Had it not been for the advent of talking motion pictures, itís possible
that a great many Shelbyville people who play the piano today still wouldnít
know an A sharp from a B flat. For with the coming of talkies Katie
Hinschlaeger lost her job as pianist at a local theateróand one more music
teacher was added to the cityís few.
The Shelbyville News
Saturday March 13, 1948
By Ave Lewis
"Katie" as its safe to say more than half of the people in
Shelbyvilleóat least the "natives" know her, has been playing the
piano since she was three years old. Of course the "playing" at that
age consisted of sitting under a dining room table and pretending the table leg
was a key board, but at four she was pulling herself up to a piano and picking
out tunes of church hymns.
"Picking out tunes" is a process which constantly is going on in
Katieís mind. Melodies float around in her head like will-of-the-wisps and she
says, "I canít even play a decent game of bridge because always Iím
subconsciously hearing notes strung together and find myself counting."
she doesnít mean counting the probable tricks in her hand.
She thinks her lifelong devotion to music has robbed her, to a certain extent
of the normal good times that ordinary young people and adults enjoy. " I
never have had fun at dance parties, etc. like other people because I always was
on the other side of the funóplaying for the other fellow, so I taught myself
that my work would be my fun."
And that she enjoys her work is evident in watching her play.
Katie has adopted much the same philosophy about remaining in Shelbyville,
her home town. She sums it up this way: "Musicians come and go from here
and occasionally when they return and ask Ďare you still playing hereí I
wonder if I might have gone farther had I left. But Shelbyville has been pretty
good to me and I like it,"
She started her first lesson with Mrs. Maurice Gore when she was eight
and at 12, she played for her first dance. "Iíll never forget it"
she says, "I was scared to death." The dance was given by a local menís
club of which Bert Bright and Emil Thomas were members and she
received $1.25 for her eveningís work. Her first regular job was with the
German Presbyterian church which was located on the corner of Pike and Broadway.
With the exception of the Cozy, Katie has played in every theater ever
located in Shelbyville. It was at the Nickelo on Broadway that she
learned that singing was not included in her musical talents. Seems the film in
those days were one-reel affairs which necessitated rewinding between each
showing. During the rewinding intervals the theater management entertained its
patrons by showing illustrated slides on the screen by a soloist. It was on an
evening that the soloist, Merle Williams, failed to appear that Katie
found herself singing the lyrics as well as playing the accompaniment. "In
a voice that wasnít human," she says.
By this time theaters were adding special attractions and she remembers the
weekly amateur night programs at the Grand which was in the southwest
corner of the Public Square. Three men still residing here often added their bit
to these affairs, S.F. Lundy, Orville Cuzzort and Bruce Haehl.
Their specialty was acrobatic acts.
While workers still were excavating for the foundation of the Alhambra,
Katie approached the owner, the late Frank Rembusch, for the position of
pianist. Building of the Alhambra was a big event in the annals of motion
picture houses. It was one of the largest in the state and also the first to
have a Bartola organ. Katie was the first person in the city to play the
instrument which she says now reminds her somewhat of a solovox, and it was the
means of her securing the only job which took her out of Indiana for any length
The president of the Bartola company visited the theater and upon hearing her
play offered her a position demonstrating the instrument. So World War I found
Katie in Sioux City, Iowa, playing in a theater where Henry Busse and his
trumpet and a 12-piece band also were playing.
Returning here she became pianist at the Strand on the date of the
theaterís first anniversary. Not too long after this came the talkies and the
nemesis for all theater pianist.
Katieís next venture was with a band organized by John Day Friday.
"People danced to it but it was strictly jam sessions," she says,
"we each played our own way and the only time we ever were together was at
the beginning and end of a number." During that period and following when
she was building up a clientele of pupils and playing for funerals and weddings,
church functions, teas and all the other activities which go to make up the
social life of Shelbyville.
She has played at her home church the Christian Science since it was built in
1916 and last August marked her 25th anniversary of playing for the Rotary Club.
She also has played almost 22 years for the Kiwanis Club for the Lions Club
almost since its organization here. And now she had a half-hour program each
Tuesday and Thursday evening over radio station WSRK.
Katie likes "advancements" in her career.
She was the first
musician in town to own a solovox and now buzzing around in her head along with
the eternal melodies is the idea of buying a Hammond organ.
Meanwhile her daily schedule of pupils looks like the biggest physicianís
appointment book. My headís buzzing too, at the thoughts of all the "one
and two and three andís" she counts each dayónot with the melodies she
hears. I wasnít born with music in my fingertips.
Contributed by Barb Huff