There were two made for the British Exposition in London. [the serial # implies a 1941 manufacture date, but Penny’s family lore says 1938 - regardless, her grandparents bought this before the war, so either date could be correct]. This was one, and the other one was in black with the same chinoiserie [chinese style art]. So my grandfather bought this for my grandmother...It survived the London Blitz and was then transported down to Devon, England for the remainder of the war. They were American, but my grandfather worked for the British Govt. during the war. Then in 1946 they came back here with the piano.
Challen was known for making baby grands - this is what they call a boudoir grand. At that time, they were one of the foremost piano manufacturers in England, which is why they had their samples in this exposition. But they were bought up years ago. These decorative pieces were very unusual.
My grandmother played it at Christmas, which is the only time I remember because I was at boarding school. She always wore bright red nail polish, and after she’d play there would always be red streaks along the fallboard - she left her mark!
I was born in England, and we moved to NY when I was very young, just after the war. When we came back from England - I grew up with my grandparents, as my father didn’t make it through the war - we were living in NY, and the piano was in that apartment. I remember that I took piano lessons in boarding school, and I was terrified of the recitals. I remember playing this piano when I was around 10 years old, and at that time I could play by ear - I’d just pick something out and play it.
I was away from the piano for many, many years...then, after my grandfather died, they had to downsize and they sent it to me. I didn’t ask for it, it just came. I was living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights - they had to haul it up through the living room floor to ceiling window as it couldn’t make it up the narrow staircase.
I remember playing it - and this is kind of sad - but my husband was dying of cancer. It was 1968. And my grandmother had sent me the piano just after my husband passed. Not for that reason, but it just so happened it arrived at that time in my life. So I learned the Moonlight Sonata as a way to concentrate on things. I loved the piece - and that’s about the last thing I learned to play. I still have the music to it. It took a long time, maybe a few months of playing every day, but it was very soothing. And that’s really the last time I ever used the piano.
I never did play very well, but I don’t play at all anymore. And now I figure, let someone take it who can use it, and maybe have some fun with it!
[Penny is ready to let her piano go, as she’d like it to find a home where it will be played. See its feature on our shop page HERE or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a private viewing!]