Saturday, May 31, 2014

A wedding and perhaps a secret....

        Meanwhile, what about Ima’s love life? When she was thirteen, Aunt Fanny had told her that because her mother had died of tuberculosis, that she would be a carrier of the disease--and therefore must never marry and have children. Did Ima really believe that?
         Was she reconciled to a single life? In those days the worst thing that could happen to a young woman was not to find a husband, and to become an “old maid.”
         Ima must surely have thought about that when she traveled to Lampasas, Texas, to attend a wedding in April 1909. When R. Lee Blaffer, a founder of the Humble Oil Co., married Sarah Campbell, daughter of the late W.T. Campbell, a founder of the Texas Co. (Texaco) in Lampasas, Texas, Ima was the maid of honor. She would soon be 27 years old. Perhaps she thought of the “secret” she had in Germany.         
         Back in Houston, Ima threw herself into the cultural scene, and she began to teach music to a select number of pupils. She was a founding member of the Chatauqua Study Club in 1909. The next year she joined the Episcopal Church in Houston, a decision she had been thinking about for some time.
         Then, for reasons that to this day remain unknown, she suddenly decided to return to Germany in 1910.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend: Remembering World War I, 1914-18

The "Great War," they called it, because in 1914 no one could imagine a greater one.

World War I killed over 8 million men and wounded another 21 million.

Ima Hogg may have lost the love of her life in this war. (I am an incurable romanticist.)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"The great sorrow of my life...."

         Ima Hogg returned to Houston in October of 1908, having reached a life-changing decision. Somewhere along the way, this intrepid, talented young woman, who had been aiming for a career as a concert pianist since she began her studies in New York in 1901, who had studied with fine teachers in Europe, decided that the concert stage was not for her. Did a teacher discourage her? Did she decide for herself? No one knows.
         A close friend of Ima’s said that Ima once told her that she regretted having small hands, because they limited her keyboard reach. Although she came home with “a bone-crushing grip,” as one friend said, Ima feared that no matter how much she practiced, no matter how fine her technique, she could be a good pianist, but never a great one.
         But she said years later to another friend, “The great sorrow of my life is that I was never a concert pianist.”
         When Ima was ninety-two, recording an interview for an oral history project, she had a different view: “I studied in Europe, with very great teachers, and they all encouraged me to become a professional concert pianist. I never wanted to do that.”
         What did she want?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

In Germany in 1908, music, and a secret romance?

         For the remainder of her time in Berlin Ima continued to work hard at her music and her German. She wrote in her diary: “I certainly am going to see if I can’t get something into my head.”  
         She went to operas and concerts, and she made notes about what she saw. After a performance of Die Valkyrie, she confided to her diary that “The stage management for the Wagnerian opera is really dreadful.
         In February she wrote on a concert program that Siegfried Wagner was a “puny imitation of his father.”
         In March she wrote that Felix Moetl and the Berlin Philharmonic performed the “most inspiring interpretation of Eroica Symphony I have yet heard.” [How many had she heard?]
         What else did Ima do during that spring and summer in Germany?         
         Her diary does not say. Did she have a romance? Did she travel? On April 13,1908, her brother Tom wrote to her, begging her to tell him the “secret” had promised to tell him “one of these days.”
         What secret?

         If Ima did tell it to her brother, the letter has not been found.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

“Scared the life out of me.”

Ima Hogg was an independent young woman, and she made her own decisions. One day she decided to explore Berlin. She ventured out alone--a daring act for a young woman of good family, unchaperoned in a large city. She rode the “U-bahn,” or Untergrundbahn, the underground railway system that had opened in Berlin in 1902. Ima had, after all, spent time in New York City, which had trolleys and elevated trains, and a subway by 1904. This Berlin adventure left her badly frightened. Her diary is not clear on the details, but she took the underground to a distant part of the city. She visited a music store, bought some flowers at a stand, and then, on the street, as she wrote afterward, “a man said something to me--scared the life out of me. Then another . . . I thought was going to insist on walking with me. I really was never more frightened. They say Berlin is a terrible place for such things. My first & hope my last experience.”         

         There were good times, too. She went for a sleigh ride, her first, and noted that the “novelty was intoxicating; the cold cold air in your face, the merry people on the streets.”

         But in a few weeks later she wrote, “Am homesick and stupid and lonesome and utterly miserable.” And she was waking with headaches.
         In the summer of 1908, Ima Hogg would be twenty-six years old. What was she going to do with her life?