Stereos, Records, & Cassettes
I LOVE that I had the childhood that I did – playing outside for hours on end with little to no supervision, climbing on metal playground equipment, Saturday morning cartoons (Scooby Doo, Where Are You?) reading Nancy Drew books, and listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown on the radio. I also had the benefit of growing up on a farm, so caring for the horses was among many things that I did to earn my allowance.
When I turned 12, I was allowed to work during the summer on my neighbor’s farm. I really wanted a Panasonic stereo with a turntable and cassette player (and radio, of course). So, I saved my earnings and by the end of the summer, I had enough saved to purchase the stereo. I proudly announced to my parents that I was ready to go to Best (for those of you who remember that store, you are in good company!). They said, “No.” What?!?! I was in disbelief! But it was my money and I wanted that stereo! My father said, “I want you to wait to make the purchase for 60 days. At the end of 60 days, if you still want it, I will take you to go get it.” YES! So, I waited out my 60 days with the determination and stubbornness of most pre-teens, and Dad made good on his promise. That stereo brought me a lot of joy, as I loved playing my records and cassettes – everything from The Cars, Go-Gos, Def Leppard, Prince, Run DMC - you name it. Welcome to the 80s.
Fast forward 40 years. I am at lunch with my niece, who is totally into the “retro 80s” and she says she is looking for an old turntable. She saw one at a flea market but thought they were asking too much and she didn’t buy it. Well guess who still has her Panasonic? I told her not to buy anything – I just might have something. I get home and immediately go under the basement stairs and pull out the boxes I have been lugging around with me for decades – those with the stereo and big speakers, plus all of my albums and cassettes. Next, we got the family together for a cookout and started going through the albums and cassettes, cranking up the old stereo. It sounded fantastic and my niece was thrilled – and so was I. I honestly thought it was time to start rehoming some of this stuff, I had held onto it for long enough. But now, it was my niece’s turn to enjoy my hard work and investment.
This experience has really given me pause – it was unexpected, nostalgic, and meaningful. Yes, that stereo is meaningful to me. Laugh if you will (I am), but the stereo is symbolic. And not just because it played the soundtrack to my GenX life.
It symbolizes the strong work ethic that my parents instilled in me. It symbolizes understanding the value of money and avoiding impulse buys. I took care of and coveted that stereo because I worked hard and had to exercise such patience to get it. I find myself exercising those same muscles today – saving for a comfortable retirement on the water, and not succumbing (most of the time) to the endless stream of marketing generated by AI. I often wonder if some of those principles engrained in me at a young age led me to this profession. And being in this profession has given me a great platform to help so many others, and with any luck, I will continue to do so for years to come.
It now symbolizes a legacy to my brother’s child, not only because she gets to enjoy it and the music, but she knows the story and the lessons behind it — not to mention the lesson that if you take care of something, it can last a very long time!
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