Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007
Violin: one of the first items donated to the museum
Thirty-seven years ago the Marshall County Historical Museum Society created the museum for the betterment of the community. Citizens of Marshall County and Holly Springs cleaned out their closets and their trunks and brought their treasures to us for the museum. They also did the work free to set up the museum.
Consequently, the museum was created without costing a penny. That’s why our exhibits are so fantastic. We could not have bought things as wonderful as the things given us. Some things were only on loan which we thought was OK.
At that time one of the first things brought to us by a World War II veteran was a beat up violin which he had found in a bombed out church rubble in Germany when he was one of the first American soldiers to walk into Germany as the war was subsiding. The violin turned out to be a Guarnerius violin, one of the finest violins ever in the world, which was about as fine as a Stradivarius but he didn’t know this that day.
He put it in his backpack and brought it home. The violin was signed and, therefore, he did research on it, as he was really bright and inquisitive. We took the violin on consignment but I was worried about the safety and security of such a great object. At that time our security was a key to the door.
Sometimes, I would take the violin home with me and let it sleep on my dresser in my bedroom where it would be safe. I finally called the owner and told him to come pick it up as I couldn’t sleep for worrying about the safety of the violin.
He came and got it and said he was going to take it and have it refinished as it was in terrible condition after being in the bombed church in Germany, but at least the violin had made it out in one piece and wasn’t burned. After he picked it up I was at peace that nothing had happened to this precious artifact while it was in our possession.
Soon after, the man was killed suddenly in a car wreck and his children came to me for the violin. I told them I didn’t have it anymore and didn’t know where the violin was.
He had taken it to an unscrupulous violin refinisher and after the owner died in a car wreck, the refinisher claimed the violin as his own. He had refinished it and I’m sure it looked great. The refinisher died, then his children died and a granddaughter in Texas inherited the Guarnerius. She sold it in Dallas for a million and a half dollars. This was written up in Time magazine and it made the national news. Someone in New York bought it over the air. They sent a person to Texas to pick up the violin. He flew back to New York with it.
But wait, there’s more to the story. From the airport the carrier had to take the train into New York City and he forgot and left the violin on the train. A frantic search was done and some honest person turned it in.
That violin got around, didn’t it? If it could just have talked what a tale it could have told! Every Stradivarius or Guarnerius violin was registered with the German government even to this day but they thought this one had died in the church that got bombed.
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