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  • In my house, wonderful stories just hang out in corners, waiting to tell their tale. Meet "Victor, the Talking Machine", aka "The Victrola". Victor was manufactured in Camden, N.J. in 1914, and cost around $200, quite a bit of money in those days.

    Great Grandpa Martin Hager purchased Victor in1914 for his new home in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. It was kept in the dining room of that house until 1970. However, it had not worked for nearly 35 years by then. Victor was not an electrical machine - the crank you see on the right hand side was used to crank it up, the turntable would spin, and records were played - old Caruso 78's and the like, with your choice of wooden needles or metal. There was, of course, a wooden needle sharpener in the cabinet (and still is!)

    One day in the mid-1930's, the crank just stopped working. It would not engage with the mechanism to crank up the victrola. Many attempts had been made to repair it, to no avail. It just sat there, a piece of attractive, but good-for-nothing furniture, for 35 odd years, gathering dust.

    In1970, when Grandma Bridgeman moved out of the house, we were salvaging much of the left-behind furniture, filling up truckloads and hauling it across town to our big, old house in Brookline. Dad had no interest in the victrola, but older brother Brian, the mechanic of the family, wanted it. He wanted to fiddle with it and see if he could get it to work.

    The first thing Brian did when he got it home, was turn it on its side to get a good look at the innards. That's what he did. As he did this, out of the crankshaft fell one of those big, fat, pencils they used back in the day. Brian the mechanic slid that crank into the shaft, and started cranking old Victor up. It worked! They'd apparently tried everything BUT turn it on its side those many years before.

    On hearing this story, Dad's baby sister Jeannie did recall playing around with Victor as a young girl, and sticking that pencil in the shaft. It had never occurred to her that this might be why Victor no longer worked. She'd forgotten all about it, until it reappeared for Brian! Victor once again played those old '78's, with your choice of wooden or metal needles!

    Victor followed Brian to his first apartment in 1972. But, he gave it back to Dad in the late ‘70’s when it became apparent he would be an apartment dweller for awhile and did not want to move it so many times. So, Dad brought it to his home in Cherry Hill, N.J. - just 8 miles from where Victor was originally manufactured!

    Sometime around 1992 or 1993, my older brother Jim, took Victor to his home in Windsor, Connecticut. There, Victor resided until Jim moved into an apartment in East Hartford in 2009. Victor had to go into storage for awhile.

    Jim sought to find a decent home for Victor, preferably in the family. I was the only one willing and able to take him. So, in 2010, on our way to Montreal to catch a couple of hockey playoff games there, Kathy and I stopped by Jim's place in Connecticut to pick up Victor. He then made his first trip outside of the United States, where he spent 4 days in Montreal, in the back of my van. I was a bit concerned about questions at the border from Homeland Security about Victor, but surprisingly, they waved us through, both coming and going.

    We made the long journey back across the border and down to Vienna, Virginia, our home, where Victor now resides. We live in and around the area that Martin Hager spent much of his 3 + years in the Union service during the Civil War, from 1861 through 1864, as a drummer boy for Company K in the 61st Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment of the Union Army.

    That is the story of Victor and his travels. Just another story in a little corner of my home.
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