Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Miracle Workers

Got a victrola sitting around in your house? Has the oil accumulated and hardened on the soundboard, resembling silver pony poop? Is the arm all tarnished and groaty? Do your records sound icky? Does it work at all?

I have, in my parlor, a 90+-year-old Brunswick crank phonograph that was original to my dad's grandparents. I'm fairly certain it had not been cleaned for at least half a century. Miraculously it still worked, but with much effort and horrible sound.

After a lot of calling around I found Vintage Music Co. in Minneapolis. Seems they're the only people in the twin cities metro area who repair and clean these wonderful, yet simple, pieces of machinery. Over the phone they instructed me on how to remove the motor, crank, and arm from the cabinet. After doing so, on a cold winter afternoon, I took the pieces into the shop.

The store itself is a lesson in history. It's filled with old records and antique phonographs, radios, and TVs. Scott and Mike, the proprietors, had vast knowledge of these machines, as well as a passion for them. I left the old, crusty parts of my machine with them, having full confidence they would salvage this piece of family history.

And so they did. I could actually see the gears that had previously been caked with oil and dirt. I learned you should change the needle after every record. The arm shown so brilliantly it could pass for brand new.

I had the family over for a christening of the new old Brunswick. As I played the first record, Stille Nacht, I watched my dad's face go from childlike anticipation to maturely pensive. His eyes misted over. He said he knew his grandparents, parents, and all of his aunts and uncles were in the room with us, listening to the old crank-up phonograph, like they had when it was new.

The guys at Vintage Music Co. don't just sell old records and fix old machines. They call to mind happy memories. They work magic.

See the guys at Vintage Music Co. at 1820 E. 38th in Minneapolis. They also sell old 78s!

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