Arley Wanderdale is the music teacher who comes to Billie Jo's school once a week. He encourages Billie Jo to pursue her interest in music, even when no one else does.
Ma says he’s no teacher at all, just a local song plugger. (p. 10)
Arley Wanderdale invites Billie Jo to play a piano solo at the Palace Theater on Wednesday night, but her mom tells her to stay home. Billie agreed to go because Arley told her that management had asked him to bring talent, which meant her and Mad Dog.
Billie did so well that Arley asked her to play at the ball honoring the president.
Billie Jo wants to miss school twice a week to play piano. Her mother disagrees, because school is important. However, her father appreciates nurturing her talent. They have few options. Music is an escape for Billie Jo.
When she goes on the road with Arley and he begins paying her “in dimes,” Billie Jo’s mother has a change of heart, though Billie Jo has no idea what her mother does with her earnings.
When her mother gets into an accident with fire, Billie Jo hurts her hands trying to put the fire out. Both her mother and the baby die. Billie Jo can no longer play.