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

Download: Bob Hoppe's Audio Diary, 1989-1990, Side Two