ALTON — She knew I was coming, and she was prepared.
Word had gotten out around Alton that a reporter was coming to write about the Highway 24 Garage Sale on June 2. When I stopped by Deanna Roach’s sale at the park, she went right for a small, black case near a chair in the shade.
Inside, it contained a treasure — a 1934 Italian accordion that her father ordered from Montgomery Ward. She proceeded to play it for me and tell stories about her father, Carl Nonamaker.
Nonamaker was a life-long farmer in Smith County, Roach told me. He was among the first draftees from Smith County in World War II and served in the 195th Field Artillery Battalion. Nine days after D-Day, June 15, 1944, they landed on Utah Beach, the first heavy artillery battalion to land in France.
He didn’t take the accordion with him, but found similar ones while serving in Europe, Roach told me, and entertained his buddies.
“The first accordion he found was left behind when the battalion had to pick up and move quickly,” Roach said in an email later. “The second one he found, he hung onto. Then when he was coming back across France to return home, a Frenchman offered him $50 for it, so he sold it.”
Roach took it upon herself to learn how to play the instrument.
“When I got it, there were a few things wrong with it. I called all over. I found an expert in Kansas City who actually graduated from the New York School of Music or something. I mailed it to him. He did a few repairs and mailed it back,” she said.
“Afterwards, I got to go to him and I took one lesson, and he appraised it. He said it wasn’t worth that much as is, but he said the sentimental value is priceless,” she said.
And so are the stories she told me.