A Record Yard Sale Acquisition

The yard sale signs are ubiquitous all over Olde North, and will be as long as the weather is pleasant enough for people to sit outside and wait for customers.  In this neighborhood, yard sales and the Clintonville Farmers’ Market are Saturday traditions, as much as football will be in the fall.  This past Saturday, I woke up around 10:45 and headed outside on the trike.

The logistics of the beginning and end of a trike ride are a bit frustrating.  Since the theft of the red Meridian, I have kept the new one in my dining room, so getting it outside means rolling it through the living room, out the front door, and down the porch steps.  Nuisance, yes.  But much less of a pain than shelling out another $300 to replace a stolen bike.

(As of this moment, I will be writing against a deadline.  After typing the above paragraph, I took a melatonin tablet and washed it down with a cup of Sierra Mist.  In about a half hour, I will definitely begin winding down.  A friend suggested it as a way to combat my insomnia, so when I went to Kroger last night to plunk down another $.88 for a jug of distilled water, I bought a bottle.  And now back to our story.)

I pedaled to a yard sale in a half double on Olentangy St.  All of the wares were inside, except for some unwieldy things (such as a stationary bike and a rowing machine), and they were bringing out more and more stuff all the time.  Apparently, the occupant on the other side of the half double had died, and the owner wanted to sell the contents of both halves, and then sell the property.

At first I thought I was going to come away empty-handed.  There were plenty of tools, and a tall stack of hymnals and Bibles.  I was briefly tempted by a Burroughs Portable adding machine, one of the old mechanical desktops with 72 keys and a crank.  If it had been a typewriter, I would have bought it right away, but I am not proficient with numbers at all (I use the calculator on my cell phone to figure tips!), so I would have been spending $10 for a doorstop.  Even if I knew it worked, I was not sure where to find ribbons for it.  (I have an Internet source for typewriter ribbons; I have never needed to ask him whether he stocks adding machine ribbons.)

I bought two breast-pocket notebooks for $.50.  I can never have enough notebooks, but they were pretty nondescript, and nothing I would boast about on Notebook Stories.  They were wrapped together with rubber bands along with two or three scratch pads from Whetstone Gardens and Care Center, and with a paperback anthology of poetry called Poems to Cherish.

A woman in her late 60s was sitting inside, and she pointed out a box of dishes on sale for $2.  Susie and I have yet to host a big dinner party, but be that as it may, having extra dishes in the cupboard is probably a good idea.  As the woman was meticulously wrapping each piece in newspaper, I asked if there were any records for sale.

She gave me this Well, why didn’t you say so? look, and asked one of the men running the yard sale to take me down to the basement.  We went through the kitchen and passed the dining room, which I guess they were using as a staging and sorting area.  He pointed underneath a shelf of paint cans to a box that looked like it was starting to ripple from moisture and age, almost like he was going to levitate it.

I glanced inside and saw the box was full of 78 RPM records, the ones made of shellac and Bakelite.  “Two bucks, and they’re yours,” he said.  I said yes immediately, although I wasn’t sure if I had a 78 speed on my Crosley phonograph.  (The orange and white monaural phonograph I had as an elementary school kid featured 16 RPM as a speed.  As far as I know, only talking books for the blind were recorded that slowly.)

The woman called downstairs and said, “Your dishes are ready!”  The man who showed me the records brightened up, and pointed to another box.  “Ten dollars, and it’s all yours–the dishes, the records, and another box of dishes.”

I told them I would have to come back.  I had bought breakfast earlier that day, but I had used my debit card, so I had no cash on me.  I asked them to hold all this, I would go to an ATM and get some money, and then buy it.  I did this, and, however awkwardly, we loaded these three boxes into the basket of my trike.

I barely had the trike above walking speed the whole way home.  I had to use a little more energy to pedal, with such a heavy and unwieldy load in the back.  Each crack in the sidewalk, or bump, or heavy landing from a curb, made me shudder and wait for the sound of something shattering.  (This was similar to my return journey from San Francisco by Greyhound in 1987.  In Ciudad Juarez, I bought a fifth of Dos Gusanos tequila for about $.85.  Once back on the bus, I wrapped it in two or three shirts in my backpack, and then sweat blood each time the bus hit a bump.)

Once home, I checked to make sure nothing was damaged.  Dishes and records were, unlike my nerves, all intact.  It was then I noticed that the dishes from the basement were wrapped in newspapers from about 1947.  (The Columbus Dispatch looked Linotyped until the early 1990s, but the papers were so yellow and brittle, I knew these were nothing recent.)  I still haven’t removed them from the box, because my focus has been on the records.

I am still in the process of sorting them out and researching them.  It’s a mixed batch of popular music (of the 1920s and 1930s), country music (which was then called “hillbilly” music), hymns, Christmas music, and music combined with spoken word comedy.  There are titles such as “Cottonwood Reel,” “The Engineer’s Hand Was on the Throttle,” and “I Get the Blues When It Rains.”  I have found one with the title “A Rovin’ Little Darkey”, backed with “The Year of Jubilo.”  I haven’t thoroughly looked over every title.  I began entering them onto my Library DB database, but the project is not finished yet.  I am even considering trying to keep the records in the right sleeves.  Put Conqueror records in Conqueror sleeves, Vocalion in Vocalion, etc.  I am doing this with an eye for eBay, and I’ve know I either have some diamonds in the rough, or I spent $2 on a box of skeet-shooting targets.

Almost as soon as I was back from the yard sale, I took this picture so I could boast of my wares on Facebook.

I think I am going to concede victory to the melatonin.  It is close to midnight.  My insomnia was so bad Monday night that I was unable to go into work Tuesday morning, but after I hung up from calling my supervisor, I could not get back to sleep.  And yesterday, I made it in to work, but my head throbbed, I felt like I was detached from my body and everything around me, and there seemed to be a seven-second delay between my brain and limbs.  (I did not feel like I had left my body and was drifting above everything–a friend of mine said he experienced this when he was having heart surgery, actually looking down at his own operation–but I did not feel “real”.)

This Saturday, I am going to continue this trend by buying more new “old” stuff at PulpFest.
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