I Remember When . . . .
Great Stories about growing up in the Horntown, Oklahoma area!

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The Victrola and the Atwater Kent

     During the 1930's, our Victrola was the source of a lot of pleasure after a hard day of work on the farm. The Victrola was a record player produced by The Victor Company, formerly the Victor Talking Machine Co., later known as RCA Victor and now as RCA [Radio Corporation Of America]. Our family would sit, relaxed, around the living room and listen to the beautiful music coming from this magic machine. The mystery of just how this machine could reproduce the music was absolutely amazing to this kid. At first my imagination brought me to the conclusion that there must be tiny people inside the cabinet singing and playing music. It had a crank on the side that was used to wind the spring after the playing of each record. We bought needles by the package, and after several records were played, the needle would be worn and needed replacement. There were times that we couldn't afford to buy needles, But no worry, we had a bush in the yard that was a thorn producer, therefore a substitute for needles. The thorn would last for about one record, but we had a good supply of those. Of course we would have to be very close to the record player to hear it. My father loved classical music and had many good 10" and 12" Victor Red Seal records of top artists such as Ignace Jan Paderewski, Enrico Caruso, Richard Crooks, John McCormick, the famed Irish Tenor, Broadway show tunes and the such. These evidently were mostly bought before the 1929 crash. We also enjoyed singing. Our father, who had sung in a barbershop quartet in Joplin, Missouri as a young man, taught all 3 of his children the 4 part harmony. Mama would sing the lead, Rosaline and I would switch out on tenor, but usually I sang baritone, Kathryn sang alto and of course "daddy sang bass". Those evenings were very enjoyable and bring back fond memories.
     Finally, dad bartered for a new radio, an Atwater Kent. The music store in Holdenville let him have it
in return for butter, eggs, milk and cream until it was paid for. Dad offered to give them the Victrola
and all the records, but they didn't want them. He persuaded them to take them anyway. Why, I'll never
know. No amount of pleading by the family could change his mind. He missed a few of the records. I have them and still treasure them today. The Atwater Kent was a nice console radio with marine, and short wave bands, would receive Morse code and ship to shore broadcasts. We were even able to tune in to some beautiful musical programs broadcast directly from Germany. The downside to this was we no longer got together and sang much. This was like a part of me was missing. Dad thoroughly enjoyed the radio. He could now receive the news and weather forecasts without waiting till the next day to read it in the newspaper. There were good musical programs. There were dramas, comedies and serials such as Amos 'N Andy, Lum and Abner, Fibber McGee and Molly, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Little Orphan Annie, cowboy shows and many more. Mom could listen to Maw Perkins, Stella Dallas and other soap operas. Yes these were the beginning of the Soap Opera era, and they did advertise soap. When my father wasn't around, we could listen to Ernest Tubb and Lou Childers from a 500,000 watt radio station south of the border at Del Rio, Texas. When WLW at Cincinnati, Ohio came on the air with it's 700,000 watts, it is said that the radio activity was so powerful that some light bulbs were made to glow near there. Not too long after that the FCC made a ruling that no more of these powerful stations would be allowed, since there weren't enough frequencies for all the other stations popping up around the country. Del Rio and Cincinnati were clear channel stations that could override weaker stations broadcasting on the same frequency.
     The Atwater Kent used an automobile battery as a power source, 6 volt DC. We had 2 car batteries. When one would get weak in the radio, we would swap it out for the one in the car to recharge it. Later we bought a wind charger. This was a miraculous machine. It was attached to the top of a small tower and had a blade like a single prop airplane driven by the wind which spun the generator and charged the battery. Talk about your modern appliances! These things brought the whole world into our home.
Harry Shumard
 

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