52 Ancestors: Grandma’s Mandolin

52 Ancestors: Grandma’s Mandolin

Growing up, I was intrigued by the musical instrument that sat on a shelf in our hall closet.  It had a short neck, a round body, and beautiful wood patterns.  I was told it was a mandolin.

The beautiful mandolin that my grandma played
The beautiful mandolin that my grandma played

But, where did it come from?  I imagined it was one of those things my dad acquired.  He was good for that.  We had all sorts of old things lying around the house, yard, and garage.

It turns out the mandolin belonged to his mother, Anna (Mazeres) Lassalle.  She learned to play as a young woman.  Why the mandolin, I am not sure.  I did a little research and found that there was a resurgence in its popularity in the 1890s.  In the early 1900s, there were Mandolin Orchestras in France.   My grandma was born in San Francisco in 1898, but both her parents, Charles Mazeres and Brigitte Breilh, were natives of France.  As the French community in the San Francisco Bay Area was quite large, there may have been a French connection…so to speak.  It could have been one of those things French parents had their children learn.

My grandma might have played the mandolin for my grandfather
My grandma might have played the mandolin for my grandfather

I have heard that she was quite good.  I don’t know since she never played for us.   She had put it away many years before it found its way to our closet.

I think that music must have been important to my grandma.  Her children took lessons and could play various instruments.  My dad played the harmonica, his brother played drums, and his oldest sister was a gifted pianist.  I wonder if she ever brought out her mandolin and they played together.

Here are some more views of the beautiful musical instrument…

_20150720_5407bw mandolin _20150720_5408bw mandolin _20150720_5411bw mandolin


I never asked my dad if she played for them, and if so, what he thought of it.  I remember her being asked about the instrument once, but she never really gave an answer.  She shrugged it off and the conversation moved on.  It was something that young ladies did and not old women she seemed to say with that shrug.

There are many things I’ve only just begun to learn about my grandma.  The quiet, stoic woman with the cackling laugh held many talents that I am only getting a glimpse of 31 years after she died.  I was 23 when she died.  I will always regret not asking her more questions about her life.

If you’ve never heard traditional French folk music or the mandolin, check out the lovely song in this video.

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2 thoughts on “52 Ancestors: Grandma’s Mandolin

  1. When we are young, we don’t realize how little time we may have to spend with our loved ones, and that some day we might want to know everything we can about our grandparents and others who came before us. Like you, I wish I’d learned more.

    Thankfully, I came from a long line of story-tellers, so I got to hear lots of stories. Anything we children could do to get our grandmother talking about her past, we would do, because she told the best stories. Sadly, I’ve forgotten many of them now. Never thought that would happen either.

    Today, I record as much as I can remember, not just of my life, but of the ones I knew, so my children and grandchildren can find my notes, hopefully, when they’re ready for them.

    Wishing you the best of luck learning more about your grandmother and her beautiful mandolin.

  2. Kathryn, You are so lucky that stories were shared freely in your family. I noticed as my dad got older he told more of them. My mom is starting to do the same. I’m trying to write down what I can. It’s so easy to forget even when we’ve heard a story a hundred times.

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