Classic Tales of Old Dorp: Summer evokes tune of hurdy-gurdy man

Larry Hart has memories of the hurdy-gurdy man back in the 1920s and 1930s in this week's Classic Ta

The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” Donovan, the 1960s rock singer, wasn’t the only man with a story about the “hurdy-gurdy man.” Hart told his tale about the traveling musician — and his monkey — on May 10, 1988.

This warm weather has everyone enjoying the outdoors in many ways — working in the yard, walking, golfing or just sitting on the porch watching whatever is going on outside the house.

It also brings back some very pleasant memories for those of us old enough to have accumulated a veritable storehouse of recollections.

One thing we remember in earlier springs, back in the Twenties and Thirties, was the appearance of the hurdy-gurdy man. He’d be dressed in simple garb — an old suit and a battered hat — but we kids would all come running when we heard his music just down the street.

Perched on shoulder

What we wanted to see was his pet monkey, perched atop the organ grinder’s shoulder, always wearing a bright red jacket with a little bell-boy hat to match. And he’d be carrying a tin cup, which he held out to us for coins after scampering in our direction.

As we remember, the hurdy-gurdy tunes were often Neapolitan, ground out in a never-to-be-forgotten sound as the operator slowly turned a crank handle at one side of the music box. Meanwhile, we had already begged a few pennies from Ma to drop in the cup just so we could watch the monkey tip his cap cordially before leaping right up on the porch railing to get more coins from Ma.

Nothing momentous, of course, but these little reflections are at least enjoyable to us before tackling chores such as income tax computations at deadline time or repairing the winter damage to the shed roof.

Categories: Life and Arts

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