Music on the farm

September 29, 2014

photo of Albert and the CD player

I was shot into nostalgia a couple of nights ago when my friend posted this picture of his kid sitting, entranced, in front of Grandma’s CD boombox. Albert is three and a bit. I was fourteen or so when I sat in a similar position in front of my great aunt’s all-in-one record player. I don’t have a photo of it which is why you’re seeing Albert. The essence is the same.

It would have been mid-1977, maybe more toward the end of the year, putting me at 14 years of age or so. Give me a minute, it’s all coming back to me. That was thirty-seven years ago. It would have been while we were still living in Ohio, which would mean this tale took place during a trip to visit my grandparents in Wisconsin. My great-aunt lived 100 miles (161 km) south-southeast of my grandparents.

The difference between Albert and me is that I knew perfectly well what a record player was. I was entranced because I had two new LPs to listen to. You kids probably know them better as vinyl, if you know of them at all. Between Ohio and Wisconsin, we would have detoured down to Bloomington, Indiana, where my dad attended Indiana University in his attempt to earn a PhD (denied). Incidentally, Bloomington was where I had my only live experiencing of an earthquake. If I reread this before I post and jog my memory, I’ll find a link to a report about that mid-continental oddity. I was closer to Albert’s age when that happened and was actually sitting in the back of a lecture auditorium in class with my dad. Isn’t it funny the things you remember? I have only fond memories of our summers (and one full year) in Bloomington.

But I digress.

We called in on Bloomington on our way to Wisconsin. I can remember a lot about my time there as a three- to six-year-old. About this pass-through visit, I can only remember that I dragged my parents upstairs to a second-floor record store, because by the time I was fourteen I had been obsessed with music for a good year. I had always enjoyed music on the radio, from the time John Denver and Neil Sedaka were warbling and falsettoing their biggest hits, and Olivia Newton-John was whispering “I honestly love you.” But I had begun to possess my own copies of music because I had begun receiving an allowance. Don’t get excited. It was meted out in coins, not bills, and certainly not credit cards or iPhones. Also, this was way, WAY before you could steal for free and (largely) without ramification off the internet.

I wasn’t flush with cash, so I could only purchase two of the three albums I was interested in. The one I didn’t buy was Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat. The two I did acquire were Queen’s “A Day at the Races” and Styx’s “The Grand Illusion. I make no apologies for my choices, or that I still, thirty-five years later, love these musics.

We walked back down the stairs. Fast-forward 350 miles (565 km) to my great-aunt’s side room.

Gosh, I could digress to another tangent about how I fond I was of my aunt and her farmhouse. To this day, I am confident in saying that I would be perfectly content living in that house on that land. If only I had been more mature and financially stable when I would have had the opportunity to make that happen.

Aunt Irma was a great lady. She married well the second time around (first husband, deceased); I’m certain the house and farm were already hers, though I know her subsequent step-children ended up living in a house on the hill above the farm. We had family reunions in her side yard. She had a Collie dog named Sage. I inherited her airline-approved, sturdy cat carrier.

I guess I did digress.

photo of record player

Aunt Irma’s record player was a lot like this one. As I recall, hers had a faux woodgrain finish.

My parents slept in one of the extra bedrooms upstairs. I always found the stairs intimidating. They were very steep, and I feel like I remember one time as a tot actually falling down them a little bit. Maybe that’s why I usually was stationed on the couch in the side room. And that’s where the record player was!

I drove everyone nuts playing and replaying my two new albums for the duration of the couple days we were there. More than once, the doors to the room were closed. This was, I might add, in the days when you listened to an album all the way through, or at least the entire side. Record albums are ROM — read-only melting. You had to buy the whole thing, not just the one song you liked. With records, if you only wanted one song, you could hope that it would be released as a single, also known as a 45. But if it wasn’t, you had to get the album. I remember that I ended up with a scratch in the beginning of “Castle Walls” on the Styx album. I know I played each album at least five times over, front and back.

There’s really not much more to my Albert-inspired memory than that.



Photo of Albert by his mom, Jennifer S. Used with permission.

Photo of record player from here, though I saw it on many other sites, too, so who knows who the original publisher is. Used with best intentions.


One Response to “Music on the farm”

  1. Tori Says:

    I got rid of the last of my LPs before moving to Minnesota. I didn’t want to, but at the same time I didn’t want to move things that I had to admit I was likely to never use again. I had purchased a new record player some years back and had it in my house for over a year before I finally made the time to play something on it, and when I did… It turned out it didn’t work. Brand new, but now past the warranty. *Sigh* I got rid of it and didn’t replace it, so I had a bunch of LPs and nothing to play it on, and I went ahead and let them go.

    I am not really comfortable with that choice, but it was probably the correct choice anyway.

    I have so many memories attached to LPs.

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