An Antique story

One of my favorite antiques is a Victrola that was my Grandpa’s. It came to me through my Mom. You know, the word “Victrola” is not even in the dictionary any more. Heresy!!  Victorla’s are those 4-foot tall record players (floor models) with the lid that lifts up to reveal the turntable and doors that open for the speaker. They can be smaller and sit on top of a table (aka tabletop) with a big brass horn for the speaker.

If you still don’t have a picture in your mind, here’s a picture of my Victrola:


These items were very popular at the time and there are a lot of them still around today. My model is likely from somewhere between 1912 and 1925.  I like mine because it feels like a full experience of the past: you can see and hear the past in this lovely piece of furniture. Plus, it brings up memories.

Although I don’t remember seeing it in my grandpa’s house, it reminds me of his house. It actually makes me think of his big radio, which also sat on the floor. The radio had white buttons that looked like ivory and were probably made of Bakelite (an early plastic). I don’t ever remember the radio being on, but its buttons and dials fascinated me. The radio sat between the living and dining room. And directly across the room was the one air vent on the house. All in all, one of the best places to be in that house, unless I was at the piano around the corner.

This piece of furniture comes from a time before central heating, indoor plumbing, and electricity in homes were common.  And the sound is not exactly high fidelity.  Grandpa had a bathroom that wasn’t original to his house and a big oil burner in the basement that took up half of the space (well, maybe not half).

But, back to the music.  Grandpa had a lot of religious songs on records.  Sad to say, our favorite was a song called “The Baby on the Doorstep.”  It was a very melancholy tune and sounded very much of the era.  We liked it because we were making fun of it, but it hails from a time when having an unwanted or out of wedlock pregnancy was hidden.  Which, of course, still happens today, but might result in a stint on a reality TV show.  Still, shame on us for making fun.  Since the Victrola came into my Mother’s hands (and since she worked at a resale store), the record collection has grown.

With the passing of time, my favorite 78s are now the Washington Post March and the Star Spangled Banner.  Most of the secular records I own don’t have any particular memories.  Mom was a 1930s baby and her songs were mostly ones she heard from the radio and not at home.  But, these two marches are records from my Grandfather.  He must have found them suitable. I know the 78 version with that somewhat scratchy playback and the tempo that slows when the Victrola winds down.  And I can imagine people in the 1910s and 1920s bouncing around the floor to this march.


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