Mike Ruby
A Muscatine resident for over forty years, Mike Ruby had careers both as a teacher at Muscatine High school and as a writer for nonprofit companies. Now retired, Ruby continues to cultivate his love for writing by contributing monthly Ruby's Reflections to Discover Muscatine newspaper.

Muscatine Living

It’s common for family heirlooms to have an intriguing story that has been passed down through generations. I’m a firm believer in preserving the heirlooms, as well as the stories that accompany them. Jo Anne and I are fortunate to be the unofficial keepers of numerous family heirlooms, many going back to the mid-1800s. Several of them have little or no monetary value, but they are priceless in their sentimental significance.

One of our family’s prized heirlooms is my dad’s clarinet. While working on his master’s degree in 1936, he purchased a top of the line wooden Selmer clarinet for $100 (over $2,000 today). He oftentimes told how difficult it was to make payments on it with his part time job on campus. It’s my understanding he had an opportunity to audition at the Julliard School of Music with his clarinet, but for some unknown reason the audition never happened. He was a public school music educator for 8 years before purchasing a department store. Talk about a bold and drastic career change!

The clarinet was played by my oldest brother, who was an accomplished player. I played it for about 6 years, and since then, several Ruby grandchildren played it. It is currently in the possession of a 26-year-old great grandson who is an exceptionally good musician.

Suffice it to say that the instrument has become even more cherished and respected now that it has been played by four generations. The clarinet is 86-years-old and every time it has been taken to a repair shop, or seen by a different instrumental teacher, they marvel at what a fine instrument it is.

Oftentimes, I wonder if future generations in my family will treasure these items as much as I do. It’s our responsibility to pass these treasures on to younger generations, and by doing so, we relinquish control. Hopefully, great grandma’s fine china and crystal, or great-great grandpa’s shaving mug and pocket watch, won’t be used for target practice. Please don’t tell me the sterling silver, or the 1907 wedding ring, or the 1940s dented metal cigarette case will be sold at a garage sale for a dollar or land in a dumpster. Among the heirlooms is the prized clarinet, hopefully to be played and enjoyed by many future generations of our family.

What are some of your favorite family heirlooms?

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