Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

Bobby Boy's Old Curiosity Shop for Sept. 2021
Continuing our musical journey into the 1960s, '70s and '80s.


Old Curiosity Shop for Sept. 2021: Thank you for the music, track 2 

More music, more often from the stacks of shellacs and the vaults of vinyl.   Bobby Boy digs back into the dusty neurons of his memory bank for more recollections of songs that have been part of my life over the years.

We Are Family by Sister Sledge was still over 18 years in the future when my status changed to married with two daughters.  Any dreams of working as a DJ or streetcar motorman were left in the past as I worked at a series of day jobs and night jobs in the electronics industry.

Engine 143 by Joan Baez LP.  Rosemary, my first wife, was somewhat of a “folkie” and we had a Joan Baez LP, one of the few records we bought in those financially challenged days.  I wasn’t a card carrying railfan back then but still had an interest in trains.  This was one of the album tracks and the story predates “The Wreck of Old 97”.  We even went over to Pasadena City College to see Ms Baez in concert in the early 1960s.

Blowin’ in the Wind by Peter Paul and Mary.  Our daughters called this “The People Record”. It was written by Bob Dylan back before his own recordings started hitting the charts.

The Trolley Song (from Meet Me in St. Louis, by Judy Garland);  my interest in railways had gone nearly dormant after the Pacific Electric tracks going by our house were abandoned.  In the spring of 1963, I was working at Space General in El Monte.  Some of my colleagues were fellow southern California natives, and one of them brought in some copies of Pacific Electric Railway history publications from Interurban Press in LA.  It was like old home week, seeing photos of the Red Cars and locomotives that went by my house in boyhood days.  One of my regrets in life has been that I saw news reports of the abandonment of the last streetcar lines in Los Angeles, but took no action to ride the cars before they went out of service.  Then one of the crew brought in a brochure from the Orange Empire Trolley Museum in Perris, about 15 miles southeast of Riverside.  In June 1963, I enrolled as an associate member, and by the end of the year was a full member.  My interest in railways revived, and trains and trolleys have been part of my life ever since.

Wreck of old 97 by Johnny Cash, White Lightning and The Race Is On by George Jones.  During the mid 1960s, I eked out my electronics biz pay by delivering the Los Angeles Times in Duarte.  The radio station that came in during the wee small hours on my old car radio played tapes of country & western records, and after a while I got to where I could expect “Wreck of Old 97 to be next on the program.  I just learned that “White Lightning” was written by J. P. Richardson, better known as the Big Bopper, and one of the casualties of the plane crash in which Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the pilot died.

San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) by Scott McKenzie.  I’ve told the story about how, after hearing about the fact that in San Francisco, streetcars were part of everyday life, and not historic relics operated at a refuge for endangered transport systems out in the boonies, I got a free ride and a place to crash when one of my first wife’s college classmates needed someone to drive a truckload of her furniture to Berkeley.  This was during the 1967 Summer of Love, although I didn’t wear any flowers or participate in any “love-ins”.

 Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin with Big Brother and Holding Co.  One evening during a subsequent visit to SF, I was hanging around the Powell Street turntable on the cable car line.  I got to talking with a young man who was a musician with the above named band, who told me about their new singer, Janis Joplin.  But I didn’t follow up and ask, “Sounds cool.  Where are you guys playing?”  It could very well have been that the gig was after I had gone home, or the cover charge was more than I could cover (having spent all my spare cash on film), but I could have missed my only chance to see Janis in person. 

On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe by Judy Garland (and many others).  Moving into 1969, the electronic development and manufacturing jobs started to dry up, so I decided to “turn pro” and go to work for the Santa Fe Railway as a licensed electronic tech (qualified to tune up radio transmitters).  Although I left the railroad business after less than two years, I amassed quite a stack of stories to tell.  My first few months were at the Los Angeles Radio Shop, then I transferred to the San Bernardino shop.

Goin’ Up the Country by Canned Heat.  Going out of town would become a normal part of my work at Edison, but my first experience with out-of-area work was when I was assigned to help one of the older techs on an overnight gig in San Diego.  The company provided lodging, and after finishing the day’s work, the senior tech took us to a go-go joint where bikini-clad young women danced to popular recordings of the day.  One of the songs was “Goin’ Up the Country” and we also heard “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, which led me to buying their Green River LP a few weeks later.

Honky Tonk Women by the Rolling Stones, Someday We’ll Be Together by Diana Ross and the Supremes and Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt.  These records were in heavy rotation on the local radio station in the San Bernardino-Colton area, and since I worked the night shift by myself, if I felt like boogie-ing around the shop I did.

Phantom 309 by Red Sovine.  One Friday night in October 1969, I decided to drive out to the Trolley Museum to spend the weekend.  It was after midnight as I drove down US 395 to Perris, and the weather was chilly and foggy.  I had the radio on KFI, and since it was close to Halloween the DJ (probably Al “Jazzbo” Collins) played this ghost story record for all the truckers out there.  I still get a chill when I listen to it.

TV Mama by Joe Turner with Elmore James, Tele-vee-shun by Stan Freberg.  My railroadin’ days came to an end in September 1970, when I left Santa Fe and hired on at Hoffman Electronics.  This company made Hoffman Easy Vision television sets in the 1950s, and they were very popular in Southern California, but by the time I went there, they were building navigational radio systems for military use.

 Delta Dawn by Helen Reddy.  August 2, 1973 was the Centennial of cable car operation in San Francisco.  I took my daughters up to The City for the celebration and even showed them the workshop where cable cars were built.  The next day, we were getting ready to head back home to Duarte and had breakfast in the coffee shop that was part of the Travelodge on Market Street.  The radio was playing “Delta Dawn”, so that song is forever linked to our excursion. 

On the way to San Francisco, Vicky, Kathy and I stopped in King City to look at a Kissel truck, made around 1920 by the Kissel Kar Co.

Truckin’ by the Grateful Dead.  This ties in with my purchase of a 1960 Ford F-100 pickup at a long-vanished Ford dealership in Glendora in 1973.  In 1976, I drove it up to SF, stopping for lunch in Castroville:

I had heard of the streetcar diner in Castroville, and finally had a vehicle that I could trust to get me to SF and back.  In many ways, it wasn’t much more modern than my dad’s 1929 Chevy.  I never got around to installing a radio (rather like a shoemaker running around barefoot), but it served me (and the Railway Museum) for over ten years.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down by Elton John.  Back in Nov. 1975, Elton John did two shows at Dodger Stadium.  My younger daughter and one of her friends, the friend’s brother (who drove) and I attended.  Emmylou Harris and Joe Walsh opened for Sir Elton; one of the most memorable moments was when he sang “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down” just as the last rays were shining on percussionist Ray Cooper at the highest part of the bandstand.

Magic Bus by The Who.  I’ve recounted the Great Dog Tired Tour in a three-part series of Old Curiosity Shop reports.

My Generation by the Who.  In 1978, I gave notice at Hoffman and hired on at Southern California Edison as a communications technician.  This was my “day job” for over 27 years, although some of those years were spent on rotating shifts.  That work assignment meant seeing the morning report from the Energy Control Center, listing significant events affecting the power system, and which generating stations had units cut back or out of service.

 Your Love Is Like Nuclear Waste by the Tuff Darts.  This obscure song, which as one might guess, I heard on the Dr. Demento Show, comes to mind when I recall working at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (yes, the acronym was SONGS). 

Take the A Train by Duke Ellington and his orchestra.  In 1981, I did another cross-country trip, this time on Amtrak, since my financial position had improved.  I went from Pasadena to New York, with a side trip to Philadelphia.  One of the sights I wanted to see in NYC was the Subway Museum, which is in an out of service subway station that’s still connected to the transit system.  To go there one can heed the words of Duke Ellington and “Take the A Train.”

Hello Mary Lou by Ricky Nelson.  Back in the spring of 1986, I started divorce proceedings to get un-hitched from my first wife (very long story).  I had visions of becoming this weird old dude, living in an old house with my record collection, books and train photos.  But a few months later, my sister-in-law suggested that I try square dancing; that there were singles clubs that have more women than men (much better ratios than used record shop and railway museums).  I joined a class, and at one instructional session, one of the ladies asked, “Do you have a partner for the next tip [set of dances]?”  When I answered “No”, she grabbed my wrist and said, “You do now!”  For a life-long nerd this was a new experience.  One of the songs that our instructor/caller would use was “Hello Mary Lou”, a long time favorite of mine.

Crimson and Clover by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  In 1987, I took June 30 and July 1 as vacation days.  The 30th was a fun day— I went over to the Country Club music room in Reseda for a noonday concert with Joan Jett.  July 1 was reserved for serious business, the final courtroom session in Pasadena that would end my first marriage.  After reviewing the terms of the dissolution, the judge brought the hammer down, and that was the last time I saw Rosemary. (This is why “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes” by Edison Lighthouse, a hit song from 1970, is NOT on my playlist)

We’ll sign off now, next month I’ll have the finale of the 1971 cross-country trip, and after that I’ll resume the music in my life saga.

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