Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Gaggle of Giggling Twelve Year Olds

To start the sharing from my reel-to-reel collection on this site, here is the post I intended to simply be my next post at WFMU's Beware of the Blog. However, when I learned that the WFMU blog was to be closed to new posts (effective July 30th), I offered up a taste of some rare Dora Hall material instead, and decided to make this wonderful tape my first post here.

And this is indeed a wonderful tape. It dates to April 10th, 1959 (this is mentioned near the end of the recording), and features a 25 minute slice of a slumber party, during which the father of the girl hosting the party interviews the girls, orders them dinner and tries to get them to make jokes. There is something truly wonderful and exhilarating about the energy and exuberance captured here.

At the start of the recording, the girls identify themselves as all belonging to something called "The Golden Keys", although this is never explained. The host girl's father then begins interviewing each of the girls, all but one of which is 12 years old, and all of which are attending one of the local Catholic Schools (and will be for High School, as well). At one point, the man recording tapes himself making a jokey call to a local pizza place and orders mostaccioli for the girls (and do I possibly hear him call one of the people at the restaurant "dad"? - he is certainly very familiar with the folks at this establishment). This evening meal is ordered without meat sauce, but with a follow-up order of sausage pizza to be delivered at midnight. It is, of course, a Friday, and no one in this house would have eaten meat on a Friday. But as soon as midnight hits....

The adult in the room is relentless in requesting jokes or funny stories from the girls, who absolutely refuse to take part, until he offers a prize (which is never awarded). The moment he says that, the girls all get very excited, and talk over each other to tell jokes - there are four of them, and they certainly do reflect a simpler, more innocent era. Two of the jokes involve Catholic themes and the other two involve wordplay about butts.

There are so many little moments here to treasure, like the moment when the interviewer makes a joke about the fact that one of the girls' last names is "Beer". The girl in question laughs infectiously throughout her little interview, and then when he makes the joke, there's a moment of silence, and then another girl offers an embarrassed laugh. That's perhaps my favorite moment but the tape is loaded with little gems like that.

The tape ends with the interviewer wondering about their future, and hoping to play this tape back for the girls as they approach the end of High School in five years. How very different life must have been for these girls in the Spring of 1964, from what it was in the Spring of 1959.

This is the sort of tape I dream about finding - home recording, a single moment in time, life happening the way it does, all of that and so much more. I think maybe I like this so much because this was the sort of dad I was when my girls were this age, and I've continued to interact with their friends, as they've grown up and changed, on a very relaxed, peer level.

Perhaps someone out there can put together the names of the schools and figure out where this tape was made. I'd be interested in that, although I don't know that I have the time to actually make that effort.

Download: A Gaggle of Giggling Twelve Year Olds

or Play:  

Incidentally, this recording comes from a family which owned a bird which liked to make a lot of noise. For the rest of this tape - 20 minutes before this segment and another 15 minutes after it - they recorded the bird going through all of its noises, all the things it knew how to say, and ringing its bell. This is beyond tedious. For those who are interested in what I'm talking about, here is the five minutes which directly follows the slumber party, heard without edit of any sort. Enjoy!

Download:  Noisy Birdy

or Play:  

UPDATE - 7/28/15: Two commenters have left information indicating beyond a doubt that this family, and the girls who were friends of the host, were living at the very southern edge of Chicago, most likely in or near the Roseland area. The details of their findings are in the comments. THANKS!!


  1. Hi Bob. Making the move across here. Hope to hear more of the wonders that I've heard through WFMU (Why are you leaving there, I saw the use of the word shuttered but don't know what that means in internet usage). Still hope all goes well at your new home

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  3. From what I can tell, these folks lived on the far south side of Chicago, in Roseland. They mention the now-closed Mendel High, which was in Roseland, and the also-now-closed Mother of Sorrows High, which is in not too far away Blue Island. All the girls go to St Catherine's of Genoa, which was also in the area. And is also now closed. I believe on of the girls mentions a "St. Charles" high school. The closest St. Charles I can find is in Melrose Park, St. Charles Borromeo. They sound Chicago-y to me. (I grew up in Beverly, Morgan Park, and Blue Island; my parents grew up in Roseland.) And I know you are based in Chicago area, so that would make sense. But the real clincher for me is that I've found references to both a Toots Rago's and a Giovanni's restaurants in Roseland. (Heck, here's a newspaper article from 1931 about a young boxer named Lawrence Rago, nicknamed "Toots," from, you guessed it, Roseland:

  4. Hi, Ace and Charles,

    Thanks for your comments! I really appreciate it!

    Ace, the Beware of the Blog site is closing down as of July 30th. The old posts will remain, but commenting and ability to send new posts will cease on the 31st. I've reworded what I wrote in order to make sure it's more clear.

    Charles, thanks for the details! I buy tapes from all over, primarily via the internet these days, but when I do get to Beverly Records (I work on the South Side of Chicago), if they have interesting reels, I buy them there.

    I make almost no effort to arrange my tapes before listening to them, and by the time I get to one it's unlikely I'll recall where I got it from, unless there was something special about it, as there have been with some commercial tapes and some tapes from a CBS affiliate some years ago. But I'm fairly certain, given the information you provided, that these came from Beverly Records, just a few miles west of Roseland. Thanks for figuring all that out!


  5. I am certainly interested in hearing more of these lost-treasures-found. Thank you for keeping it alive.


  6. Are there any other tapes of commercials as I think they're absolutely wonderful.

  7. Dad also talks about knowing the ice skater Michael Kirby personally. Kirby moved to Chicago in the '40s and started his own chain of rinks. Dad's got a pretty good delivery and seems to be a real clown—maybe he spent a little time on stage in some capacity. Interesting that he broke out the new tape for this party. Keep this stuff coming... I love the "slice of life" recordings.

  8. Thanks for all the comments! I will keep in mind to make the next posts some commercials and shortly after that, will make sure to include some more family-at-home style tapes.

    Thanks to the comments about the tapes being Chicagoland in origin. I will update the post!

  9. Hello Bob, I wanted to drop by and say "hello", as we are the last two survivors of the wonderful BOTB. Since you showcase many fine DJ-friendly slices of audio, I plan to keep up with you here at the new locale. -Cheers!-

  10. Something very thrilling, yet sad, about finding recordings (audio or otherwise) that you may never really know who, or for what they were recorded. I guess not the total case here...but when I find random, nameless recordings, it's always eerie to me. lol. Anyways, thanks.

  11. Thank you for doing this! Looking forward to more posts! It's all very cool fodder for the imagination.

  12. Hey, Bob, I've enjoyed your uploads very much over the years. I'm glad to see you continuing your fine uploads and I wish you every success for yournew blog!

  13. The girls are alright but the guy is a real jerk. His highlights include the following quotes: "kick him in the teeth", "hit him right between the eyes with a baseball bat", "send him to the hospital and he won't bother you any more", "My pet peeve is seeing my wife next to me in bed when I wake up in the morning", "The prize for the best joke is you get to mop the kitchen floor" "gosh, you're all so pretty. How old are you? 12? Wow you're cute." " You don't go to school? Are you a bad girl? Do you want a whipping?", "13 years old? You're an old maid! Send this one back, get her out of here."