Accordians & Chainsaws

Written by Teresa Dennard.

He got the "jive" in his bones

At 11 years old, Ted Mauritzen began his fascination with the accordion. His mother, Fanalou, was a piano teacher and she tried her best to get Ted interested in playing the piano, but he wasn’t having it. Ted’s first encounter with an accordion was on a trip with his family to Barstow, California to see his sister, Doris, and her husband who was stationed there in the army. They were expecting their first child. On those long days with nothing to do, Doris entertained herself with an accordion borrowed from a neighbor. “When she went to playing that accordion,” recalls Ted, “it sparked my interest and my mother took notice. When we got home, she bought me one just like it.”

Ted got the “jive” in his bones and kept on playing. He didn’t read music…he played by ear. His mother played a song on the piano and Ted would go out on the front porch and pick it out. His first experience at playing in front of someone was advertising for the local rodeo. “Back in those days, they would travel around in a truck with a megaphone on top. They asked me to play my accordion, but I was too nervous and told them no. I kept saying no and I knew it was bothering my mother. They came by the house one last time to ask me to play. They parked under our pecan tree and mother went out to apologize. Daddy looked at me and said, ‘Son, you’re breaking your mother’s heart,” so I eased down there and told them I’d do it.”

Ted sat in the middle of an old single-seat truck and they drove to Henderson, back to Carthage, and by the time they got down to Timpson, Ted felt like a pro. He played two songs--Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at suppertime, be my little honey and love me all the time, and When the Saints Go Marching In.

At 14, Ted entered a 4-H talent contest held in Panola County and won against some stiff competition.  As the winner, he qualified to compete in Nacogdoches. “There was a group from Rusk that had one of those silhouette acts behind a sheet that was funny and really good. I felt sure I couldn’t beat them. We came back that night for them to announce the winner and when I heard them call out my name, I thought I was going to faint!”

Two days after Ted’s 20th birthday, his mother was killed in a car wreck. He’d only been playing the accordion a few years and had not yet become accomplished. “I keep my talent going for two reasons: one is for the Lord, and the other is in memory of my mother.”

Ted plays mostly religious songs. “I play some of the old songs at nursing homes because they are familiar with them.” He also performs at churches, and wherever he’s invited. He keeps his eyes closed to keep from getting distracted by something in the audience, and he plays sitting down because the accordion weighs over 60 pounds. He used to fight stage fright, but says he’s too old to worry about that now. Ted’s wife, Debbie, says, “That’s one good thing about age, when you make a mistake, you just say oops and go on!”

Ted has never lived more than a few yards from where he was raised in Clayton, Texas. In 1975 he was watching a logger cut trees on the home place and noticed he was using a Stihl chainsaw to do the work. “I watched his saws cut and decided to go to town and buy one for myself,” said Ted. “I bought three saws from a local dealer, but didn’t get any instructions on cranking them or how to use them.” He used the saws for a while, but had some questions, so he went back to the dealer for some help. He got no assistance, but while looking through some merchandise in the store, Ted noticed what looked like a salesman walk through the door. “He was carrying a briefcase that said Stihl. It didn’t take long to figure out he was a salesman.”

When the salesman left the building, Ted followed him out and said he had some questions. “I got my saws out of the truck and he began to show me everything I needed to know. I asked him about starting a dealership in Clayton.” Ready to start his new venture, Ted contacted the owner of Stihl Southwest and made an agreement—buy ten saws and he could have a dealership.

“The first year I peddled saws like watermelons. I’d go to the woods, find somebody running saws, give them one of my Stihl saws and tell them to cut through it and see what they thought. I sold 62 saws the first year.”

For 39 years, Ted’s Saw Shop has been in business, selling more than 700 saws per year for the last 10 years. Debbie says, “The territory we cover is amazing—the little Podunk place out here and we have people come from all over.”

Ted’s basic guideline for business is “doing it by the Lord’s way, using Christian principles,” plus treat the customer with respect, treat everyone the same and give them the best, honest service and do it fast. He not only sells the products, but services them as well, along with his right-hand man, Ryan Corley, who has been working for Ted since 2004. “Most of the time we try to fix things while the customer waits and we also try to educate the customer so they know how to use and take care of their equipment.”

When entering Ted’s shop, one can see a lot of Stihl merchandise, and on the bench by the desk is one of his prize possessions…his newest accordion, handmade in Italy. Ask him about it and he’ll be glad to play a tune. He’ll be around a while. He says, “I’m not going to retire…I’m just going to fade off into the sunset.”