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Learn About Some of Our Wonderful Hilltop House Residents

Dr. Charles Reid

Dr. Charles Reid Piano Man

Our neighbor Charles Reid was born in Hartford, Wisconsin. He was an only child. His father did leather and upholstery work at Kissel, a car manufacturing plant. The company produced top of the line cars and employed some 5,000 to 6,000 workers. The "crash" occurred in October, 1929 and by Christmas of that year, the plant closed and Kissel was never produced again.

His father went back to building houses but became bedridden for several years after a heart attack. His mother and other relatives were the caregivers, taking care of him until his death around the time Charles entered high school. His mother worked as a secretary at the Red Cross to support the family.

Charles' interest in music started early. When he was a child, his aunt and grandmother would place his hands on the piano to guide his playing. He started taking lessons at age eight. A woman named Miss Klink from off in the farm country started him on the piano. When he went to 7th grade, he took lessons from one of the nuns, Sister Virgil, from the College of Music in Milwaukee for a couple of years. Somehow he managed to scrape up $1.50 every two weeks to pay for his lessons. Charles does remember that during those years, he had an endless open book and read everything he could about composers.

In a not unusual dilemma, Charles and his mother differed on a choice of his college. She wanted him to attend Marquette, a Jesuit university located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was already enrolled and then he found out he had to take four semesters of religion and he wanted to study music and history - Marquette was not for him. So, he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin at Madison and attended five years, with a major in music and a minor in social studies. There was no tuition and he is still amazed that he could get all of this education with so little money.

After graduation, he could not find a job teaching music. He worked two years doing clerical work on a navy base and saved his money to travel in Europe.

His travels took a different turn when in 1952, he received greetings from the President of the United States who enclosed a draft notice and a free ticket to Korea.

The trip took a detour and for the first six months, he was stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey where he studied photography. A perk for Charles was that he got to travel to New York City every weekend. He attended a concert at Carnegie Hall every weekend and was privileged to hear many famous conductors and performers. One artist he recalls was Myra Hess who performed Beethoven's Fourth Concerto with notes only, no score.

At the end of six months, he finally used his ticket to Korea where he was supposed to serve another 18 months, but was discharged two to three months early. His job there was photographer working with the news media. When they found out that he had the extra qualification of having studied French, he started translating. As a PFC, he censored British, French and American documents. His task was determining if it was okay and then the Colonel stamped it on his say.

When the Armistice occurred, Charles was sent to Panmunjom to observe the signing by a North Korean representative and an American general and to report back what had happened. During his time in Korea, he took three R&R breaks, the first to Tokyo, Japan and the other two to southern Japan, where he enjoyed staying Karatsu Seaside Hotel. He witnessed the terrible devastation in South Korea but was later pleased to see an unbelievable recovery.

When he left South Korea by the South China Sea, they travelled in a dense fog and his vessel was hit by a commercial vessel, causing his boat to sustain a huge dent. They made it to Sasebo, Japan, a U.S. Navy base, and remained in that port for two and a half weeks for repairs. Unfortunately, that extended his time in the repair dock and he could not leave the boat. When he arrived back in the states at Ft. Mason, San Francisco, he was met by his aunt and uncle and he was so grateful to be home.

After the war, he tried unsuccessfully to get a job as an art and music critic. He attended Berkeley and studied music and took advantage of the proximity of relatives to become acquainted with them

His mom died in 1954 after a long illness and after he settled her estate, he followed his longtime plan of traveling in Europe. First country on his itinerary was Spain where he lived for a year. Then in England, he attended the University of London where he used the G.I. bill to study art and music. He visited Tangiers, spent a month and a half in Italy exploring Naples, Rome, Florence, Verona and Venice. In Austria, he spent time in Innsbruck and Salzburg and ended his journey in Munich, Germany.

Back in the U.S., he took another year of education courses and got a teaching certificate which allowed him to begin substitute teaching. He substituted in the Oakland and San Luis Obispo School Districts in hopes of obtaining a fulltime job. His subjects were music, social studies, Spanish and English. Continuing this program for five or six years, he was able to support himself to continue his studies. He was awarded his Ph.D. in Education from the University of California at Berkeley. During these years, he was also composing music and working as a professional musician.

From 1970 to 1973, he was Director of Secondary Education at Iowa Wesleyan College. Things became bleak financially. The school revamped its system to avoid bankruptcy and as part of the restructure, they eliminated a dozen professorial positions which decimated the education department. Charles' job was one of the dozen.

He then served as Assistant Professor of Music Education at Fayetteville, North Carolina State University where he guided student teachers. The students were a mixed clientele, many good hardworking students from poverty. The problem was an administration that had a lock hold on everything. It was a hopeless situation and although a close friend who taught at Wake Forest said that he was leaving and he would make sure that Charles was the #1 candidate for his job, Charles declined and resigned in 1978 and moved back to California.

He was out of work for a couple of years and he had relatives in Fremont who had a ranch and he stayed with them. Ohlone Community College was nearby, so he took some classes. They asked him to join the faculty which he did, and he taught computer classes until he retired when he was 65. After retirement, he moved to Seattle in 2000 when he moved into Hilltop House. Charles chose to move to Seattle because his cousin Mary Louise and her daughters were living here and he had visited them many times prior to his move.

Charles is also an author who has written several books on education and published a number of scholarly articles in educational and music journals.

He continued traveling and since retirement, he traveled to Germany, England and France at least four times in the 1990's and last visited there in 2002. With his German friend, he toured the southeast United States, western Canada several times and made almost annual automobile tours of Utah, Arizona and Texas. He has continued to enjoy the arts and we at Hilltop have been grateful to have had the benefit of all his years of musical education when he plays the piano for sing-a-longs, some special events and as a former part of a duet team. It is evident that he is a professional pianist!! Charles has also been an involved resident and served two terms as the Resident Council president. We are very happy to have you living at Hilltop and that we can enjoy and appreciate all your many talents.

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