Downsizing – Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

This summer my daughter and her husband were clearing out their basement and having a gigantic garage sale. I went over to help.

During the sale an older gentleman approached us and asked if we had any silver pieces or coins to sell. We told him no but then I remembered my daughter had inherited two or three sets of silver flatware that she did not have out at the sale. She said I could retrieve them from the basement for his examination.

He looked at each set with a jeweler’s magnifier you hold up to your eye. He said only one of the sets was silver. The other two were silver plated and not as old as the other. The oldest one had belonged to my daughter’s great-grandmother. He was not interested in purchasing them and my daughter wasn’t sure she wanted to part with them just yet either.

Later, during a break in the action, we got to talking about old record albums. I was telling them I had gone through my old record collection and tried selling some of them on Craigslist with no luck. That’s when my son-in-law went in the house and then came back with a huge box of record albums.

70-Year-Old Vinyl Albums, Photo by slc

Years ago, my daughter and her husband were present when her dad’s mom was downsizing before going into assisted living. They returned home with many treasures but they weren’t sure what to do with over 100 record albums. We started to go through them there in the garage. It was fun as we found albums from artists like Tennessee Ernie Ford, Billy Vaughn, the Statler Brothers, Herb Albert, Hank Williams, and Lawrence Welk. While selecting albums one by one from the box I came across a couple of albums that didn’t have the customary cardboard-like jacket. In fact, they didn’t have a jacket at all. There was handwriting on them. We wondered what could be recorded on them.

Since I have a record player at my home, my son-in-law piled the box of albums into the trunk of my car for me to take home and listen to. I did just that.

I first played these two records at 33 rpms, but I couldn’t understand what was being said or sung. Then I tried 78 rpms. Out came voices from long ago; the voices of my daughter’s great-grandfather Leon singing “Because” and “The Lord’s Prayer,” one recorded on each side of the record. The other record was her grandmother and a friend singing and giggling when they were teenagers. These recordings were made 70 years ago, probably at a county fair. I couldn’t wait to let my daughter and her dad listen to them.

The next day I was back to help at the garage sale with my record player and the precious family recordings in tow. We set up the record player after the sale and I watched as my daughter and her father listened to a man whose voice they had never heard before. There was emotion. Laughter and tears. Next, they listened to the other recording of young women singing; one being my daughter’s grandmother. My ex-husband said, “The Christensens weren’t known to be good singers!” They were both excited to have these new pieces of family history that we did not know existed.

These precious heirlooms did not go back into the box with the other albums. They are now safely housed in an inherited trunk, carefully wrapped in embroidered cloths, also family heirlooms.  Good thing they brought those albums home with them while downsizing instead of donating them.  Those treasurers would have been lost forever.

I have donated 38 of the record albums to The ARC with my daughter’s permission. She has saved about 20 of them and the rest I still need to go through to see if any of them have any value to others. So, when you are downsizing don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. You might find something valuable you didn’t know existed. You too might miss out on hearing a distant voice, even if it’s not the most musical, it may actually be heavenly.

Click here to view a YouTube video about a Voice-A-Graph Machine

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