Long ago, in the county of Cobb, all well-bred young ladies were given piano lessons. Granny and here three sisters were no exception – nor were Wilma and her six sisters.
Some were more talented than others, and my Great Aunt Willy was truly blessed. As far as I know, she played the piano at the Acworth First Baptist Church her entire life. They had no pipe organ.
Uncle Gan [Orlando] Awtrey, my aunt hazel’s husband, led the music for the church services.
I spent many weekends with Hazel and Gan, especially after I received my driver’s license, because I could borrow a car from my parents. The only rule Hazel and Gan had for me was that I was required to sing a solo on Sunday morning at church. The congregation knew me and they were very kind. I loved singing for them.
My only problem was that, at times, I ran completely out of oxygen. I’d had very very serious voice lessons since I was 12 years old. Believe me, I knew how to breathe properly. However, most of the time Aunt Willy chose the hymn she wanted me to sing. She didn’t care much for anything more formal where she had to play the way the music was written. Every singer knows not to breathe in the middle of a word. Take the word “salvation” for example. Willy played kind of like Liberace, with lots of trills up and down the keyboard, so between each syllable she’d run up and down, executing trill after trill, until very often I had to breathe – or keel over in a dead faint.
The church had no air conditioning, so I seldom wore stockings during the hot summers and I always sat in the front row of the choir loft.
One Sunday morning, as I started to sing my solo, which was quite serious, I noticed everyone giving me great big smiles. My dad was there that day and he looked like he was going to bust out laughing! Well, I’m here to tell you, The Old Rugged Cross had never been so well received. After I sat down, I looked down and discovered the curtain around the choir loft stopped about 12 inches from the floor. I’d stepped out of my high heels and was happily wriggling my bright red painted toes as I sang.