Thursday, January 7, 2010

Requiem for a Wurlitzer

I miss the jukebox. It used to be the center of a communal universe where anybody could bring their pocket change, drop it in the slot and punch in any songs they wanted to hear.

(I know you can still pay money to hear songs in a bar, but believe me it's not the same. For starters, you won't get three songs for a quarter.)

The jukebox pictured here, a Wurlitzer Americana III, is located somewhere in Oshkosh, "works off and on and probably just needs some minor adjusting to be fully functional" and can be yours for $400. There are vintage Rockolas and Seeburgs out there, too.

The best jukebox in my hometown was stationed near the entrance to the Corner Cafe, one of two popular teen hangouts in Whitehall. The other place was the Bowling Alley -- still four lanes! -- attached to the Highway 53 Bar. (Each of the six taverns in town had its own "box," but you had to be of legal drinking age to enter these "dens of iniquity" as my mother called them.)

You went into the Corner Cafe to play the two pinball machines (Tic Tac Toe was the best pinball ever, Eight Ball a close second), grab a cherry phosphate and listen to music. If you cared enough you knew where to find the volume control, which was always hidden somewhere on the back of the box. You also knew how to "reject" a song, but this was a dicey maneuver reserved for particularly obnoxious songs (and the people who played them.)

Even flip sides had a chance on a jukebox because there were only so many songs available and eventually we'd give every one of them a try. Some of them were pretty damn good, like the Beatles' "She's a Woman", which was receiving heavy play at the Corner Cafe at this time in 1965.

This was your Billboard Top 5:
1. I Feel Fine, Beatles
2. Come See About Me, Supremes
3. Mr. Lonely, Bobby Vinton
4. She's a Woman, Beatles
5. She's Not There, Zombies

The other B side of distinction from this group was the Zombies' "Tell Her No."

"Mr. Lonely" wasn't the best song but there were times it got the most play, and those times were following basketball and football games when a dance broke out and a night of discovery began between the girls and boys. Of course I was too young at the time, but I was taking mental notes.

I miss those times.

1 comment:

  1. We had a juke box in our family room at one much fun!