I had an old friend for almost 40 years, and then I, reluctantly, had to say goodbye. To be sure, it wasn’t a person; it was a stereophonic record player. It was one of the best friends I ever had. It was always kind to me, it soothed me, it put me in the mood, it gave me a great education, and it never, ever, talked back to me.
When I started high school, my parents bought a 16-inch RCA TV in 1952 for $400. They watched it every night in my apartment in Brooklyn, and I could hear it through the walls and hallway that led from the living room to my bedroom, where I studied. I could not study with the TV on, and decided that I needed to drown the TV out with music that would allow me to study. I took $80 of my own money and bought a Columbia 360 stereo. My neighbor in the downstairs apartment sold me a dozen or so classical music albums for $1 each, and that was the start of my classical music collection and my love for classical music. I played those records on the stereo over and over again all through high school and college, and that record player became an old friend, always forgiving, always willing to sing for me, always helping me learn, and always available whenever I needed it. My favorite album was Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 1.” I played that symphony hundreds and hundreds of times. That stereo never failed me, put me in the right frame of mind, and gave me the chance to hear Sibelius over and over again. Indeed, Sibelius gave me a great education, but without that stereo I might have ended up digging ditches, though there is nothing wrong with doing that.
That stereo taught me how to study. I learned that slow, classical music focused 100 percent of my mind on studying, eliminating all distraction. It was largo music, the kind that is slow, soft, easy to listen to and trance-like. Studies on learning later proved how valuable that music is in learning, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just found it out through my stereo.
When I went to graduate school, I left that stereo at home, and much later I bought much more sophisticated stereo equipment, but I could never part with that Columbia 360 stereo that was so important to my high school and college days. It stayed in my basement like an old friend ready to help if I needed it, but I never did need it again. When I saw it sitting there patiently, waiting to help, it reminded me how important it was in my early years, and I could not part with it. Finally, after cleaning my basement out several times, I thought it was time to part with it. It had a lovely wooden cabinet, and I could have found some reason to keep it, but it wouldn’t have been for the music. That didn’t sit well with me. It had to do with what it was created to do. I couldn’t see it as a storehouse for tools, or a storage area for mail, or as a planter. It wasn’t right. It was meant to play music, at first for me, but it could be for anyone. I finally concluded that I would give it away to charity and hope that someone else would fall in love with it, and that’s what I did.
The day I gave it away, I almost kissed it goodbye. It had such an amazing impact on my life, but it was time to say goodbye, and I did. Even as I write, I can hear the music, and I know it is coming from that old stereo. It was one of the best friends I ever had.
The bottom line: If a thing is old, it’s a sign that it was fit to live. The guarantee of continuity and longevity is quality.