“And the Music Goes Round and Around”

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As I write about music and my life, I thought I better include images and descriptions of the devices I used to listen to it. A number of my followers don’t know about these “historic” methods!  Above is a child’s phonograph just like the one my brother and I shared in the early 1950’s. It had one speed only–78 rpm, you had to place the needle by hand on the record and remove it at the end of the song, and you had to turn the record over to play the other side.

We had a number of favorites including “Little White Duck” by Burl Ives.

We listened to these songs over and over and treated the records very casually. This often resulted in “skips” which made the needle get stuck and play the same phrase over and over. I realize that in much contemporary music a phrase is endlessly repeated and seen as appealing. I always think I want to reach over and move the needle. Which of course is impossible when the music is coming from a speaker in Target!

My brother was a very late talker.(The speculation is that I never gave him a chance to get a word in edgewise.) His nursery school teacher was concerned, but my mother wasn’t. She said he could always shuffle through the records, pick out the one he wanted and sing along contentedly. The joke in our family was that he didn’t speak until he wanted the butter passed to him. At any rate, once he started, he never slowed down.

Last year I wanted to listen to some of those old records, but realized I didn’t have any way to play them. It took a while, but I did find a turntable that plays all three speeds of my old records:78,45 and 33 1/3. My grandson is very impressed with the device, though he didn’t know the words record, phonograph or record player until I taught them to him. Wait until I try to explain 8 tracks. But that has to wait a while in this series of posts.

“Hail! Hail! Rock n Roll!”

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As a beginning for what promises to be an extended series of posts on music, ways to listen to music, music I have listened to and things that happened to me because of music, I salute Chuck Berry. He died a couple of days ago at the age of 90. Here he is pictured doing his classic “duck walk” as he hopped across the stage on one  leg with the other extended, all the while singing and playing the guitar.

I adored my older cousin Kenny, pictured below, who lived in the New York suburbs. I wanted a picture of us together, as he clearly didn’t! My little sister is laughing at the scene. What does that have to do with Chuck Berry?

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By the time I was grown and living in Cambridge, I spent holidays with my uncle’s family. On one of those trips, Kenny took me into Harlem to hear Chuck Berry perform, probably in 1966. I had never seen anyone perform the way Berry did. He did splits and duck walked across the stage. I yelled and applauded along with everyone else. It was the first rock and roll concert I ever attended, but not my last.

As they say in the radio business, “Stay tuned.”

“No Gas”

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Before I leave my series of posts about automobiles, I realized I had one more adventure to relate. In 1974, I was hired by the Head Start program to be a Home Visit Teacher in rural Oregon. This early childhood program had two centers near small towns, but there were children that were too scattered to be easily attend them. There were real benefits for poor children to be enrolled in the program, particularly dental care and nutrition support. The program decided to try having someone find and serve some of these children.

I was given a Ford van and a map and the requirement to find 10 such kids. Foolhardy as I was, I set out on back roads, stopping at houses and asking about 3 year olds. Once I had found the first two, I had enough suggestions that I quickly reached my quota.  I visited each family once a week, staying for two hours, interacting with the child and parent, leaving toys and books, and setting up doctor appointments and dental and vision screenings.

But these children were really back in the woods, in trailers or cabins, and far apart from one another. I put about 100 miles a day on that little van. This would have been fine, except for the gas shortage and gas rationing. The decision was made to allow alternate day purchases of gas only–even or odd days depending on your license plate. And my little town only had one gas station. And my Ford van gulped gasoline. Fortunately, I was friends with the gas station owner and though I had to abide by the alternate day requirement, I was always able to go up first thing in the morning and buy a full tank of gas, something not available to most drivers.

I kept that job until May of 1975 when I was eight months pregnant and my little van got two flat tires at once on a back road. I sat by the side of the rural road until a kind parent stopped, asked me what the heck I though I was doing anyway, and gave me a lift into town.

I resigned the next day, to the complete relief of all my clients!

“And the Road Goes On Forever”

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The less said about the last two days of driving across the country, the better. Suffice it to say that there was a great deal of traffic on the interstates once we got past Chicago. The dogs no longer had the freedom to romp across vast empty fields. So they began to get cabin fever. More traffic meant meaning to have to pay closer attention to angry drivers which meant we were getting grumpier. McDonald’s consistent food tasted the same,which is their point, but it got very very tiring to eat it.

I was so elated when we came to this sign that I pulled the van into the Welcome Center and ran in and said, “Welcome us. We just arrived from Oregon.” We got our first taste of New England reserve when neither clerk responded. Then my husband, from Alabama, saw the road was now called “The Yankee Highway.” We decided not to take a photo of that to send to his mother! My husband had actually been taught in the 1960’s that the Civil War was the “war of Northern aggression.” He didn’t believe it then or now, but the sign did spark a lively conversation about our different high school history classes.

We finally arrived at a local motel where we stayed before we signed the final papers to purchase the house. We couldn’t understand why the wife was so unhappy to be selling us their home.( I will write about that soon.) We got the keys, drove over to our new home, entered and learned that the movers were delayed for another three days. We had no furniture, save one lawn chair. We did have blankets, drove straight to Sleepy’s Mattress, pleaded our case, and had a new bed by that evening.

It may have been unfurnished, but the heat worked, we had appliances, and I cooked us real food–the first in over a week.

The dogs ran around the back yard, reluctant to ever enter the van again. We had made it across the country in the dead of winter and we were still speaking! Thank G.O.D.!

“Why Dixon, Illinois?”

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I know that we went to Dixon, Illinois and saw this house, the boyhood home of former President Reagan. But looking at a map today, I have no idea why. Neither of us had any great love of Reagan, and it looks as if we got off the right highway and onto Interstate 88. That might explain why when I try to remember this day all that returns is a general sense of grumpiness.

My husband and I love each other. We both loved both of our dogs. However, we were getting really really tired of each others’company. Tired of motels. Tired of Egg McMuffins, and we hadn’t even reached Eastern Standard Time. The phrase “Great Plains” should have been called “the never ending story.” We could well imagine earlier people thinking they went on forever. So it looks as if we missed a turn and got on Interstate 88.

I am not sure seeing Reagan’s house made lemonade out of lemons. But it was dusk, and we saw it and then found a motel and then went to eat at a tacky restaurant and called it a day. Only Ohio, Pennsylvania and a bit of New York stood between us and Connecticut. How bad could it be?

“Could You Resist a Danish Windmill?”

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We had been on Interstate 80 after Interstate 84 divided in Wyoming. 80 goes all across a very very very flat part of the United States. As in no hills, not even slight inclines. So when were through Nebraska(and only Nebraskans know how wide Nebraska is!) we entered Iowa and saw a sign advertising a Danish windmill. As in a not flat structure that wasn’t a grain elevator. Such an anomalous site certainly deserved our visit, so we got off the freeway and went to Elkhorn, Iowa.

It was a very quirky place serving a Danish smörgåsbord for lunch. I didn’t realize that there was a Danish cuisine, and I’m not sure that a windmill in Iowa is the ideal location for encountering it for the first time. I remember pickled beets. Beyond that, nothing sticks in my memory.

They were very friendly which made up for the less than stellar food. The gift shop was all items imported from Denmark, and I bought a lovely tile to put hot dishes on at the table. It said (in Danish)danishtile

When I was using my handy Google Translate tool as I wrote this, I discovered that it is in Norwegian. But it turns out that the two languages are very similar. In case you don’t use it, Google Translate is free and is indispensable when reading blogs from around the world. Although the translations are very literal, and don’t work very well for poetry, they do allow me to read writers I would otherwise pass over.

As Google tells me “For dit helbred”, (to your health in Danish.)

“When In Nebraska”

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We spent a long long time in Nebraska, and we became aware that the major activities in Nebraska were raising corn and raising beef. We hadn’t spent much time or money eating dinners on our trip, usually just picking up something quick. But here we were in Kearney, Nebraska, so we decided to have a steak.

We pulled off the interstate and were immediately attracted to a classic looking steakhouse called Amber Rose. Sure enough, it was the real deal, with a dark interior and tin ceiling. We had been freezing all day and were ready for a hot Midwestern dinner: steak and potatoes. We don’t eat that way often, and when we climbed into the Kearney Best Western Motel that night, our food coma reminded us why we don’t.

In fact, we stayed full through the morning. I even passed on my daily Egg McMuffin in favor of just coffee. Then it was on to Iowa.