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Abijah Gooch was a character in the 1930's era hillbilly comic strip, Li'l Abner. For some reason, young Charles Fisk, liked to refer to himself as A. Gooch, and as his next - door neighbor and sort of adopted younger brother, I continued to get letters from him signed "A. Gooch." They all started "Dear Son."
Gooch and his family moved into the left - hand half of our ugly Victorian duplex house in Cambridge in the mid - 1930's. They arrived in a black, two - door Model A Ford: father, mother, Gooch and his pretty younger sister Josie (called Crunch by Gooch), a fat cocker spaniel named Vickie and a cat named Jeep, carried by Crunch. Shortly after the Fisks were settled next door, Mildred appeared, a young black woman who was working her way through the New England Conservatory by doubling as their maid. Mildred gave Gooch piano lessons. I, too, started with Mildred at the astronomical price of twenty - five cents per lesson.
Gooch was a normal looking kid except for his eyeglasses: they were perfectly round, with silver rims and armor - plated lenses.
In many ways our life was out of a Norman Rockwell painting: touch football games in a neighbor's yard in the fall and baseball in the spring. (Gooch was a fan of the Braves before they left Boston for Atlanta.) In the winter, we'd all—Gooch, Crunch, my sister and I—tramp down to the skating club, our skates clanking against each other. Gooch never wore a cap, and the water with which he attempted to control his hair would freeze. The Fisks had a summerhouse in Rockport where Gooch had his own sailboat named "Port Luck."
Before his voice changed, Gooch was in demand as a boy soprano at Christ Church. He looked forward to funerals because he got paid ten dollars per service. ("Oh, good, somebody died" he once said.)
It didn't take long for Gooch to get interested in sound, first in how to make records come to life. He designed and built his own amplifier when he was fourteen or fifteen. I remember the hanging lamp in our front hall swinging back and forth as a result of the high - wattage, hi - fidelity sounds emanating from Gooch's equipment on the other side of our firewall.
As to music, Gooch's taste was then running to the major orchestral works of Beethoven, Brahms and Tschaikovsky. He had the four - handed edition of Beethoven's symphonies, and I can remember our trying to slog through Beethoven's Seventh. The slow second movement was the only one that would have been recognizable. As he got older, he became more interested in the Baroque era. (Episcopalians, please note: Gooch wrote S - 259 in the Service Music section of the new hymnal.)
Then came the big band swing era. Gooch bought records by some of the white bands—I remember Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller—but the black bands like Count Basie and especially Duke Ellington really turned him on. He loved the Trumpet and took lessons during his big band enthusiasm; I don't remember his being much of a virtuoso on the horn (or on a keyboard either). Gooch played for me the first Fats Waller record I ever heard, "Winter Weather," and I have loved Fats' piano sound ever since. At this point, Gooch started making arrangements for a dance band in Arlington. (I never heard any of them.)
Louis Armstrong, sketch by Charles Fisk c. 1940
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