In all of my nine plus years of amassing a huge 78 collection that vary in condition from playable to excellent, there are a certain few that fly under my radar that are in extremely poor to terrible condition. There’s surface noise and that’s to be expected for a 78 that was released eighty-eight years ago. There’s no buyer’s remorse on my part. I buy 78’s if I feel they are in ‘playable’ condition at the very least. Condition-wise, I’m not too terribly picky if the 78 is near mint, very good, excellent condition, etc. And I do realize I could be doing my Victrola more harm than good opting for the undesirable 78s. So long as there’s no needle drops, huge scratches or gouges that would render the 78 unplayable, then I will buy it if the price doesn’t exceed $5 per record and even at that I find that’s a tad steep for the more common 78s. Oh, yeah, if they’re cracked, don’t waste your money just some helpful first-hand experience. 😉
I don’t know what possessed me to stop in a used furniture store on a day I had to be somewhere. Normally, I don’t like to browse when I know I really can’t make the time. But it was the same place I acquired my Victrola model G. I was very excited that I finally got it fully repaired from the mainsprings to the sound box that required an overhaul and new rear flange gasket. That much about it was well worth it and I knew it would require some extensive work that was beyond my capabilities since I haven’t serviced any of my antique phonographs in over nine years. Yet again, none of them require any work since I had them restored professionally eons ago.
I glance at my wrist watch, counting off the minutes. I appear to be in a hurry, but I still have time to look around before I head off and start my day. I always try to make it a point to take in the beauty of various antiques at least once a day. I always use antiques in my daily life. Its what brings me happiness. Some people can’t start their mornings off right without their favorite cup of coffee or a latte, maybe even a cappuccino. And other folks probably don’t get off on the right foot without their nicotine fix before their lunch break.
I don’t smoke. I don’t consume caffeine. I will, however, pack some toothpicks on me and some steeped hot tea for when its cold outside. Otherwise, I keep my creature comforts to a minimal when I have to be at work. I reward myself when I do arrive home after work. And here I found myself in the small second hand store on the corner. I browse through the books and a dusty, massively thick Webster’s dictionary catches my eye. The binding has come completely loose from the spine. The pages are all there and in tact. I gingerly remove the antique dictionary. It was an “Original Webster’s Unabridged” dictionary published in 1874. The price scared me. $39.99, holy mackerel! Are they serious? :O
I scrutinize the antique dictionary for a long moment, then glance at the time. I needed to be on my way. Another day, another dollar so the saying goes. I return the dictionary to the bookshelf and get ready to leave when something small catches my eye. I’m gazing at two 5 ½” Little Wonder one-sided disc records from 1909. These were actually tiny shellac records made for a child-sized upright antique phonograph. However, I couldn’t say for certain whether or not they’d play on Victrola since I didn’t have any Little Wonder discs in my collection to say for certain. I know from past experience I had difficulties with similar 7” Parakeet shellac records manufactured sometime during the early 1900 to mid-Teens, so naturally, I wrongly assumed the same would hold true for these Little Wonder records. And there was a Cameo 78 that called out to me.
I ask the man at the counter how much for the 78’s and was told $2.99 per record. Uhm… I feel that is asking a bit much. I politely thanked him, placed the records back and waited until I could do some research. Depending on the rarity of the Little Wonder records and who the artist was that recorded the song(s), I surfed onto eBay and did some price-comparison. $2.99 was looking okay for what these tiny records are. And so I bide my time. I return to the store when another person is working. I’m quoted a steeper price for the records. Again, I kindly thanked the person and went on my way.
Yeah, they’re one of a kind. Okay, they’re “special records”, but Cameo 78s are common to run across although inferior in sound quality and material-wise. Little Wonder shellac records don’t turn up all that often, so I’ll give credit where its due on that for being extra special. But the prices for the Little Wonders online vary in price and their condition were no less than what I discovered in this store. I think about it for a long while. If they’re still there come some other time then I’ll know it was meant to be.
And they were there when I returned, so I bought them and the Cameo 78. Another Fox Trot song and who is the artist this time? Sam Lanin and His Orchestra “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” and the flipside “He Ain’t Never Been to College” by the Varsity Eight. Both songs were released in 1928. And last night I finally made the time to do more recordings, something I haven’t done in quite a while. But the recording process doesn’t always run smoothly, thus the outtakes and bloopers happen.
Oh, the Little Wonders played excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed the songs, “I Want to Go Back to Michigan” duet disc No. 60. It sounded a lot like Ernest Hare and Billy Jones from the Edison Diamond Discs I have of them. And the other song, “Beets and Turnips” – [Little Wonder] Band disc No. 30. Both songs were released sometime in 1914. The Michigan song dates somewhere between 1914-15. The flipside of the one-sided Little Wonders have patent dates of Nov. 1909. These are some incredibly old tiny disc records pushing 107 years old (if going by the patent dates, that is). The sound quality of the Little Wonders exceeded my expectations. I was satisfied and my little one-bedroom was full of cheerful music for a little bit. I tried the Cameo 78 next. The song He Ain’t Never Been to College recorded nice in one take, no problems there.
Then the unexpected happened and it worried me when I played the flipside of the Cameo 78. It sounds very worn out due to the surface wear and tear that’s common for a record that’s likely been played many times over. But until last night I never encountered a 78 that would make the sound box lag and the turntable slow down and eventually stop all together. Worried doesn’t cut it. I was almost heart sick thinking of all the problems that can happen to a Victrola. The mainsprings might have hardened grease, but this would have been eliminated since the machine was completely overhauled by a professional in July. Another troubleshooting idea popped into my head; maybe the mainsprings slipped out of alignment in their barrels. Yikes! That’s an invasive and costly repair. Then I decided to try playing the same 78 on a different baby upright Victrola of mine that’s been my secondary recording machine. Surely, two machines are not alike.
Well, same problem occurred on the baby Victrola. And I couldn’t figure it out.
How can two machines encounter the same exact problem? Was this particular song cursed? Is the past deceased owner of said 78 trying to send me a message from the great beyond? What about the… oh, heck. Just try a lighter weight reproducer and so that’s what I did. Now the final recording didn’t come from the Victrola G as I had planned. I had to record the 78 playing it on my Edison C-19 with the proper 78 Ken-Tone attachment and it played okay. Not good, but its late. I’m tired. I want to get this last song uploaded to my MP3 player so I can call it a night. Edison has always been my ‘go-to’ phonograph when making recordings. In the beginning I didn’t always have a Victrola to fall back on. Therefore, my Edison C-19 picked up all the slack of my recording processes. I was relieved to know that my expensive Victrola G didn’t fall to crap after all and neither had my baby Victrola. Do I care to try Cream in My Coffee Fox Trot on my other upright?… Nope. So, hopefully I haven’t bought a cursed 78 and if I did, then eh, oh well. I suppose if the darned Fox Trot is cursed it wouldn’t be the first song to go down infamy for that. Thanks for reading, commenting, blogging, sharing, tweeting. I truly appreciate it a lot! 🙂