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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Unsettled: Chapter 5

Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord

We had no fancy stereo in our home. Okay. Time-out! I guess I should explain what a stereo is for readers born after 1970...

A stereo was a large piece of furniture that usually occupied an entire wall of the “living room.” It was longer and lower than a piano but heavy and typically situated for a decade or so without being moved. The cabinetry was fine wood that matched the rest of the home décor. At the right and left were speakers behind fancy grill cloth, the weave of which typically included a tinsel like thread. The top of the stereo had two or three separate lids that raised to reveal the electronic components inside--AM-FM radio, and a three-speed turntable for LP [which stood for “long play”] or stereo records. "Stereo" meant that the left speaker played a separately recorded track than the right speaker. This "split" gave listeners in the room the sense that, for instance, the drummer and bass player were in the left corner of the living room while the lead guitar and vocal were in the right.
At the peak of the stereo era, people sat in the center of the room amazed at the directional quality of the music being played from a vinyl disc the size of a pizza pan inside the stereo. Dozens of such discs were stored in cardboard sleeves usually organized vertically in the cabinet itself. It was not uncommon for people to read with great interest all the fine print on the cardboard sleeve (also called an "album jacket") while listening to the music that was kept in it.

As electronics and the means of storing recorded music became ever-smaller and more mobile, the huge stereo (as a piece of furniture) gradually faded from the American home. Faded?… who am I kidding… it took two men and a truck to haul the things away. Today all the music and “high fidelity” of a thousand vinyl stereo records can be downloaded, stored and played on one MP3 player the size of your thumb. The downside, of course, is that instead of a family or friends sitting in a room listening to the same music while reading album jackets, music lovers walk through life with ear-bud wires hanging from their lobes, oblivious to human interaction, enraptured in tunes but completely out of tune with reality. Yet another example of how global technology expands communal culture while isolating us each to our own worlds.

Whoa! Sorry about that rabbit trail… where was I? Oh yes... (and this does relate to our "Unsettled" story)...

We had no fancy stereo in our home, but Mom did have a small “Victrola” as my grandmother called it. It was not a true Victrola, of course, but since hers was made by RCA (Radio Corporation of America) and since RCA and the Victor company had merged many years before, somehow portable record players, about the size of a small square suitcase, were still dubbed with the antique name. My mom’s collection of records was not extensive. She had a dozen Christmas albums, everything “Mitch Miller and the Gang” cranked out, some Burl Ives, and an ever-growing collection of Southern Gospel, ranging from little-known groups like Naomi and the Segos to Tennessee Ernie Ford.

On one of Mom's Tennessee Ernie Ford albums there was a song called “Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord.” [That is a Youtube link to Burl Ives singing the same version of the song, but I prefer the TEF version.] Speaking of records...
I realize that not all readers of the Old Testament account of Noah and the flood, would consider it a literal matter of record, but just for the record--that is, the much less important record of what I think, not the all-important record of what Scripture says--I find the account of Noah quite credible at many levels. But since it is not my intent to begin a theological or scientific discussion, allow me to simply say that my brothers and I never doubted the story. We could strongly relate to Noah‘s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the unsung heroes of the tale, who faithfully worked along side their father on a project that no one else understood.
Can you imagine what it would be like if Shem, Ham, and Japheth were in high school today?

“Hey, Shem. Some of us guys are going camping this weekend. You want to go?”

“Ah… well…. Sound’s like fun, but I’d better pass…”

“Oh, come on. It’s going to be great. Bring Ham. He's always good for a laugh, and Jepheth is welcome, too.”

“We appreciate the invite, but we really can’t," says Shem, rubbing a callous on his thumb, "We gotta help Dad with the ark.”

“Oh, yeah… I forgot,” snicker, snicker, “You gotta help your dad with that ark thing he's got going on. When's that going to be done?”
"We're not sure. It's kinda takin' longer than we thought..."

Paul, Dave, and I sometimes felt like Noah's sons through our high school years. It especially seemed that way the second year of owning the property, when Dad began the “barn,” which is the subject of the next chapter.
In the meantime, click on that link and imagine my brothers and I singing that song around the house and Dad joining in with us sometimes as we worked together out at the property. Sounds corny, but early Saturdays when the sun started shining through the trees, we used to whistle and sing while we worked. Out there in the woods, with nobody listening, who cared what it sounded like? Sort of like singing in the shower (except by the time we got in the shower late Saturday night, we were too tired to sing).


Anonymous quilly said...

Tennessee Ernie Ford's music was part of my childhood. My Gram raised me and often played his LPs on her Stereophonic Record Player.

This is another well-written addition scene from your family's story. You've done an excellent job of making me hungry for more.

21/8/08 12:29 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

Your stories bring back memories. We had at gram's house a hand cranked Victrola which I loved as a kid. At our house we had one of those stereo's you describe. You do such a good job I could see myself reading the album cover.

21/8/08 6:35 PM  
Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

My parents still have there stereo-console, and get this: not only does it have a turntable, it also has an eight-track player. I wonder how long of a timespan they produce such monstrosities?

23/8/08 5:12 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

You always take me back in time with your posts. My dad sang and whistled tunes all the time. He wasn't talented in this area but I remember so many tunes from that era because of this happy habit! "Mares eat oats"... I have a funny story to share about that one day. I too whistle and sing many tunes... a learned trait from dad along with the inherited trait of no talent in this area! hehe

I was cleaning a closet in my classroom a few years back and pulled out a stack of albums. The kindergarten kids were so curious... I still had a record player so I was able to share one with them. One student added this comment after the record was played, "that's the biggest CD that I've ever seen"! What a rich life I've lived!

I'd never heard the Noah song but I did enjoy it! Interesting indeed!

As always, I look forward to the next chapter. Have a great weekend!

23/8/08 11:26 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I used to watch the Tennessee Ernie Ford show on a black and white TV. I wish I could find that album. Actually, come to think of it... it may be in my Mom's attic so I may be able to make a copy of the recording as we go through the process of sorting things thruough.

Dr. John,
Reading album covers was sort of like reading cereal boxes. It's something that MP3 downloads will never provide as part of the listening experience. My aunt has a crank Victrola with "tube" records. One of them is called "That's Why I wish again that I was in Michigan Down on the Farm."

Wow. I had an 8-track in my first car (a '65 Oldsmobile in 1976). Seems like stereo consoles were big in the mid-60s through mid-70s and then components became separate pieces in glass-front cabinets and the speakers were wired in various places in the room. Julie and I bought a "system" in 1983 and the furniture concept of a "stereo" was already out-dated.

I think we've talked about our Dad's whistling before (during the Duncan Phyfe story). What a wonderful trait--to literally have a song in your heart that comes out because what you're doing brings such joy and contentment. That happened often with Dad--but I must say there were LOTS of non-whistling hours, too, when things were simply blood, sweat, and tears mixed with strenuous work. Some of that is in the chapters to come. =)

I don't think you all realize how encouraging comments are in prodding me along in this story in spite of my busy days as the school year is about to begin. I need that. Thank you very much.

23/8/08 2:15 PM  

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