There are over a hundred old 78 rpm records in my house, and while I have an old antique spring driven phonograph to play them, I never do. This is mostly because the needles used by the phonograph are hard to obtain. Also, I don't like too much of the music I have in 78 format. I have a few old jazz recordings and some nice classical pieces, but I have far more recordings of Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey, Ozzie Nelson and his Band, Carmen Miranda and many unrecognizable names I can't even recall. I even have a few vanity recordings that were made in 78 format by family members, one of my Aunt Thelma singing a solo and another of my Dad playing the bagpipes. So it isn't exactly the kind of entertainment you plan a Saturday evening around.

Otherwise I have always found it fascinating to wind up the phonograph and see it work. The machine I play these records on has the label "Strand" on it, but I don't know too much regarding it's history or value.

The fact is what I like best about all these records are their labels, and sometimes I look through them just for that reason. I like the deco designs on some of them, especially the lettering, like on the Bluebird and Top Hat labels. My favorite though is "His Master's Voice" with the dog listening to the Victrola, head slightly tilted, with recognition and curiousity. You may not know this but the dog's name was Nipper, and was a creation of an English artist named Francis Barraud, who based it on the unusual interest his pet dog showed in the sounds produced by a gramaphone.

This all reminds me of when I was a kid in Hawaii. My dad was a military career man and we moved frequently. I was enrolled in 13 schools before I completed high school. I believe one of the contributing factors, for my accumulation of "grot" is from my childhood as a "military brat." When you are a military family, your possessions are limited. Each time you are "reassigned" or "given orders," the military pays for you to move. However, when you move you are only allowed to move a certain amount of personal possessions free of charge and this is based on a total amount of permitted weight. We usually had to get rid of lots of stuff every time we moved, and this was never easy. Items like records and books and magazines were always the first to go as they were often the heaviest.

While in Hawaii, My mom one day had obtained a couple hundred 78s from a Colonel who had recently gone to the "mainland" with his family. My brother and I had a great time playing these old records, and these were VERY old with wonderfully interesting labels on them. Of course, when it became our turn not too long after to relocate, these records went to another neighbor. It was one of the sad losses I recall over the years of travel.

I look at these records and record labels and think of things left behind over the years. It's nostalgic to recall stacks of old records you enjoyed listening to, or that you once had Spider-Man issue number 1 (now worth lots of money) or other possessions that held some meaning to you. I think of my cousins who lived in Holyoke, Massachusetts in the same house their entire life. As adults, they were able to revel in things from childhood found in the attic or the basement. My brother and I never had that luxury.

Other things that are left behind are more serious in nature. Things like records and comic books or a favorite old toy can be encountered years later at a flea market or a yard sale. But friends are never seen again, unavailable in the box labeled "25 cents each." And we left lots of friends behind, often and consistently.

My mom used to tell people that we were used to it and in a way, maybe we were. I can't speak for my brother, but losing a friend is something you never get used to. Making a friend takes time, trust, laughter and shared experiences. Lots of factors that are immeasureable. It wasn't all that easy.

Once, when we were visiting relatives in Holyoke, my cousins were talking to some friends in the neighborhood. After the friends left, my cousin told me tales about these friends that spanned many years. They had actually been in kindergarten together. Their shared experiences practically went back to babyhood. I was incredulous that anyone could know each other for that length of time.

To me, as I look through my records, viewing the labels, it's a strong reminder of things left behind A flood of memories always rushes forth. So, I thumb through the labels and remember what was, in a different time, and in some way it lends credence to the reality of the present. In a way, I am just connecting with my old, lost friends.

© Laurel O'Donnell
Comments may be directed to
|Grot Home Page| |Grot Defined| |Grot Pages| |Personal Stuff| |Hyperlinks|