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.
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:
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.
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