The last thing I expected when I made a quick trip to Springfield to see a friend’s photography exhibit opening was to find a time machine.
However, that’s what I found.
An Astro-Sonic time machine from Magnavox.
Now, if you look at the picture that accompanies this story, you might say, “Well, that looks like a stereo to me. A very old stereo in a wooden cabinet that looks like a piece of furniture.
You wouldn’t be wrong.
Except this piece of furniture transported me from Hakaar’s Bazaar on Commercial St. in Springfield, MO in 2022 to a living room in Coleville, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1981.
I’ve written many times about the connection my mom and I had through music and how even though I lived over a thousand miles from home, we still had a strong bond because of the music we had shared over the years. What I haven’t shared on these pages yet is that my love for recorded music and records did NOT start with my parents!
We hadn’t grown much, and a stereo system for a 10-year-old was a pipe dream. We were getting special things at Christmas, but nothing as daring as a stereo. If I was lucky, I’d get a few records I really wanted…one, maybe two if Dad’s Christmas bonus was particularly big that year.
They were played at my grandfather Dale King’s house. He had the Magnavox Astro-Sonic stereo system. He had the turntable, plus he had an AM and FM radio that seemed to pick up stations from the planet Mars. I remember lying in the living room at night, having scanned the AM tape to find a guy named Jack Buck calling a Cardinals game on KMOX or Ernie Harwell calling the Tigers on WJR. (Well, I would listen to them unless the Philadelphia Phillies were playing and I was glued to the words of my broadcast heroes Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn.)
So while I have hundreds of memories that could have flowed back when I found the brown box of blessings on Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised by the one that came back to me. But to share it with you, I have to share a moment of a 10-year-old boy doing something most 10-year-olds have done at some point. He forgot he brought anything with him when he went with his parents and left it in the car.
In my case, it was a 45 single from the song “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” by Pink Floyd.
I had a box full of 45 singles that I could listen to as a kid, but most of them belonged to my mom from her collection growing up. Looking back, I’m grateful to have been exposed to artists like the Temptations and Supremes and Little Stevie Wonder, as it helped me later on when I took my love of drumming much more seriously than I did. the age of 10 years.
But I also listened to the radio, especially Casey Kasem and American Top 40, where I discovered how much I loved rock and roll. I was saving up my very meager allowance and buying singles from bands like the Eagles, the Who, the Rolling Stones. Then I heard “Another Brick in the Wall” on the radio, and I started getting into bands like Pink Floyd. (And a year later, my friend Tim Houser introduced me to Rush, and I was a prog rock fan from then on.)
One summer day, I took some records with me as my parents took me to a friend’s house. This family had a pool, something we could never afford, and I remember rushing out of the car to get into the pool when we got there.
And I left my vinyl records in the car.
A very hot car.
When we got out to the car to go home and I saw the horribly deformed discs in the back seat, I remember bursting into tears. When you’re 10 and you just lost your beloved records, it’s like someone just cooked your best friend. I also knew how difficult it was to get the record in the first place, so that made it even worse.
Flash forward to the Saturday in question, days after the Great Melted Record Incident of 1981.
I remember walking up the steps to Grandpa’s house where normally he would be sitting on the swing bench on the left side of the porch waiting for us. This morning he wasn’t there and the front door was wide open. These days you probably would have freaked out and thought he had suffered a home invasion… but back in 1981 you just thought he must be using the bathroom or something harmless.
Suddenly I started hearing a song I had never heard before walking through the door, and even though I didn’t know it, something in the tone of the music told me it was Pink Floyd . I remember running through the door, across the pine paneled living room in a split second, to the Magnavox Astro-Sonic with Grandpap standing right next to it with a huge grin on his face, holding the album cover behind him.
He didn’t just buy his beloved grandson a replacement single 45. No, he bought him the whole album “The Wall”. It was such a special time because Grandpa was a coal miner who didn’t make a lot of money. The whole album instead of the single was the kind of thing that, if you were lucky, might happen over Christmas.
I asked him years later why he bought the whole album instead of just one, and he said he remembered the man from the record store offering to sell him half of it award because he thought he was a great guy who knew next to nothing about rock. music would go buy a record like “The Wall” for his 10-year-old grandson.
I played the album over and over to the point that I remember one afternoon my mother came into the room, pulled the needle out of the record, then put it on the fridge so I wouldn’t couldn’t access it because she was “sick of hearing that”. damn album.”
So I went from Pink Floyd to the Eagles’ “The Long Run” album.
And as I write this, I realize that my excessive listening to “The Long Run” album may have led to my mother’s serious dislike of Don Henley.
But I digress.
As I stood in that store in Springfield overwhelmed with the happy memory of when my grandfather stepped out of his comfort zone to do something amazing for his beloved grandson, I started to feel my eyes watering. Luckily there were a few lockers with records, which allowed me to stand with my back to everyone as I felt a few tears running down my face.
I still miss Grandpap, who has been gone for almost 30 years now, but I will always be grateful that he actively fostered the love of music that sustains me to this day.