Primrose Garden’s Baby Grand Piano

The journey to Menno Place…

Where it began…

The Conover Piano Company was established in about 1880 by brothers J. Frank and George Conover.Originally located in Kansas City, Missouri, the firm was known as Conover Brothers. In 1890, the famous Cable Piano Company of Chicago consolidated with Conover Brothers,and later the firm acquired the Schiller Piano Company. In 1904, Conover Cable Company obtained the Mason and Hamlin dealerships, and had access to some of the designs of Richard Gertz of Mason and Hamlin.
During the period from 1904 until they sold to Aeolian, they made five grand models; the Model 66 which is 5 feet 5 inches, which also was called the “Fairy Grand”, the Model 77 around 5 feet 10 inches, the Model 88 which is 6 feet 4 inches, and then two which had Mason & Hamlin plates modified to show the Conover logo; Modell 99 & 100. The Conover warehouse in Chicago was directly behind the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which owned a Model 100. The Cable Piano Company was widely celebrated as a maker of fine instruments, and they were a major contributor to the American piano industry at large. Cable built a number of brand names including Kingsbury, Wellington, Schiller, Conover, and Euphona player pianos. Today, Conover pianos are among some of the finest.

Joani Bye

Owner 1966 – 1993

I grew up as the youngest of three sisters in a family where music was the centrepiece of the household. When I was very small, we had a Gerard Heintzman upright piano in our living room, which was what my sisters and I all learned to play on. My mom was a piano teacher from as far back as I can remember, and my dad played well too, although he ended up spending much more time as audience than he did as performer as the years went on and there was always someone at the piano.

I remember the excitement when that beautiful Conover grand piano arrived at our house in 1966 and took its honoured position in the living room. The Gerard Heintzman was shipped to my eldest sister in Edmonton and still lives at her house in Deep Cove.

Every day when I’d come home from school, Mom would have a piano student, and that would continue until dinner time. In my high school years, when I was working for my Grade 10 and ARCT certificates, I’d spend three hours before school and three hours after dinner practicing at that piano. My two older sisters had both left home by then, and the piano was my domain when Mom or her students weren’t at it. My Dad would take up his spot on the couch and listen as I went through scales, arpeggios and pieces. My little dog would run madly through the house, with her route taking her under my feet, under the piano and out the other side over and over and over again.

Although we all played, it was Mom who took the piano seat when we had family gatherings. She played wonderful old-fashioned stride piano and we all sang. Christmas was particularly fun.

When Mom and Dad sold the house I grew up in in 1993 to downsize, the piano went with them to the condo they bought. It was really too large for that living room, but was a necessary part of their life. When Dad passed away and Mom was moving to a care facility, the piano was left to me. Neither I nor my sisters had room for it, which was heartbreaking for all of us. It was such a huge relief when my best friend since we were nine years old, Betty-Joan, expressed an interest in it, and I knew it would continue to be loved and played.

I know that Betty-Joan went through the same concern as I had when she realized she couldn’t take the grand piano to Victoria with her, and I know she was thrilled that Menno Place wanted it.
So am I. Thank-you for loving that piano like my family and Betty-Joan’s family did. It means a lot to all of us.

Betty-Joan Traverse

Owner, 1993-2017

I first encountered our beloved piano where it was then residing at my best friend Joani Bye’s home, in 1964 when we were both 9 years old. Her mother taught piano in their home on it, so when I visited their home after school, Joani and I would have to tiptoe up the stairs and play quietly in her bedroom until the last student left. I was a frequent visitor to their very musical home.

It came back into my life when Joani’s mother passed away and she inherited it. Joani didn’t have the room for it in her townhouse, and we were fortunate to have a large house in Mt. Lehman, and three small children starting piano lessons, so my husband Lionel and I bought it from her. It beautified our living room for about twenty-five years. During that time, our children took Suzuki piano, then Royal Conservatory lessons with Cynthia Arnold at the Fraser Valley Academy of Music. In their teens, they switched to jazz with Lloyd Bates, who taught them to improvise. I also took lessons again, after a hiatus of about thirty-five years, and loved to play – but only for myself! Lloyd and his wife Ingrid, also a piano teacher, became friends and Lloyd would often sit down at the piano when he came over and offer us an impromptu jazz concert.

When we decided to move into a condo in Victoria in 2017, I was saddened to be unable to fit the piano into our new home. So I am absolutely delighted that it has found such a great home and that it continues to enrich the lives of many music lovers!

Ruby Wiebe tinkles the ivories for Primrose Gardens residents during a Christmas Hymn Sing, December 2017.