When school closed for the summer, I became obsessed with an idea of securing some kind of work and earning money thereby, perhaps gathering in a few dollars wherewith to obtain music and methods for the cornet, with possibly a few solos for practice work. To further this end my mother permitted me to answer an advertisement in one of the morning papers, which called for a boy to work in a large printing house. I made my application in person, and from out of some twenty-odd boys (likewise looking for a job) the firm selected me for the place, starting me in as "proof-reader", "errand-boy" or some such responsible position at a salary of $1.50 a week. To meet the requirements of the place it became necessary for me to get out of bed a 5:30 o'clock in the morning that I might make connections with my "office" promptly at 7:30A.M. Then came an hour for lunch at 12 P.M. and at 6:00 P.M. I graciously was permitted to call it a day and start for home. All this being a new experience for me, I rather liked it at first - or did until it began to dawn upon my mind that merchandise and music were not meeting on even grounds.
It soon became only too apparent that after starting the day at 5:30 A.M. and working steadily until 6:00 P.M. I was in no condition for cornet practice. After I had reached home, eaten my supper, and then begun on the evening music routine, I had found myself getting so sleepy that it was impossible to keep awake and practice; thus my cornet gradually began to be sadly neglected. This worried me, and I commenced to reason matters out with myself. I reasoned that by continuing work at the printing house my practice eventually would lose ground, and with this thought come action. I had started working on a Thursday morning, and I quit on the succeeding Saturday night without stopping to ask for any pay: neither did I show upon the following Monday, nor send any notice that I had quit. The sum total of my reasoning had been - if business interfered with cornet playing, give up the business! When I did not get out of bed Monday on the usual 5:30 schedule mother said nothing. She knew!
Having thrown over the mercantile, I again picked up the musical and now resumed my cornet practice with greater enthusiasm than ever, if such were possible. Nor did l entirely lose out on the financial by making the sudden shift, for during all that summer I played with the Regimental Band, at Hanlans's Point on the island for $1.00 a concert once a week. With the coming of September I started going to school as usual and when autumn arrived, became greatly interested in football. Being a husky fellow for my age, I was made fullback on a crackerjack boys' football team, but that proved my physical undoing, as from it, there resulted a long hiatus in all playing.
I would work very hard at practicing football after school hours and, when overheated and perspiring profusely, had a habit of lying down on the cold ground to cool off. As a result of such carelessness, I contracted a very heavy cold that quickly turned into congestion of the lungs, terminating in a serious illness which confined me to the house from early December to the following April. No more cornet or any other kind of playing were to be mine for five long, weary months! Even the doctor finally lost hope, stating that I was a pretty sick boy with one lung gone and the other seriously affected. My sickness quite naturally interfered with all school progress for a time, but when convalescing my studies were all brought home to me by boy friends, so that, in a way, I kept up with school work, although not allowed out of doors for three months.
I omitted to mention that while I was sick the band called in its cornet, thus leaving me without any instrument. One day after I had begun to sit up, thinking that my brother Ed would let me use his cornet occasionally, I asked the doctor if I might be allowed to play a little. His reply was that it would be better to wait until he felt sure that I was well on the way too complete recovery, However, it was only a short time later (I had so greatly gained in strength) that he allowed me to practice on an old alto horn we had in the house. At first, my practicing was restricted to only ten minutes a day, but extended itself gradually to half an hour, and then still longer periods.
Heaven bless that good doctor! He attributed the gradual restoration of my health to the easy blowing on that old alto horn, and stopped giving me drugs, saying that this quiet playing was the best medicine of all! I firmly believe that it was his sound advice which really cured me, for this easy playing required taking a full breath upon beginning to play, then breathing deeply and without strain. In later years I developed an unlimited breath control, and today have a most excellent pair of lungs.