craig, I think I may have bought cigars with my first communion cash when I was 12.

  8. Leigh, times have changed in so many ways. Old people have been saying that for generations. But one has to wonder if there hasn't been a trend toward less sociality or less community than there used to be. Competition continues to escalate in most aspects of life, and that changes it all.

  9. u go by dr. tom. good i like it. that was a great story, w/ attachment like your horn was human (or w/ feeling) did u name her/ him?i think she would have made a most wonderful betty, by your sincere, & very discripyive memories of the 2 of you sincr high school, probably before. practice makes perfect & you know your mom was right to demand it. your thoughts r very clear & thoughtful. i hope mr. fla. gets even 1/2 the pleasure you did. my dad played trumpet, then down to his son his horn went. you were very lucky to have a talent. you were a very good player in your own right be proud, savor your memories. sometimes thats all thats left. better than no memory. billie.