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 Post subject: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:47 pm 
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Victor IV
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Location: SF Bay Area, Calif.
On the hot and humid evening of July 25, 1963, my parents and I went to a country auction in the small town of Granby, Massachusetts. We went because of a small mention in an advertisement: "Columbia graphophone, cabinet, 106 cylinder records, very clean." We got there at 6 to check it out. It turned out to be a complete and excellent BO. Better still, it had 2&4 minute gearing. And to really get my heart beating, it came with a Herzog half-barrel filled with Indestructible and Blue Amberol cylinders. It was straight from a local estate. We had to endure hours of other miscellaneous bric-a-brac until the BO finally came under the hammer at 9:30. We got it for $40.

That was a lot of money for me. We had a hard rule at the time: $25 was the upper limit I could spend on a phonograph, and even that was a stretch. This one obviously went beyond but I rationalized it as costing $25 for the phonograph and $15 for the cabinet.

I kept it until 1970 when I moved to Colorado. I couldn't take my entire collection so I sold most and packed 12 'keeper' machines into a VW bug, along with my other possessions, and head west. (I have no idea how I got so many into that car, including a Standard with wood cygnet horn.) Fortunately my mother had taken a liking to the Columbia BO so she opted to keep it.

In 1981 they retired to Florida and didn't want to haul the BO. My mother offered to give it back to me if I would arrange the shipping. I got someone to crate it and ship it out to California, where I had moved to after several years in Colorado.

The BO sat in various places in the house until the mid-1990s, when I moved it to a high shelf in my home office. It has sat there ever since. Until today.

For a long time I've been thinking about rearranging things to get it back into a place of honor. I finally did it after years of procrastinating. But, needless to say, it needed a bit of cleaning. It has been pretty much inaccessible for over 20 years. In all that time it has hardly ever even been dusted, and even then only very superficially.

I can't believe I didn't take any pictures of it when I took it down today. 'Filthy' doesn't begin to describe the massive amounts of dust, and the excessive oxidation on all the nickel plating. I spent nearly 4 hours cleaning it this afternoon.

I didn't think there was any prayer of bringing the horn back to life -- the nickel was incredibly dull. It took several stages of cleaning, polishing, and waxing to bring out some shine. Not as much as 50 years ago but a lot more than I believed possible. The machine itself was equally filthy but it cleaned up much more quickly.

When I got it in 1963 I didn't have any suitable belting material. I made a belt out of some black cloth ribbon. That remained on the machine all this time. Finally, nearly 55 years later, I made a proper leather belt for it. With some judicious cleaning and oiling it is running great again. And the never-rebuilt reproducer sounds amazingly good! That's pretty incredible, considering it's 112 years old.

No more collecting dust on an inaccessible shelf. This machine deserves to be displayed proudly. The next step will be to find a way to rearrange my living room to get it back on its original record cabinet, which is currently supporting an Edison Opera.


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 Post subject: Re: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:54 pm 
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Victor III
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Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:59 pm
Posts: 772
Location: Ontario Canada
Great story, thanks for sharing it.

I should probably write some notes about how I acquired some of my machines and tuck them inside the cabinets somehow. I don't think I'd be able to remember them as well as you.


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 Post subject: Re: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 9:04 pm 
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Victor Monarch Special
Stop for a visit when in Oregon.
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:25 pm
Posts: 5601
Location: Albany, Oregon
The BO is a lovely machine and the two to the right aren't too shabby either. Thanks for sharing. Jerry Blais


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 Post subject: Re: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:47 pm 
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Victor Monarch Special
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Who is John Galt?
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:08 pm
Posts: 5390
Location: New York's Finger Lakes
Great story, Rene, and a nice looking BO too! Do you really think the horn's nickel plating has deteriorated over the years you've owned it?

It's funny how as we become older, the history of some of our machines becomes interwoven with our own history. I'm experiencing this in spades at the moment, as I finish an article for the next issue of The Antique Phonograph.

When I was 19, I began keeping a journal of my phonograph/record acquisitions. That was 45 years ago next month! It has also grown to over 170 single-spaced pages in small font. Without it, I'd be clueless as to where some of this stuff came from, when, and how much I paid. ;)

Thanks for the pictures of the BO - - that's a beauty.

George P.


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 Post subject: Re: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:50 pm 
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Victor IV
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Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:48 pm
Posts: 1246
Location: SF Bay Area, Calif.
phonogfp wrote:
Do you really think the horn's nickel plating has deteriorated over the years you've owned it?


I do. Each time I have cleaned it over the years it has required some rubbing out with at least mildly abrasive products to remove the layers of oxidation. Over time I think that has impaired the gloss somewhat. The picture makes it look even better than it does in real life. On close inspection the luster isn't as even as I might wish, with some discoloration so deep that it just won't polish out. Still, the improvement is huge and it does look great.

I have pretty clear memories about acquiring the few machines I still own from my earliest collecting days, but in addition I have diaries I kept from 1962 to 1965, and a set of index cards that list the basics of every machine I bought in the 60s. The BO still has my tag glued under the bottom reading "Item 24" because that was the 24th phonograph I ever bought. It corresponds to my index card.

But-- my memories obviously won't survive after me. I probably should print out stories like this and put them inside the few machines I still have from so long ago. Maybe in the future those stories will add some interest, if not value, for future collectors.

I have individual file folders for everything in my collection, with a page detailing original purchase date, seller, price, any restoration costs, etc., and any related documents that relate to the machine. Some of those files are pretty extensive.


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 Post subject: Re: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:22 am 
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Victor IV
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 12:55 am
Posts: 1829
Location: Eugene/ Springfield Oregon USA
Good grief, man, you've had that machine since Kennedy was in the White House. That alone is awesome.


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 Post subject: Re: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:58 am 
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Victor V
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Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:52 pm
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In 1963 there were people alive that were alive when Abraham Lincoln was in the White House.


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 Post subject: Re: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:43 am 
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Victor V
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I'm Feeling Cranky
Joined: Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:22 pm
Posts: 2704
Location: Finger Lakes Territory, RONYC
That's a wonderful account of your BO, René. Thank you for sharing.

Best,
Fran
Francis; "i" for him, "e" for her
"Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while" - the unappreciative supervisor.


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 Post subject: Re: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:41 pm 
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Victor III
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Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:41 pm
Posts: 692
Location: okc ok
I too enjoyed your story and pictures of the BO. Most folks I know seem to jump from hobby to hobby so to have kept at it for as long as you have is great. I guess I probably had a rock collection in 1963. Since I ended up working as a geologist, I guess my interest in one hobby/career is as long lived as yours after all. Steve- a Johnny come lately- only into phonographs for about 28 years


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 Post subject: Re: A trip down memory lane: Columbia BO
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:28 pm 
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Victor III
Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2010 10:56 pm
Posts: 506
gramophone-georg wrote:
Good grief, man, you've had that machine since Kennedy was in the White House. That alone is awesome.

Haha! He's not the only one with machines acquired during Kennedys presidency. Me too! I remember a laboratory model Diamond Disc for $25. And a nice Edison Fireside with Cygnet Horn for no more than $35. Ah those were the days. Still have those too!


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