The return of the violano virtuoso

Web Extra! Video

It arrived a few months earlier than expected, but those attending Pleasant Home’s annual Holiday Open House this Sunday (1-4 p.m., kicking off their week-long Artisan Sale) will find, among the usual holiday decorations, a 5-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide beautifully restored wooden cabinet. Inside is a violin, backed by the actual innards of a piano-hence the “violano”-which plays real music. Boy, does it play. There aren’t any speakers here. You can’t adjust the volume. What you get is the full force of the instruments, up close and personal.

The only problem is it’s a little out of tune, most likely the result of jostling during transport and installation, says Laura Thompson, executive director of the Pleasant Home Foundation and one of the driving forces behind bringing Herbert Mills’ exotic invention back to Pleasant Home. Terry Haughahout, the Ohio mechanical marvel who restored this machine (which contains 2,500 separate pieces that needed to be taken apart and reassembled), will have to make a house call (mansion call?) to adjust it, so the actual first public “concert” and official unveiling won’t take place until after the first of the year, Thompson says.

The machine plays music via paper rolls, which contain roughly five songs per roll. But thanks to the miracle of modern digital technology, a computer interface (connected through a laptop), allows the violano virtuoso to play up to 7,000 songs, including several by the Beatles, “Moon River,” and, for some odd reason, the University of Wisconsin fight song (“On Wisconsin!”).

What with the Historical Society’s recorded Tarzan yells upstairs (part of the Edgar Rice Burroughs exhibit), Pleasant Home is turning into quite the sound emporium.

Barber’s tenure cut short

Frank Limentato, who has been shearing locks for 32 years at Avenue Barber Shop, 125 S. Oak Park Ave., is looking for new (smaller) quarters. Limentato, a native of Sicily, who became a U.S. citizen on July 4, 1976 (one of 1,776 who became citizens at the old Chicago Stadium for the Bicentennial), turns 66 in January, which is when his rent goes up (again). His family has been telling him to retire, and it’s a 50-50 proposition for him. If he can find a smaller space with lower rent, he’ll keep cutting hair (to the relief of his devoted customers, who are beginning to run out of barbershop options). If he can’t find a space, he’ll retire and enjoy life in Warrenville, where he’s lived for the past 20 years or so.

Anyone know of a small storefront with reasonable rent? Let Frank know before he closes shop at the end of December.

Pooch suspects stopped at Jewel

A River Forest police officer, making a routine safety check inside the Jewel Store on Lake Street the afternoon of Nov. 30 found himself dealing with a decidedly unusual suspect.

“I looked for breaches in security, as well as unsafe situations,” the officer wrote, “such as … a German Shepard dog at large, entering the store.”

The officer managed to corral the adventurous pooch without incident and reunite it with its owner.

“Apparently the dog got away from its owner outside,” said Deputy Chief Kendra Sullivan. She could not say whether the dog was headed for the pet food or butcher section, or simply wanted to apply for a Jewel Card.

We also don’t know if it was the same perp (or pup) on Thanksgiving morning, c. 11 a.m. in the Jewel parking lot, who was observed by passersby leaping suspiciously out of the front seat as the car it sat in rolled out of its parking space. The alert observers were able to stop it and push the vehicle out of harm’s way, at which point the car’s (and dog’s) owner emerged from the store (good timing) to discover that a really nasty surprise had been averted.

She reportedly gave thanks.

The state of retail … discuss

Consciousness-raising about local shopping continues. The topic of the next League of Women Voters meeting is “The State of Retail in Our Communities.”

The meeting starts at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, Dec. 9, at Thyme & Honey restaurant, 7525 Madison in Forest Park. Parking, a usual concern in local shopping and dining, won’t be a worry there. It’s always free along Madison Street in Forest Park.

The league tells us everyone is welcome for this talk. Don’t worry if you’re not a member. Go and join in the conversation. This should be good.

Join the discussion on social media!