Strings at­tached

Herald Sun - - NEWS -

WHEN Irene Cum­miskey turned to Tues­day’s In Black & White, she nearly fell off her chair.

Star­ing back at her was a photo of the 1930s Swastika Or­ches­tra (above left) from Echuca, in­clud­ing what she be­lieves is the same un­usual gui­tar that now hangs on the wall in her Cor­ry­ong home.

“I looked at it and thought, ‘I’ve got that gui­tar in my lounge!’,” she says. “I almost died on the spot.”

Irene’s late hus­band, a pro­fes­sional gui­tar teacher, bought the dis­tinc­tive gui­tar (above right) with its pear­shaped body and seal-shaped sound holes in the 1970s from the fa­ther of a stu­dent.

Irene says her fam­ily knew noth­ing of its ori­gins, but re­search has since re­vealed only six of its kind were made, and only one sent to Aus­tralia.

Irene’s son, Adrian, now plays the gui­tar, which has a name­plate read­ing “The Roy Smeck”.

Smeck was a fa­mous Amer­i­can mu­si­cian and gui­tar maker for the Har­mony Com­pany — he ap­peared on The Ed Sul­li­van Show and even played at Franklin D. Roo­sevelt’s pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ral ball in 1933.

“We have seen pic­tures of oth­ers with the same shape and make, but none have had the name­plate with the maker’s name,” Adrian says.

The fam­ily would love to find out more, in­clud­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of the name­plate.

The gui­tar con­tin­ues to en­ter­tain almost 90 years af­ter it was ap­par­ently used by the Swastikas, who were named af­ter what was then a sym­bol of good luck, be­fore the Nazis’ rise forced a name change.

“It still sounds as good now as I pre­sume it did in the 1930s!” Irene says.

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