Sunday, March 13, 2016

"Show Uncle Jack Your Shoes..."

To start, a few responses to comments....

First, thanks to everyone who has been reading and listening - I appreciate your eyes and ears on what I'm sharing here more than I can say. And second, thanks to those who have offered up comments, whether occasionally (or once) or many times.

To those of you who've commented on either the idea of figuring out where these people are, or who they were, or those who just ruminate about the lives they were living, and those they lived in the ensuing years. One comment said:

With these recordings, they're not unlike strangers you meet when traveling. Once you move on, those people are in your rearview mirror, quickly disappearing from view. Then, sometime you think about them but there's no way to find out "whatever happened to...", how they're doing, etc.

These recordings mirror life itself, don't they?

Yes, I get that completely - it's one of the main things that draws me to these tapes. And if you've read my postings for a longer time, you'll know that I've actually been lucky enough to hear from family members of a few of those whose sounds I've posted here and elsewhere, over the years.

Thanks also for the multiple comments regarding the little montage of sounds that I posted late last month (including the identity of one of the songs heard therein, and the interesting point that a Theramin is heard, briefly, in one of the segments). I heard from several people who have done similar things, in various ways (as I have myself), although I still don't know that I've heard of anyone splicing things together in quite the way they were on that tape.

And I appreciated all the nice words about the tape I posted featuring me and my brother at ages 6 and 12.

Finally, thanks to the poster who let me know that the second set of Vivian Cherry tracks had become corrupted somehow. This has been fixed.

On to this week's offering!

Today's brief tape may not sound like much to some listeners - I'll leave that to you to decide - but it is a greatly loved little 113 seconds and a few of my closest friends, and a key tape in my development as a collector of other people's sounds and memories.

This tape came from the ALS Mammoth Music Mart sale, which I've written about several times, and it was a tape found most likely the first batch at the first of those yearly sales that I went to. And as a result, this little moment in time, recorded very likely in the 1960's, was among the first - if not the first - tapes I found of its sort, and definitely the first to make me want to hear more of this sort of thing. The fact that it was clearly recorded in Winnetka, IL, a town less than a mile from where I grew up, probably helped, too. Plus - and maybe this is the reason it made such an impression on me - there are a remarkable number of enjoyable little moments for such a short tape. Regardless of the reasons, this is one of the tapes that pushed me into the collector that I am today.

What we hear: Uncle Jack has brought his tape recorder over to the home of a family member. A child named Gail, being apparently the oldest child present, is encouraged to talk. After not wanting to, at first, she then lists several of her friends, and mentions her school - Crow Island Elementary (see below). There is a toddler present, Brian, and he begins nibbling on part of the tape recorder, until told not to. The family then comments on the Brian's behavior and looks, before trying to get him to say a few of the words he knows.

That's it. Except it isn't. For me, my family and friends, several phrases here have become the sort of obscure references that we all have within our family and friendship circles.

Some of the things I love here:
 - Gail: "It's beautiful... and I love it"

 - Uncle Jack worrying about Brian shorting out the transistor

 - The way Gail says "He goes... and he bites it"

 - Gail's mother's description of her son Brian- leading me to the essential question "Can an overbite be 'nifty'"

 - The same woman's wordless vocalizing, immediately thereafter, demonstrating that nifty overbite for those assembled (these last three are in very quick succession).

 - The failed attempts to get Brian to say his new words, including Gail's excited encouragement: "SHOES!!! SHOES!!!"

This is one that I treasure above all but perhaps a dozen others. If it doesn't live up to the billing for you, well then, please allow me the indulgence.

Download: Uncle Jack's Family - A Few Moments with Uncle Jack's Family

Incidentally, not only is Crow Island School in the heart of Winnetka, IL, perhaps three miles from the home where I grew up, in nearby Northfield, but I actually attended a summer school enrichment program there, in the summer between second and third grade - I could very well have been in the school at the same time as this girl named Gail. I was very enamored of their unusual, elaborate and large playground. I didn't know it at the time, but it turns out that in that playground, at the time, sat the very first Jungle Gym ever made, a fact which is mentioned in that Wikipedia article I linked at the start of this paragraph.


  1. I do love this. There is so much family gold here.


  2. Thank you Bob, for offering a window into real lives and familial relationships that I'd never imagined possible. Except on tv of course.