What a great job, I thought as I smiled at the Christmas shoppers bustling in and out of the store. I had a friend who was a disk jockey for the radio station owner, Mr. Woodbury, who also owned The Record Shop.
As much as I loved the popular songs on the Top 40 Billboard charts, to be paid to work in a store where all kinds of music could be heard at the sample record players was terrific. I think I’d have worked for free if offered that part-time job. Here I was employed to listen to Yellow Rose of Texas, Autumn Leaves, Davy Crockett, and Hearts of Stone. I especially liked Rock Around the Clock, the real roots of Rock & Roll. What a great job.
I was thinking about girls a lot and learned to love what they loved, so I bought albums by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. I had a new hi-fi at home that I’d built myself.
Mr. Frankford came in with his wife as she held their month old son, looking for some lullaby music.
“You live in our neighborhood, don’t you?” he said to me.
“Yes, Sir, I do. I’m Randy, the new part-time record shop employee. Can I help you?”
He explained what he and his wife wanted, I fixed them up and rang it up on the cash register.
# # # #
Ten years later, the Christmas seasons finds me with a junior college degree and a full-time employee of The Record Shop, on the corner. Other stores were built into a sort of strip mall of stores. Business was brisk. The stereo LPs were the big sellers, not that 45s singles didn’t still sell pretty doggone good too. Stereo made the scene in 1957, and I got the very first stereo LP, called This Is Stereo, with a live tour of Los Angeles with jets, trains, and cars, passing from speaker to speaker. Thrilling. Albums in stereo cost more for a couple of years over mono, but soon a single price and most were stereo.
“Well, hello again, Randy, good to see you here again.
“Thanks, Mr. Frankford. I work here full time.” I saw the ten-year-old son along with about a five-year-old sister in reluctant tow.
“Yeah, my son, here, likes The Drifters, so I’m looking for an album by them.”
“Here you are,” as I handed him a ‘Best Hits of The Drifters.’ They bought it and left. His wife didn’t seem enthusiastic about being there. Maybe she was stressed
# # # #
The mid-eighties brought the Compact Disk. The audio quality took my breath, it was so clean. I had to have a new player. It costs over eight hundred dollars. The new CD’s cost more than a vinyl album but worth it. I only things I had to spend money on were incidentals and the savings account I grew for a big offer I was to make.
Mr. Frankford came by the store again, this time only with his adult son. I asked about the family, and he said, “Thanks for asking, Randy, I live alone with my son. His mother and sister live on the other side of town these days.” I shook the son’s hand and was sorry to hear the news. That same decade I lost my father to lung cancer, and two years later, my mother from congestive heart failure. I stayed in the family house that now belonged to me. I had dated a few times, but it just never lasted. Besides, I was happy with Benny, my Boxer dog at home for company, and we enjoyed outings in the woods.
# # # #
As another decade rolled around, I had worked a deal with The Record Shop owner, Mr. Woodbury, put down a large deposit, and the store was mine. I had two other employees that now worked for me. Life and music were terrific. By the nineties, I still preferred the music of singers with good voices, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have CD albums by Def Leppard, KISS, Bon Jovi, and Quiet Riot. I listened to what was now called oldies by artists like The Drifters to the group Chicago. Music filled many otherwise holes in my life.
That same decade of the nineties, I became even better friends with George Lankford. He lived alone, and we began to have dinner with each other and discussed feelings that I had suppressed for many years, feelings I had for him. To my surprise, he told me he felt the same way. Those feelings drove the wedge between him and his wife, and later his whole family. Joy blossomed.
# # # #
The lights didn’t go out on the New Year of 2000, and George and I celebrated the new year at my house with music for the occasion. I had remote speakers all over my house and outside on the deck with the grill, where we often cooked dinners, drank wine, and enjoyed each other’s company.
The new century brought all the computer-related changes, including the little portable music players powered by the new MP3 format of digital music, I transferred hours and hours of music to memory chips that plugged into my portable players.
Record sales at The Record Shop continued to fall, and I renamed my store, The Music Shop, since I now sold all formats, except vinyl, which died a quick death not long after the CD appeared. I still had my turntables and a closet full of LPs and 45 records at home. The library of new CDs took the book-case wall of my music room at home.
The other businesses in the original strip mall area closed, stores stayed empty for more extended periods, and eventually, a lower-paying company would open, like a candle shop. The general upkeep of all the other stores degraded, though I tried to urge owners of most of the stores to re-vitalize them, the chain which owned several stores was more interested in new malls, that our little strip of stores. The others couldn’t afford to remodel. I kept mine looking new, fresh paint, and refreshed every five to ten years.
I’ve grown old with my partner, George, and he’s slowing down considerably these days, as he turns eighty. I’ve had a good life, enjoyed my music, my store, and my partner. With frugal living, I have a good investment account.
It’s looking like I will need it soon. The other stores have all been abandoned by 2019, and the area bulldozed down. It looks desolate around me. I’ve had some outstanding offers from developers who desire the entire property because my store is next to the significant four-lane business artery.
My story has come full circle. I now make more money selling vinyl LP collections both to those in my generation and strangely enough, to some newer music lovers preferring the distinct sound of vinyl over the absolute sharp clarity of digital. “It’s warm,” they tell me, and I agree.
I could sell it, but I won’t. I don’t need the money. I enjoy having a reason to get dressed six days a week and arrive before nine to open my store. Down to only one other employee, and she’s way up in years also. George used to help, but he’s not able anymore.
I’m there, hardly ever sick or take vacations. Come see me and buy some records.