Anyone who knows me understands that I am not big on jewelry. The exception is cufflinks; I just love cufflinks. My love is not for the gold, silver or sterling they are made of, but for their uniqueness.
For the most part, cufflinks are it, as far as jewelry that I wear. I do not even wear a watch. However, Gregory Burrell, the owner of Terry Funeral Home, often reminds me that I should own a watch. This is related to an experience we shared some years ago at a New Year’s Eve reception at the home of the president and chief executive officer of The Philadelphia Tribune. While I am embarrassed when he talks about the incident, I must acknowledge that it was funny and worth sharing with others.
Several of us were standing around reminiscing about our successes and failures of the year and projecting our hopes and desires for the new year. Someone asked if anyone had the time, wondering how many hours we had before the New Year celebration. As indicated, I do not wear a watch, but I quickly volunteered to give the time because it was reflected on my cellular phone. I just knew I had it, as the last thing I recalled doing before leaving home was turning off the television and placing my cellular phone in the inside pocket of my tuxedo. Thus, everyone was hysterical when I reached into my pocket and pulled out the television remote control. Obviously, instead of putting the phone in my pocket when I left home, I had picked up the remote control. Gregory Burrell tells this story over and over again. While I do not recall if I shared it in any previous columns, just thinking about it recently caused me to think back to a time when people wore certain types of jewelry.
Any reflection on jewelry in the past invariably brings to mind the discoloration left on one’s skin after wearing a watch or a ring. This was a common experience for those who grew up back in the day. It was the result of wearing inexpensive jewelry or to put it bluntly, cheap jewelry. Because many of us could not afford anything but inexpensive jewelry, we came up with creative ways to prevent the discoloration . After all, no one wanted to take off a ring or watch and see green. Some of you recall placing tape on the inside of your ring or wristwatch. The most common practice, however, was to put clear fingernail polish on the inside of the ring or wristwatch to keep the metal from discoloring the skin.
Many of you can readily recall your first wristwatch and also the name brand of watches worn back in the day. If you wore a wristwatch back then, more than likely you owned a Bulova. If you did not own a Bulova, perhaps you owned a Benrus or Waltham watch. You may recall this commercial slogan: “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” This jingle describes the wristwatch that most owned in the past, a Timex. In fact, according to a website featuring Timex watches, one out of every three watches purchased in the 1950s was a Timex. Today, wristwatches are battery-operated as opposed to watches that required winding, back in the day.
You may remember the popularity, back in the day, of chain necklaces worn by women and men. These chains sometimes held a pendant. Pocket watches were immensely popular back in the day too. The short period in which I wore a watch involved pocket watches, all of which are still in my jewelry box waiting to be resurrected, as this style will undoubtedly surface again in the future. In keeping with how pocket watches were worn back in the day, I loved a pocket watch with an “Albert chain”, named after Queen Victoria’s husband. The chain would go through the vest or waistcoat buttonhole. If you see anyone wearing a pocket watch with an Albert chain, rest assured, they are from back in the day.
Obviously, there were many other types of jewelry many of you enjoyed — earrings, ankle bracelets, necklaces, chains, costume jewelry, tennis bracelets, a pendant with photos, decorative belt buckles, diamonds and even handmade jewelry. Perhaps because I have been hearing about the Pandora bracelet in recent months, my thoughts in recent weeks kept going back to one of the more popular jewelry items that women, both young and old, enjoyed in the past. So, I ask, what happened to the charm bracelet that young girls and women proudly wore, back in the day?
I suspect that most of you from my era recall this bracelet, worn around one’s wrist, that contained decorative pendants or trinkets attached to a bracelet that signified important events or meaningful details in the life of the wearer. Charm bracelets were not new back then; they go back to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Hittites, appearing from 600 to 400 BC. During the Roman Empire and Queen Victoria eras, there were charm bracelets. My memories of the charm bracelet involved a bracelet in a variety of styles of chains holding various trinkets such as pennies, animals, shoes, dresses, handbags, bells or other Christmas ornaments; also, trinkets representing special places one had visited or trinkets that signified special events or dates. Some of you recall trinkets with fancy etching on the edges, dedicated to your mother, grandmother or godmother. Some people loved charm bracelets that had lots of dangling trinkets. A friend told me about a charm bracelet that had a book from our Philadelphia Zoo that you could open and see pictures of zoo animals. I recall bracelets with a Bible that could be opened with pages inside. You probably can think of trinkets that you gave to loved ones in the past.. Quite often, these were given to add to a charm bracelet given sometime earlier. For some men, it was an easy gift; one that was readily available, that had a special meaning and could be inexpensive. Something inexpensive or “cheap” is not always best, and can have a bad ending. A colleague shared an experience he had one Christmas when he purchased a trinket for his girlfriend’s charm bracelet from a cart on a street corner. He gave it to her as a Christmas present and she wore it for a few weeks until it started to rust and eventually fell off of the bracelet. The end result, she quit him because of a cheap trinket he purchased for her charm bracelet; things like this happened, back in the day!
Silver charm bracelets were the type members of my family and friends owned in the past. What I did not know back then was that those really into jewelry considered silver charm bracelets to be equivalent to what is bootleg today. With regard to silver bracelets, I was told by a friend, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby.” This is how some felt about charm bracelets, back in the day. People in the neighborhoods where most of us lived could never afford the real thing. Thus, gold links and trinkets made of gold with diamonds and other precious gems tucked in specialized motifs could only be admired as they window-shopped in upscale jewelry stores or on women who were fashionably dressed.
For many of you, charm bracelets represented a timeline on one’s life; a story with a beginning, middle and end. Charm bracelets meant a conversation, because each charm represented something special, someone special, or an important event in one’s life. I know of relationships that have been reflective and blossomed as those with close relationships would sit at the kitchen table or on the living room sofa and tell stories of each charm. These are conversations that many have held tight ,as they are worth as much or more than the charm bracelet of gold. So, get a Pandora bracelet if you must, as it has some similarities to the charm bracelet but just remember that they will never compare in memories to the charm bracelets that many of you owned back in the day.
While I had fun writing last Sunday’s column on the “players” in our midst today, I had a few daggers thrown at me. Some of these daggers were from friends that swore up and down that they were the ones that I was referencing and other daggers were from people I did not know.
The guilt expressed by some of these individuals was particularly true of those that had wives or significant others, a characteristic which makes them ineligible to be “true players.” Because the “sugar daddy” referenced in the column received many comments, I decided to dig out and dust off a column written a few years ago that focused on the infamous sugar daddy.
I should point out this time, as I did in my earlier column on this subject that I have no first hand knowledge or experience with regard to this “character.” The information I will share with you is based on readings; conversations with friends and associates, events observed and findings from various sources. After all, I am happily married close to 50 years, and do not need to provide any inkling that I firmly know about the intricacies of the behavior of the sugar daddy. In my column, back then, I referenced a discussion I overheard between two females talking about someone who had been the focus of a recent beauty parlor discussion, someone that had been referred to as a “gold digger.” I know that most of you have some understanding of a gold digger. But, it was not the gold digger that fascinated me, rather it was the willing companion to the gold digger that caused me to ask if we still have in our midst today this person I referenced last week, the infamous sugar daddy that was around, back in the day.
Tina Turner gave meaning to this term in her hit song, “What Does Love Have to Do with It?” For the sugar daddy and the one he is supporting, love has absolutely nothing to do with it. The significant ingredient in the relationship is money. I suspect that some of you remember relationships between older men and younger women where women held average or menial jobs that did not support their rapid pace and trendy life styles. You must recall these types, well-dressed, living in a nice postal zone and always driving relatively new automobiles.
Then, there were those that had everything, but had no evidence of a source of income. You remember the older gentlemen who was always around, quietly coming and going and creating no problems nor creating any scenes. These sugar daddies often had homes across town and lived respectable lives with a wife of many years, but a secret young lover on the other side of town. The sugar daddy found it cheaper to keep his wife and his cash enabled him to also maintain the girlfriend. Because the sugar daddy was not around on a permanent basis and because of the age difference, we always thought that he was a cousin or other relative. At the other extreme were women that lived in the same home as did the older men. We thought that they were daughters but in actuality, they were live-in lovers, the recipients of the financial support of their sugar daddies. Such relationships were quite popular, back in the day.
Interestingly, the conditions of the past made the sugar daddy more prevalent. Just reflect on the conditions of women, back then. Back in the ’50s and ’60s, women were not in the job market in the same manner as today. Women did not have the big, well-paying jobs that many women have today. Women did not have nor did they demonstrate the independence that we see today.
Their social activity was much more controlled. Thus, if they wanted to do some of the things that women take for granted today, they turned to someone who would assume financial responsibility for them, ergo, the infamous, sugar daddy. While I have mentioned financial support for housing, automobiles and clothing, the sugar daddy’s involvement did not stop there. In some relationships the financial support included walking around money. Obviously, it took a certain type of man and woman to participate in such a relationship.
The availability of money was the basic requirement for the sugar daddy. For the woman, it required that she stayed away from other committed relationships so as not to interfere with the source of her money. Unfortunately, there was nothing permanent about this relationship. The understanding was for her to be available at any time and for any purpose desired by the sugar daddy in order for the income or support to continue. While it could may a father daughter relationship, I often conclude that I am witnessing a sugar daddy relationship whenever I observe an older man and a younger woman dining, attending a play, a sporting event or some other social activity.
Is there an unwritten rule for sugar daddies, from back in the day, not to acknowledge that they had been a sugar daddy? I ask this question in light of discussions with several of my friends and associates. Several pointed out that although they may have helped their girlfriends financially, they never qualified as “legitimate” sugar daddies. Quite simply, they did not have the financial means to be a sugar daddy.
On the other hand, if they had the financial resources, most of them confessed that they would have had no trouble being a sugar daddy. From their point of view, a sugar daddy relationship would have been less stressful with clear rules, a predictable payout and predetermined benefits. In a Huffington Post article posted on the Internet by Nathan Koppel regarding sugar daddy relationships, he questions whether these relationships cross the line. This article goes on to report on an interview with Brandon Wade, the CEO of SeekingArrangement.com, a website that facilitates sugar daddy relationships. Brandon Wade, who holds engineering and graduate business degrees from MIT, views such relationships as healthier and less exploitative than more traditional relationships.
He claims that there is chemistry involved in these relationships and not a one-time exchange of money for a “bedroom relationship.” He claims that it is not much different from a rich husband or boyfriend giving money to a wife or girlfriend. Now, I know that most of our readers are not buying this view. In speaking with the one and only person that confessed to being a sugar daddy some years ago, he pointed out that while he has no experience with the sugar daddy relationships of today, he emphatically states that these relationships are not always good relationships, more specifically, that they were good and benefited both parties until they came to an end.
The one that is benefiting from the finances of the sugar daddy, the person known as the “sugar baby,” does not go quietly. Sugar babies age and sugar daddies die. So, what happens to the sugar baby particularly when the process of aging makes her less desirable if not obsolete? I know that some of you have seen automobiles that were “keyed” and convertible tops cut. Some of you have been to funerals where the sugar baby sits in the rear of the church while the deceased, sugar daddy’s wife and family sits in the front pew. It appears the future of the well financed sugar baby is questionable. In many instances, they become “have beens” and fade into the sunset with lives reflecting big financial voids.
No discussion of the sugar daddy of the past can ignore the emergence of the cougar relationships of today with their companions or what has become known as their “cubs.” You must be wearing blinders, if you are not aware of the trend of older women dating significantly younger men.
Significantly younger may be an understatement, the young men are usually 15 or more years younger. Such age differences are not unusual. AARP Magazine, in February of 2008, published an article by Jessica Leshnoff, entitled “Cougars and Their Cubs” which delved into this subject. Based upon interviews from unidentified cougars, she points out that increasingly, cougars that are widowed, separated, or divorced are seeking young men for dating and companionship. These dating relationships make the older woman feel ageless and desirable. The younger companion helps to increase the cougar’s self-esteem. She also points out that the “stuff of the past” may be what drives older women to younger men.
Who wants to hear their companion constantly talking about his ex-wife and his kids? The younger male generally does not bring all of this excess baggage. While many people frown upon cougar and cub relationships, statistics from a recent study in the bi-monthly publication by AARP supports the increasing trend of cougars coming into the mainstream. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps people age 50 and older have independence and improve their lives. For young men, or the cubs, these relationships fit their life styles. After all, their cougar companions are not only older, but confident, sexually mature and without inhibitions. Cougars are a fairly new phenomenon.
Do not conclude that I believe that the sugar daddy is a thing of the past. Perhaps, we see them in a different light today. Like many of you, I have read and have heard stories of college women that have described themselves as sugar babies, seeking out sugar daddies for the purpose of paying their college tuition and college expenses. Unlike what occurred back in the day, these types of sugar daddy relationships have gone “high tech.”
I learned that there are Internet sites that specifically advertises the availability of “college tuition sugar daddies.” Thus, full-time college students, pursuing some challenging fields of study seek out such sugar daddies to help pay the bills. Some, who use Internet sites to seek sugar daddies for college assistance, identify specific monthly fees. Obviously, these sugar daddy/sugar baby relationships involve “bedroom type of activities” but those involved in such relationships do not view themselves as prostitutes.
What they do know, at the end of the day, is their college debt is diminished and they have money in their purses. So, in answer to the question raised in the beginning of this column, yes the sugar daddy is still in our midst. However, the ease in which men can engage in relationships today coupled with the freedom in which woman now express themselves has made today’s sugar daddy nothing more than an Equal, NutraSweet, Splenda or some other sugar substitute, not one that fits the sugar daddy profile of back in the day.
I hope none of my close male friends read this column. If they do, I suspect they will conclude that I am talking about them. Well, this is not the case. Truth be told, I am not talking about any of them.
However, the impetus for this column came from discussions I have had with a few of these friends. You know some of the “characters” to whom I refer. These are old men operating in a world that has passed them by; men who have a desire to do certain things while their bodies tell them something quite different. These guys still go out in the streets, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings; “old heads” with no interest in women their age and egos that dictate they should be in the company of a younger lady. I imagine you can picture the type: Men who dress “as clean as the board of health;” still walk with a stroll; “gangster-lean;” they drive their automobiles, something resembling a throw rug on their heads; and continue to rely on their “black books” in this electronic age. So, in keeping with the lingo of today’s generation, we have those who are identified as “players” but were known by other names, back in the day.
If you were around pre-1960, you can relate to how some young men were viewed back then. While it was more apparent in high school, we observed a few junior high school boys who began to show an interest in young girls. Looking back, it appears that the reputations, developed during this early stage of the lives of some remained with them over the years. In fact, these are some of the players whom I referenced earlier. As you read this column, try to visualize someone from your past who was referred to as a “Casanova.” Yes, this was one of the names that players back in the day were known by. Think back, you know of a Johnny, Larry, Joe or James whom you and your friends described as a “Casanova.” This label was assigned to them because of the behavior they demonstrated in their relationships with young ladies at school or in the neighborhood. Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was a real person; an Italian adventurer who wrote in vivid detail about his encounters with women. We saw the Casanova in keeping with the definition I came across on the Internet in an on-line urban dictionary. This document described him as a smooth-talking charmer who had mastered the art of finding, meeting, attracting and seducing beautiful women. Once he accomplished his goal, he moved on to find his next conquest. Just absorb these words as you picture the Casanovas you knew back in the day.
If Casanova was not the descriptive term assigned to young men in your past, young men who always had romantic thoughts in mind when in the company of a young lady, then perhaps you knew them as a “Don Juan.” Interestingly, another Italian, and yes, another smooth-talking charmer. Then some of you will recall as teenagers and during your young adult years telling a female friend to stay away from a particular young man, as he was nothing more than a “playboy.” Those regarded as playboys were easy to identify. They could not stand still; they went from one young lady to another. Going steady was not an option for them, as they had to always be ready to move on to another adventure. The playboys I knew seemingly took pride in being labeled as playboys. Furthermore, these so-called playboys I knew were usually good-looking guys. It is worth remembering that some guys, because of their good looks, were believed to be playboys even though their behavior did not fit the bill of a playboy. If you recall, with or without the label of playboy, good-looking males were referred to as “pretty boys” back in the day.
Who in your circle was referred to as a “Romeo” back in the day? For the most part, this is the same person as the player we know today. You remember him from your reading of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet;” he was the lover of Juliet. Over the years, just like your back-in-the-day years, any male with a reputation for pursuing and succeeding in his dealings with a female was a Romeo.
In attempting to make someone from your past remember an old classmate or friend, you probably do as I often do. I dig up some of those old terms in an attempt to bring their images to mind. You recall discussions that go something like this. “You have to remember Rudy, as he was a ‘ladies’ man.’” Sure enough, a picture of your former classmate Rudy becomes fixated in your mind. After all, there was no one who could compete with Rudy for being a ladies’ man.
Think about those from your past who were characterized as “womanizers?” I understand that Don Juan is used synonymously with womanizer. What was your thought when a male in whom you had some interest was identified as being “suave?” Even though “man about town” could mean many things, quite often saying that one was a man about town, with the right inflection in one’s voice signaled that this was a man with a major interest in the opposite sex. A “spiddyock” or a “yock” is another of those terms that could mean many things. Urbandictionary.com refers to its use back in the 1950s; it referred to younger people who listened to jazz records and dressed casually or in a modern dress style. I recall the spiddyock as being a cool, fashionable dresser. This dress style alone enabled such characters to operate freely in the female world. Do you recall anyone being called “Candy” or “Candy Man” or “Sweet Ones” or just plain “Sweets?” They, too, were men about town on the hunt, back in the day.
Was there a “ladykiller” or “loverboy” in your neighborhood? What about one who was simply referred to as “smooth?” Then there was “her man.” “Mack Daddy” is another name assigned to womanizers in the past. How many of you can relate to the term “Jody” that some males carried with them in the past? If not, look into the old blues song involving Joe D. Grinder and Black soldiers during World War II. Being a Jody was not a term that anyone embraced back in the day.
There were also those terms that a ladies’ man did not particularly embrace. Just take the term “sugar daddy.” Most of you know about the behavior of this person, an older man who is generally sought after by a younger lady only for his money. There were sugar daddies back then and there remain sugar daddies today. What did you think of someone being referred to as a “philanderer?” Or, what is your reaction to someone who was referred to as a “pleasure seeker?” Not good, you must agree. These were not good terms, nor was the term “dog.” I do not think anyone wanted the labels of philanderer, pleasure seeker or dog. But, being identified as a “social climber” was a different story. Someone meeting the criteria for this term dated right into status and class or at least was making the attempt to do so.
A Tribune employee, Jules Childs, upon learning I was writing on the topic of this column provided me with his thoughts; thoughts appropriate to leave with you and all of today’s players. He told me I should remind my current player friends to take a close look at a simple mathematical formula. While being a Casanova, or womanizer or playboy may have added up for them in the past, being someone 40 or 50 or older today requires a real understanding of life that involves simple math; an understanding that should cause our players of today to throw in the towel. Well, to state it as gingerly as possible, a number like 70 does not divide well or go into 30. Confused? Well most of you will understand this old-school math equation, as you know that today’s players are not the men they used to be, back in the day.
Because of the nature of my column, I spend considerable time reflecting on how things were in the past. Now, please do not think I sit around for hours trying to dig up some memory that has been lost over the years. Usually, my subjects are as a result of something that comes to me out of the blue; something I see, hear, read or that was shared in conversations with friends or acquaintances.
Today’s topic came to me several weeks ago as a result of my drive from home to my office. During this 45-minute drive, on the Expressway and small streets, I could not help but observe the street signs, traffic signs, signs on buildings and even signs on trucks and automobiles. While I focused on these, I thought about signs that are rarely seen today; signs that dotted the landscape back in the day.
As we get older, the days, months and years seem to pass by more quickly. Thus, there are things in our lives that because of the passage of time we lose sight of, things that are no longer around. Signs fit neatly into this category and I suspect you may have forgotten many of these signs readily seen years ago. For example, signs identifying public telephones are seldom seen today. Yes, I have no doubt there is a public telephone sign somewhere but such signs, largely due to mobile telephones, do not exist in abundance as they did in the past. You must also recognize the signs found in the middle of busy blocks, warning you to alter your behavior or be issued a citation are gone. Some of you recall those signs that read, “No Jaywalking.” If you drive an automobile, you occasionally find your way to an automotive supply shop if for no reason than to purchase some washing and waxing supplies. While you may shop at Pep Boys, how long has it been since you saw that Pep Boys sign with the words or an image of“Manny, Moe and Jack? I know it has been some years! Now, here is a sign you still see today, although more infrequently; it is dying a slow death. You have to look hard if you purchase gas in the Philadelphia area for a gas lane that says “Full Service.” In reference to a gas or service station, I cannot ignore Mobil gas and its slogan from the past, “Sign of the Flying Red Horse” or Esso’s advertising slogan that appeared on billboards and even on automobiles themselves read, “Put a Tiger in Your Tank.” No, these signs are no longer seen or hardly seen, but they were quite common back in the day.
I realize that most of you reading this column have been model young adults and upright human beings. Thus, during your courting days you were not running in and out of motels. However, some of you who behaved quite differently and lived a more adventurous life style recall those signs outside motels that read, “Short Stay.” Now, this is a family-oriented newspaper and I cannot elaborate further, but these types of signs were common not many years ago. Some motels had other signs that may be familiar to you, not that you frequented such establishments, but rather as a result of driving by. You might also have seen signs such as “Television in Color.” I cannot imagine anyone frequenting a motel with a sign that said, “Private Baths,” but these signs were posted. On weekends, these motels also had signs stating, “No Vacancy.” Such signs were definitely indicative of life back in the day.
It is pre-1960s and you are going out on the town with some of your boys. As you approach your neighborhood bar, a sign jumps out at you, a sign that most of us have not seen in many years; a sign that many of our young generation have never seen at all. You must recall a time when bars had signs over a side entrance that read, “Ladies Entrance.” Yes, the ladylike behavior of females dictated that it was inappropriate to enter the front door, in particular alone, thus there was a separate entrance for females. It was common to see signs stating “We have air conditioning” outside many bars. During hot, humid summer months, bars with such signs were packed to the rafters, not to drink but to stay cool; no air conditioning signs, few patrons. You may also recall going out dressed casually with your significant other to a nice restaurant, only to be greeted with a sign at the door stating, “Jackets and ties required for men.” If you can remember those days, then you must recall signs in some establishments that read, “No tipping allowed.”
If you grew up below the Cotton Curtain and remained there until the mid-’60s, those awful signs that reflected the attitudes of whites towards Blacks were quite prominent; signs that brought considerable pain and had a significant impact on one’s behavior and self-esteem. These are signs that we all are thankful for being left buried back in the day. Some of you recall signs like “Colored Drinking Fountain.” Or, what about the sign at eating establishments that said, “Blacks, takeout only.” Then there was that sickening, demoralizing and vicious sign that read, “No dogs, no Blacks, no Jews allowed.”
I regularly see signs advertising apartments for rent. But I cannot tell you the last time I saw a sign that said, “Room for rent.” Back in the day, with the concept of roomers, such signs were quite common. This sign is making a comeback in today’s less-than-stellar economic environment, “We offer layaway” was a major approach in making purchases. After all, credit cards were not as available to us back then as they are today. You may also recall that signs reading “No Change” were not unusual. Still, some establishments have such signs today. So, when is the last time you saw a “Post No Bills” sign? While this sign is also making a come back, “Made in the USA” was very popular and posted alongside many products, back in the day.
Do you recall signs advertising businesses such as “Atlantic Gas,” “Sinclair Gas,” “Bond Bread” or “Freihofer’s”? While some department stores have survived over the years, signs designating “John Wanamaker,” “Lit Brothers” and “Gimbels” have long disappeared. When is the last time you saw a “Drive-in Movie” sign? You may have been enticed to visit a particular automobile dealership to purchase a new automobile because of a sign that read, “Automatic Transmissions Available”. If you did, it was clearly many years ago.
“Baby on Board” is a sign that has disappeared in recent years. While friends tell me they still see “Keep Off The Grass” signs, they are not planted on lawns in large numbers, as they were in the past. There used to be a time when signs such as “No cursing or swearing” were found in many public establishments. You must recall the “Smokey Bear, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” signs. Think about church and the sign on the wall in the rear of the pulpit. Can you still see the listing of “Hymns for today’s service” that were used for the congregation to sing during the worship service?
Signs provide information, directions, identification and safety. Signs also provide a way to view life during a particular era. Obviously, there are more signs then those I shared today. Many of these signs are no longer around, or at the least are not as plentiful as they once were. However, these sign, take us back in time to remind us of some facets of life at that time. Just think, in years to come, the signs we see today will be replaced with signs appropriate for a new era. So, as you go through the hustle and bustle of life, reflect on those signs you see today, as in the not-too-distant future, many of them will also be signs that will have been left, left back in the day.
I do not purchase compact discs! The CDs I own have been given to me and are only accepted for use in the CD player in my automobile.
I suspect that this has much to do with my habit of buying records as a teenager and young adult which has carried over to my twilight years. In spite of the evolution of the music industry, with reel to reel tapes, eight track tapes and cassettes, I have not abandoned my love for phonograph records. I do not believe that there is any feeling, other than a live performance, that is better and more satisfying than listening to a record, particularly on a jukebox.
Like many of you, I quickly go back in time when I go into my basement and put a nickel into my Seeburg juke box that plays 45 RPM records or a nickel into my Rockola juke box that plays 78 RPM records. When the record by The Heartbeats, “Your Way,” spins around on my 78 RPM turntable with its meaningful words and close vocal harmony, it creates a special feeling.
These old do-wop sounds bring memories of places, events and former companions that make us feel that it was just yesterday. For those of you that still harbor the love for records, many of these records now come from record shows, thrift shops and yard sales. But, a number of those records that you enjoy came from record stores. Most of these record stores are not around today, but were found in every neighborhood, back in the day.
I occasionally take a drive through my old neighborhood. These drives bring me face to face with old buildings; many abandoned or run down, or empty lots where businesses and service facilities once stood when I was growing up. The old drug store usually stands out. The same is true with regard to the old movie house, variety store, recreational facilities, grocery store, soul food restaurant, supermarket, ice house, barber shop, hair saloon, cleaners, tailor and the Chinese laundry. In some neighborhoods you can identify where the bar and pool hall once stood. In a few neighborhoods, like mine, you reluctantly drive through as you fear that you will still smell the stench from the spot where the slaughter house once stood. Some of you can relate to my remembrance of the chicken store that sold live chickens on the corner of Fairmount Avenue and Hutton Street. They were in some of your neighborhoods, back in the day.
While I am certain that there are many more establishments that come to mind from your old neighborhoods, those of you that share my love for phonograph records can reflect back to those days where stores and shops once stood, most of which had names, all of which sold records; places that we simply referred to as “record stores.” It was a ritual experienced in most of our neighborhoods when a new record would be played on the radio by disc jockeys, Georgie Woods or Kae Williams.
We cannot ignore The Mitch Thomas Show, which debuted on television in Wilmington, Del. on Aug. 13, 1955 and was televised here in Philadelphia. This dance show also aided in sending many of us off to purchase the newest sounds played and performed by artists on this show. Now, I recognize that I must be careful and cannot assume that all of you reading this column know about records. I make this observation in that I was recently at a flea market buying and selling records and a young man, around ten or 11 years of age, looked at the records and asked after reading the record sign asked, “Mom what are records?”
Most of you that were around before the CD era know that records are discs with a continuous groove that produced music by rotating while a phonograph needle moved along in the grooves. They turned at 45, 33 1/3 or 78 revolutions a minute; ergo we refer to records as 45s, 33 1/3s or 78s. Many of the records you may have in your homes and still enjoy today came from record stores that existed all over the city, back in the day.
Some of you purchased your records while shopping in center city. Do you remember purchasing records at the Sound of Market at 11th and Ludlow streets? A number of you spent hours at 3rd Street Jazz. What about the Record Museum or Radio 437 Store? Sam Goody’s is a name familiar to many of you as well as Tower Records and Strawberry Records. What do you recall about Armand Records or Grace Christian Book Store that sold Gospel records only? Interestingly, these seven record stores were all in walking distance from one another, mainly stretching along Chestnut Street from 10th Street to 17th Street. I bet that some of you can identify the store where your favorite records were purchased and reflect back to some of your fondest boy and girl relationships associated with these records.
While I obtained some of my records from these stores, most records I purchased in the past came from many of the same types of places where you purchased your records. It was the record store in your own neighborhood; places like Treegoob’s Furniture and Appliance store that also had a record section.
I was in and out of this record store and found some of my most collectible records here, in particular, because there was a record section on the second floor that sold discounted records. For those of you that know anything about today’s value of records, I bet that you agree that a red wax recording of the song, “Golden Teardrops” by the Flamingoes on Chance label, one that I purchased at Treegoob’s for ten cents, is an opportunity you wish you had experienced. If Treegoob’s was not convenient for you because of where you resided in West Philadelphia, then perhaps you made your record purchases at the Empire Record Shop.
I suspect that many of you shopped at one of the two King James Record Shops in Philadelphia. There was also a King James Record Shop in North Philadelphia. The Record Joint also had two locations in West Philadelphia. The Bus Stop Record Shop was located at 60th and Market streets as was one of The Record Joint Stores. Still others may have shopped for their records at Monk’s Audio Center and Marvellous Records. One of the premier record stores of the past and is still around today doing a bustling business is Val Shivley’s R&B Record Store located in Upper Darby.
Many records, 45s in particular, came from this record store. No matter where our records were purchased, we rushed home to play them on our record player. Quite often, the next thing we did was to place our names on the label with a pen or pencil or affix a piece of tape on the label with our names. Some of you may wonder why it was necessary to identify our records as they were being retained in our own homes. Well, it was not unusual to loan out our records to friends or to loan them out for house parties. Thus, the identification of one’s records was necessary, so that they would be returned. This was a big deal, back in the day.
So, you grew up in North Philadelphia, where did you purchase your “Close Your Eyes” by The Five Keys or “Work with Me Annie by The Midnighters records?” I know that you patronized Webb’s Record Store, formerly Thurgood’s Records. This is one of a handful of record stores that was around back in the day and continues to operate today. On Columbia Avenue, not far away from Webbs’ Record Store, you could shop at Smith’s or Society Record Stores.
There was a Paramount Record Store in North Philadelphia and another in South Philadelphia. Does anyone remember Marvin’s Record Store, the Sound of Germantown, Cleveland Burton Records or Sound City USA Record Store located at Broad Street above Chew Avenue? What about John Moore Records, The Record Castle or The Record Stop, all located in the Northeast?
Those living in South Philadelphia found the Gospel Light Music Store, Tower Records and the Record Exchange that eventually moved to the Northeast. Paramount Records, located at 1519 South St. is another record shop that brings unforgettable memories. This shop, located around the corner from The Tribune offices, is where I obtained many records in my collection today. You see, in 1981 I purchased their entire stock of records, thousands and I mean thousands of records of all speeds and all categories; many are still in my possession today even though they were purchased back in the day.
I recognize that this list probably does not represent all record stores in the area. Broadway Eddies and Kain Avenue Records, while located in South Jersey had their share of Philadelphia record buyers. The record stores identified in this column are named as a result of my recollections, word of mouth and the assistance of a fellow record collector Harold Ridley, who specializes in gospel records.
For you CD collectors, I am certain that you are seeing the decline in these types of recordings. If you look even more closely, you will see the resurgence of an interest in phonograph records. While the transition will take some years, unfortunately, I doubt if there will be the outlets available to collectors today, as were available to music lovers, such as me, back in the day.