About six years ago we published an article on Gerry’s clock collection. This time, it’s old gramophones and records!
He spent many years at Radio Gibraltar in Wellington Front and South Barrack Rd, the radio station’s, `La Seccion Commercial’ opposite the Piccadilly Gardens then moving to the ground floor of the ill-fated Theatre Royal and GBC Television. But even before then he was always interested in music, or better put, apparatus and paraphernalia that produce music, as well as records, cassettes and tapes.
You could describe him as a collector also, because as well as music, his garage is full, and I mean full, of clocks! Wall to wall, there are clocks of every shape and size, cuckoo clocks, grandfather, even grandmother clocks, many others with advertising on them, and specimens of every other type you can think of. There is just about enough space for his small car and scooter in his compact garage! He also has a collection of about 300 watches which he stores elsewhere. However, in the garage, there is a tiny space available at the back, enough for his music hobby collection, which is proudly displayed for callers to admire.
In that corner is where he explained how he’s always been interested in songs, music, buying records and gramophones, as they were called in the 50s and 60s. “I used to go down to Teuma’s Music Store or Phillips in Main Street and buy records when they were just a few shillings each, in the old currency. I have quite a few large discs which were known as Long Players then.” Yes I remember, they would play at 33 and a third rpm (revolutions per minute) or 45 rpm for the much smaller 7 inch ones… “But even before those,” Gerry recalls, “We had the breakable ones which you had to handle very carefully. They were made of some sort of paste and could snap easily.” I remember those also, they were very brittle made of shellac. These were phonograph records played at 78 rpm originally made from a material containing purified `lac’ which comes from some insects, but there are no insects in Gerry’s set up.
His record collection is varied: hundreds of singles, albums, smaller albums, EPs (extended players with four songs on them) and of course a number of 78rpm shellac discs which he displayed on the bonnet of his car (no space elsewhere) for us to photograph. Nat `King’ Cole was playing on one of his HMV gramophones: Love is a many Splendored Thing was blaring out and Nat singing Autumn Leaves on the other old Academy brand disc spinner. The sound was incredible considering it was being produced by these ancient players. They used old type ‘needles’ – as they used to be called before they became the modern stylus – which were reminiscent of a small, sharpened steel nail on one end to produce the sound. They were fascinating to watch. The HMV record players, which appear regularly in old films, adverts and elsewhere, have these trumpet type horns from where the sound emanates… no speakers in those days!
Gerry has kept in touch with a UK supplier that deals in sound equipment who still has stocks of the ‘needles’ – required for his `trumpet’ record players – which he buys at £1 for a hundred. Gerry owns about 1,500 or more of them! Funnily enough, volume is controlled by the thickness of the steel needle being used: you can have thin, soft, medium, large and extra large. He’s purchased some of these gramophone relics for just over a hundred pounds and is always on the lookout for more. “It’s surprising how, through a simple conversation, someone mentions they happen to have one of these items stacked away in a cupboard somewhere which belonged to grandparents or great-grandparents and are willing to part with them for a few pounds.” Sometimes, someone will just give the item away because it’s taking up valuable space, Gerry says. One such person gave him an old, small box- like a radio which sits in another hard earned space in between a clock and a more, slightly more modern record player.
As with his clock collection, Gerry is quite handy at fixing things when something not too complicated malfunctions. He relies a lot on his cleaning oils, little screw drivers and special cleaning cloths and so on, and gets things working again in no time. I’ve witnessed his handy work at the radio station where the rest of us would not have a clue about where to start. Despite not being a qualified engineer – he was part of the engineering department at GBC – his experience and know how more than made up for that. “A little Singer sewing machine oil or WD40 works wonders but perhaps more importantly, treating the equipment with lots of care and being gentle when handling it often prevents problems occurring. Not being rough when operating the apparatus is what you need to think about.” In the garage, every one of the very many clocks on the walls, as well as his much loved gramophones, records, cassettes and tapes all work perfectly. If there’s a fault – not being a major problem – Gerry comes to the rescue and in next to no time, all is well and repaired. But here and there between his clocks, there are spaces for Gerry’s tools which are so necessary for his repair work. There are rare patches of wall taken up by a display of neatly placed tools and spares, hundreds of screws in jars, nails, springs, dozens of batteries of all sizes and a variety of other bits and pieces and of course, Singer sewing machine oil!
On our way out, the din of the not unpleasant tick-tock from his more than 50 clocks was complimented by good old Nat `King’ Cole, softly crooning another of his well-known favourites: Smile, in recognition perhaps of the grin on our photographer Eric’s and my face as we tendered our goodbyes, leaving Gerry to his time-telling, musical garage.