Childhood, growth and faith

October 5, 2009

When I was in my teens, my parents had a jukebox. As fate, and a little research – tonight – would have it, a Seeburg 100R, from 1954. It held fifty 45 rpm records, playing front and back, allowing for one hundred different tunes. During my youth, I must have listened to each of one hundred tunes, one hundred different times.
The timbre was scratchy, the tube amp dull on the top end. Sometimes you’d have to reach inside the unit to make button connections. The chrome was pitted in places, but I didn’t care. In the warm glow of its face, I drank a first beer in front of my parents, learned to shoot pool on a table that lacked square sides, and lamented a cold cement floor.
Many years later, that jukebox made it from Quapaw, Oklahoma, to my garage in Parkville, Missouri. I didn’t really have a place for it in my home or the knowledge to bring it back to life. It sat forlornly in a corner, squatting on its plywood haunches, bulbs dimmed.
It deserved better.
On a whim, I placed an advertisement on the Internet, requesting an obscene amount of $$$. Within a day, I had a bidding war on my hands. People sent me e-mails, requested pictures, directed me to websites indicating how much the unit was worth, restored, and offered twice what I was asking if I’d just not sell the unit to a different auction house.
It deserved better.
I was busy, at work, and got back to nobody for twenty-four hours. This evening, I received an e-mail from a guy in Independence, Missouri. Within, I found digital photos of the basement game room he had built with his bare hands. It had video games, old pop machines, a checkered floor and a dart board. For fun, he restores old pinball machines, the ancient kind with wooden tops and clicky-clacky flippers.
Over the phone, unseen, with more cash already on the table, I sold it to him at the original price.
My old friend deserved it.
Oddly, before anyone came, I lit a cigar and plugged the unit in, one last time…
The damned thing lit up! I pressed two buttons and reached inside the top, making the connection. Things crackled and the thing worked: until the record stopped spinning on the cradle.
On impulse, I gently spun the platter. Whatever bind was in place gave way. Immediately, The Cascades noisily filled the air with their 1962 hit, Rhythm of the Rain. I inhaled my cigar, deeply, savoring the moment. I may have choked up. Suddenly, I didn’t want to sell. Was I doing the right thing? I needed a sign.
Before the tune finished, a red truck backed into the driveway, in front of my open garage. In the truck were two men, obviously father and son. The elder smiled at me, oddly.
He said, “I knew the men singing this song.”
He was seventy. In 1960, he served on the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga, in San Diego. Before they became The Cascades, the band was known as the Silver Strands, and they were his shipmates.
The jukebox was light as a feather as we loaded her in the bed for her new life.