I don’t remember my Grampa Parker. I was shy of three when he passed. The person I do remember is my Gramma Parker, She was a sweetheart. I know, through knowing my Gramma Parker, Grampa Parker must have been something. He was, technically, my Step-Grampa. I learned something about Grampa Parker on April 10, 2021. Grampa Parker made folk fiddles.
One of my older brothers asked me if I remembered seeing the fiddles lined up on the long table against the wall in the house. I said that I did not even remember that particular house he described, let alone Grampa Parker. With a large family, it is almost like two generations of kids, I am next to youngest. The brother I was talking with is next to oldest. He is old enough to remember Grampa Parker. He said Grampa Parker used to make fiddles.
The next day, Sunday, I did an internet search to see if I could find one of my Grampa Parker’s folk fiddles. I did not have much hope, but, surprisingly, at the top of the first search page, there it was! Allen Parker Folk Fiddle. It was in a music store in Philadelphia. I was so excited. I checked it out. Allen Parker, Waterloo, N.Y. Wow! Wow! Wow! I purchased it and immediately called my brother, with my exciting news. I had often wondered about Grampa Parker. Like I said, I loved my Gramma Parker, dearly, but had no recollection of Grampa Parker. For some reason, when finding that fiddle, I felt a connection, like I had known him. It was very strange. Just seeing that fiddle and reading that ad on the internet page, sent an exciting thrill through my body.
I immediately called my brother. My brother was excited. He asked, “Did you buy it?” I said, “Of course, I did!” Really, of course I did. He knew it, but he had to ask. We talked and he told me more about what he remembered of my Grampa Parker, the house and the folk fiddles he had lined up. There were not a lot folk fiddles. He was not a professional luthier. He just made them, and probably sold a few. But, being a solo operation from his house, I doubt many were made for even a small scale business. I never heard any talk of anyone making fiddles in Waterloo. There never was any talk, that I could recall while I grew up.
My mind was going. How did the folk fiddle go from Waterloo, NY to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Who had it? Was it a family member who had it or was it purchased by someone else along the line before it landed in the music store?
I could not wait for Grampa Parker’s Folk Fiddle to arrive. I call it a Folk Fiddle because that is how it was described. It fits, my Gramma was very folksy!
I had no hopes of it being playable. The photo did not show a playable instrument. I was not purchasing it because I had any thought it could be resurrected into playing condition; it was just a fiddle my Grampa Parker made, that was soon to be in my position, where it belongs. That was and is the value of this purchase.
My Grampa Parker’s Folk Fiddle has now arrived. Holding this violin is like meeting my Grampa Parker for the first time. His hands built this. I ran my hand around the contour, over the top, down the back and up the neck. I imagined the care, love and work that went into making this folk fiddle. I shined a light into the folk fiddle to read the label. There it was, Music Master 7, Made by Allen Parker, Waterloo, NY, May 1953. It is a year and 4 months older than I am. It is missing parts, the varnish is cracked, the top and back are easily separated in parts, the other parts seem like the glue is all dried out and ready to crack. But the wood, the wood has weathered the care that was lacking for this folk fiddle all these years. The peg box has weathered the years. It is lovely.
I took photos. I took full front and back photos, side photos, neck photos, pegbox photos, partial front and back photos – top, middle and bottom. I used a flashlight and after quite a bit of time, was able to get photos of the label inside. I began to wonder, did my Gramma Parker write this label for him? Do I have a little part of Gramma Parker here. I choose to believe that I do have a little piece of my Gramma Parker. I cling to that.
To my surprise, it came with its hard case. I don’t know if it was the original. It is surely old and worn enough to have been. I think I will keep it.
After I had held it and took photos, I, again, called my brother. He wanted photos, which I immediately sent to him. I told him that I wanted to try to find out how my Grampa Parker’s Music Master 7 folk fiddle made it from Waterloo, NY to a vintage music shop in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I told him that I would email the store.
In the meantime, I contacted the violin shop that I have used and asked if I could bring it in to be put back into playable condition. I sent photos. The owner/luthier did not think it could be restored but that I could bring it in. He looked at it and was not hopeful. I was not trying to get it back to playing like a modern fiddle, which I told him. He looked at me, and the folk fiddle and said that he could do it and would touch up the varnish in places.
We are going to keep it looking as much as possible like it would have looked. I left my Music Master 7 Allen Parker Folk Fiddle in the hands of this expert luthier that I have come to know over the past few years. She is in good hands.
When I arrived back home, I emailed the vintage instrument store.
I received the lovely Allen Parker Folk Violin and I have a question that you may or may not be able to answer.
The reason I purchased this fiddle is because it was made by my step- grandfather, Allen Parker in 1953. He was married to my dear maternal grandmother, whom I loved dearly. He passed before I was three, so I really do not remember him. I was able to enjoy the love from my
grandmother all through my school years, but I never really knew him. Given how dear my grandmother was, he had to be special, too.
He made this fiddle about 1 1/2 yrs before I was born, and passed away about 4 years after. I did not know he built fiddles until one of my older brothers mentioned it. I was so thrilled to have found this.
I was wondering if you have any record of how it came to your shop and when? I am trying to track how it went from Waterloo, NY to Philadelphia, PA. Also, if you know how it came to your store, would you be able to find out how that person came across it, or if I can contact that person, via email, if it is okay with that person? Would that person allow you to tell me you received the fiddle from him or her? Would that person allow you to provide his or her email address to me? We would love to know the history and the story behind the life of our newly regained family heirloom. If this person would rather not have me contact them, would they be willing to send you what they know for you to send along to me?
I was so surprised and thrilled when I did a search on the internet for an Allen Parker fiddle and found it so quickly in your shop. It is so special. It is currently being put back into playing condition. I cannot wait to play Grandpa Parker’s Folk Fiddle.
It would mean so much to me, and my family, if we had the story.
Thank you very much.
It did not take long to get a reply.
Well, I don’t have very useful information to share. These days we use a database that keeps rather detailed information, but long ago not so much. We acquired that violin about 21 years ago from someone named Tuttle (there’s no first name in our old record book). Frankly, we thought it charming enough that it lived for many years on a wall with a group of other interesting American violins. Coincidentally, it ended up on our web site mostly by accident. Someone clicked the wrong button! However, it was clearly the right time, because it coincided with your search. Synchronicity is a delightful thing. We’re always happy when an instrument finds its way back to its people! I wish I had more information to share, but that’s as much as I could find.
I have decided this is sufficient. They had it hung in their store for 21 years because they thought it was, “charming”. That is good enough for me. For 21 years it was with people who loved it.
What made it even more enlightening is that it was all by happenstance. My niece had a Zoom wedding on a Saturday. My brother and I were talking after and he asked about the fiddles and Grampa Parker. I found it on the internet the day after, Sunday, and bought it. Just by accident, the store had put it on the internet for sale. I cannot ask for a better story for my Music Master 7, Allen Parker Folk Fiddle made in May 1953.
I am thrilled to own this folk fiddle. To me it is worth the price of a Stradivarius. To me, this is the best American folk fiddle around.