A Matter of Record

Over the past fifty years I’ve entered several contests hoping to win exotic vacations, jewelry, or other merchandise. The Publisher’s Clearing House contest
is one that I entered many times, only to be disappointed that I didn’t win a million dollars.
There have been three contests in which I was a winner. The first time was in 1955 when I was a finalist in a contest sponsored by the producers of the “Howdy Doody Show” on television. All kids who grew up during that era will no doubt remember watching that program and hearing Buffalo Bob say, “What time is it kids?” The lucky boys and girls who were there in the studio sitting in the “Peanut Gallery” would shout, “It’s Howdy Doody time!”
In 1955 the producers of the show added a cute tugboat to the cast of characters and asked kids at home to send entries to give it a name. My desire to win the contest was strong, so I racked my youthful brain and sent in an entry which I thought was pretty good. The name I suggested was Tubby Tugboat. That wasn’t the winning entry, but my suggestion was chosen as one of the finalists. I was living in the small town of Curby at the time and was thrilled when I received in the mail a 78 rpm album of the “Howdy Doody Show” which I still have among my childhood keepsakes.
My next successful contest entry was in 1957 when I lived in New Albany. Our family listened to an old floor model radio, and one of our favorite stations was WSLM in Salem. One country music show broadcast every Saturday evening was sponsored by a drive-in restaurant in Paoli. The DJ announced a contest asking listeners to write a jingle for the restaurant. Entries were accepted for two or three weeks. I called upon my interest in writing poetry and came up with a three stanza poem. On the evening the winner was to be announced, I sat anxiously by the radio. My mother was busy working in the kitchen, and when I heard my name announced as the winner, I yelled to her that I had won. I was proud to hear my poem being read on the radio. That’s the first time one of my poems was recognized as having merit.
I received a coupon for free hamburgers and milk shakes at the restaurant in Paoli and a 45 rpm record signed by the DJ “Flat Top.” As some of you may know, that DJ was Don Martin. I didn’t get to use the coupon because my dad and mom didn’t want to drive to Paoli just to get free hamburgers. I did keep the record for many years but eventually lost track of it. I don’t remember the title of the songs or the artist.
The last time I won a contest was in 1963 when my husband Larry and I lived in Phoenix, Arizona. One of the local radio stations held a contest asking callers to guess the name of a secret artist whose record was played over the course of a week or two. The winner would receive several 45 rpm records, and if no one guessed the secret artist, more were added every day until there were 50 records in the jackpot. The day I first heard about the contest and listened to the secret artist, I knew immediately that it was a British singer named Tommy Steele.
I called the radio station, and the DJ asked if I knew the secret artist. When I answered correctly, he made a big announcement that there was a winner and asked me how I knew the singer. I told him I had heard Tommy Steele on television. The DJ sent someone from the radio station to deliver the records to me in person, which made me feel I had won something really special. However, after going through the records, I found that most of them were promotional records by unknown artists.
We listened to a few of the records, but didn’t know any of the singers. I gave several of them away to our friends. One couple we ran around with had a convertible, and one day when we were driving in the desert with the top down, Larry noticed a stack of the records in their car. They mentioned that they didn’t know any of the artists, so Larry and my friend’s husband started tossing them from the car like flying saucers. It became a great sport, so they threw all the records here and there along the highway we were traveling. Being a litterbug did not carry a fine like it does now, but in looking back it was a foolish thing to do. We’ve often wondered what travelers in the desert might think if they found records lying in the middle of nowhere. There might still be some of them there to this day, if only as melted little piles of black vinyl.
In looking back at my winning entries in those three contests, I realized that in every instance I had won records. Maybe that destined me to be the record collector that I am today. Over the years my collection has grown to over 2,000 45rpm records and 2,500 albums. It includes music from the 1940s all the way through the 1980s featuring big bands, pop, jazz, rock and roll, country, and sound tracks from several movies. Records have given me a lot of enjoyment because whenever I listen to the old songs from each of those decades, I am transported back to that time.
When I listen to Gene Autry’s “Back in the Saddle Again” or the Sons of the Poineers singing “Cool, Clear Water,” I’m five years old again, listening to the radio with my dad. Hank Williams, Sr.’s record “Cold, Cold Heart” brings back memories of the night we heard on the radio that one of our favorite country singers had died.
Elvis Presley crooning “Love Me Tender” reminds me of when my sister JoAnn and I went to the New Albany Grand Theater in the 195’s to see Elvis’s movie “Love Me Tender.” In those days you didn’t have to leave the theater when the movie was over, so we stayed and watched it twice. “Hang On Sloopy” is a song that was popular in 1960 when I was a senior at New Albany High School. When I hear it now, I’m once again walking in the procession of seniors entering the high school gym for Senior Class Day.
Chubby Checkers singing “The Peppermint Twist” reminds me of the years Larry and I lived in Phoenix, Arizona. I overcame my timidity and did the twist at a company Christmas party. The Christy Minstrels were a popular group back then, and their music brings back memories of our early years out west when we enjoyed drag racing, seeing live theater productions, and traveling throughout the Southwest.
Rock and Roll music changed after the 1960s and 1970s and became the rock and roll enjoyed by our teenage son and daughter. It was during that era that Larry and I complained that rock and roll wasn’t what it used to be. In listening to the classic music selections from that era now, I find that I did like some of the music by the Eagles, The Doors, Elton John, and others.
Country music became our favorite music during the 1990s while Larry and I traveled to several states doing exhibition dancing with friends from the Boots and Jeans Dance Club in Scottsburg. Two decades later, that form of music has gone through changes until it now sounds more like rock and roll, and we cling to the older recordings of our favorite country artists. My record collection not only records the history of music, it also helps mark the milestones in my life.

Jane Clark is Co-Director of Writers Bloc and has been a member of the group since 2005. She is a retired advertising sales representative who enjoys writing memoirs, essays, poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in several regional and national publications. Her first novel True Allegiance is available on Amazon.com.


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