A Visitor, Some History, and a Renewed Interest

Two weeks ago, I received a phonecall from an acquaintance regarding some repairs needed on his antique wind-up phonograph.

A bit of history: I lived in Lansing, MI from 2001 through 2005 while I was pursuing my master’s and doctorate at Michigan State. During that time, I ran an antique phonograph repair/restoration/sales business, called “Brown’s Antique Phonographs”. We moved to PA in 2005, and a year or two later (I can never remember exactly when) I sold my inventory to my friend, George Vollema, who runs Great Lakes Antique Phonographs. I ceased operations, and (for the most part) did almost nothing related to antique phonographs.

Ok, so fast forward to two weeks ago: George Meiser IX brought his Victor II phonograph over to my shop. It no longer would stay wound, and the crank would snap back.

That day, I had been working on some Shaker tables that I was building, but took a break to spend some time with George. After taking a quick look at his phonograph, we headed in the house, so I could show him my collection of phonographs. We spent the better part of the day talking, listening to records, and trading stories.

I should mention here that George is a well-known local historian, author of a series of books (which are excellent), and all-around wonderful human being. At 81 years old, he has an encyclopedia of stories, and a memory full of incredible details that is nothing short of remarkable. He exudes a love of history, and (more specifically) vintage recordings that was a welcome reminder to me of how much I enjoy the same things (specifically, antique phonographs and recordings).

After his visit, I was inspired to not only spend some time listening to my phonos, but took the time to do some long-needed work on a few of my machines.

In addition to getting George’s machine running properly again, I found myself hunting down some phonos to purchase to bring them back to life and, hopefully, find them a new home. More on this in a future post, BUT… I plan to continue to do this (once again!).

After ordering a few parts for George’s machine it was fixed, and he stopped by on Monday to pick it up. I told him that his first visit had inspired me to do some work on my own machines, and invited him in the house to see the fruits of my labor. Once again we spun some records, and he shared a number of stories (which I find fascinating). Of particular interest on this visit was the story of a lunch he shared (in 1970) with Paul Robeson, the famous singer.

I plan to invite George over sometime soon, as well as a friend or two that also share an interest in vintage recordings and machines. Time spent with family and friends is priceless. I am grateful for this, and grateful to George for rekindling my passion for antique music machines and vintage recordings. Thank you, George.

George Meiser IX, with his newly-repaired Victor II phonograph.

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