John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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The Collaro record-changer

Early Days

Late summer 1958
 1. My Dad bought a cream-coloured Collaro Conquest record-changer, and started buying 45 r.p.m. records. Judging by the records he bought, this was in late summer, 1958. (Up till then, all we had was an old 78 r.p.m. turntable.)
 The Collaro had a long central spindle, with a crank some way up its length so that records could be stacked there; and it had an extra arm with a hole at the end, which could be lowered so that the spindle poked through the hole, to hold the stack steady. The records were played by a stylus in a longish, curved “tone-arm” (or I think we called it the “pickup”): near the end of the tone-arm, underneath it, there was a cartridge which could be turned over by a knob at the end of the tone-arm. The knob was marked “LP” on one side, and “78” on the other; for the cartridge held two styli, one at the top and one at the bottom: one for playing the old-style 78 r.p.m. records, and one for playing the newer-style 33⅓ r.p.m. and 45 r.p.m. records. Turning the knob pointed the appropriate stylus down towards the record.
 There was a knob at the near left corner of the base of the unit, which could be turned to pre-set positions to choose the rotation-speed of the turntable; the knob was marked “16”, “33”, “45” and “78” (I never did see a 16⅔ r.p.m. record, though). Protruding from under this knob was a small metal lever, which, I think, enabled one to start the turntable and place the tone-arm manually onto a record on the turntable.

A Collaro Conquest record-changer. The pickup arm in this picture is somewhat chunkier than the one on the model that my Dad had. The one on his was more “snake-headed” and streamlined-looking, more like the ones in the illustrations below; these are Collaro decks, though not “Conquest”.

The deck in the bottom picture has an adaptor for playing 7", 45 r.p.m. records. We didn’t have one of these, because all 7", 45 r.p.m. records sold in the UK had small centre-holes. Most, though, had cut-outs at the large centre-hole position so that the material could be pushed out, making a large centre-hole. The only use that doing this had in the UK was in juke-boxes. Ex juke-box records could be bought with a spider-like adaptor fitted to the disc.
 There was a knob at the near right corner of the unit. If one turned this (counter-clockwise, I think), this would activate the changer; the tone-arm would:
  1. raise itself from its rest-position to a first level between the turntable and the stack,
  2. raise itself again to the level of the stack,
  3. move in to contact the stack and thus sense the size of the record to play; the bottommost record would drop onto the turntable; then the tone-arm would:
  4. move out,
  5. lower itself to the first level,
  6. move in towards the record, and:
  7. lower itself to the appropriate position on the record to start playing it.
 Thus, the Collaro Conquest was able to play discs of any size, provided that the largest was at the bottom of the stack, the next largest above that, and so on. (At the time, my Dad only bought records of one size: 7", 45 r.p.m. ones.) At the end of a record, the tone-arm would raise itself to the first level, move outwards till it was at the position at the end of stage 1 in the above list, then repeat stages 2 to [through] 7. If there was no record stacked on the spindle, the tone-arm would sense this at stage 3, above, complete stages 4 and 5, but then lower itself to its rest position, and the turntable would stop.

 2. I remember, when we lived in Preston,
[more] we had a Kolster Brandes (KB) radio (or “wireless”, we called it then). It looked a bit like this—
—in that it was made of light-coloured wood and had similar-coloured cloth in front of the loudspeaker or loudspeakers, though I’m not sure whether it had fewer than four knobs, and these were of very dark brown bakelite. Perhaps it had stopped working as a radio when we moved to Thornton, but I remember my Dad having the chassis out and soldering using a soldering iron that he heated on the top of the kitchen gas-stove. I remember the pungent smell of the flux, in a shallow tin, that he would dip the iron into, with a hiss and a cloud of smoke. Anyway, he made a serviceable amplifier to go with the record changer.
My Dad was quite clever with electronics, though he never caught up with developments after transistors replaced valves [vacuum tubes]. In the Second World War, he was in the Royal Navy; he went on a radio-mechanics course in Newcastle-upon-Tyne early on, and later he was posted to the USA. There he became ill, and by the time he was better the ship he should have boarded had gone. So for a time he worked on the railroad. After that, he went on a course in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to learn about the American equipment operated on the ships. This included actually working on the assembly line in the Collins factory.
 3. Among the records which appeared in those days, I remember ones that I’ve listed below. We can see from “The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles” the date they entered the record charts and how long they stayed there.
Connie Francis   Who’s Sorry Now?/You Were Only Fooling   4 Apr.1958 for 25 weeks
Connie Francis   Stupid Cupid/Carolina Moon   22 Aug.1958 for 19 weeks
Bernard Bresslaw   Mad Passionate Love/You Need Feet   5 Sep. 1958 for 11 weeks
The Kaye Sisters   Calla, Calla, (The Bride, The Bride)/Oho-Aha   Issued 1958 (did not chart)

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