Miss Jaeger, Piano Teacher, mid-1920s

Mom’s caption for this photo is straightforward: “Miss Jaeger, Piano Teacher.”

There is little I can tell you about “Miss Jaeger” that isn’t in this photo. Evidently she lived in a rooming house (sign visible in the upper right corner of the photo). I imagine that was in either Albany or Lebanon, but I don’t know which. No one named “Jaeger” shows up in the 1920 or 1930 census in Linn County, so either the census takers missed her or she wasn’t in the area long enough to appear in either census—or maybe her name changed between them.

The fact that Mom or someone took a photo of her in front of her residence suggests, maybe, that someone picked her up there and brought her to Tallman to teach Mom and Uncle Barney (and possibly Aunt Betty, too—I don’t know about that).

It’s right at the limits of visibility for this photo, but it appears as though she may have a ring on the ring finger of her left hand. (Tap/click the image above to see the enlarged version that you can better zoom in on.) If that means she was engaged, that may be another possible reason she can’t be found in the 1930 census—she may have been married by then.

I have no way to date this photo other than by its context in Mom’s photo album. That is a dangerous proposition because Mom didn’t necessarily put photos in the album in any sort of chronological order. But that’s the best I can do.

If this photo was taken sometime in the mid-1920s, as seems likely, and if Miss Jaeger was Mom’s piano teacher (and not just Uncle Barney’s, for instance), which seems likely since the photo is in Mom’s album, that tells me Mom may have studied piano longer than I, at least, realized.

Mom’s written memories tell us almost nothing of this. Just this hint:

Before we moved to Tallman, my mother gave piano lessons. Daddy loved to hear her play. We kids had a love of music early.

I summarized this from Uncle Barney’s biography in an earlier post, but I’ll quote it here, since it is relevant:

One achievement … for my mother was … completion of the Matthews course of piano studies: 10—or was it 12?—books that put her in the class of being an accomplished pianist. And she must have been outstanding!

She started us off on the piano—in the Kohler method—but both Florence and I barely started on the second book. By that time the endless round of washing clothes, milk buckets, the cream separator parts, and faces and bodies of three growing children… plus all the farm chores… had so filled Mom’s life that she had to forego playing the piano, let alone teaching her young aspiring offspring.

Neither of these quotes tells us when Grandma “outsourced” her children’s piano training. Was it soon after she realized that she couldn’t do it herself, or was there a gap of years before they studied piano with someone else? Was Miss Jaeger their first teacher after Grandma herself or were there others before? How long did she teach them? It would be interesting to know the answers to these questions.

One thing is certain: Even if Mom was not an accomplished pianist like her mother was and like her brother became, the “love of music early” did take. Mom passed that on to her own children and made sure they, too, had a chance to learn to play. Thanks, Mom.