Listening to My Childhood

To go along with this week’s assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers, I have given myself an assignment of my own – I will not write about Mister Rogers.

This week’s League topic:

What is the one item in your collection you would save if your house was being swallowed by a sink hole, carried off in a tornado, and then swept away in a flood.

Truth be told, the first thing that popped in my mind after reading this topic was the letter I received from Mister Rogers which hangs among all sorts of other treasures on my wall…but I’m not writing about Mister Rogers.

Besides, when it comes down to it, that’s just a piece of paper sent from a guy I never actually met. Although cool, it’s not really something I couldn’t live without.

The one irreplaceable item in my home (aside from my family, of course) is a single disc. Luckily, on other discs nearby are backed-up copies of 40 years worth of family photos which I'd rescue at the same time, but this one particular disc is dedicated to something I consider to be just as valuable.

I’ve mentioned before that my brother and I had a tape recorder when we were kids and we ran that thing constantly. We recorded everything from ourselves playing Atari to hours upon hours of television and radio broadcasts. A few summers ago, I spent about a week digitizing these cassette tapes and detailing the contents of each one along the way. The digital copies of these tapes are all stored on this disc. Having the ability to go back and look at pictures of my childhood is one thing, but to be able to actually hear some of those times is another. Just as there is no way to replace photographs, there is no way to replace these recordings.

With that in mind, indulge me if you will and I'll share a handful of the countless pop-culture-ish clips from the hours upon hours of these tapes (you'll want to give your speakers a little extra volume).
  • The title of this blog and its URL actually come from these tapes. The first tape my brother and I ever recorded we called "Matt and Tim Funny" -- hence the URL. The title -- Flashlights Are Something To Eat -- also comes from this same tape.
We loved to record commercials. We'd prop the recorder up next to the speaker coming from the front of the cabinet-style TV and hit record. Some highlights...
Of course, recording commercials also meant recording TV shows.
Living outside the reach of cable television, we spent a lot of time watching KPLR out of St. Louis.
Then there's the radio. How could we have recorded the TV and not the radio, too? In fact, I would estimate that probably half of the tapes we recorded were afternoon and evening pop radio broadcasts. Among the countless hours of music we recorded, we managed to catch a few gems.
Then there was Atari. Boy oh boy, did we love our Atari!
Quite often though, we recorded ourselves actually playing Atari.
But most important were the times that we recorded ourselves just playing. Not playing Atari but just playing.
  • As you can tell from this clip, my brother and I didn't always get along perfectly.
But in the times that we did, we put our creativity to good use.
  • Here's a clip from an interview my brother did with Knight Rider's KITT (cleverly using a sound clip from NBC's Laugh Busters)
  • And another with the X-Men's Wolverine (played by yours truly). Please be kind. I have no idea if Wolverine was ever in Omega Flight (or what Omega Flight even is for that matter). I was a baseball card kid.
But one of my favorite clips on all of these tapes is an hour-long segment of several of the kids in my neighborhood just playing in the backyard. My brother must have popped some batteries in the recorder and just let it run. This clip from that particular tape made me smile as my brother and a friend one-up each other on who stayed up later the night before. He also shares the reason why he didn't watch Knight Rider last night.

So take my letter from Mister Rogers. Take my music, my books, and all of the other junk I've collected over the years.

Just save the tapes.


the sandwich life said...

ohhhhhh.....this is incredible....yes, just save the tapes!

Brian (Cool & Collected) said...

What a fantastic time capsule you have. I make it a point to take video of my kids when they're doing nothing in particular, in hopes that some day, they will appreciate it as much as you appreciate the tapes you made.

leftylimbo said...

Too awesome for words. I haven't even listened to the tracks yet, but I'm sure they're great. My brothers, cousins and I used to make a lot of funny home videos in the '80s with my dad's VHS cam setup. I have yet to transfer them to DVD, but the best tape we made is nowhere to be found. Totally hurts our hearts to think that it's gone, but somehow a part of me thinks it's just buried somewhere underneath some other junk.

Dood, by the way: If you're going to digitize any of this media, BE SURE you invest in the absolute best DVD media available (something like "Archival Gold" which is supposed to have a 100-year lifespan? ...believe me, the cheap CDs and DVDs only last about 10 years. I know this for a fact, because one of the CDs I archived a bunch of art and blog stuff on from 2001 is totally unreadable, which sucks BIGtime.

So cool. Thanks for sharing this priceless footage. Above all the stuff I've collected, I'd still hold on to my old photographs, videos and recordings over anything, too. I just approached the league question from a collector/geek point of view. ;)

TL said...

leftylimbo -- Thanks for the advice on the discs. Truth be told, I've got a few copies of that disc just in case. I should probably play it a little safer with some higher quality media though. If all else fails, the original tapes are still around.

Shawn Robare said...

I don't have the words for how cool this is. You and your brother were pretty darn forward thinking, even if it was only by accident. What I would give to crack open the sounds of my youth.

I know when my sister passed I scoured her house for any sign of audio or video. I found a mini tape recorder with about a minute and a half of her attempting to "talk" to a ghost she thought was in the room. That minute and a half is a pretty darn precious gift.

TL said...

Shawn -- I understand. My mother passed away about three years ago and her voice shows up on those tapes quite often.

Paxton said...

Wow, Tim. That's amazing. My family also has a series of tapes with voices from my brother and me. I think I even have some tapes from when my brother and I would play radio DJ. Digitizing them is a great idea. I'll have to do that.

Great post.

TL said...

Pax -- there are radio shows aplenty on our tapes as well. I'd definitely recommend digitizing your tapes if for no other reason, it's an excuse to go back and listen to them all!

Ashley said...

That is awesome! My brother and I did a lot things like that, and I think I still have a few of them laying around. I need to get those digitized myself!