2003   OCTOBER 9   #282

4th Grade Class, 1963, Northfield, Illinois

In 1952, my father bought our family's first reel to reel machine, a giant of a contraption called a Concertone. It functioned well for only a few years, and was barely workable by the time I came around in 1960.

The machine that eventually replaced the Concertone couldn't have been less similar. It was a Revere, a tiny portable model, about 18" by 12" by 10", and we got it in the summer of 1963. Given that reel to reel machines were still somewhat exotic at that time, my older brother took the machine to school one day, the following fall, and shared it with his fourth grade class. What you'll hear today is the tape made in that classroom that day. The exact date is unknown, but it has to be within a few days, or weeks at most, of exactly 40 years ago.

The tape begins with the entire fourth grade classroom, reciting the pledge of allegiance (although the beginning of this has been lost, over the years, as this is the first thing on this reel of tape). Much of the remainer of the tape is made up of the students being allowed to speak, one at a time, into the microphone, following which is an impromptu performance of a recent hit song.

(Photo of 4th grade class, courtesy of Bob Purse)

Among the things on this tape which I particularly enjoy are the following:

The pledge itself, followed by the instructions to the class afterwards, by the leader.

The kid who recites the parody of Mary Had a Little Lamb, which ends with a joke that's a little hard to hear on the tape: "Every time it went into the closet, it did a little deposit".

The quotes from pop culture, including quotes from the then-current Shell Gasoline Platformate ad, and from Vaughn Meader's "The First Family" (which would become virtually unmentionable just a few weeks later).

The way the group seems to be singing about three versions of "On Top of Old Smokey", before settling on the then-recent hit parody version.

I also get a kick out of the teacher's complete lack of knowledge of the culture (especially kid-culture) of the day. For example, she has no idea what platformate is, or where they learned "On Top of Spaghetti".

This was this particular teacher's first year at our grade school. I had the same teacher for fourth grade, six years after this tape was made. She seemed a bit burned out by then, and it turned out to be her last year teaching at this school.

- Bob Purse

TT-7:45 / 7.1MB / 128kbps 44.1khz