At the age of eleven I developed a mania for collecting
autographs, and as many of the visiting artists
of the day congregated at my father's store I was
able to acquire quite a presentable list.
One rainy day my father gave me a ticket for a concert
by de Pachman
He couldn't go with me, so I felt very
adult and important, going to a performance all by myself.
"Now listen attentively," said father, "and remember,
it is often just as important to know what NOT to do as it is
to know WHAT to do. Come back to the store after the
concert and I will take you home."
It was a remarkable program, all compositions by
Chopin, three of which I had studied myself. I was
enchanted by the beauty of them when heard from the stage,
and very much astonished by the remarks of the artist while
he was playing. The audience seemed amused and
demanded ever so many encores. He was a very comical man
and went through so many antics that one couldn't help
laughing, even though the music was so lovely.
But I had something else on my mind. I was going to
get his autograph even if I was scared to death, as I most
certainly was. So, after the last of the encores, and with
quite a crowd of musicians, I managed to squirm my way
back stage, with my pencil and a blank card in my hand.
When I finally found myself in the "green room" it was
most confusing. It was jammed with people and everyone
seemed to be talking at once. The small room was crowded,
chairs were covered with clothes and music, two half-opened
suitcases were on the floor, and in the midst of
all this turmoil Mr. de Pachman was running about, alternately
page 10 shaking hands with admirers and shouting "Wo sind
meine gumme-shuhen " over and over again.
He stumbled over me, looked down and demanded,
"Vell, vat you vant?"
In a choked voice I said, "I want your autograph."
He paused, then said, "I give it to you for a kees,"
and grinned at me mischievously.
Then I WAS scared, and while I hesitated some one
came up and took his attention.
My eye caught the heels of some over-shoes under a
pile of music on the floor, and I had an idea. Pushing
forward to the group that had his attention I said, "If I find
your rubbers, will you give me your autograph?"
Afte a puzzled moment he grimaced, "But ya, ya."
I dived under the crowd, scrambled on the floor and
drew out the over-shoes, amid a shower of clothes, music
and programs, and triumphantly held them up. The people
around me began to laugh, and I know my face must have
been very red, but I thrust the pencil and card right under
his nose, and he signed his name in big letters.
Then I wriggled out of the Green Room and went
happily to my father's store in the rain.