I asked Mona and Lawrence how they passed the day when they were young and traveling with Ed.
“Oh, I’d probably go to a movie,” Mona said. “Mom would give me money and send me to a walk-in movie. Just go get something to eat. Or sit around and watch them. All the people was standing around and most of them was dancing.”
She and Lawrence said Ella kept a cup attached to the head of her mandolin to catch the money; Pop only put a hat out when playing by himself. He was very serious about his work, Mona said.
“Most of the time he worked hard,” she said. “When he was working he wouldn’t drink.”
Lawrence agreed, “He didn’t get much to drink, you know, when he was sitting out on the courthouse square — they wouldn’t have stood for that, for one thing. Maybe at a fair or something he might take a drink or two. Or out on the streets.”
“Or unless he was at a square dance and somebody would bring him a beer and that’d get him started,” Mona added.
Mona remembered Pop getting in “a lot” of fiddlers’ contests but didn’t recall any specifically. She said he paid Doc Holbrook for her delivery with 25 dollars and a silver cup he’d won in a contest.
“We never could get that silver cup back,” she said.
Lawrence figured Doc’s son had the cup.
“He’s got a fiddle of Pop’s, too,” he said. “He’s right in Ashland.”
I wanted to know more about Ed being in contests but everyone kind of drew a blank about it. Mona joked with Lawrence about a time they were in a contest as children.
“Mom made up a song for me,” she said. “Had me a dress made.”
I got her to sing it for me.
See my pretty ruffled dress.
See my pretty pocket.
See my pretty handkerchief.
See my pretty locket.
Lawrence said Mona won first prize in the contest and I was very quick to tell her that to be Ed’s daughter she probably had a lot of musical talent. She wasn’t willing to admit that but said, “I think I got more than any of the boys had.”
I asked if she ever tried playing the fiddle and she said, “Yeah, I could play ‘Over the Waves’ on a fiddle and that’s it.”
Okay — I was very curious.
I asked if she could show me how Ed held the bow and she said sure — that he held it like she holds a pool stick, “real loose with straight fingers.”
I reached my fiddle and bow to her and she showed me how Pop held the bow (little finger on top of the stick), then started playing “Over the Waves”. Her hands had an incredible economy of motion — almost as if they were “miniaturizing” the music. In watching her, I got a real feel for Ed’s technique and it was hard not to imagine Ed playing in a way similar to Vassar Clements. Mona clapped when I played for her but said I only played “a little bit” like Pop.