Our Jones and Plummer Trail Museum has on loan from
Ozella Bradley a beautiful piano built in the late 1800’s. Ozella will
be playing this piano in the museum during the fair which is just a
couple of weeks away. Joining Ozella and Geneva Harmon on the keyboard
and the Mandolin, Gheene Heavilin on the Four String Tenor Banjo and
Doyle "Moose" Cordes on the guitar. We don’t know at this time who will
be having the most fun, those providing the music or those listening,
but our guess is that all will be enjoying themselves. The following
article about Ozella’s piano appeared in The Guymon Daily Herald
in 1974. Since the article was written Ozella has fully restored the
strings and sounding board so the sound coming from it is as good as it
It sings, but if it could only talk... that is the
feeling Mrs. Paul Bradley has in regard to the antique grand piano which
graces her living room. At first, she thought if she could just have it
that would be satisfaction enough. Then she wanted it repaired and
refinished to restore its original beauty. This has been done, but it is
still not enough. She now wants to know the piano’s history.
Unfortunately, this seems to have been swallowed up in the lost history
of what was once the thriving town of Balko in Beaver County.
Ozella Bradley has known and loved that piano since
she was a small child. Sometime in the mid 1920’s, her father, J.R.
Pearson, purchased it from the I.O.O.F. Lodge of Balko when the Lodge
disbanded. He paid $25.00 for the instrument. He too had loved it for
"I can remember that he used to go down to the lodge
hall," Mrs. Bradley said, "and if no one came he would spend the evening
alone playing the piano."
So, in time, the piano came to the Pearson home which
was then a roofed basement.
"He took the legs off, put planks on the stairs, and
lowered the piano down with ropes fastened to the tractor," Mrs. Bradley
said. "Later, when the house was built over the basement the piano was
too large to bring upstairs."
The piano spent 40-odd years in the Pearson basement. And it was used
for more than music-making. Because of its height, sturdy construction
and broad, flat top, it was found to be a useful work bench.
"You wouldn’t believe," Ozella shudders, "but the top
of that piano was used for cutting and salting meat for winter use."
But the piano, with its lovely lines and musical
voice, always fascinated Mrs. Bradley. From childhood she loved it and
dreamed of seeing it restored to its original destiny as a musical
instrument and a fine piece of furniture.
"I never dreamed I could ever have it," she says.
"After all, there were ten of us. Surely one of the others would want it
and have a prior claim." But none of the others felt as she did. And
about three ago Mr. Pearson gave the instrument to Ozella.
"We got it out of the basement in about the same way
that Daddy got it in. We took the legs off, put planks on the stairway
and Lee (her late husband) put some little wheels on it. Then he tied
ropes to a pickup and dragged it out that way."
Now they had it, but what were they going to do with
it? Over the years the varnish had turned black. Some of the
‘gingerbread’ trim was chipped. There was a spot on the lid where the
meat curing ingredients had seeped through and damaged the wood. But
that didn’t matter. Someday Ozella would find a way to have her piano
The answer to the problem came from an overheard
snatch of conversation. Ozella was secretary in the office of the County
Agent and Home Economist. One day a visitor from downstate was telling
the Home Economist about the beauties of an old organ she had rebuilt
"I couldn’t sit still," Ozella said. "I bustled in
and asked where she had sent the organ."
Now Ozella had the address of Oren Bradshaw of Ada,
Oklahoma. Again the piano was loaded into a pickup. Oren Bradshaw was
waiting. They were amazed to discover that the man who had agreed to
work on their piano was blind.
"But you should have seen him," Ozella said. "Before
we knew it he had it taken apart, strings, keys and all, and spread out
over the floor. His hands simply flew over the pieces. He could see more
with his fingers than I could see with my eyes. He noticed small cracks,
pieces of trim missing and bad places in the wood that I had never
The piano spent over a year in Ada, with Mr. Bradshaw
supervising his two workmen in stripping the wood and refinishing the
instrument. The piano is now back in Beaver. The beautiful wood,
mahogany and rosewood, gleams like satin. The damaged section on the lid
has been so cunningly replaced that one must squint to see where it was
inset. The music rack which had been removed and later lost, strayed or
stolen, has been replaced with one which was carved in the same motif
that enhances the massive legs. There are new felts and hammers, new
ivories on the keys. "The black keys didn’t need replacing," Ozella said
proudly. "They are just as good as they ever were."
Now it awaits a tuner. Up to the present a tuner
willing to tackle the job hasn’t been located. "The last one who looked
at it didn’t want the job," Ozella said ruefully. "It seems he would
have to lie across the top of the instrument to work on the strings, and
he felt that was just too much."
Strings and sounding board lie flat in the case which
is 83 inches long and nearly 4 feet deep from front to back. The lid
opens toward the front, full length, and is supported by two braces when
open. Inside, molded on the sounding board, are the letters, "Lindeman &
Sons, New York." The date is 1873. And this is no home or cottage model
piano. It is apparent it must have started life in the 1870’s as a stage
or concert instrument.
How did it get to Balko? There is a vague rumor that
it was once a fixture in a long-defunct saloon that operated in Balko in
its heyday when No Man’s Land was first settled. It has been said the
Lodge acquired the piano from the saloon when that establishment closed
Ozella then questioned her parents. Neither could
remember anything about names that might be connected with the piano.
She has searched for the lost records of the Lodge and of the town of
Balko itself, to no avail. She has gone through the Balko Cemetery
tombstone by tombstone, listing names of old-timers and attempting to
contact survivors who perhaps had heard their parents or grandparents
tell of someone, anyone, who had a hand in bringing the piano to town.
So far she has drawn nothing but blanks. The piano itself sings
willingly when the keys are touched. It sings a tinkling song
reminiscent of the old saloon piano of song and story. Its resonance is
more that of a harpsichord than a modern-day piano. Hopefully, tuning it
will restore some of its lost timbre.
Ozella isn’t discouraged. "Someday I’ll find a clue when I am least
looking for it." She is planning to start on the trail of ‘Lindeman &
Sons, New York’ by writing to an old and well known music publisher in
New York where, at one time at least, fine instruments could be
purchased and where old and valuable instruments were kept on display.
She stood beside the old piano, her hand caressing the shining wood, the
mellow ivory of the keys. "Oh, how I wish I knew who first owned it,"
she sighed, "and something about the road it traveled to reach Beaver