Love that whistling sound

Have you ever noticed the almost mournful sound a window can make when it’s not quite closed, especially when the wind is blowing more than usual? It has a haunting quality, one that most adults find annoying. It’s also a sound that some small children find scary.

Not so in my case. Each time I hear that sound I recall something that happened to me before I was a 5-year-old. How you may ask can I be certain, since that’s so long ago for this now 93-year-old? It happened when my family lived on Beechwood Street in South Philadelphia in the house where I was born. While some people swear you can’t possibly remember back that far, I’m certain that I do.

Our neighbors were the Kurcher family, German immigrants who owned a local bakery. Their daughter Mabel became my Godmother. The Kurcher’s were a wonderful and caring family. Even as a very young child I knew these people were special. They had three dogs I played with, spending many hours rolling around with them on their living room floor. They were very patient animals. Even though I was small, I was too rough with them sometimes.

Two more of my memories were of Grandma Kurcher making buttery noodles on a marble topped table in the kitchen, and Grandpa Kurcher standing at their dining room table. He had a huge loaf of bread halfway under his arm as he cut slices of that warm, fresh yeasty loaf with a huge knife. I chuckled to myself as he reduced that loaf into edible slices, and enjoyed eating the slice he’d often give me.

Embedded in my mind is the delightful smell of their bakery when my mother would take me there while I ate one of their specialties, a star-shaped cupcake that was bigger than my tiny hand. By now you may be asking, how does this bring back the memory of that whistling sound? It has to do with Mabel’s automobile, one of those 1920s models.

At one side of the car’s back seat was a built in toolbox. I’m not certain what it was for, perhaps a hand-crank to start the car? In any case, I remember sitting on that box so I could see out the window as we drove along the highway. It was often somewhere outside the city, away from our neighborhood, along the pastoral rolling hills.

As we road along, somewhere out near the fields and farms and dairies, the window was sometimes down just enough for the air to whistle in a most delightful warbling sound. To this day I play that sound over and over again in my mind, recalling those wonderful days riding in Mabel’s big old car. It also reminds me what it was like to eat at the table, and playing with their dogs.

Today, as I sit writing this, I have a bedroom window that doesn’t close properly. Our home is pretty airtight, almost too airtight for me. So a little fresh air doesn’t bother me. My son Doug has tried to fix it. He thinks we’re losing a ton of heat and cooling through that tiny opening and wasting money at the same time. But it needs someone with the right tools, equipment to fix it. That’s not Doug.

Doug’s also our household’s primary driver. After all, he’s a young 70, and I a soon-to-be 93. He delights in taking control of the heating and cooling inside the car as we drive along the highway. There are times though that he likes to open the windows wide to let in the fresh air, leaving off the air conditioning when it’s hot outside.

Perhaps it’s the memory of Mable’s car, or of the 1940 Ford convertible we once owned that had a top that never really closed tightly, that makes me fond of that “whistling” sound. So I’ll sometimes not let Doug know what I’m doing, and slowly lower my window just a tiny bit without telling him. With the radio on, he often doesn’t hear the air passing by my ear.

Now that my secret is out, Doug will be watching what I’m doing with the window on my side of the car. As his mom, I’ll gently remind him of the small price he will pay for allowing this old gal one of her most pleasant memories. It doesn’t cost anything and “mom is always right.” As the wind whistles by, I’ll be smiling.

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at


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