Monday, March 16, 2009


In my previous (child-free) life I collected antiques and knick-knacks with a passion: art pottery, 19th-century pressed glass, world's fair memorabilia (1876, 1893, 1903, 1939), Cunard and White Star ocean liner items, late 19th and early 20th-century political memorabilia, sheet music, stereoscopes and cards, and hand-crank record players with 78 rpm disks. And that's really just the tip of the iceberg. My philosophy for purchasing items was always "Buy now, find a place for it later." Now much of that stuff sits in storage.

Among those boxes are several early mechanical record players, including a couple of really nice RCA Victor tabletop models that still produce beautiful sound. Indeed, I was always amazed at how good the sound could be in a machine using a needle that looked more like a nail than a "stylus" used on the few turntables still available. I may have had CD versions of Glenn Miller and the other "Big Band" classics that I favored, but preferred to play these gems in their original 78 rpm format. No batteries needed. No speakers, wires, or remote controls. With just a little elbow grease to crank them up (not too tightly or those old springs would pop!), one could add music to a picnic or other occasion in any setting.

I remember my first 78 was "TD's Boogie Woogie" by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. But I also had more serious fare, including Gershwin's "An American in Paris," in album format (when an album really was an album of several records). Although I may have initially worried about securing needles and other parts for misbehaving machines, I quickly discovered that there's a nice little cottage industry that specializes in cleaning and repairing Victrolas, including broken springs, the most common problem. (When my sons asked about this painting, I had a hard time explaining clearly what kind of contraption this might be. To them, record players are something of a puzzle. I'll have to pull a Victrola from storage and crank up the music!) 5" x 7", watercolor, brush & ink, pen & ink, on Fabriano 140 lb. paper.

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1 comment:

Barbara said...

wow! You've done it again. I love the contrast between the antique quality of the object and the bright, fresh colors, but most of all I love the memories it evokes ... dancing to my parents' old 78 rpms up in my room
... my favorite was Dean Martin's "That's Amore" ... wow!