Music, Language, and the Inventive Streak

Betty, Taylor, Virginia, Wally, Harley perhaps, 06.12.1965, courtesy of Colin DuncanThe music that we see in Jules or in T.J., the music comes through Dad, I think. My mother really wasn’t musical at all.

[Marcia]: But she, the inventive streak that so many of you have must have come through her side of the family because wasn’t it her, one of her relatives that invented the coupler for the train cars?

Yes. I think it was Choate.

[Marcia]: Choate.

It was a Choate who invented the. . . . I think it was Choate. He never was able to patent it, but he saw that the trains were held together by chains when he was a young kid. And he would sit by the trains as they were going by and often they would break. He invented that and never got it patented.

There’s Virginia Lee [showing picture].

We were told by my mother and she had gotten it by. . . .

[Heidi]: I’m going to tell my kids I invented Post-It Notes. [Laughter] It got stolen from me.

[T.J.]: People with magical minds, much like Grandpa had, your father, many of them are also musically inclined.


[Heidi]: And linguistically inclined.

If we get a chance tomorrow and we go by a piano, we can maybe get him to sit down and just play a little bit of Beethoven. The last time. . . .

[Kathy]: I wish we still had a piano here.

[Eric]: The Townsend Building has one.

There’s a piano and we can just sit down and let him. He hasn’t done it in a year, but he is . . . I’m very proud to be related to this guy. And he’s very skilled in the piano.

story told by Steve to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn [Steve’s daughter]; see also William Choate Gets No Credit for His Coupler Design

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • What do you remember of Mother/Grandma/Virginia’s musical ability?
  • Steve/Dad, can you tell the story of Grandma taking apart the piano because it was out of tune?
  • Did Grandpa Taylor play an instrument? Did he sing in the choir? At home?

1 thought on “Music, Language, and the Inventive Streak

  1. Bertrand Steve Duncan

    GrandPa, Taylor, did sit at the piano and hit out some tune, the same one each time…but that was it. Wally, on the other hand could bring out many tunes, usually hymns or choruses and in the picture was playing the trombone, Bob on the violin and TAD on the Trumpet and Grammy singing by Aunt Betty on the piano. Occasionally, I can, by ear, hit a tune. Will Kindberg was playing the trumpet in the picture.

    When I arrived at home one day, Mom Duncan, Grammy, had the piano dismantled in various parts of the living room. Ya, she said she was trying to repair it. Miracle of miracles it got reassembled and probably in tune. Yep, for the great grandpa of Mom, she got her engineering genes/degree.

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