Mr. Fitta’s Harmonica Band

When I was ten years old I entered the fifth grade at the old Wilson Grammar School in Rumford. It was a long walk from my house, on the other side of Newport and Pawtucket Avenues. Before then I had never met kids from Phillipsdale. My world opened up when I began exploring new neighborhoods and friendships. Some of my new friends took harmonica lessons from a man named Mr. Fitta. They were part of a harmonica band that played in VFW halls, the Rumford Grange, and nursing homes. I immediately wanted to join.

Mr. Fitta held his harmonica lessons in the basement of his house on Roger Williams Avenue a few nights a week. I think there were about fifteen to twenty boys and girls in the band and he wrote out sheet music for all of us. Each hole of the harmonica was numbered. Instead of drawing notes for the music, Mr. Fitta wrote the number of the hole to blow through, and circled it if the breath was to be sucked in instead of out. It was pretty easy to follow. Some of us played harmonizing melodies that sounded very good. The songs we played were rousing: “The World is Waiting For the Sunrise”, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, etc.

Our uniforms consisted of White Satin shirts with long full sleeves, navy blue skirts or pants, and a bright red satin and sequin sash around the waist. We looked and sounded impressive and we played out at least once a week to very appreciative audiences… free of charge. What a great guy Mr. Fitta was to have devoted so much of his time to neighborhood children and to those that we entertained. And, oh yes, I can still play the harmonica to this day, at age fifty-seven.