Edison Cylinder Records
Darlene McMurry

As if it wasn't enough to have autobiographies from both of my parents to include in my Sandbox, as I got more interested in the history of my mother's collection of Edison cylinder records, I felt I needed an actual recollection on the topic.  I asked my mother, Darlene Williams McMurry, to write me a short story about her memories of growing up with the actual Edison Amberola phonograph and the cylinder records that are in our collection.

Greg McMurry

Listen To My Mom's Story
by Clicking on this Button

My childhood in the early 1920's was spent in Christine, Texas, a very small town fifty miles south of San Antonio.   We had no electricity, no telephones, and I can remember only a couple cars.   The roads were all dirt, or, too often, mud.  Communication, to us, meant walking a mile to the town post office and looking in our little box for a letter, which, most of the time, we didn't find.  The only letters we expected were from my two aunts, one who lived in Kansas and the other who lived in Oklahoma.  My mother did subscribe to "Capper's Weekly" which she read word for word each week.   We got our mail from the one train that passed through on the way to other little towns south of us.   The only kinds of music I ever heard were hymns being sung in church accompanied by a piano, songs my mother sang to me, and, a few songs, mostly nursery rhymes, learned at school.  Oh, yes, my grandfather played the jew's harp. 

In our mail boxes we sometimes found catalogs, such as Sears Roebuck, or maybe Montgomery Wards.  I'm not too sure about which catalogs.  However, my grandfather studied any catalogs he got and he bought an early model Edison Record Player.  He kept buying all those cylinder records he could afford as soon as a new set was advertised.  Soon he had quite a collection.  Can you imagine what it was like to hear songs accompanied by a few instruments, and readings, usually of a comic nature, coming from that magical machine?   I wonder just how many times I played "Uncle Josh" and other comic readings, marches, waltzes and two-step "rag" music, hymns and other songs.  Many hours were spent marching or dancing (my own style) with the music.  Also I would play songs and the comic skits over and over until I had memorized all the words and could sing or recite the words right along with the record.  . 

After we moved to Kansas, we had electricity--that is, there was a single bulb hanging from the ceiling of each of the three rooms of our home.  There was also a place to plug in our prized radio, and hear wonderful music of various kinds.  Of course, by then the old phonograph was not played so often, but it was not neglected.  I remember one evening when a friend was spending the night with me and there came a big rain storm with lightning and thunder.  The lights went out and, of course, there was no radio.  This was before battery-operated radios.  We entertained ourselves all evening playing the old phonograph, pretending we were living in an earlier time before we had electricity.  Even if the electricity stayed on during a storm, there was so much static on the old AM radio, one could hear nothing but noise.  During such times, and they came often in Kansas, it was still fun to listen to the old scratchy cylinder records on the trustworthy Edison phonograph.  . 

Truly those cylinder records, no matter how scratchy they became, were my introduction to another world bigger than my small town. 

Darlene McMurry -- September 4, 2006

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