In early 1965, I was still a mature, for my age, hardworking kid dreaming of becoming the Rock-N-Roll tycoon I knew I was destined to become. My world was still peddling papers on my morning and afternoon paper routes on the west side of Ann Arbor. I would buy 45’s and the occasional album as often as my collection surpassed my paper bill.
I know my Mom and Dad were also working hard making arrangements to open Flanders Music. In these early stages the vast majority of time was spent, no pun intended, on gathering the money needed to buy all of the stock to sell and the fixing of the actual building to transform it from a dress shop, the Tecumseh institution known as Cals Tog Shop, to the soon to be the famous: Flanders Music. So, money was a preoccupation for the parents, while the kid was dreaming of fame.
Then came a magical time for me. Mom and Dad had secured the Magnavox TV and Stereo franchise. They settled on a deal with Kimball Pianos and Organs. They found a distributor to provide hundreds of clarinet and saxophone reeds. Band instruments were going to be rented and sold. When one day my Mom said, “Gary, I am going to go down to Toledo and sign the deal with a record distributor want to come with me?”
This was it! I could feel it coming! I had already come up with what I wanted my business card to say. I had been practicing my autograph, just in case. Mom and I headed down US 23 to that state to the south of us. We found the building in downtown Toledo and met with the lady who would handle our account. She told us how much we would pay for each record and told us we could set any price we wanted to sell them for. She said we could buy all of the record racks from them and she would give us a good deal. I instantly memorized every word she said. But, to top it all off, she gave me, for free, the newest Rolling Stones Album. I was within reach of the life I was destined for.
Mom and I got into our crappy turquoise blue Buick stationwagon and navigated the downtown streets of Toledo to get back to 23. I was studying, not reading, but analyzing every word about the music in my hand. I knew for sure soon I would have the autographs from my personal friends, Keith and Mick and the rest of the boys.
In the midst of my reverie…BAM!…JERK forward! We were rear-ended! I just flashed red. A string of profanity filled the air and my Mom’s eyes became giant saucers. She had never heard her little boy swear like a UAW foreman. In those few seconds I thought, I can’t believe to did that to us…me and Mick that is. You SOB, you could have broken my new Stones record. I gently place the album down and started to get out of the car. My Mom is yelling, “Now Gary, it will be ok…” It was right then and there that my parents and the rest of the world knew, ‘you don’t mess with Gary’s music.’
The months were going by quickly now. We were supposed to have the store ready for an early spring opening but Cal couldn’t get his Togs in order to close his shop. Then Magnavox said they couldn’t ship our first order before mid-May. Kimball company said they had to ship right now or it would be late summer before we would see any keyboards in Tecumseh. On North Circle Street in Ann Arbor, those crazy Flanders’ went into a panic and completely cleaned out their garage in anticipation of 15 pianos and organs arriving soon. It was an exciting hassle to have all of those instruments stacked two and three high in our garage.
Mom and Dad decided we could have the store stock and building ready for a late May opening. Grandpa and Cousin Darrel drove over to help build 3 music studios for instrument lessons. Dad told the University of Michigan they would have to find someone else to make their ice cream and Mom bid a sad farewell to the Wurlitzer store on Main in Ann Arbor. I didn’t have a pulse of the emotional investment they both were making, but then what 14 year old kid would. I was fascinated by a piece of furniture that my Dad found for the store.
He had met the old guy who owned a hardware store in Tecumseh, they struck up a friendship and when my Dad saw a cabinet that Mr. Hite wanted to sell, it was the cloeset thing I had seen to Dad becoming emotional about the whole store thing. I was pretty sure it transported him back to his days of working in Uncle George’s hardware store in Chasley North Dakota. Dad loved that experience and it connected him to a happy time in his life. He polished that cabinet and protected it until the store was closed ten years later.
Everything was ready, the newspaper came to take the full page ad photos and the day finally arrived, in mid-May, Flanders Music was officially opened.
Look at me…I was in seventh heaven! Mom was performing. Dad was kneeling in anxious hope. Van was thinking, ‘what the hell, I just got drafted so, what does it matter.’ Bonnie was thinking, ‘what the hell am I doing here?’ Oh what a glorious year, 1965.
We were having a house built in Tecumseh but it would not be ready for another 3 months. Dad and I would drive over to the town of our store, approximately 25 miles every morning after I did my paper route and had breakfast. We would open the store at 9:00 and Mom would arrive around 9:30. Bonnie would either come with Mom or more likely stay with Grandma and Grandpa. This is how we spent the rest of May, June and July.
And then the world stopped. On the 4th of July we had our first week day off since opening the store. I remember going back to bed after my paper route and sleeping in for the first time in 3 months. It was still in the morning when I heard the phone ring. My mom answered, I heard her scream and drop the phone. Then she yelled, they want me to come and get my mother, Dad just died.
1965, it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.