2014-02-27 / Views

From the Braver Institute

For as long as I can remember music has been important to me. Exactly how important has waxed and waned over the years, when I was child it was something fun and that I liked, but wasn’t as important as toys; at present I enjoy music immensely but it isn’t as important as golf. Somewhere in between these ages, primarily in my teenage and young adult years, there was precious little that was more important.

So important was the need to have music everywhere I went that I built my own boombox (I couldn’t afford to buy a real one) out of a cassette player and an old portable phonograph case with built-in speakers.

The advent of the Sony Walkman saved the rest of my world from having to listen to the awful sound quality of my portable music playing abomination.

One place in particular demanded music, and that was the beach. In years past a transistor radio sufficed in such a location but my friends and I were refining our taste in music as young adults and the radio stations in the Upper Peninsula were limited to playing the top 40 music of any particular genre. Album oriented rock stations did not exist within the range of our antennas. The cassette tape spared our ears from suffering at the hands of Casey Kasem.

By this time I owned a real boom box, but it required ten D-cell batteries which cost roughly half a year’s wages to replace and playing cassettes killed the batteries rather quickly. It was easy to burn up a set of batteries in a day and we were at the beach every day during the summer.

The obvious solution would be to play cassettes in the tape decks in our cars, which worked wonderfully when we were in close proximity, but the parking lot we used at Lake Superior was high above the beach and fifty feet or more away. In order to hear our music we would have had to turn it up so loud that everyone on the beach would be forced to listen to it. We didn’t need that kind of attention.

I had a solution.

I bought some two-by-twelve lumber and some plywood and built indestructible speaker cabinets. I fitted the cabinets with 12-inch woofers, a crossover and a mid-range speaker. (I didn’t have enough money for tweeters and three-way cross-overs, for you audiophiles out there). I covered the speakers with half-inch hardware cloth (the metal wire mesh that looks like gridwork) and attached fifty feet of wire to each speaker. The speaker wire was attached to switches in the trunk of my car which allowed me to switch between the speakers in the rear deck or my awesome, new beach party speakers, which stored nicely in the trunk of my old Skylark.

I would back my car up to the edge of the cliff over the beach (these days there is a fence to prevent doing such things) and drag the speakers down to the flat of the beach.

We could listen to our music all day long without annoying everyone else within a mile radius. Of course I could have turned it up really loud but that was something I saved for parties out in the woods.

If were that age now I suspect my friends and I would be listening to our music of choice privately on our iPods or other electronic gizmos and that makes me think we would have missed out on a lot of great music. Back then we mostly listened to entire albums or sides of albums in the order they were recorded. It was too much of a hassle to skip around playing only your favorites from an album. Listening to the whole thing allowed songs to have a chance to grow on you. I am getting sidetracked and this lament is a topic for another time.

I have no idea what ever became of those speakers. It makes me happy to think that they may still exist in someone’s trunk out there somewhere.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by email at waye@braverinstitute.com. Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com.

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