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Sounds From An Old Victrola
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We just put the latest Orphan Scrivener newsletter online. A fair amount of news this time. Mary writes about some budgies we have known. For my part, I add a bit to what I had previously written here about listening to my grandparents' old Victrola:

"I'm just a kid again, doing what I did again, singing a song,
When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin' along"

I didn't long to be a kid again when I listened to that song over and over on my grandparents' hand-cranked Victrola. I was a kid. Who didn't care much about lyrics, I guess. I suppose I liked the tune, or maybe the old fashioned crooning, warbling vocal style amused me. Was the singer Al Jolson? He did record the song but I can't picture the label on the heavy shellac '78 anymore.

My own past has served me well as a source for writing material, partly because my memory is so blurry. I am rather in the position of James Thurber in his essay The Admiral At the Wheel, in which the myopic writer sees all sorts of wonders and strange goings-on after he breaks his eye glasses. No doubt the most interesting events in my life have taken place mostly in my imagination.

Unfortunately, as you get older, it becomes harder to write about childhood without sounding like a sentimental old coot wallowing in nostalgia. At least to my ears.

Still, it is interesting to look back and try to piece things together, to try to fathom what exactly I could have been thinking while listening to another favorite '78, Listen to the Mockingbird. The mockingbird, you might recall, was singing o'er Sweet Hally's grave. There's a cheery thing to picture when you're still in grade school.

A lot of the appeal of those tunes was the antique Victrola I played them on. It was from another age, like something out of the Flintstones. Using the crank you could speed the records up until the singers sounded like the Chipmunks (or even more like the Chipmunks than they already did with their, to me, unnaturally high pitched voices) or slow the sound down to an unintelligible rumble.

The phonograph "needles" were little more than sharp steel nails. I swear that if you scraped along a groove with a nail it made a thin, ghostly noise that was not quite music but something more than the squeak of metal against shellac. Or maybe that is only in my imagination.

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