It was a huge dark cabinet on legs, with part of the front cloth-covered to let out the sound from the loudspeaker inside. The lid hinged back to reveal the metal turntable, the arm that swung across, and the huge metal disc at the end of it that could be rotated to place a metal needle onto the shellac record spinning below. Except that it was broken. As a child I had apparently overwound it to the point where the spring broke, and the handle had snapped back to injure my arm. As a teenager I rediscovered it and found that a butcher’s double-ended hook could be used to hold the wound-up handle in place against one of the legs. Now my grandmother’s small record selection could be played again.
With my sister or friends, I’d play her old records that included early Bing Crosby, amongst others. We consciously appreciated it as retro stuff, much dating from the 1930s before the war. One of our favourites featured Arthur Tracy, known as the Street Singer, performing “Was It Rain.”
“Skies were grey, that rainy day
We parted in the Lane.
Was it tears that fell
Or was it rain?”
Tracy had been Russian-born, but emigrated as a child to the US, where he achieved international fame and wealth, including several movies. He lived to be 98 years old, not quite making it into his 3rd century.