My own personal “Music Box” dancer…

ist2_7596973-discoAlthough I’ve been listening to music since I can remember, and buying records since I was about three, for the most part from that time until my teen years, I purchased records in regular stores. There was a large bin for records at a number of local stores when I was growing up in Ohio – Ben Franklin in Utica, Twin Fair and Seaway in Newark, Kings and Arro in Heath, and others. And while I went to a few stores devoted to records as a child, including one in Tacoma WA that I can’t remember the name of (though I remember the clerks faces, go figure), my true haven was a little mom-and-pop owned record store in Spokane, Washington. It was called “The Music Box“, and was a bit of a hike from the downtown shopping area that had been revitalized by Expo ’74. Eventually, they’d extend the skybridges through the local buildings to the Music Box‘s block. But usually it meant going through the bridges to Pay N Save, then going down the stairs and walking the remaining two blocks to the store. When we came to town a couple times a year from Harrington, where I lived (50 miles southwest), The Music Box was the first place I headed with the list of records I wanted.

I loved this place. It was small and homey, had a few bins for albums, and they kept the 45s behind the counter in a rack where they were sorted by record label. You went to the counter, worked with the always friendly ladies that worked there going through Billboard’s Hot 100, and they pulled what you wanted out and gave it to you. If they had it, it was yours for 99 cents.  And if they didn’t have it, they could special order it for you using the old Phonolog catalog.  I mean, you could do the same at Odyssey Records, a large chain store down the street a few blocks. But it wasn’t the same homey feel.

The Music Box also took mail order and would even ship them to you for $3.00. But usually I would send them a list of stuff, and then a few days later, I’d get a list back showing me what was being held, what wasn’t available, and what they’d special ordered for me. And I would write them back and let them know when I would be in, and would stop by and pick up the lot. They were very cool.

And then it was over.

Without a word to any of their loyal customers, they suddenly closed up shop, not long after the skybridge to their area was completed. It was Summer 1980 (I think), and they simply couldn’t compete with the local chain stores anymore. I mean, with records and tapes available from at least 6 stores in the Skywalk network (Penneys, The Crescent, The Bon Marche, Pay N Save, and two other stores), it was hard for them to compete. So after nearly 40 years of service to the Spokane area, they were gone. Poof. And I found out the hard way – my latest order list was returned to me as undeliverable. Even Odyssey had gone bankrupt by this time – they went belly up in December 1979, which I found out when we were on our way back home from Disneyland, and I trekked up the street from the bus station to it’s location in Fresno, CA only to find an “out of business” sign in their window.

Now, I WAS driving by this point, but our car had fallen apart at the end of the previous summer after I’d had a semi-major accident (thankfully neither I nor my passenger were injured). So I depended on the Greyhound to get me to and from Spokane, and so couldn’t make it up there very often. When I had the car, I had a number of other record stores I could get to, such as DJ’s Records and Tapes in Northtown’s new “mini-mall” area, and Eucalyptus Records and Tapes down the street. But they were out of my way once the car crapped out; no real way to get to them. And I missed my Music Box anyway…it was an experience I will never forget. It has always been my FAVORITE record store of any kind. Some others have come close, but NONE ever gave the personal service that they did, and I will always be in their debt for making me the collector I have become.

My childhood in Boston bookstores…ah the memories…

When I was a young girl, going shopping in Boston was a rare thing.  It meant going “into Town”, which to my mind seemed light years away from the suburb of Saugus where I grew up.  It involved planning which bus and then train to take, and had my mother going through the unenviable task of corralling two pre-teen girls (myself and my younger sister) and keeping us from wandering off while she shopped.

By the time I was a teenager, though, Mom had gotten a job in Boston, and I was given permission to come in and visit her and shop on my own.  However, leave it to me to not follow the route of the typical teenage female.  Nope, I never bothered looking for clothes, and I could have cared even less about shopping for shoes.

Boston meant bookstores – lots and LOTS of time spent in bookstores.

Downtown Boston in the 80s and 90s were my stomping grounds, and I had a very set pattern.  First was Barnes & Noble in Downtown Crossing for a hour or two (sometimes three) of wandering the stacks, sometimes buying, sometimes looking, mostly just being IN there and being surrounded by that bookstore vibe and feeling happy.  School problems faded, my parent’s marriage, which was dying right in front of me, became something I’d think about later.  I was in my element, and that was all that mattered.

Waldenbooks, right down the street, was next.  It was smaller, and loitering about just looking wasn’t as feasible, since you tended to get The Look from salespeople that said “Are you going to buy something or not?”  Still, it was books, and that made it fun.

No trip in Town, however, was complete without a stop at Lauriat’sLauriat’s top-floor was where they sold all the newer books, along with stationary and other things.  The basement level was the bargain area, with a very nice occult section where I spent hours going through books on astrology, Tarot and other things that I KNEW my family (read that as my father) wouldn’t a) get or b) approve of.

We all choose our own forms of rebellion.  That was mine.

There were smaller stores as well, in Quincy Market, with was a short walk away.  Housed in the buildings on the left and right of the main building (which has every kind of food you can think of, and some that you can’t), a lot of those places are now offices, sadly.  When I used to visit there, however, there were a myriad of quirky smaller stores.  One of which was a bookstore that leaned more towards fantasy items, especially Dungeons & Dragons material.  Guess who spent a lot of time (and money) in that establishment.

Teen years gave way to becoming an adult (or me faking my way through acting like a grown-up for the most part), and with those years came Borders Books, which also opened up in the Downtown Crossing area.  This was a revelation – how had I LIVED without this wondrous place I’ll never know.  Borders was the first place I ever tried an Italian soda (strawberry), and if I tallied up the amount of time and money I spent in that franchise, the amounts would probably be staggering.

And then… it all started to fall apart.

As a confused teenager and as angry woman I saw bookstore after bookstore close.  By the time it was Borders turn to shut its doors, I though I was numb to feeling blue about the passing of yet another bibliophile hangout.  Boy was I wrong.

I made what turned out to be the COLOSSAL mistake of going into Borders during its final weeks, and the sadness was beyond palatable; it was downright crushing.  They were selling everything, even the fixtures, and the atmosphere was like shopping in a funeral home.

Hell, I think I’d have felt better if I HAD been shopping in a funeral home.

Every single salesperson looked so downcast that I wanted to run up to each and every one and give them a hug.  Don’t even think I bought anything that sad visit, I just wanted to pay my respects and leave.

Will the bookstore ever completely fade from existence?  I certain hope not.  I know that Kindle Fire, and all the other electronic books are great and can hold a ton of books, blah blah blah…

But give me a quiet corner, a soda resting on a table loaded with paperback and magazines, and a couple of free hours, and I’m happy.

That’s not too much  to ask, for is it?

Welcome to the world of the past…

Kim and I have been perusing some of the retail sites online lately. I’m fascinated by the “dead mall” concept, and businesses that have gone under in the economy or bankrupt for another reason. And we got to talking, and thought about how much fun it might be to take a few trips down memory lane about our favorite hangouts – record and book stores.

One of the things that drew us together as a couple all those 20+ years ago was our mutual love for books and music. We both love to read, love all kinds of music, and loved to spend hours upon countless hours going through bookstores and record stores looking for those little gems you can only find and treasure by looking through the shelves and bins at random, not knowing exactly what you’re looking for.

Now, the days of book and record stores are sadly mostly part of a fading past, thanks to online retailing, digital music files, and electronic books. And so while we have jumped headlong (and somewhat begrudgingly) into the modern era, we kinda miss those good old days too.  So we’re gonna use this blog to do a number of things.

First off, we’ll be talking about the past – stores we loved that are no longer there. We may approach you if you have some photos or something online for permission to use some of them, so we can show everyone what we’re talking about.

Second, we’ll be talking about today – the stores that are still there, and where you can visit them. We’re going to be watching for these little places throughout our travels, and hopefully will be able to bring you some pix as well.

Third, we’re going to talk about favorite books and favorite music. This blog, which will be one of two blogs to supplement my main music site, The Kirkham Report (the other blog being “My Life As A Soundtrack“, coming soon), will give you our feelings on some of our favorite books and records over the years – we may have links to music, to books, to charts, or anything else that might strike our fancy.

Fourth, I’m going to talk about my collection of records and my love for radio. Some of this is already available on the TKR site, but I’m going to talk about specific things – label art, album artwork, picture sleeves, and the like – the stuff that makes magic for me. Popular or obscure, chances are good you’ll find it here.

Fifth, Kim will be doing the same about her collection of books – her LARGE collection of books takes up half the living room, and she too has little things that make magic for her. In fact, her first column is already ready about her love for book stores, and will be posted shortly.

Sixth – we’re hoping to be talking to YOU. We will be encouraging you to find these little out of the way places still out there and to let us know about them. We’ll have a comment form up in a couple days where you can contact us, and we’ll always give full credit to everyone who contributes!

And there’s probably tons more that we’re not thinking of right now, but I’m sure other things will pop up here too!

We hope you enjoy the trips down memory lane we’ll be offering, and also will take the time to check out more of the PNRNetworks family! Enjoy!

TC N Kim, June 27 2015