I was born on July 21st, 1955 at approximately 8:35 am, at King’s Daughter Hospital, in Staunton, Virginia, to Helen and Fred Curto.
I was two months pre-mature and weighed a mere two pounds, eleven ounces.
A priest who was in the hospital came by and gave me my last rites, as my prognosis was touch and go, and I was placed into an incubator in pediatric ICU.
Obviously, things turned out Okay, and in September I was released, and returned home with Mom to our house in New Hope. (“There’s no hope for New Hope”).
This would be a great spot to explain our “family dynamic”.
Dad had moved to Waynesboro from Schenectady, NY. with a team of ten to convert the old airport building into a General Electric plant, which would eventually manufacture parts for space capsules, jet fighters, and early business computers.
It was at GE that he met my mother who was employed there.
Both my mother and my father had children from previous marriages.
Dad had a son Fred Morton Curto, and two daughters, Virginia (Ginger or Ginny) and Doris May.
Fred was away, serving a four year stint in the Army in Alaska when I was born, and I didn’t meet him until I was four years old.
Virginia, a teen, had moved back to her Mom’s in Schenectady.
Doris May was raised side by side with me until I was about twelve, when she also went back to New York.
Mom came into the marriage with two teen girls, Cynthia and Tereasa, (Cindy & Terri)
For more on my family’s lineage, go to:
I don’t remember anything about the New Hope house except that we weren’t there too long before we moved to nearby Waynesboro, Virginia.
So it was Dad and Mom Cindy and Terri, and Doris and myself living in a brick house on a bluff overlooking the South River.
There was no actual “avenue”, only a front yard that dropped off into a thicket that wound down at a sharp grade to the river, several hundred feet below. We had an alley behind the house that served as access to the driveway and playground.
(Many of the photos from this era are in a bin under Cindy’s guest room bed, and I will retrieve them and post them in the appropriate spots, asap.)
All the seeds of everything I am or will become are sown here, on Bluff Avenue.
My music, social skills, attitudes toward a myriad of subjects, including race, sex, and religion, all stem from my experiences here.
1902 KIMBALL UPRIGHT PIANO
Now keep in mind this is the early to late fifties.
Rock & Roll had exploded into the mainstream the very week I was born when “Rock Around The Clock” hit #1 on the Billboard chart. White teens everywhere, including my sister Terri, were gyrating and shaking it up with crazy hairdoos and beatnik outfits, while parents, and church elders stood aghast, conveniently forgetting their own teen passions for Valentino and Betty Grable.
Elvis was the rage!
The Twist ruled the dance floor and Chubby Checker, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard tore up the airwaves with what some uptight whites called “race music”.
So R&R was there and the girls were swooning and giggling and when the King came on Sullivan, they screamed and almost fainted.
Meanwhile, there was another bit happening every night after dinner.
When Mom would finish up in the kitchen, and Dad was done with his coffee and pie, they would retire to what I considered my playroom, which had an old 1902 Kimball upright piano that my Mom had grabbed somewhere for twenty dollars as what she called a “party piano”.
Dad would sit at the piano with a Marine Band harmonica on a holder around his neck and play, while Mom would sing in a high, sort of silly little voice, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?”, and “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”. My favorite of all though, was the “Tennessee Waltz”.
So, when my parents were otherwise occupied, and my sisters weren’t trying to pound out “Heart & Soul”, I would crawl up onto the bench and get busy.
Of course, my main axe was the Popeye model “Getar” with the crank, that played “Pop Goes the Weasel”.
My main memories of this period are of the neighborhood kids, many of which I am still in contact with via the miracle of Facebook, the whole fifties feel, with the cars and hamburger joints, and maybe more than anything, our “maid” Dorothy Howard.
We weren’t rich at all. My Dad worked at a factory, and Mom stayed home. At some point Mom was involved in a auto accident which injured her knees, and she was unable to perform normal household and daily tasks. We needed help.
I’m fairly certain Mom already knew Dorothy from somewhere previous, so she brought her in to, basically, take care of me. She was a large, jolly, black woman, who could cook anything and you’d eat it. If I woke up and heard Dorothy’s voice downstairs, I’d race down in my yellow onesie for a huge hug and the best damn breakfast this side of Heaven. Dorothy knew I liked my grits so thick the spoon can stand in them, with ground up fried egg and bacon, topped with margarine (not butter).
It was Dorothy who explained why some people were white and some people were black, “The Good Lord made it that way”, and consoled me when I found out I couldn’t be.
Over the next ten years or so, we’d bring her in whenever we could to take some of the load off Mom, and many times we took her to appointments and trips for her personal business. We loved Dorothy.
Later, when I was older, in the band Crosswinds Band & Show, I found out that half the guys in the band had been similarly raised in part by Dorothy! Of course they were all black, so when they found out I knew her it sort of blew their collective minds. Small town…..
Around 1959, we started building a new house on the other side of town in a place called Virginia Village, which at the time was nothing more than a few houses in an apple orchard, with a dirt road, no curb and gutter, just past the county line. This era, which would last sixteen years, into my early adult life, will be covered on the next page.
It’s important to note that the 1902 Kimball upright piano also made the transition, though it had to be lowered into the basement before the first floor was added on. When the house was finished, the basement was soundproofed, which made it easy for me to go down there and play without bothering anyone upstairs.