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Peter Sellers:
Any Old Iron
(1957)
Any old records, mate? . . .
We're on holiday with old friends, one of whom is a big Goon Show fan, like myself. Jim and I often share bits of the humour created by Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan, which made such an impact on the British comedy scene in the 1950s.

However, Jim decides to take an afternoon nap and isn't with me when I drop into a small antique store in Summerland, B.C. to find a row of a dozen or more 78s stored neatly in a box, all in heavy-duty sleeves imprinted with the dealer's rather comical name (A. J. Sneezum). All are in near-perfect condition, the labels on the records are pristine. Unfortunately, the music is nothing to go crazy about.

But there are also a couple of records alongside in plain paper sleeves, and when I see the imprinting on one of the labels, my eyes just about pop out of my head. Wow, can it be? Peter Sellers presents . . . Any Old Iron? Cor, blimey! What a find, mate.

CATEGORIES:

HOT JAZZ

HAWAIIAN

HILLBILLY / COUNTRY & WESTERN

FRENCH-CANADIAN

FOXTROT / DANCE BAND

ROCKABILLY / ROCK 'N' ROLL

DOO-WOP

ORIENTAL

CHRISTIAN

COMEDY

OTHER

Hot Jazz


The Original Memphis Five:
Aggravatin' Papa
(1923)
Cheeky pick by an aggravatin' papa . . .
Meandering along the street in downtown Kelowna, B.C., I spot a rather nice-looking cabinet-style phonograph for sale in the window of an antique shop, and drop in to give it closer examination (though I already own a Victrola, and really have no intention of buying this one).

However, checking through the records inside its cabinet, I come across a couple that appeal to me, one of them being this very beautiful-looking orange-wax Vocalion from early 1923 by the Original Memphis Five. It does have some light surface scratches, but still plays well. The clerk at the desk accepts the $5 each I offer for them.

The other one was also a Vocalion, featuring recordings by the Breaux Freres, with the titles Tiger Rag and Fais Do Do Negre (Negro Street Dance). I'm disappointed to find it's accordion music, and later trade it away, a decision I've come to greatly regret.


Original Dixieland Jazz Band:
Skeleton Jangle
(1918)
Skeletons (jangle) in the closet . . .
We're on holiday, but as usual, record-hunting is foremost on my mind. My wife and I run into a hand-painted sandwich-board sign reading 'Records Upstairs' on the sidewalk outside a clothing store. I want in, but my wife's not interested and goes off shopping.

A narrow staircase leads to where racks full of LPs run the full length of the building. I'm the only customer. "Got any 78s?" I ask the clerk. "Through there," he answers, motioning to a dark, curtained-off closet. Crates of them are piled up in stacks! An hour later I've worked up a sweat, my hands are filthy and I've found nothing.

I get to the very last couple of crates just as I hear my wife's footsteps coming up the creaky stairs. In one of the albums in there I find four Original Dixieland Jazz Band records from 1918, in near-mint condition, plus some other jazz. $25 for the lot, and I walk out into the bright sunlight, quite happy. No special labels, but some good music.

Bob Crosby's Orchestra:
a) Sugar Foot Strut
b) At The Jazz Band Ball
(1948)


The Cotton Pickers:
Shoo Shoo Boogey Boo
(1929)
Phew! It's cotton-pickin' hot . . .
On our annual summer holiday in the B.C. Interior, I drive the family into the little town of Penticton, situated on a low-lying land bridge between two magnificent lakes, Okanagan and Skaha. I cruise around the town looking for 78s, but there's none to be found.

It's an extremely hot day, and on the way back to the cabin, we pass by the little town of Summerland. Everyone wants to get an ice cream cone, but I duck into a little hole-in-the-wall antique store, where I spot a whole box of 78s in the back corner.

While everyone else is at the ice cream parlour, I'm checking out the records. I find a couple of good ones, including this hot jazz Cotton Pickers number. Cooler than an ice cream cone, and less than half the price.


Wilbur Sweatman's
Original Jazz Band:
a) A Good Man Is Hard To Find
b) That's Got 'Em
(1919)
A good (Sweat)man is hard to find . . .
On my lunch break from my job in Langley, B.C., I sometimes take a quick drive to other towns in the area to check out their antique and/or junk stores. Fort Langley is a historical sort of place, with some of the original early 19th century log buildings still standing inside a wooden stockade. The town's main drag boasts a handful of antique stores and an antiques mall.

Doing a quick fly-by through the mall, I almost trip over a wooden crate full of 78s parked on the floor. Although it doesn't contain anything in the way of rare labels, I come across a 1919 Columbia record in excellent condition that captures my interest because of the appearance of the word 'jazz.'

I recognize Sweatman's name from books on jazz history, though for some reason he's not highly regarded. However, for a couple of dollars it's a good find, and starts me looking for the music to be found on 78s as much as the label designs.


Dixie-Land Thumpers:
Oriental Man
(1927)
Regurgitated Jelly Rolls . . .
At a used record store in Kelowna, the owner offers me all the 78s he has, most of which are back at his home. He's had too much trouble shipping orders for 78s coming in via the internet, complaining they're too fragile and get broken in the mail.

He wants $500 for the lot, but I'm not sure how many were collectible, because he tells me a buyer from Sweden has made a couple of trips from that country to pick through his collection. So I decline, because I don't want to amass a huge volume of records I don't care about.

He then offers me a pretty good deal on half a dozen jazz reissues from the 1950s he has at hand, and I take him up on his second offer. Pity they're not the original issues, but they're in great condition, so maybe they've still got value.



Harry Reser:
Frosted Chocolate
(1928)
Cool find on a hot day . . .
It's a hot morning in the Okanagan, an arid area of British Columbia between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The thermometer has already gone over the 30 degree celsius mark, so it's a very good day for an ice cream.

I pull into a 'second-hand and antique' junk-store off the highway. It's quite a bit cooler inside, and full of interesting stuff fading off into cluttered back rooms. Boxes of LPs sit in the walkways.

The owner's parked in an easy chair in the corner. "78s? No, don't have any," he responds to my question . . . even though I've already spotted some, jammed in one of the boxes of LPs. I soon pick out a promising-looking Brunswick that's in pretty good shape. I check out the song title: Frosted Chocolate. Cool! Just what we were looking for!



Tommy Ladnier's Orchestra:
When You And I Were Young, Maggie
(1938)

Mailman swings by, drops records off . . .
Trolling through eBay one day, my eye catches a stylish-looking label, Swing. It's pure 1930s Art Deco. I bid on it, and 'win.' Tommy Ladnier's band lineup includes legendary clarinettist Sidney Bechet. I pick out another record which I order at the same time, and soon get an email that my records have been shipped.

After 10 days of waiting, I start to wonder what's happened. Then I find out our reliable mailman, who always showed up around 10 am, has retired, and a new kid's been assigned to the route. He shows up any old time, if at all.

Because my house is 150 feet back from the road, it's quite a hike for the mailman. One day, I spot something lying beside the mailbox. It's my records. I have no idea how long the parcel's been there, freely available to any passer-by. Rather than deliver it to the door, the new mailman has just dropped it on the grass. He didn't last very long.


The Quintet of the Hot Club
of France:
I Can't give You Anything
But Love, Baby

(1936)

Jazz and violins can go together . . .
On a trip along the east coast of Vancouver Island, we visit Chemainus, a one-time logging community, where I stop into an antiques store, but a quick cruise around for 78s leaves me empty-handed. As I am about to leave, the assistant asks me if I need help.

"Oh, I was looking for old 78s," I reply. "I think there's a few over here," she says, and leads me to a shelf where there's half a dozen of them in a wicker basket. I'm just not used to seeing 78s at eye level; they're nearly always on the floor, among the dust-bunnies.

One has appeal for me, for its musical value rather than its label. "Wow! Awesome!" I enthuse. "Hot Club of France!" "Never heard of it," she says. "What kind of music's that?" "Jazz," I reply. "Django Reinhardt on guitar, Stéphane Grappelly on violin, and . . ."

"Jazz and violins don't go together," she interrupts firmly. Oh, OK. There's no way of playing it so she can hear how wrong she is.

Hawaiian

Franchini & Dettborn:
Palakiko Blues
(1928)
Jay Ball's Kona Hawaiians:
a) Kona Stomp
b) Sweet Hawaiian Moonlight

(1937)
Johnny Almeida's Hawaiians:
a) Poli Pumehana
b) Mai Poina Oe Ia'u

(1938)
Johnny Kaonohi Pineapple
and his Native Islanders:
Ginger Flower
(1942)

Johnny Almeida's Hawaiians
with Bill Lincoln and Trio:
Kuu Lei Lilia
(1938)
Morgan Sisters:
The Tourist Trade
(c. 1950)
Genoa Keawe:
Telephone Hula
(c. 1955)


Ferera and Franchini:
Sweet Hawaiian Moonlight
(1920)
All the way from 1920, without even a scratch . . .
As the bus taking our barbershop harmony chorus to a province-wide singing competition in Kamloops rolls through the town of Kelowna, I catch sight of a 'Closing Out Sale' sign in the window of a big collectibles store. I have to resist a strong urge to leap off the bus.

A couple of weeks later I'm in the same town and shoot right over there. Stuff is piled up everywhere; the owner tells me he's moving in a couple of days to a new location in the smaller town of Vernon. Amid the chaos, I spot a cardboard box filled with 78s.

The owner tells me they've already been been picked over, but the first one I come across is a mint-condition red wax Aeolian-Vocalion from 1920 featuring Hawaiian guitar music.

Next I find a rare Minerva, and at the bottom, four Clarion records from 1906. Wow! All for $1 each. Better than winning the singing competition (which, incidentally, we did).


Royal Hawaiian Girls Glee Club with Hilo Hattie:
a) Manuela Boy
b) Pidgin English

(1938)
Hattie sits on my knee . . .
At the end of a week's holiday spent on Maui, we have about two hours to spare before we have to return the rental car and catch our flight home. As we head toward the airport, there's just enough time to drop by an antique store I'd seen.

Here I find not one but two of these private-edition-looking records from around 1938. The name on one of them blows me away -- the Royal Hawaiian Girls Glee Club! How can you come up with a better name than that? The soloist is the legendary Hilo Hattie. The other features the lilting sound of Johnny Almeida's Hawaiians with falsetto vocalist Bill Lincoln.

I also pick up four other records, and pack them all into an empty box I hustle from a nearby pizza outlet. The fragile cargo sits safely on my knees for the long flight back. No trusting them to suitcases to be thrown around by careless airline baggage handlers! Other people can keep their Chinese-made flowered shirts; these are what I call genuine souvenirs from Hawaii.



Ferrera Trio:
O Sole Mio! (O, Sun I Love)
(1923)
Everything old is new again . . .
Millions of Hawaiian records must have been sold in the U.S. around the time of WWI, when it was becoming possible for middle-class people to take a steamship there for a truly exotic vacation. Nobody wants them now; buyers of collections reject the entire category, even though there's some great music to be heard.

I have a soft spot for Hawaiian music. I like the guitar as an instrument much more than the piano or the violin or the accordion, especially when it's the electric slide -- as invented by the Hawaiians -- and when I see this beautiful 1923 Vocalion with Hawaiian music, I can't resist picking it up, even though I've already got too many Hawaiian records.

Who can resist this lovely treatment of Eduardo di Capua's music, which with the lyrics 'It's Now or Never' became the number one-selling record in the U.S. by Elvis Presley in 1960, and again topped the U.K. chart in 2005? (Elvis had a soft spot for Hawaii too.)


Hillbilly / Country & Western

Happy Fats and his
Rayne-Bo Ramblers:
Cajun Boogie
(1947)

Proto-rock electric/acoustic
instrumental that really
moves along
Gid Tanner and his
Skillet-Lickers:
Watermelon On The Vine
(1926)

A pre-'politically correct' take on a negro stealing a watermelon from a white farmer's field
Gid Tanner and his
Skillet-Lickers:
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
(1926)

Random extracts concerning
rural life in the southern
U.S.A.


Jackson Young:
Are You Washed In The Blood
Of The Lamb?

(1927)
This Challenge still resonates . . .
An early-summer RV camping trip takes my wife and I south into Washington State. We turn off the I-5 at Sedro Woolley and cross the Cascade Mountain range. It's beautiful country, even though there is fresh snow in the high passes (in June!).

We camp at Winthrop, a small-town recreation of Wild West/Gold Rush days, with its raised wood-plank sidewalks. There are lots of faux-antique stores, but I don't come across a single 78 anywhere.

On our way homeward I pull over at every 'Antique' sign, still without any luck. I'm getting desperate! However, at our very last stop, in a little town called Riverside, I finally score a couple of 78s, at 50 cents each. One is a Victor 'coon' song from 1900, the other is a Challenge from 1927. Though familiar with the old-time hymn, I didn't anticipate the raw vitality of this performance.


French-Canadian

Isidore Soucy et son Ensemble:
Reel Du Veteran
(1948)



Denis Roland:
a) Si Tu Savais
b) Cherie Reviens
(1955)


Records from East turn up way out West . . .
My wife and I take a quick trip to Vancouver Island to visit some gardens, now that the rhododendrons are in full bloom.

As we're passing by the little town of Ladysmith, I see a big antiques mall alongside the highway and can't resist pulling over for a quick look-round. No 78s, but there's a couple of Edison cylinder machines high up on the wall, one of which carries a price tag of almost $2,000 (out of my reach, both physically and financially).

However, as we're leaving, empty-handed, we see a little one-level antique store across the street, and though it's now past the usual 5 pm closing time, the neon sign in the window is still flashing 'open,' so we run in. My wife spots a sign on a cardboard box in the far back corner that reads: 'Old Phonograph Records. 2 for $1.' That's more my speed. Most of the records are Quebecois. Don't understand all the lyrics, but the music is great.


Foxtrot / Dance Band

The Original Pennsylvania Serenaders:
You Tell Her, I Stutter
(1923)
The Collegians:
That Red Head Gal
(1923)


Clarence Williams
and his Washboard Band:
a) Cryin' Mood
b) Wanted

(1937)
Hope springs eternal for record-hunters . . .
Though New Westminster is one of the older settlements in British Columbia, its history is miniscule compared to its namesake, the City of Westminster in London, England.

Who knows, I tell myself as I wade through a pile of battered 78s in a hospital thrift store on one of New West's downtown streets, today might be the day I get lucky and find another copy of the only 78 record known to exist of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band playing Zulu's Ball, featuring Louis Armstrong on cornet. Bought in a thrift store in Georgia for $1, that unique item is now valued at maybe $250,000 . . .

No such luck today. Still, although this isn't a highly valuable find, I'm in no cryin' mood when I play this record; I like the laid-back tempo to be found on both sides. Now I just have to get back out there and keep looking for that gold nugget. As the undisputed 'King of Record Collectors' Joe Bussard says in his great DVD Desperate Man Blues, "they're still out there!"


Rockabilly / Rock 'n' Roll

Billy Riley & Little Green Men:
Red Hot
(1958)

Driving drums and blistering guitar work with raucous vocals
Jack Scott:
Save My Soul
(1958)

Reaching back to gospel roots
with a Presley-style delivery
Jack Scott:
Leroy
(1958)

Story of a young male rebel
with a classic rock beat
Sugar Pie and Pee Wee:
One, Two, Let's Rock
(1958)

Teens find freedom of expression in frenzied dancing

George Hamilton IV:
If You Don't Know
(1956)

Witty and humourous tale with
a country & western flavour
Bill Parsons:
The All American Boy
(1958)

A cynical but amusing take on the
pop-rock music scene
Red Foley:
Hot Rod Race
(1951)

Unbeatable fusion of American car culture and rock'n'roll music



Myron Hinkle:
a) Hink's Boogie Woogie
Marie Puett, vocal:
b) The Man Behind The Drums
(c. 1958)
Johhny puts out the Cash . . .
John, my fellow-worker, phones me at home one Friday evening. "Hey, found something in our local paper you might be interested in," he says. "Between four and five thousand records for sale. Only $400 for the lot." I hesitate. Where would I put 4,000 records?

"I phoned already about them," he continues. "There's LPs, 45s and 78s. It's the collection of a radio DJ that died recently. His family just wants to clear it all out of the house."

I decline to buy, but within the hour, he calls back. "Bought 'em myself," he says. "Six truckloads." That same night I go over to his place. The basement is jam-packed with six-foot-high stacks of LPs; the 45s and 78s are stacked in milk-crates in his shop out back.

Hink's Boogie Woogie on Morrison is one of many I pick out. Seattle-based Morrison Records pressed their custom recordings on spectacular splatter-vinyl discs; this rare up-tempo record is an exception to their usual dance-band fare.



Roy Orbison
and The Teen Kings:
a) Ooby Dooby
b) Go! Go! Go!

(1956)
Scoring big with scores of pop classics . . .
My eye catches a Vancouver-area Craigslist posting for "rock, country and blues records at a reasonable price." Hmmm. I contact the seller, a retiree who tells me that though the records have special meaning for him, and that he's had them for a long time, he is moving to Mexico and can't hang on to them any longer. With no serious intentions (but with a precautionary $100 in my pocket), I drive across the city to check them out.

He tells me the records all came from a 1950s juke box. How great must that have been, to be able to select from the following list -- and all seem to be in excellent condition; they've been carefully stored in albums.

Chuck Berry, The Big Bopper, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Ricky Nelson, The Platters, Duane Eddy and more. Only a couple of blues, Little Willie Littlefield and T-Bone Walker. But the absolute clincher: Roy Orbison with The Teen Kings. I take all 12 albums, while he takes my $100.


Doo-Wop


Chandeliers Quintett:
Blueberry Sweet
(1958)
Blueberries make for a sweet dessert . . .
A couple of dear friends from our church know of my record-collecting habit and, explaining that they're trying to clear stuff out of their basement, offer to give me some 78s from his late mother's record collection, for free. It's hard to say no, so I don't. "Why don't you and your wife come over for a meal at the same time as you pick them up?" they kindly ask.

After a nice time of socializing and having dinner together, we get around to talking records. I'm sort of expecting organ music or gospel quartets, but when she brings them out, I'm surprised to find some great early rock and roll and doo-wop, like this Blueberry Sweet on the Reo label (blueberries? Nice kind of dessert).

Later, I make a CD for them of all the music on their donated records, which will take up much less room in their basement, while mine gets even more jam-packed.



The Crows:
I Love You So
(1953)
A jailhouse connection . . .
I receive a local phone call from someone wanting advice about how to dispose of a collection of LPs and 78s. I suggest an outlet that might take the LPs, but warn him they probably wouldn't want the 78s. He says they are mostly from the 1940s and 1950s and admits the content is not very collectible. He asks if I'd care to see them.

We arrange to meet for a Japanese lunch in Langley, a nearby community, where the used record store is at, and where I could also check out the 78s, packed into the trunk of his car. Turns out he is a retired supervisor of prison chaplains, and as I had once done some visiting in area prisons with a Christian ministry, we had much to talk of.

Afterwards we check out the 78s. There's not much of interest except a Bill Haley and a 1953 doo-wop number by The Crows, which he insists on giving to me for free. Too bad there wasn't a copy of Jailhouse Rock . . . but then, I already have one.


Oriental

Lu Zhang:
Xiao La Ma
(1953)

Chinese-language version of Jambalaya On The Bayou,
Hank Williams' hit from 1952
Ikeda Kazuko:
Kisya Poppo (A Choo-Choo Train)
(1952)

Japanese-language children's
record about a ride on a
railway train

Itijyou Masao:
Usiwakamaru and Benkei
(c. 1932)

Japanese-language fairy tale
for children


Hibari Misora:
Rockabilly Kendo
(1958)
Japanese Eagle flies across the Pacific . . .
I get an email from a local gentleman wanting to know if I am interested in buying a dozen Japanese-language records that had belonged to his mother. We arrange to meet at a rendezvous halfway between our east-side and west-side homes.

On seeing the records I am a bit disappointed; all appear to be from the late 1940s to early 1950s. I take them anyway, since had I not, he would have immediately thrown them into a nearby dumpster. On playing through them, they all seem to be of the same ilk: popular tunes by female soloists with delicate voices and orchestral backing.

All, that is, except for one side of an Eagle record, which pretty nearly blows me out of my chair. Fabulous Japanese rockabilly -- one of my best finds ever! Later, a grouchy Youtube critic says it's not rockabilly but 'bad rock and roll,' but lots of others seem to like it.


Chiemi Eri:
Wonderful Daughter
(1956)
Records interned in wartime camp . . .
I answer a Craigslist ad for 'approx 80 Japanese 78 rpm records' in Vancouver. They're sitting in a cardboard box in his garden shed, but none the worse for wear, all being in near-mint condition.

There is only one with Western-style music, the others all being of the 'typical' Edo period, with plaintive female vocalists accompanied by acoustic stringed instruments, or gutterally growling males. Most of them are in attractive Japanese-language sleeves.

An interesting rabbit-trail develops when I find that an envelope containing some of the records had been inscribed with the address of an internment camp for Japanese-Canadians. I contacted a writer at the local Vancouver Sun newspaper, who did some follow-up research and ran an interesting story on the find.


Unknown:
Unknown (Oriental)
(c. 1925)
Fish market the venue for an unusual catch . . .
It's mid-October and on an impulse, my wife and I book a day return excursion from Vancouver to Seattle on the Amtrak train. We're fortunate to have picked a beautiful day. It's a fantastic ride, smooth and very relaxing. The coastline is visually spectacular.

Downtown Seattle, which has a big Chinatown area, is awesome. After some sightseeing, we wind up at the famous Pike Place Market, where the atmosphere is entertaining, the sounds and smells intriguing. We enjoy some great fish and chips for lunch.

We then part ways for a few minutes, she wanting to buy mementoes for the grandkids while I look around a music store. I see a few ratty 78s stuck in the back corner. Only one holds any interest for me, but it's in bad shape, thrashed-looking; its grooves are filled with dirt. But the label is gorgeous, reminding me of an ancient Chinese coin. The find makes my day. The music? It's . . . well, let's say it's different.


Christian

Girls' Chorus of
Kamehameha Schools:
Po La'i E (Silent Night)
(1947)

Beautiful choral singing by
Hawaiian girls' chorus
Elder A. Bonds and his Congregation:
Yes, God Is Real
(c. 1949)

Intense Pentecostal-style
preaching-cum-worship


Christian & Missionary
Alliance Gospel Quintette:
To Walk In Jerusalem
Just Like John

(c. 1923)
A pressing engagement . . .
It's a rainy morning and I'm outside an antiques mall in Fort Langley checking through some boxes of 78s on a table. Fortunately, there's an awning above to keep things dry.

An older gentleman is standing nearby, attempting to smoke a damp cigarette. "Interested in vinyl, eh?" he asks. "Well, more like shellac," I reply. "The older records, you know, 78s." "I used to operate a press that made records," he says, "at one of the last commercial record manufacturing shops around here." We have an interesting discussion about what that work entailed. I tell him about an antiquarian friend of mine who for lack of space had had to decline the free offer of two of those massive presses, just prior to the widespread revival of interest in vinyl records.

Meanwhile I'm riffling through the 78s, and find a couple of interest, one being a Personal Record from 1923 with a label I don't already have. Afterwards I think: what were the chances of running into someone who had personally pressed records?

Comedy

Four Aristocrats:
She's Still My Baby
(1926)

Great sound on this fast-paced
flapper-type number, but not a
very nice sentiment!
Ed Smalle:
Roll 'Em, Girls
(1925)

In the hedonistic 1920s, girls
are encouraged to reveal
more of their bodies
Leslie Fuller:
All Riot On The Western Front
(1933)

Crudely humorous sketch on
brutish life in the trenches
of WWI
Duprez & Roberts:
Blitz And Blatz In An Aeroplane
(1915)

A pair of dopey 'Germans' take
to the skies in this WWI-era
radio-style skit

Hilo Hattie:
Becky, I Ain't Coming
Back No More

(1938)

A Jewish tailor has a mid-life
crisis and abandons his wife
for the seductions of Hawaii

Other


Chiefly to do with the price . . .
In the little fishing port of Anacortes, in north-west Washington State, I spend at least three hours in a music store rummaging through boxes of ratched-up 78s which had been shoved under tables holding reams of LPs. They've been well-picked-over, but I do find a few interesting labels I don't already have.

While waiting to pay for them, I notice a stack of 78s sitting on the counter. Among them I come across a blue shellac American Record Company record from 1905, the one featuring the peacepipe-smoking Indian chief (or 'savage,' as suggested by the missing half of the quote, 'Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast').

I'd never come across one before, and it's in decent condition. The cashier calls the boss to come over and price it. He says I can have it for $3. A smokin' good deal.


Rainy-day reminiscences . . .
At the back of the jam-packed collectibles store I'm in is a sort of cubby-hole, lined from floor to ceiling with LPs and 78s. I find a couple of British Silvertones in pristine condition, from around the WWI era. The store-lady says, "I've got more out at my place. You can come by next Sunday." I'm excited. More mint-condition records!

Unfortunately, rain is falling when I get to her hobby farm, way out in the country. The house looks about ready to fall down; the yard is covered in roughly-built shelters with tattered tarps for walls flapping in the wind. The mud is sloppy, ankle-deep. Without venturing outside, she points me to where the records are at, and umbrella in hand, I pick my way through mountains of junk (I now realize she's not a collector, she's a hoarder).

Packed in plastic milk-crates, the records are semi-exposed to the slanting rain. It's a crying shame; almost all the labels are water-damaged. I pick out only one, a Jumbo-Record which isn't that great but is still readable. Wet and chilled, I slosh back down the narrow lane back to the warmth of my car; my shoes are covered in mud. I could have used an elephant-back ride to get me out of there.