We drove over to Noah’s rented apartment and parked near a Chrysler with “NOAH HALEY” emblazoned on its bumper in big stick-on letters. At the door, Lawrence told Noah, “I got a fella here that wants to talk to you.” Noah was surprised but seemed happy to see Lawrence. “Come on in,” he said. “I’ll just straighten up in here a little bit, but come on in.” He led us into a living room where the TV was blaring. It was a real bachelor pad. We all sat down and Lawrence introduced me. It was the first time I had met any of Ed’s children other than Lawrence and I was very curious to watch Noah for clues about his father and to shore up his memories of his dad with what Lawrence had told me.
“I’ll tell you anything I can,” Noah said. “It’s been so long ago, I’ve just about forgot everything.”
”I told him you probably couldn’t tell him much because you went into the service in 1939,” Lawrence said.
Noah said, “Right. I stayed in the service nine and a half years – from 1940 until 1949. And then in ’51 I went to work on the railroad in Cleveland and I worked there until I retired. The only thing I know is they made their living by playing music on the streets and at fairs and churches and everywhere else. We’d go with them – one of us kids – to lead them around. And they would go to Logan, West Virginia. They used to set out on the street and play music at the courthouse, and we’d just wait till they got done. They would play sometimes all day long on Saturdays in the courtyard. People’d come along and give them money. That’s about all I can remember about them.”
I asked if Ed ever talked about any older fiddlers he learned from and Noah said, “The only thing I ever heard him say was he taught himself. He couldn’t read music or nothing but my mother could read music by Braille. She was pretty well-educated. Pop played by ear.”
The room got a little quiet for a few seconds – we were waiting on Noah to tell us something (anything) about Ed. Instead, he kind of laughed and said, “I’m not gonna be much help to you on this.” Lawrence asked Noah if Pop ever talked about his parents and Noah said, “The way I understood it, this guy shot his mother and… I don’t remember now how it went. Whether his dad got a gun and killed him or how.”
Basically, Noah was saying just enough to confirm that he’d “been there,” but his memories were so vague that I wasn’t getting any great insight out of them. I wasn’t ready to give up though, next asking him about his share of Ed’s records. He assured us that he didn’t have any, which caused Lawrence to say, “You know, when Mom divided those records out, she gave you so many, she gave Mona so many, she gave Jack so many, and she gave me so many of them. And the only ones that was left, Jack had eight or nine left, I think.”
”I don’t have a one of them,” Noah said. “The only ones I had I give them to Pat. She made tapes of them.”
Pat, Lawrence explained, was Patsy Haley – his sister-in-law.
”My sister, she could tell you more than I could,” Noah said to me. “Mona knows all them things. And she’s even got records of Mom and Pop’s music.” He looked at Lawrence and said, “I think she’s got some like you have – round and aluminum.”
That was all I needed to hear.
Looking back, I realize I lost almost all interest in talking with Noah – sacrificing his memories – at the prospect of getting to hear more of Ed’s records. That’s a strange thing to consider from a biographical standpoint but I was just so into Ed’s music.