James Boilesen

Memories of the Phonograph


By James Boilesen

I grew up in a home that had some antique phonographs in our basement. My brother Doug's collection included several Edison phonographs that played cylinder records and a few cabinet model machines including his very first machine, a Victrola XVI.

Doug kept a few of his favorite records inside the cabinet of his Victrola. Of course as a toddler I didn't know what a Victrola was except that it had doors. And since doors to a three-year-old are something to be opened I did one fateful day open those doors and apparently found the cylinder cardboard boxes that were obviously meant for me to play with.


That was my first contact with Edison cylinder records, a day not good for six of those wax records.

I was too young to remember any details but I do know that Doug replaced the broken records, including Edison Record Number 8619 "Rueben Haskins' ride on a cyclone auto" by Len Spencer, and that to this day hearing that 'cyclone auto' record is a reminder for Doug of my early interest in phonograph records.

So I had an early introduction to phonographs and records.


Since music and turntables and sound systems would later become an important part of my life it's clear that my first encounter with recorded sound didn't negatively impact that interest. A decade later that destruction of Edison cylinders also wasn't enough to ban me from becoming a charter member of Friends of the Phonograph.



So here are a few phonograph memories that probably have alittle more relevance to the development of my passion for record players and recorded music.

The first record player I remember is our family's Fisher Console Stereo. It was one of those large pieces of furniture that dominated many suburban home living rooms in the 1970's.



I would listen to some phonograph records on the "Fisher" and can particularly remember the excitement of hearing the growing crescendo when playing "In Hall of the Mountain King" (Grieg's, not Electric Light Orchestra's) which also was often accompanied by me and a friend dancing wildly at its conclusion.


Most of my music listening, however, was on my Panasonic 8-track component system. The Beatle's White Album, Rubber Soul, Revolver, The Byrd's Greatest Hits ...these were a few of my go-to cassette's that introduced me to a life-long passion for recorded sound. No turntable... just two speakers, AM, FM, and the 8-track slot.