At 14, soon to be 15, you are learning adultish things fast. You realize that just because you have a life changing event it doesn’t mean the rest of life allows you time to process and catch up. Mom’s life takes a reversal and the mother who always took care of her was the one she had to now take care of. For me, the person I had always depended on being there and encouraging me was…just not there.
And, the business you had just started with your family was still 27 miles away and all of the merchandise was gathering dust. That meant there was no money coming in to pay for all of those loans you took out to start that adventure. Running Flanders Music fell to Dad and I as Mom helped grandma and tried to deal with her own grief.
My papers did not deliver themselves so for a month or so my life was awakening at 4:30 am, doing my paper route then getting back to eat breakfast and jump in the car so Dad and I could be in Tecumseh by 9:00. Getting up that early I would fall asleep in the car riding shotgun. My head would do the sleepy roll and sort of flop around while my Dad drove. For some reason, my Dad couldn’t stand watching my head fall all over the place. He finally started gently, but firmly, punching me in the arm to stop the head flopping.
As we opened the doors to Flanders Music each day Dad’s first stop was the little bathroom in the back. He filled up the coffee percolator and made this unbelievably thick, consistency of mud, coffee. His spoon would stand up vertically and I never could understand how he could drink that stuff…all day long.
Dad had always been a blue-collar kind of guy, and now he found himself in a world where you were supposed to look, if not nicer, at least different. He went through a few different looks.
He finally landed on a sweater and tie combo that worked for a long time until he jettisoned the tie. Whatever he wore, he looked uncomfortable.
It was fairly early in my Flanders Music career that I was assigned a job no one else wanted to do. When Mom or Dad decided I was no busy with important tasks, they would say: “Gary, go and dust.” Remember these are the days of lots of wood cabinets on TVs and Stereos, not to mention all of the pianos and organs. It was a valuable life lesson: there are things you will dislike about your job, but you do it anyway.
I did like giving away the rest of the Grand Opening gewgaws. You look through catalogs and think, ‘oh, people would really like this thing, and it will remind them to come into the store every time they use it.
But, I was there for the records. The week grandpa died the number one record in the country, it sneaked in for a week and bumped the Beatles, was: “I can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”. With the African American population of Tecumseh hovering at…heck it was less than 0%. So the Detroit, Motown sound was not a big seller.
Even though the Beatles released their “Beatles VI” album on July 10th,
That other English group, the scruffy ones, the almost ‘anti-Beatles’ took over the charts for 4 solid weeks with their quasi protest, sure sounds almost black to me, hit:
They did grab my attention and I pushed them for many years to come.
Meanwhile, back in the little store building, because we were in close proximity, I noticed things about my Mom and Dad that I had taken for granted. They both had smoked cigarettes for my first 14+ years. It was the 50’s and 60′, people just did that.
My mother had always tried to hide her habit from her parents. She sprayed gallons of air freshener in our house when they came over and would run outside when we went to their house, saying she need to use the bathroom. She was the first one to stop smoking. I think it was partly because of my grandpa’s sudden death, he absolutely never smoked, but it made Mom think about health. And it could have also had something to do with President Johnson signing a law that put warning labels on cigarettes.
I am sure she pressured Dad to stop sucking on the ole cigarettes. But he had a hard time with it. At first he decided to slow down but that didn’t exactly work well. Then he switched to smoking a lot less, but smoking these ‘god-awful’ smelly cigars.
Instead of having 3-4 ashtrays around the store with bunches of cigarette butts, we had 1-2 bigger ashtrays with what looked an awful lot like dog turds and pretty much smelled like K9 defecation. I was not sure what the next tobacco fixation would be for the pater familis.
Back in the record world, the ‘beat went on’. All of us in the Mid-West knew only weird things happened in California. Our predetermined mindset was confirmed when the safe Minnesotan folkie stepped onto a stage in Newport for a music festival. But, shocker of shocker, he didn’t have an acoustic guitar, he had an electric guitar.
The old folkies blew a fuse. They booed Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger even snuck behind the stage and pulled the plug on Dylan’s amp. It was a scandal.
Strange things continued to come out of California, in San Francisco a bunch of weird people who would later be called “Hippies” formed a group and called themselves: “Jefferson Airplane”.
This whole music thing was going in all kinds of places my Mom and Dad didn’t understand. Good thing they had such a hip son.
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