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Jun 6, 2010

Memories of Grandfather Gramophones

The photo of this old "grandfather" gramophone was used as a "memory aid" at the "Singapore Memory Project" workshop conducted by Kevin Shepherdson, writer of "The Great Genealogical Search" at National Library Building on 5 June, 2010.

This "grandfather" gramophone was placed on the table at the workshop, wrapped in a big piece of cloth and left to the end of the workshop as the main attraction. Many of the curious young participants of the "1980s and later" discussion groups were surprised in exclamation of "Wow!". This is a rare museum antique not easily found anywhere else as a collector's item. A record player also called acoustic gramophone, a device for reproducing the sounds stored on a record. This is an obsolete mechanical sound device that uses a clockwork motor and acoustic horn.

The demonstration of this over 60-years-old sound gadget was in working condition and played on a 78" vinyl record. The song was familiar and heard many years ago, but I couldn't remember the song title.

More information about "Gramphone Records" from Wikipedia "here"

The portable gramophone record player.

In the 1960s when I grew up in Bukit Ho Swee, the photo above was the portable version of the "Grandfather" gramophone. The box was in black, not blue as shown above. This "new toy" in the neighbourhood was given an used set in working condition to me by my elder brother.

I spent hours to experiment with the portable gramophone almost every day after returning home from school. It was a novelty which my childhood buddies had never seen it before. The gramophone actually played on the Chinese song records, with five or six records which came along with the player.

Strange. I did not have to operate the player with written instruction manual. I did then to use by trial and error. There were a few moving mechanical parts after my elder brother taught me to make the gramophone run. No batteries or electricity to be powered. I just had to wind it up and let it go...and listen to the songs to enjoy.

Learn how to do just about everything at eHow .

As a personal user experience, I had to rewind my memories now to share here on this incidental blog.

The gramophone was quite heavy to an 11-year old boy then. I was cautioned to handle it with care or not to damage the "new toy" as the portable gramophone was not cheap.

I treasured it with pleasure and guarded it with precious gramophone, especially the "diamond needle" which was sensitive and delicate.

Why not sit back, relax, revive memories and watch a video clip of a "Portable Gramophone" by an enthusiastic, young Japanese friend on YouTube. Thanks to "transformingArt" to share with us worth a thousand words. Enjoy!

The lever was winded carefully and there was no indicator to display whether winding was too tight, too loose or just right I use the handle to wind. There were only two simple switch items to select the "On/Stop" lever control; and play the appropriate speed for 33" or 78" record.

The learning exploration of the device was really fun. I discovered that if the gramophone is run on a slow gear without a complete winding, the sound would be like the voice of the "chipmunk" or the singer was going to die with slow breath. The needle and tiny speaker would be placed back to the holder. Switch off the record and wind it up completely again.

Hey Presto! The singer came alive after winding it up.

There were times when I had purposely loosen the record without rewinding, and our friends would then roared with laughter...request repeatedly for encore. Those were the childhood days of fun and laughters we enjoyed "nong nong ago".

Sadly, the portable gramophone was destroyed together with our home during the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961. Whatever that is left for me are the nostalgic memories...

Blog update on 7 Jun, 2010

Portable gramophone. Photo Credit: Philip Chew

I am pleased to receive the following email from my blogger friend Philip Chew of his "NOSTALGIA - My Golden Years" blogsite:

Hi James

I read your blog on the above and I thought you might want to add another old portable grandmophone picture in the attached file. We had a portable grandmophone in 1960s. Practically every week my dad would bring home a LP. Thanks for the memory.

Thank you for sharing, Philip. Much obliged.



Blogger yg said...

james, i have seen one of these grandfather's gramophone on sale at sungei road (robinson petang) before. don't know if it is still available.

June 6, 2010 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thanks for the info YG. Perhaps other flea market at Clarke Quay etc may have one by chance in good working condition. However, not worth the costly prices at collectors rate.

June 6, 2010 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger Lam Chun See said...

The newer one which plays 33 rpm record are still available in many shops in Spore. I have seen one in Beauty World Complex and one in Ghim Moh.

June 6, 2010 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thanks Chun See. Wonderful to know that there's good news for collector fans of the "grandfather" gramophones. Its not obsolete as long as the gramophone records are still available. Cheers to our special interest groups.

June 7, 2010 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Great posting sir. You must meet David Row who has over a hundred of these memorable, magic sound machines.

June 11, 2010 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Dear friend, Andy. My memories blogs are by drips and drops, as a learning amateur by practice. Paiseh.

Thank you for your encouragement to cheer me to spur on blogging. Best regards.

June 11, 2010 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

You are still a young man sir. I only started in November, 2008, met Victor Koo who came with his wife to the Orchid Country Club gig to watch our show. He also encouraged a meeting with his blogger friends at Lion City Hotel Coffee.

I didn't turn up but both of us met quietly at Novena Square. Like you, he's one of those really great baby boomers.

I must thank all the baby-boomer bloggers for the encouragement. My own friends are mostly 'suda tuah' and 'tak kuasah.'

Thank you again for visiting my blog.

June 13, 2010 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

I have a friend who has a "His Master's Voice" gramophone. The logo is that of a dog putting its ear to the horn of the gramophone.

He played it once for me to hear. It was an old scratchy Chinese song. He said that the needles wear out very quickly, i.e. after playing a few songs, you must change the needle. The needles are hard to come by as nobody makes them anymore.

June 15, 2010 at 11:21 PM  
Blogger Taiwoon said...

Hi James, I really like ur article on this and while I do not have access to the nice gramophones.. my memories of music is that of the cassette tape. I would sit beside my radio on 98.7 or 93.3fm waiting for my dedication and also the favorite songs... then record it..

I also belong to the little thoughts group and we are doing some design work on history, reinterpreted.. could u check out our site... I can be reached at Look forward to meeting u in person some day!


July 7, 2010 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger FL said...

As a young boy, I had a chance to play with this "grandfather gramophone" mentioned in your blog. It belonged to my late cousin. Almost every evening after a hard day work, he would bring out his gramophone set & recods to the open field infront of our kampong( relax & unwind). He would play those records (78 rpm) mainly, female singers from the 1950s. When the player stopped, I would help to change records for him (including changing the needles and winding the lever). Yes, you need to wind it because it is not operated with batteries at all. I remember the needles are like those tiny nails and they have to be replaced with new one after each playing ! Well, thinking back, it was really fun ! I was then about 10 or 11 years old.

August 28, 2010 at 3:25 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Hi FL,

Thanks for the nostalgic memories about the 'Grandfather Gramophones". It certainly was fun playing with the "childhood toys" which have been overtaken by other techno stuff during our days.


September 14, 2010 at 10:12 AM  
Blogger jeremiah said...

Hi sir, having read your post and the many beautiful gramophones posted. I would also love to share mine photos of portable gramophone, gramophone with horn and Edison phonograph with all of you.

December 2, 2014 at 11:27 PM  

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