Saturday, December 07, 2019


In the wee hours of the morning, I began thinking about Little Jimmy Dickens, who died in 2016 at the age of 94.  This took my peripatetic mind on a winding trip back to my early childhood, a safe and happy time of my life.  Sometimes I wish I could go back to those days and stay.

Mother purchased an old-fashioned wind-up Victrola record player from a one-room country school that had been consolidated with a larger school district.  I'm sure she didn't pay much for it, because my parents didn't have a lot of money.  She and Daddy placed that fine-looking piece of furniture in the living room, against the wall on the opposite from the stupid piano Mother had so hoped I'd learn to play.  

The Victrola came with quite a large collection of 78 RPM records, the only speed the turntable had; the records were as old as the player... raspy, scratched, and old-fashioned.  One such record was just a bunch of folks laughing:  It started out with one guy, then little by little others joined in.  I was fascinated by the fact that if you listened to it, you couldn't help but laugh along with them.  When kids came to visit, I played it for them because it made us all laugh together.  There was also a record with Indians singing and drumming to a native song, which I loved (because I liked Indians).  

The needles had to be replaced often; you bought several of them in a package at the local hardware store.  I remember this because I knew how to do it all myself.  I don't remember my parents ever actually listening to the Victrola, although I'm sure they must have.  But I played it a lot!  I remember turning the crank that made the turntable go around, with no electricity involved. 

Ours looked somewhat like this
I guess my parents must have listened to it, because Mother came up with the extra money to buy two brand new record albums.  An album back then held five or six two-sided records with a song on each side, in thick paper sleeves.  The album opened like a book and you would choose the record you wanted to hear.  

Now that I think of it, my mom may have bought the albums so she could write down the words for me to learn, because this was the same time period when she was always putting me in local talent shows.  Some lady played piano for me when I sang at these functions.  

I remember the songs in those albums well.  George Morgan was the artist on one:  he sang about candy kisses and rooms full of roses (his daughter Lori grew up to be a country artist, years later).  I liked George's smooth voice just fine, but I preferred Little Jimmy Dickens' album because his songs made me laugh.  I especially liked "Plain Old Country Boy", in which my favorite line was this:  "All I got was the north end of a chicken flying south."  

The Jimmy Dickens song that stayed with me for life, though, was "Out Behind the Barn".  It was one of the first country songs I learned to chord with, after I got a guitar; it made people laugh when I sang it, too.  The title may have been an omen, because Cliff and I now live "out behind a barn" in a trailer house.  

I looked online to see what years those songs would have been on the charts; the albums were probably put out in 1949 or 1950. because the songs I remember so well were on the charts in 1949, when I was five years old.  

At that time, 78-RPM records were about to go the way of the dinosaur.  But I got a few years of pleasure out of them.

What a great childhood I had!  Even today it makes me smile, thinking about those times.

On another note, good news!!!  Cliff went to the cardiologist yesterday to find out the results of his recent tests, which he passed with flying colors.  The only advice he received was the usual "You need to lose weight", followed by "I'll see you in six months".

I told the doctor the only measure we take to help Cliff lose weight is portion control.  We hope for weight loss, but it usually turns out to be "maintenance":  If he doesn't gain weight, we count that as a plus.  Then I told him, "Honestly, I am not going to tell him what he can and cannot eat; I am NOT his mother.  If we stick to low-fat stuff we miss the foods we love, and end up going out splurging to get something that tastes only about half as good as something I could have made at home."

He chuckled a little and said, "These days I'm fighting weight myself," as he patted his not-that-big tummy.

On the way home, Cliff put it this way:  "I figure at the outside, I have five or six years left.  I don't intend to diet all the way to my grave."

We're happy and thankful that his heart is still doing pretty well, thirteen years after a four-way heart bypass.  But we'll be eating biscuits, corn bread, and even PIE occasionally.  Not every day... but we will eat what we love.  I do round out meals with a lot of vegetables and fruits, good healthy ones.  So there's that.  I know folks who hardly ever eat a vegetable, but I guess that is another thing I learned from my Mom, who once told me in regards to food, "I like anything that grows in the ground."  

Thank God for Aldi, where fresh fruits and vegetables are reasonably priced.

Yours always,

PS:  Further research tells me 78 RPM records were still made as recently as 1960.  I was listening to 45 and 33 1/3 RPM records long before that, as was everybody else I knew.  Around 1956 I received my first portable stereo record player for Christmas.  From then on, I went without my school lunches so I could buy Elvis records with my lunch money.


  1. My parents had an old record player (not a victrola) that played only 78's and 33's and a closet full of 78 albums. when they would go out i'd (a young child) sneak in the closet looking for songs i might like and play them. i fell in love with them too like you. my favorite was This Old House. to this day it's one of my favorite songs. i wanted my parents to give me that album when i got older but they ended up selling it at a garage sale for a buck or two. thank you for this post. it took me back to a sweet time in my life. so i totally can relate to you.

  2. We never had a victrola but I do remember having to replace the record player needles. How times have changed. I don't remember your mom putting you in talent shows. That's a new story for me. It's no wonder you have a love of music, it was initiated by your mom and has been a big prt of your life. I posted about memories today too, but mostly about making new ones.

  3. One of my first memories was playing a record with my sister outside with our neighbor George. It was probably a little kids record player that you wound up, It is one of those faint, fuzzy memories. It was sunny and we were sitting in the grass. We had a few records growing up, mostly the little 45's. They were probably much cheaper than the LP's.

  4. I think your attitude is great; I used to weigh about 15-20 pounds fewer and probably could lose some weight, but it would mean a lot of sacrifice, which I'm not willing to do these days. Glad Cliff got a clean bill of health. I mainly bought singles to play on my record player when I was young, then graduated to albums.

  5. We had a lot of 78s when I was a kid, and one of the girls still has all of Daddy's old ones I think. We also had, when I was little, one of those wind-up victrolas that played the old cylinder "records." Occasionally a song (or comedy skit) from one of those records will come into my mind.

  6. An interesting post, Donna, with wonderful childhood memories. The record with people laughing is really unique......and funny (no pun intended, of course). I would like to have heard the authentic Indian song.

    My father had an old record player that had belonged to my grandfather.I remember him changing the needles. He also had lots of 78 records - many were old Hungarian records from Budapest. And he had a sizeable collection of country music - Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Kitty Wells, etc. Many of them were kept in those old record albums.

    Unfortunately, in one of his violent rages, he smashed a lot of those records to pieces. It's really a shame. They would have been collectors items today.

  7. I agree with Clift. Just try to be moderate in all things. Be reasonable not miserable.

  8. Your memories remind me of my own childhood memories1


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