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57 Beginning in the 1940s, Kenneth and I had agreed that his efforts would stretch southward to reclaim ancestral farmland, while mine would extend northward to restore historic Harmonist homes. We would meet in the middle of New Harmony and branch out from the David Dale Owen Laboratory. Kenneth’s first priority was overseeing the restoration of his childhood home, accomplished through the skills of Fred E. Cook. Auntie Aline’s memorabilia ­ were reduced and or­ ga­ nized, which allowed for the addition of lovely furnishings. Most important, the fossil fish, which became for me a symbol of hope and renewal, was restored. The Lab had awakened from its slumber. The publication of Marguerite Young’s book Angel in the Forest in 1945 piqued the interest of staff at Life magazine, who visited New Harmony to prepare an article. The caption of the feature photograph describes the Lab as a “fairy-­ tale castle.” In another photograph inside the Lab, Auntie Aline sat reading beside the open shutters of a bay window shedding light ChaptER 6 Acquiring the Granary and Mansion 58 New Harmony, indiana on a bust of Robert Owen.1 We ­were no longer concerned about the home leaving family hands, as the war­ time years slowed outside interests in acquiring our historic properties. Kenneth concentrated his energy on Indian Mound Farm.2 My focus included more than my ­ well-­ intentioned but novice attempt at restoring No. V and offering dance classes in the Ribeyre gym. Remembering my mother’s stories about growing up in Lampasas, a small Texas town without access to the arts, I wanted to provide cultural opportunities ­ here in New Harmony. My friend Alberta Sandefur, known as Amy, was a brave soul and a fine pianist. She gave piano lessons for a living and cared for a difficult, aged father. On the rare occasions when our daughters sighted him down the lane, they would sing, “There goes a crooked man with a crooked stick, walking a crooked mile.” Her father, mercifully, was deaf. I invited David Nixon, a violinist from New Orleans, to share his considerable talents with the community. I rented Murphy Auditorium for a concert on Thursday, June 20, 1946, when children would be out of school and around the time when our family would customarily transfer from Houston to New Harmony (24 on town map). David, a recovering alcoholic , was addicted to sweets, particularly chocolate ice cream sodas, and could be found each morning at our local Ramsey pharmacy, which, in the 1940s and ’50s, was the town’s social center, its ice cream parlor, and its dispensary. In the eve­nings, he would play his violin on the streets of New Harmony for whoever wished to listen. His audience kept increasing and, I believe, would have followed its Pied Piper into the­ Wabash had he led them to it. There was no need to hire a professional to bring an audience for his concert later that month. I had doubts, however, about David’s intentions to present only the music of Bach and his contemporaries. To David’s “We’ll pack the ­ house,” I replied, more soberly, “People­ here won’t sit through an entire eve­ ning listening to ­ seventeenth- and­ eighteenth-­ century music. Please throw in a little Victor Herbert or Cole Porter, who is a native of Peru, Indiana.” David would not budge. “There’ll only be Bach and his contemporaries or no concert. By the way, I’ll need an accompanist. Is there anyone ­ here who can play Bach, et cetera?” Amy consented, with misgivings at first, but within a week she mastered the difficult scores David placed before her. Shabby old Murphy Acquiring the Granary and Mansion 59 Auditorium was filled to capacity that eve­ ning, adults at fifty cents each and for children only a quarter. The response to the concert exceeded all expectations. The applause was long and vigorous. Children, accustomed to juke boxes and Muzak, stood up and cheered; parents sat still, quietly moved. That night empowered my future decisions. I would never underestimate the capacity of human beings to ingest and recognize quality. Talk up, not down. When our valiant neighbor Miss Laura was nearing the end of her long life in late 1947, speculation about the disposition of the Corbin property dominated the conversations of coffee drinkers at Richard’s Cafe, reviving concerns from a de­cade earlier.3 Miss Laura had apparently been “put out” with the state’s overtures for...


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