Monday, September 1, 2014

Pepsi Cola Records

 On their way back to their home in the south, my grandparents stopped by for an evening at our home. My grandparents are getting frail in their age and I'm gently trying to explore their pasts whenever I get the chance. Part of the reason for this is the death of my great uncle a couple years ago. He was always a favorite uncle of mine growing up as a child but as a child, such topics such as his youth or his military career weren't really of interest to me. By the time they were of interest, I had moved out of home and was living my life elsewhere and thus went for nearly a decade without seeing him. Finally one day for a half hour almost a decade ago, the stars aligned and I was able to talk to him as an adult and ask him so many questions. Time went by so quickly and before I knew it, we both were heading back to our respective homes half a country apart.

I stopped in to his home several years later when we passed through town on our way out east but by then his memory was failing and he lapsed in and out of lucidity. Two years, his mind turned off for good and there would be no more opportunities to ask him all the questions that I wanted. But life has a way of throwing curve balls at you.

My great Uncle had a record collection that just can't be imagined. He bought the top 5 albums of the week according to the Billboard Top 100, every week, from before World War II until his death a couple years ago. His collection of records filled the largest U-haul truck they rent three rows deep. Many people, including me would have loved to keep the collection intact but none of us had the room nor the money it would take to do such a collection justice. In the end, my Uncle inherited them, sold off what he could and gave away the rest.

Out of the blue, a man contacted my grandparents asking if they were related to someone named Victor. He was my great grandfather and the father of my great Uncle. My grandparents said they were and he told them that he had come across some records that my great Uncle had made and mailed to his parents. They were found among the records he had bought and he would like to return them. Both my grandparents and uncle tried playing the records but they were too damaged too play. They had numerous checks across them and one had a large crack that pushed up a large ridge across the grooves on the playing surface. Knowing that I am sort of the keeper of the family genealogy flame, they offered them to me before throwing them away.

I of course said yes though I had no way of playing them and knew of no one who could. They were made by my great Uncle and thus should be kept for no other reason than they meant something too him. I researched them a bit and found out the Pepsi Cola had given G.I.'s returning or preparing for war overseas a chance to record records to send back home. My uncle had done so twice. In doing that research, I came across a company by the name of King Tet Productions in San Diego, California who specialized in digitizing old records and other forms of media into contemporary formats. I called up the guy and he told me he has been getting quite a few of these Pepsi Cola records as World War II veterans die off and relatives inherit them. He couldn't promise me anything but for $24 which included return shipping, it was worth a shot.

Literally about four days later, the records returned back to my house along with a CD with two tracks, one track for each record. Although a bit scratchy, both files were audible and soon the voice of my great Uncle at age 20 and heading off to war filled my office at home. It was a joy. For two minutes, I listened to both tracks and got just a little bit more incite to a great Uncle I knew well and yet knew so little about.

My Great Uncle around the same age when he made the two records


Anonymous said...

The building in NYC is truly beautiful.

edifice rex said...

Oh my gosh!! what a great thing for Pepsi to have done and how great it was you all got the album back and were able to have it transferred! that's a wonderful story.

sage said...

Wow, what a gift!

Ed said...

Vince - It would be a real treat to have been able to witness all those soldiers milling the streets and making records.

Edifice Rex - It was very nice and I wonder if they do similar things now?

Sage - It was a beautiful gift. Fortunately, it may pale in comparison to a gift I hope to get in the future. The same grandparents are going to give me a few boxes full of 8mm video tape that they inherited. I'm chomping at the bit to take a gander at those.

ErinFromIowa said...

So interesting to read. Wonderful for you to hear your uncle's voice all these years later!

Ed said...

Erin - Stuff like this makes me ponder about what my ancestors may find of me years after I'm gone.