ICYMI, a story from the streets of Batavia

Meet Ken Washburn. Ken is 80 years old and has spent most of his life in Batavia. He was married and has some children, we didn’t get into that too much. After he was born he was put in a children’s home in Newark, New York. He spent some time as a taxi driver, and now lives nearby downtown Batavia,

People I spoke with say he is a regular in the area. Today the City of Batavia off-duty firefighters were out collecting for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Something firefighters have been going for decades. 

Ken thought this would be a good time to come and sit on a park bench and play his harmonica for them. I asked him how he learned to play -he replied that his grandfather taught him when he was young, around eight or so. He has a collection of them, with one dating to 1915. As I approached, I recognized the tune. He finished and we had a great conversation on a nice sunny day as we passed some of the time sitting on a park bench. Two total strangers, one double the age of the other. It was rather refreshing that in the days of social media and electronic devices this could occur – and I enjoyed it. 

Ken Washburn of Batavia playing one of his harmonicas in the sunny weather of summer in 2016
Ken Washburn of Batavia playing one of his harmonicas in the sunny weather of summer in 2016

He was waiting for his aid to come to his apartment he said. As I was leaving and thanking him for taking some time to share with me he reached out for a good handshake asking my name again and he repeated his saying it was nice to talk to me. He asked me what he could play for me. I suggested something patriotic would befitting of the time, and in less than one breath later, America the Beautiful started flowing from the reeds of his harmonica as he the wind left his lips and the instrument slid gracefully to a perfect tune.