Monday, 26 February 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 8, Heirloom

When I think about heirlooms, I often think we don’t really have any. But actually there are quite a few to choose from, now that I have thought about it a lot more.

Choosing one which I have a photo of, on hand, was the determining fact. So I have gone with this one. It isn’t actually MY heirloom. It is in the possession of my daughter.

This piece of furniture came from my maternal grandmother’s home. I remember it was always in the dining room, but I can’t remember where it was in her earlier home. Maybe the living room ? Although I don’t have many memories of being in that room as children. Before “Hi-Fi” and stereos many homes had a Radiogram. Nana and Grandad’s was a Bell. I’m not sure what year it was made but I would guess somewhere in the 1950s-early 1960s.

We kids only ever listened to one “record” over and over. It was a 45, in a yellow paper dust cover with a picture of a merry old soul on the front. That’s right “Old King Cole” ! and some other nursery rhymes, “Little Boy Blue”…I can’t remember the others; maybe “Mary had a little lamb” ? I still have it, but it is packed in a box with a whole lot of other 45s so I can’t check right now who sang, and who played the instruments, or what the other nursery rhymes were.

You put the record (or Nana did, I don’t remember that we were allowed) at the top of the spindle, then moved the arm across from the left and turned it on. By magic the record would drop from the top of the spindle to the turntable and rotate, the arm with the stylus would move across lower itself and begin to play. Magic.

If you zoomed in you might have noticed the speeds on the turntable – 15, 45, 33 and 78. There used to be a collection of 78s too, but they are long gone now. Some with bagpipe music, I have heard tell. My aunt also had a collection of Elvis records which Grandad used to tease her about, objecting to having THAT played on his radiogram – so I have been told.

Storage is built in; two cupboards to house all the vinyl. It has preset Australian and New Zealand radio stations for shortwave (megacycles) and AM (kilocycles) – long before transistor radios and the switch to kilohertz and way before FM.

Sadly it is not in working order right now, and some of the oak veneer on the exterior is looking a bit worse for the wear. It had been languishing in my uncle’s garage when my daughter discovered it and put in her claim. Always a lover of music and a trendsetter before her time the radiogram was the perfect heirloom for her, from her great grandmother.

The intention has always been to have it repaired, but so far it hasn’t happened. It has moved house with her every time since it came into her possession and sits in pride of place, storing her small but growing collection of vinyl as well as my own. Currently a small portable turntable sits atop the radiogram and plays music on lazy Sunday mornings. Buffalo Springfield, Bob Seger, Three Dog Night, Janis Joplin, Cream, The Eagles, BB King, Fleetwood Mac, Hello Sailor – sometimes I sneak in Linda Ronstadt, Boomtown Rats, John Hanlon.

The good news – I have just found a repairer who has been in business for a good length of time. I just need to get it there.


  1. I love your heirloom. I hope you get it repaired. Vinyl is making a comeback.

  2. I hope so, we have lots of vinyl to play.