Interesting People Series - Twinkle Fingers
Wed, July 24, 2019
Our next article about interesting people at Friendswood Methodist starts with a riddle. You may not guess her identity from the article title, but solve this riddle: What has 88 keys, no key ring, can’t open doors, and gets pounded regularly by an 86 year old Angel ? If you guessed the piano-playing Letha Camp, you would be correct.
Letha was born Dec. 24, 1932 just down the road in Rosenberg, Tx. where she spent her early elementary school years. She moved with the family to the Waco area, where her father worked in a munitions plant prior to WW II. It was here that a “stored: piano in their home became a God-send ( as referred to by her mother) and Letha began her long exposure to the “ivory keys”. She recalls having one lesson, being sent home with a sheet of music with the scales and notes from her lesson and playing 4 hymns almost immediately with one finger ! She and the family had heard and sung the music all their lives, so the tunes were familiar, and Letha says to this day, she is many times able to “ play by ear.” Then as she grew older, she took more formal lessons, and participated in recitals and church programs, and discovered that all her other fingers had remarkable talent too ! ( Twinkle Fingers ! )
The family moved back to the Rosenberg area when she was in 6th grade, and made several other moves, around the southeast side of Houston and in the Webster, Genoa, Ellington area. She has fond memories of playing piano at Genoa Baptist Church. When the church decided their congregation was ready for an organ, Letha was up for the challenge to transition to the organ. When she did, she admitted she had only played a few organs before, and they have a lot more moving parts for hands, fingers, and feet ! ( If it has black & white keys, set it in front of her, and she’ll figure it out ! Twinkle Fingers !)
Being familiar with the Waco area turned out to be a real plus for Letha. At the former James Connally AFB north of town, a handsome young serviceman, Kenneth Camp, persisted for her attention. Letha and Kenneth were married in July, 1955. She tells the humorous story of their delayed honeymoon trip, where she was driving, and out of no-where a concrete truck and their vehicle collided. The newlywed pair spent nine weeks recuperating, with Kenneth in the ARMY hospital with a broken jaw, wired shut to heal. Needless to say, this was a honeymoon to be remembered.
With various “homes” in and around Waco, and Rosenberg/Genoa/Webster/ Ellington, the quaint town of Friendswood won-out on the “lets build a homestead” decision for the family. They have two children ( Kevin and Lisa, and 3 grandchildren). Still keeping active in the military part of his career, Kenneth remained in the Reserves until his retirement in 1992/1993. But the Camp family has “serving” in their blood (Kenneth a former Friendswood Mayor, and daughter Lisa the EMS Director ). Wherever the Camp family was involved, Letha was too. Whether it was bookkeeping and finance work, or supporting the EMS and Fire Department in Friendswood, Letha kept her talented fingers in-the-pie, so to speak, and made a difference wherever she volunteered. She says 6 years of her many careers involved pay-status, and 27 years was volunteer status. Her years in the accounting/ bookkeeping/ finance field made sense, because she was just swapping all those musical notes and squiggly symbols for columns of numbers and dollars. Letha also was one of the first female medics in the area EMS service, and now female paramedics are quite commonplace. She even has done a tour-of duty at Friendswood Methodist as a volunteer offering money counter. Her hobby is sewing, and she loves making doll clothes, costumes, and garments.
Letha was the active organist at First Baptist Friendswood for a number of years. When they changed their music program format away from hymns and organ music since their aging organ needed repair and replacing, Letha was disappointed to be away from her beloved hymns. Letha was visiting Pat Bebermeyer in 2006, who extended an invitation for Letha to “try Friendswood Methodist”. Letha did, and the rest is history. She became involved in our choir in 2007, and became very involved in the church. After her husband passed away in 2015 and several of her own health issues, Letha needed a change-of-pace, but loved her music and piano playing. It wasn’t long before Rosemary Dubois found her a piano stool behind the piano in the Brides Room / Parlor where the Friendship Class has been meeting for years. The class jumped ( or slowly hopped ) on the chance at having rousing hymn singing at the beginning of each class, and Letha is pounding away at the keys on any given Sunday. You might want to stop by and share gospel hymn music to stir your soul. You may also have seen Letha playing piano at Joyful Hearts weekly service, or the Gathering monthly worship service.
Over the years, Letha admits that music and the piano have given her opportunities, blessings, exposure to different folks and venues. She wishes everyone could experience the joy that piano and organ music has provided for her. She shared her God given talent in many performances and service rolls, and she actively taught piano lessons to countless young people, as well. If you ask her if she is bothered by arthritis, she replies “ Of course, isn’t everyone my age, I just haven’t bothered to tell my fingers they have arthritis yet…..Shhhhh, don’t tell them!” ( Twinkle Fingers ! ) After countless thousands of hymns played, she lists “Blessed Assurance” as her favorite, and the traditional Psalm 23 as her all-time favorite Bible passage.
Letha relates some humorous venue stories, where she has played at weddings. She tells the story of playing the classic wedding march for the bride/groom entrance immediately after the family Grandmother finished her solo song contribution to the wedding service. Grandma starts down away from the pulpit as the wedding march begins….and you guessed it, ….she falls and takes a tumble. Being the consummate professional, Letha says she didn’t know what to do except what she does best…..keep on playing, without missing a note, while the wedding attendants assisted the uninjured but embarrassed grandmother soloist.
On another occasion, Letha says she agreed to play at a home wedding, and was not familiar with the location, furnishings, or instrument. When she arrived prior to the actual ceremony, she discovered it was a toy piano, mostly plastic, with one tone, and limited keys. Well, she banged out the wedding march, the appropriate tunes, and made the most of it, but she said she learned from that experience to be careful what you agree to, sight unseen.
It’s always hard to condense 86 years of interesting living and memorable experiences into two or three pages. If you liked some of the humorous stories in Letha’s life, be sure and ask her about her turtle / tortoise story when you see her in the hallways as one of Friendswood Methodist’s Most Interesting People.