By Barb Sinclair
On this rainy dark December afternoon, it was a cheerful attitude that brightened up my whole day.
Nadine Livingston now calls Robson home, but she is still a prairie girl at heart, always remembering her homesteading childhood. Her parents farmed and ranched south of Lethbridge, Alberta, near the Montana border, starting up their place after they married in 1911. To this day Mrs. Livingston remembers the warm, coal heat, offsetting the biting winter cold and prairie wind outside. Her dad raised beef and many acres of oats and other grains. So she and her three brothers had that wholesome and healthy upbringing our troubled world pays dearly to have today.
A neighbour of theirs frequently came to Nadine’s dad for oats – “I’ll pay when I can” he would say. This happened often, and people in those first few decades of the 1900’s heard this all too often. One day her dad needed money himself and went to this neighbour to see if he could pay toward the debt of the oats. Says Nadine “He told Dad he had no money, but Dad noticed a piano in the house.”
The deal was done – no one knew how to play the piano, but the deal was done anyway!
Nadine, in her young years would not have known the path that piano would take her. Only four years old, she climbed up to it and started to plunk out the notes, paying attention to how they sounded, and starting putting melodies together. “I soon learned You Are My Sunshine,” she recalled, “and to this day it’s the song I play most often.” All three of her brothers had beautiful voices, and Nadine, not being a singer, was the boys’ orchestra – they played and sang together for many years.
Now decades later and four years after leaving the prairies, Nadine lives close to one of two daughters in Robson, and gives piano lessons to two grand-daughters at seven o’clock in the morning – they race down to see who gets the first lesson. Nadine knows well how to teach, having been a school teacher in her early adult years in Canada and across the U.S. border.
While having to pay attention to various health issues now, there’s still no stopping this talent that has been more than 70 years in the making. You can still find Mrs. Livingston frequently playing the piano at Talarico Place and Castlewood – she gets them singing all their old favourites and newer ones too. There’s a little bit of a ‘bluesy’ tone in there I detected after a little recital – a lively pianist, with a good ear, and a heart for others.