Written by Ray Marriott. One in a collection by Allen Bachoroski, Local Historical Writer and author of “Tales Along the Highway of Legends”
Fred J. Marriott, Sr. was considered the leading piano tuner in Boulder, Colorado, tuning for the University of Colorado and the leading musical people. Among his customers was Colonel James A. Ownbey, was a business associate if J. Pierpont Morgan of New York City, who was a wealthy financier and owner of the Wooton Ranch of Wooten, CO.
Whenever they had artists from New York City they needed the piano tuned so Colonel Ownbey asked my dad if he would come to Trinidad and they would pay his expenses and for his service. This was about 1910 or 1911. The only transportation from Boulder available for him was the train and on arrival here they would meet him and take him to the Wooten Ranch in a horse and buggy.
After making several trips he met Dr. Abrums, who was there taking care of a guest who had imbibed too much. He asked dad if he would have tome to tune his wife’s fine Knabe Grand piano before train time back to Boulder, if he took him in his horse and buggy back to Trinidad and to his home. My dad said he could, so he tuned for her and she liked his work so well that on his next trip down, she had a list of her friends who wanted their pianos tuned. He stayed several days working.
As his business grew he decided to move to Trinidad for business reasons as well as liking the town. He moved his family here between 1912 or 1913. Everything was going well until the Ludlow Coal Strike came in 1914 and then life changed in Trinidad. With the militia here to keep order and patrolling the streets with guns, the women and all the children were afraid. To make matters worse for the Marriott’s, who lived at 64 Tillotson, a mine official lived next door and they wanted to come stay with us at night as they had heard their home might be bombed. Dad decided at that time it was best to move back to Boulder and continue periodic trips to tune for the Wooten Ranch and others.
I started coming with my dad around 1925 to work with him as he had been training me for several years and he felt I was qualified to start my piano tuning career.
After I was married to a Raton, New Mexico girl, whose name was Marie E. Markham, we decided to have our permanent residence here in Trinidad as it was more central for my work.
I continued working with my dad when he came from Boulder until he decided to retire. Afterwards, I did all the work alone, which included Walsenburg, the San Luis Valley, Raton, Cimarron, and Springer New Mexico. I had regular trips scheduled for these towns.
In 1956 my wife Marie and I decided to sell pianos and organs along with my tuning business, and this was a very successful business. We went to the Convention for the Music Trade Show in Chicago for many years. Our company gave us both training on organ servicing which we did until we discontinued selling organs, but still sold pianos.
I continued my piano tuning business until I had a bad fall when going down the steps from the stage at the Junior High Auditorium, while tuning the grand piano in 1988. I severely injured myself and have not been able to return to work.
Therefore, I decided to retire in April of 1989. My wife and I will continue to make home in Trinidad and enjoy our friends we have made through the many years we have lived here.
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