A ‘stereo’ of memories

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Dad backed “Lula Belle” to the front door.

He popped the tailgate and it squeaked under his weight as he climbed into the back of the truck.

My brother hopped on and helped him untie what seemed like endless pieces of rope.

Soon, they pulled back a large blanket that protected a prized possession back in the day — a stereo.

But this just wasn’t any stereo. It had an 8-track tape player, a record player that could spin 33s and 45s, an AM-FM radio and two speakers — one on each side. It even had storage space inside.

Encased in wood, it sat on the floor and nearly covered one wall of our living room. The middle piece of the stereo raised up and you could lock it in place while you decided what you wanted to play.

Mom put a table lamp at each end for decoration.

Talk about living in “high cotton.”

And back then, just about every town had a corner record store.

I wasn’t young enough to develop a “taste” for any genre of music, but I can tell you we listened to a lot of country and gospel. Dad loved hearing banjos and steel guitars, while my brother loved acoustic guitars.

Mom, she was a singer.

Put any record on the revolving table or slide in an 8-track, and she reveled you with an angelic-like voice that belonged in the church choir on Sundays.

I can remember Saturday mornings when mom would turn on the stereo and start her house chores. The only time she turned it off was to vacuum. The noise drowned out the music and her singing, of course.

Whenever family or friends visited, they wanted to listen to the stereo.

Dad usually tuned in a radio station, but — on occasion — he’d give in to mom’s wishes and soon you’d hear Loretta Lynn singing “don’t come home a-drinkin’ with lovin’ on your mind” or “one’s on the way” or “back in baby’s arms.”

I don’t remember much about warranties in those days.

Dad replaced the needle for the record and my brother learned how to clean the tape player. Every once in a while, a bulb would blow somewhere and we’d call someone from Western Auto to come check it out.

We — well, dad — got our money’s worth with that stereo.

Then those fancier merchandisers began to promote their state-of-the-art stereos that didn’t need an army to lift and carry it into a house. Cassette tapes replaced vinyl and the 8-track, and soon CDs replaced the cassette.

Now, we get music from a cloud.

I do miss my parents’ stereo.

Yeah, it became a dinosaur in the sense of electronics, but it created memories to last a lifetime, too.

Rudy Coggins is assistant editor of the Mount Olive Tribune. He can be reached at rcoggins@mountolivetribune.com.

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