Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Key to a Family Connection by Spence Wilhelm

When I was in High School, my sister Nonie asked me if I wanted an old record cabinet she had stored in her shed.  It was one of the things the family had from my Great Grandmother Gibbons.  "Of course!", I said.  It took me more than thirty five years to follow through on my word and I'm glad I finally did.

Throughout the years Nonie kept asking me and I kept saying yes but never did anything about it.  When I was in my late forties, Nonie was cleaning out her shed and showed up with it at our home in Saint Johns. It is quite unremarkable looking.  The finish is a dull and worn and it stands about two and a half feet tall.  We couldn't open the box and Nonie didn't have a key.  So it sat there for a bit longer.  One day I was talking with Mom on the phone and mentioned it would be fun to open Grandma's record cabinet.  Mom laughed and said she had a key for it somewhere.   Wow.

Two weeks later Mom and Dad came over to Saint Johns on a Saturday afternoon and brought the key.  As I remember, most of our kids were visiting that weekend.  We had decided we would make a day of it with a picnic and a ceremony to open our little time capsule.

Later that evening we huddled around Grandma's cabinet in our front room laughing and guessing what we would find.  The key was an old sliver looking skeleton key and it easily turned the lock.  Inside we found over 30 full sized 78 RPM records that Dad had listened to as a boy.  Christine and I had a record player so we started pulling records out and listening to them.  It was really fun because Dad would tell us stories about how they would listen and have fun with the records.

After pulling most of the albums out of the cabinet I found a small platter with the following written in pencil on the cover, "Grandma Gibbons".  One side of the plastic encrusted metal disc had a hand written label, "Come Come Ye Saints, Granny Gibbons 8/24/1944." - she was 85 years old. We put it on and heard Grandma Gibbons sing that wonderful old pioneer song to us.  After it was over we sat in silence for a moment, too stunned to say anything.  A few of us had tears in our eyes and all were laughing and chittering about the miracle of finding such a gem.  It is the only known recording of Grandma Gibbons voice.

To think it sat in the locked record cabinet all of those years and was still functional is amazing to me.  More than that I'm thrilled to have something to know Grandma Gibbons.  She died before I was born and until we found the record, she was someone I knew only through stories of other people.  Now I feel connected.

1 comment:

  1. That is a beautiful story. I remember seeing my deceased dad on some old 8 mm reel tape for the first time.