Are you old enough to remember how wonderful it was to receive your first record player? If not, trust me. Being given a record player once upon a time was one of the best joys a kid could experience. I especially enjoyed playing mine during the Christmas season.
In this, my third of four Christmas columns, I want to explore Christmas music, and perhaps more specifically, Christmas albums. Of the six Brooks offspring, I believe I am the one who has all the family’s Christmas albums now. My mom loved the music and, of course, so did I.
In the ‘60s, stores sponsored and sold a yearly album comprised of then-popular musical artists. Every year, on the counter where they paid for their merchandise, customers could always rely on a display of the new album for the season. One store I’m referring to is the hardware store.
The albums carried the “True Value” hardware store emblem on each cover. If I was slow to act, Mom would beat me to the draw by bringing one home after she stopped at the end of her workday. The hardware store was next door to the bank where Mom was a teller.
Another store getting in on the album-selling business was JC Penney. Firestone Tires also had its annual edition. Then there was Reader’s Digest. Mom ordered a collection that included four separate albums. I was not your typical kid, and on slow December Saturday and Sunday afternoons, I’d go to my bedroom, put on an album, and in the dark, simply listen to the holiday tunes while I stretched out on my bed. My mind filled with sweet thoughts of Christmas.
I played very few 45s on my record player during the Christmas season. One I remember playing was the Jim Reeves’ song, “An Old Christmas Card.” The second one wasn’t even my record. It was my older brother’s. And I cannot, for my life, remember the tune, but it was a 45 featuring … ready for this? … The Three Stooges! Yup. I played it less often than my albums, but at times, it was fun listening to it.
I spent a lot of my hard-earned snow-shoveling money during those years on Christmas albums. I was thrilled to buy, for example, The Chipmunks’ Christmas album. I still have it. Andy Williams and Perry Como were also performers whose albums I bought. Glenn Miller and the Ray Conniff Singers recorded a couple albums I would play and play and play some more. Arthur Fielder and the Boston Pops Christmas album contained one of my holiday favorites … “Sleighride.”
Then there was the Harry Simeone Chorale. On the front cover of their album was a picture representing one of Mom’s favorite songs … “The Little Drummer Boy.” They were the original artists. To this day, when I hear that song, I hear our mom shushing us all, so she could listen without distraction.
Each November I place the albums by my record player. At any given time, I may choose to play one while reclining in my chair. I am perfectly fine with the scratchy quality. Sweet memories.
As long as we’re on the subject of Christmas music, I am of the Christmas caroling generation. As teens, we’d gather and walk the streets, caroling from house to house. Sometimes, total strangers flipped on their front porch lights, stood outside their front doors, listening to us and then inviting us in for some hot chocolate, so we could warm up. Does caroling happen anywhere anymore?
Christmas music. Just another component to my love for the season, and now I’ve pulled you in to it too. Next week is my fourth and final yuletide column already. I’ll be telling you all about … uh oh …
Time’s up! See you next week!