“Mr. Voith, did you know that the U.S. Government employs musicians?”
At this point in Gus’s narrative, Doro gasps in surprise, which finally dislodges a significant burp from Baby Leo, draped over his mother’s shoulder along with a clean dishtowel to catch the spit-up
“I surely did not,” Gus picks back up in the story.
Mr. Chase offers some more forms to him. “You’ll need to fill these out before you leave. They’ll contact you sometime in the next two weeks to let you know about the audition.”
“Audition?” He looks at Mr. Young.
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about, Mr. Voith. I’m guessing you’ll be able to play whatever they hand you.”
“But . . . audition for what?”
“The Soldiers’ Home Band.”
Ferd is only six years old at the time, but he remembers this night as the turning point for his entire family. None of them have ever heard of the Soldiers’ Home before, an asylum for old and invalid military men established after the Mexican War. The grounds also house the summer retreat that has been used by several presidents, Lincoln chief among them. But to imagine that it has its own United States band!
It is the key to their improved fortunes. Within a month, they have packed up all of their belongings and moved into a rented row home on K Street, a palace compared to their Montford Avenue apartment in Baltimore. Suddenly, Gus is a man with a future. Even then Ferd can see that his father is different, happier, whistling as he strolls the new streets with his hands in his pockets, bringing home different instruments to practice and demonstrate for them all. With Baby Dorothie over her shoulder, Doro takes turns dancing with them while Gus plays, now that they have a parlor and several feet of open floor space. It takes time to re-establish a student base in the new city, but as Gus begins teaching again, the money is for savings rather than for making the rent.