Farm Girl’s Fascination with Musical Fantasy

In last week’s blog, I introduced you to my “Kansas” — the one-red-light-town of Newville, Pennsylvania. If you go another three miles past the red light, you’ll come to the farmhouse where I was raised. 

I can still picture my mother’s brown Wurlitzer piano sitting in the living room. It was a treasure to her because as a young woman she purchased it with her own money in the 1940’s. It was the centerpiece of my life.

Frances at the Wurlitzer piano.

I have no first memory of the piano…just a collage of memories. In fact, it feels as if the piano and I were womb mates and we grew up as playmates. 

According to my mother, I started playing by ear when I was two or three years old. In her opinion, one thing that separated me from other children was my approach to it. While others would bang on it, I’d touch the keys very gently, one note at a time. I later learned that there is a time and place to play fortissimo (very loud) but I had to come out of my shell before that ever happened. 

Together, we [the piano and I] would put on little shows for my “Auntie Em and Uncle Henry.” I must have had a thing for shows because in the winter, I’d perform little dances on our farm pond—ice skating to music and creating lovely choreographed movements. I tried to be just like the Olympic skaters I saw on our black and white TV. I’m sure I was just like them. LOL!

Sometimes, I’d create a little choir with the chess pieces from our chess set and of course, I always lined them up according to their height. The piano, the shows, the skating…these were all indicators of the creative path I would choose in the future. A convergence of skill and desire.

Angie — after her bath.

In addition to musical fantasies, I suppose every farm girl needs a dog and we had many. My personal favorite was Angie; a lovely apricot-colored poodle. Sorry Toto, nothing against Terriers. My mother liked poodles and picked Angel from a December litter—a Christmas dog. She followed me around the farm and sometimes she’d sit on my lap when I practiced the piano. Yes, I was one of those odd children who loved to practice

It’s pretty clear that my fascination with performing started with living room shows around the piano, skating to music and arranging plastic chess choirs. Once I began writing music and recording albums, I started getting invitations to sing at various churches and events. 

About fourteen years after my first album, Under The Big Blue Sky, I began to dream of doing a big annual Christmas concert and in 2014, I started Portraits of White.

This week’s video:

Welcome to Kansas!

My studio.

Outside my music studio window is a busy state road. If you head East about three miles, you’ll arrive in Newville, Pennsylvania. It’s my “Kansas” and I’d like to take you on a little tour of my town. I often refer to it is as a one-red-light-town. I’m not sure why I say red. It could be yellow or green, but it often feels red to me. Perhaps because I’m usually in a hurry?! Busted! 

According to the Newville Historical Society, Andrew Ralston first settled near the shores of the Big Spring in 1728. William Laughlin and his brother soon followed. The Big Spring is the second largest fresh water spring stream in the country and as such, it drew settlers wishing to capitalize on its potential. Laughlin built the first mill on its banks in 1762. By 1817, the town of Newville had incorporated and the economy began to grow and thrive.

Laughlin Mill – four seasons.

Photo credit is given to Steve Kennedy of Newville.

We moved to Newville in 1968 when I was two years old. Over the years, I’ve grown to love my little town with its nooks and crannies. I became much more observant of Cumberland Valley’s beauty when my husband and I started riding motorcycles over ten years ago. We enjoy a nice leisurely ride on the back roads, not to mention the destination—soft serve ice cream. Chocolate/Vanilla twist please. In a cone.

During Covid, I started riding those same back roads on my pedal bike, often riding for hours just to enjoy the sites. With very little traffic on the roads, I felt like I had the valley to myself. I could tell when restrictions were lifted because I had to share the road once again. We have a lovely trail rail, but I prefer different views every day so I often ride the road instead.

It was over this time that I began noticing how beautiful my “Kansas” truly is. Here are a few of my daily views…

According to the World Population Review, Newville has a population of 1,341 as of 2021. Though it’s very small, we have big appetites. Who wouldn’t after all of those bike rides? We have a few places to satisfy your cravings.

Now that restaurants are open again, as you are going through town, you can stop for a delicious “Skirt Burger” at Jaymee Lee’s Diner, or Stromboli with fresh made bread at Kane’s Korner Pizzeria. Craving a cheeseburger sub with crunchy-crispy-but-airy french fries? I recommend Brother’s Pizza. You can park your car (or bike) at the fountain and walk to all three eateries. I recommend going back to Kane’s for some Goose Brother’s homemade ice cream. 

Sorry, we don’t have a fitness center. But you’re welcome to ride your bike on the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail and you can easily get to downtown Newville from there. Just be very careful about speeding through town. I can tell you from experience that it is well patrolled by our local law enforcement. 🙂

I love our Newville Print Shop where the owner puts out soft water taffy for his customers during the summer—when he comes back from his trip to the shore. He keeps a small spiral notebook with a hand-written record of the copies I make there in his shop. I pay him every few years when he remembers to tally up my tab. Every time I go into the shop, he tells me he needs to get my total figured up and I always say, “sure thing, just let me know when you do.” 

Then there’s the local bank where they feed the local cat. I barely had the front door open one day when something dashed around my feet into the bank. A bit alarmed, I mentioned it to the teller who nonchalantly said, “oh…that’s the neighborhood cat. It’s ok, we feed it every day.” The cat ran back behind the counter to its usual feeding spot. I smiled. Only in Newville, I muttered to myself.

I shop at the same grocery store where my mother shopped when I was a little girl. We don’t have the fancy organic section that many superstores do, and sometimes I ask for ingredients that seem foreign to the stock clerks, but Saylor’s Market has THE best homemade Bavarian cream filled chocolate icing donuts you’ll ever taste. Just make sure you get there early in the day. The early bird gets the…donut.

As I’m writing this, I keep checking the clock—it’s gotta be time for lunch soon!! All this writing about food is making me hungry and I think I might be forgetting the purpose of this particular post…
Ah yes. I just wanted to show you around my town and welcome you to my “Kansas.”