Monday, September 18, 2017

The Audio Diary of a Retired Mailman, 1989-1990

Just within the past month, I stumbled upon this marvelous tape recording, a tape which is utterly unique among all of those I have in my fairly vast collection. I've never heard anything quite like it on any other reel.

It features an elderly man, a retired postal worker, offering up his thoughts into the microphone, not for anyone in particular, but for posterity. It's clear from listening to this, that this was one of a series of tapes he had made (and presumably, continued to make). I wish that I had more of them (it is, in fact, possible that I have one or more other tapes from this gentleman, given the chaotic nature of my arrangement of tapes in the basement).

The man's name is Bob Hoppe, or Hoppy or Hoppie, or Happe, or something. Even though he gives his age a couple of times, makes it clear that he had lived in Aurora, Illinois, for years, and speaks multiple times of having been a mailman, I cannot find any record of him online, even an obituary. Those have sometimes proven fairly easy to locate, even from 30 years ago, so maybe I'm spelling his name wrong. If any of you want to take it upon yourself to figure this one out, by all means, please do!

These audio diary entries could not be more everyday, life-passing-by sort of things, and I find it just that much more endearing and fascinating as a result. His tone is a mix of upbeat, and can-you-believe-it, and "well, whattaya gonna do about it", and he starts every entry with a hello and a 'bye, as if he was talking to someone. But that doesn't actually seem to be the case (except that he makes it clear that he sometimes listens to the tapes himself).

The entries are chronological, as would be expected on a tape, except for two early ones, which are reversed in date - he quickly explains what happened. It's mostly just Bob narrating his life, but there is a bit of a broadcast of a St. Patrick's Day parade at the end of side one and start of side two (featuring Tom Skilling, who is still at WGN, nearly 30 years later), and near the end of side two, there is a segment recorded at what seems to be a party of some sort, not explained.

(One more thing - this tape was falling apart - the backing was rubbing off on my heads, and I will never play it again. I had to clean the heads three times between copying parts of it into my computer. The tape whined while going through the machine, which accounts for the metallic sound you'll hear throughout. There is a way to "bake" these 1980's reels, which are notorious for losing their coating and squealing across heads and rollers. The process fixes them, at least temporarily, but I don't have the equipment to do so.)

I hope you find this as enjoyable - as captivating - as I do.

Download: Bob Hoppe's Audio Diary, 1989-1990, Side One
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Download: Bob Hoppe's Audio Diary, 1989-1990, Side Two
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Monday, August 28, 2017

A Travelogue Through Historic New Jersey

I've had several requests to post more of the "slide show narration" tapes that I've come across. I will have to do more searching to find the remaining ones that I own, as I don't always remember to label things well, but just by chance I came across this extensively researched, fairly professional sounding narration of a slide show, one which is largely focused on historic locations found in New Jersey.

I am dating this to some time in the 1950's or very early 1960's, as the remainder of the tape has poorly recorded segments of someone called Long John on WOR in New York, a position that host (who sounds very interesting) left in 1962. I can share those recordings, too, if anyone is interested.

I hope you can picture the images in your head while the narrator takes you on tour!

Download: Unknown - A New Jersey Travelogue
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Monday, August 7, 2017

Australia, A Private Phone Call and Bill Cosby - Who Could Ask For More!!!

Well, private life and work have both been fairly overwhelming these last few weeks - not necessarily in a bad way, but far too much for me to do what it takes to post here as often as I'd like.

To make up for that, here's another three for the price of one posting, three utterly unrelated bits of tape from the collection.

Up first, it's another piece of Shortwave recording of an Australian radio program. A fellow in Maine was in the habit of recording these shows, and at some point, part (or all) of his collection fell into my hands. I've posted two of these tapes before, which you can find here. Like the more recent of those two posts, this one features an episode of "Listener's Mailbag", which, as I said in February of last year, just fascinates me. It's comments from the US regarding Radio Australia and many other related things, with comments and answers from the host. When I shared another episode, I made this comment: "I find this a charming concept and effort, the likes of which have been completely lost in our modern world."

Download: More Shortwave From Australia
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Next up, here's something which could not be more mundane - a phone call from one home to another. For whatever reason, the caller chose to record this call. I have found a small number of these over the years, but typically there is something of importance about the call, either with regard to the circumstances of the call or some situation needing discussion. That doesn't seem to be the case here - just two friends (or perhaps more than friends) having an eight minute phone conversation. The amateur sociologist in me (which, admittedly, is probably what drives a lot of my reel collecting) finds this sort of thing captivating.

You should also be aware that there is extensive dialing and operator interaction over the first third of this 12 minute tape. The caller make several failed attempts to reach his other party, then tries the operator - the actual call doesn't start until nearly the four minute mark.

Download: John and Irene - A Phone Call
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Finally, here's a bit of 1960's radio history that I'd never read about - not surprising, as it may not have lasted very long. Here is a site (the owner of which no longer seems to be involved with it) which has a bit of information about the show. Bill Cosby produced a radio show, circa 1967, featuring short comedic sketches. The following episode was found in the midst of a short tape tape of various recordings of Chicago top 40 radio stations. It's a cute little bit of dry radio humor, and very much has the tone (although not the focus) of Cosby's mid-'60's albums.

Download: Bill Cosby - The Bill Cosby Radio Show
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I hope you found something to enjoy here, in this cornucopia of sounds.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Party in 1959

Today, for your dining and dancing pleasure, an hour or so of tape to help you imagine that you are at a party, probably involving mostly young people - although there are certainly adults present, as well - in what I'm guessing was 1959.

The tape is dominated by the records chosen to be played nearly throughout, records which largely come from the mid to late 1950's, with none, as far as I heard, which came from after 1959, hence the date. But there are some other sounds here - conversations, shouts, laughs, etc., to reward those who choose to listen all the way through. (By the way, the loud noise heard at the start ends within the first 30 seconds.)

So sit back, pretend you have a houseful of teenagers, imagine that we have an actual President in Washington (Eisenhower, in this case), and that none of these young people are going to know what hit them, when the next 5-7 years are done with them.

Download: A Party in 1959
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Friday, June 30, 2017

Back in the Days of True Customer Service

A few years ago, I bought a collection of tapes which were all in the sort of large boxes in which audio companies used to ship blank tapes. They were all recorded on and labeled with extensive detail, at least from the distant photos I could see into the individual boxes of tapes. This was enough to intrigue me to shell out whatever I paid for them.

In the time since, I've gone through one box of the tapes, which contained such things as a concert and a live performance of "George Washington Slept Here" done at some sort of amateur performance hall, with the name of a school mentioned on the labels on the outside of the individual tape's box.

I just moved on to the second box, and the first tape I opened had the following labels on it:


Again, this is the sort of thing I could sort of make out in the initial eBay ad which led me to buy the boxes. And I was not let down. What is contained here is some sort of training tape, either for A T & T operators, or, more likely, those who would be supervising them. It contains 60 apparently real calls for all sorts of service on phones, phone lines and phone wires, etc., from back in those days (in this case, 1962) when the phone company was not only a monopoly, but also owned your phone equipment, and was obliged to keep it in good working order.

Based on the labels (above) and the opening introduction, it sounds like these calls were being presented to supervisors (or those in training), for them to score the calls in some way, reflecting what was and wasn't done correctly.

This is probably a bit tedious to listen to in one, 61 minute blast, but it is an fascinating trip back into the days when you could make a phone call to get something fixed or replaced, and have the company on the other end of the line immediately make a sincere effort to not only acknowledge your feelings, but to find out what would be the very quickest moment at which you would be available for them to help you.

A few of the calls indicate that this quickness of response was not always what really happened, but it sounds like most of the time, the system worked.

Download: A T & T - Plant Observers Training Tape
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Story of a Serial Drug User, In His Own Words

I have very little to say about today's feature. I think it speaks for itself. I will say that it's one of the most startling and amazing tapes I've come across, and that I found it riveting.

For those who might wonder, I have no idea who the main speaker is, who is interviewing him, for what purpose, or when this may have been recorded. My guess on the latter is the late 1960's or early 1970's, but there is nothing of any sort written on the box or the tape reel.

With that said, I present to you a recording of a man with extensive experience in the world of illegal drugs, being interviewed about his history and his thoughts.

Download: Unknown - The Story of a Serial Drug User, In His Own Words
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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wally Butterworth, Professional Jackass

Three years ago, I received some records and tapes from a correspondent who had a long-deceased relative who had been part of the far right wing in the 1950's and 1960's. Among the many absolutely repugnant items in this collection of records and tapes was an album containing two racists screeds by a man named Wally Butterworth. I posted  both sides of the album, as well as the remarkable sleeve that it came in, to the WFMU blog, at that time. You can read about it, and hear it here.

I don't think I really ever expected to hear Wally Butterworth again, but upon opening up a tape that I got from God knows where, I found it contained another one of his lectures, sounding pretty much the same as the other two. And with the radical, racist right making more noise today than in more than 40 years, and being mainstreamed more than at any point in most of our lifetimes, I thought this was a good time to expose this asshole via his own words.

His topic on this recording is Sex Education in the Schools. I have no idea if his information is accurate - some of it does genuinely sound pretty "out there" for grade and high schools, particularly in the time frame that this would have been recorded. But there are two problems with this:

Number one, this faction has proven time and again that there first course of action will be to either make something up whole cloth, or to take a sliver of real information, and fabricate something potentially horrifying around it, unrelated to the truth of the matter.

Number two, and to me even more important, even if Butterworth had many of his facts straight, he has surrounded this information with repeated racist and anti-Semitic references, which are gratuitously attached to subjects, organizations and people who he seems to have brought up solely to slander and insult them.

(Oh, and then there's the section where he suggests - twice - that a certain teacher who did something he finds inappropriate ought to be, um, no longer alive.)

As recently as five years ago, I thought this sort of thing had receded into the background, and that was left of it was being flagged and identified as such by the vast majority of the population. Sadly, the last few years (as indicated in Portland this week) have proven that to have been false hope. When Wally Butterworth spoke these words, he was on the fringe of the fringe. Today, sadly, he'd probably have the opportunity to appear on major TV networks and radio programs.

Download: Wally Butterworth - Sex in Our Public Schools
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