Our Dad was a techie nerd or nerdy techie – whatever you want to call someone in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s who loved all the newest electronic gadgets on the market. My awareness of his interest in electronics began when we lived in the 2-storey house on E. 42nd Street in the “dead end” behind the largest cemetery in Brooklyn.
What were these gadgets? The Victrola and RCA Victor “his master’s voice” records (he had a one-sided one on which was recorded the Anvil Chorus). He was the talk of the family and neighborhood with that one. Another favorite record was “Humoresque” by Dvorak. He played it over and over. I was a very young girl at the time – 9 or 10 years old.
A new black, heavy metal (it-wasn’t-going-to-fall-to-the-floor heavy) telephone with holes in a circle that you put your finger (usually the index) into, in order to “dial” someone’s number. (We still use the word “dial” when we speak about calling someone’s number – never say, “key in” or “push the buttons.”) Numbers like CLoverdale 8 or HYacinth 7 or MUrrayhill 2, etc. were the rage. Remember those? I’m speaking about New York prefixes. At a time when there weren’t any area codes, and to get connected to someone in another city, you needed a Bell Company operator to connect you. I remember our phone had a very heavy receiver, and we couldn’t speak long, because the weight of it made our hands very tired. After I was married, and lived in Brooklyn, we had a CLoverdale 8 number.
Dad built a shelf for the phone in a corner of the dining room near the stairs going up to the second floor of our house. The only thing missing was a chair. But we really didn’t need a chair. The stairs were comfortable enough.
We were also the first family on the block to get a TV. It was placed in the far corner of the dining room (opposite corner from where the record player was situated). The screen (10 inches wide) sat in a large blond wood cabinet. All the neighborhood kids were invited in to see this newfangled machine. Everyone complained that it was too small to see the picture. My father solved that problem with a big magnifier that was available. Some smart inventor came up with that idea – “necessity is the mother of invention.” That monstrosity stood on a heavy stand and stood about a foot away from the small screen. The image sure was bigger, but it was distorted. The magnifier was not doing the job to anyone’s satisfaction. So, we did away with it, and just had to move closer to the TV.
We had moved away from E. 42nd Street when I was about 12 years old. Life went along, and I got married and then my sister got married. After she got married, Dad took over the bedroom we had shared and made it his den with comfortable seating, etc. This was before the term, “man cave” became popular. Dad set it all up with his (newer, of course) record player, shelves for his large collection of records, his radio, and telephone extension. Wires were spaghetti-ed all over the room. I don’t think Mom liked that idea too much, but she couldn’t do anything about it.
Years later, Mom and Dad moved to Florida. Of course, Dad set himself up with his cabinets and shelves in the “Florida room,” and with his recording and dubbing machine, his myriad of records, and hundreds of blank tapes that he used to record programs and movies starring his favorite stars, starting with the silent films. Their community had a special TV channel on which residents could view all these “oldies but goodies.” Dad had literally hundreds on tapes. He had books where he organized and categorized and cross-referenced and stored every one of them. I think he would have loved computers.
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