Monday, November 19, 2012

Shopping for Vinyl at Joe’s Garage.

Joe's garage wasn't as nice as this one!
By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

If you’re thinking that this post is about a Frank Zappa song, well, it’s not.

It’s about a man who lived in a small town that years later I would also be living in. His name is Joe. When I met him he was retired. Don't recall his age but it was likely around 70. He was a reformed alcoholic who had no qualms telling me that Lou’s Bar was his former watering hole. I’ve never been in Lou’s Bar but we all know of those establishments where a chosen few were permanent fixtures on the stools, providing the main source of income for the proprietor. "Luckily", Lou's Bar was in easy walking distance of Joe’s home.

However, this isn’t about Joe’s past fondness for spirits. It’s about his establishment simply known as Hillsdale Record Treasures. It wasn’t even a legal business but the town didn’t seem to mind. The “store” was a early 1900's one car concrete block constructed garage crammed with records. Some were alphabetized and at table height while "just-in" platters were ready to browse through in boxes on the floor. 

The knees of my jeans wore out from all the floor crawling I had to do to satisfy my vinyl cravings. The denim also served as a cleaning device of sorts since the dust was practically up to my ankles. The floor I knelt on consisted of dried out rotting wood sporting threadbare rugs to cover the decay. 

More than three people in the small space proved challenging. I always went alone to Joe's and sometimes there would be a nerdy guy there with a serious look on his face. I never saw the same nerdy guy twice. And other females…fuggetaboutit! A GIRL collecting records was not the norm!

Joe was always perched on a bar stool next to the record player. There were always a few ashes on it, flicked there by the always present round of cigarettes he would consume. I’ve never been a smoker and found the smell of cigarettes offensive but for the good cause of record collecting I’d put up with it.

Joe and I had some great conversations. While Joe wasn’t a record collector himself (he was seeking money to live on) he did have a familiarity with much of the inventory. He was easy to talk to, possessed an upbeat, pleasant attitude, and wore the thickest coke bottle glasses I’d ever seen that rivaled the pair I shed at age 18 when graduating to contact lenses.

My biggest miss happened when a nerdy shopper pulled an album by The Knickerbockers out of a "just in" box. Joe had it marked it $4. Sold to the guy in with the sweater vest! It irks me to this day, however, I scored so many great 45s and LPs at Joe's Garage so who am I to complain? 

When I look through my 45s nowadays, I still see shades of Joe; he would write the artist and title on the sleeve (not the picture sleeves!) and the price too. Most 45s were $1; a tidy sum for a used three minute platter in the late 70’s / early 80’s before CDs became the new format.

I don’t remember why I stopped going to Joe’s Garage. Perhaps it was because of a new beau who wasn't a vinyl junkie or some personal struggles going on in my life. And eventually I moved away from the area. I've never stopped collecting records though the hunting and gathering slows to a trickle from time to time. And, yes, I did embrace CDs around 1987 despite balking at the cost compared to buying a new LP. 

Joe, I thank you for entertaining this young gal during those “in between boyfriend” periods. I thank you for providing a place to go on Friday nights where I could have a good time scoring treasures and conversing about a subject I love. You were truly a friend.


Anonymous said...

Do you still have your vinyl collection? All i've retained are some 45's from the early-mid-60's, and a few Beatles 45's with their jackets. Alas, I DID write my name on those jackets.

Now with all things digital, CD's are going the same was as the hundreds of 33 lp's! Of course, what happens when digital goes :poof" some day?

Joe's Garage is a great memory! You always send me down a great memory lane!

Guy Sharwood said...

Sounds like a place I'd have loved to check out. Great that Joe became sober and had this resource available to you.

In the early '90s there was a great Mom and Pop style antique store in Fresno's Tower District. Sadly it closed, but I got some great vinyl buys there, like Laura Nyro's The First Songs and Dan Fogelberg's Souvenirs. And a coverless '50s movie magazine.

I held out on CD's until 2001. My first CD purchase was James Taylor's Gorilla.

Gerry Wendel said...

Of course I still have my vinyl collection Robyn!