The Turntable That Turned Back Time

by Bob Sparrow

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The ‘Time Machine’

I took a most unusual and sentimental journey this past week and never left my house. My trip was facilitated by my new ‘record player’. My old turntable, that I had purchased in Japan in 1968, had become inoperable many years ago and with the arrival of first, the CD and then the iPod, I never saw a need to replace it. So my 75 or so 33 1/3 LPs remained silently tucked away in a closet for many years.

There was a time not too long ago when you couldn’t even find a turntable to buy, but in recent years it was discovered that turntable fidelity equaled or surpassed many of the digital-age playing systems, so they’ve made somewhat of a comeback. A new turntable would not only allow me to once again play my old albums, but it would enable me, for the first time, to play the record collection of my departed, best friend, Don Klapperich.

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Lt. Cmdr. Klapperich

After Don was done flying F-4 Phantom jets for the Navy, he took a job in Saudi Arabia working for a U.S. company that was contracted by the Saudi Air Force to teach them how to become better combat pilots. When Don left for Saudi Arabia in the late 80s he did not want to take with him his rather large record collection, which include both LPs and 45s, so he asked if I would hold on to them for him.   I stored them with mine in the back of the closet and had not thought much about them . . . until now.

Linda, having read my letter to Santa Claus last year, got me a turntable for Christmas. I decided that I would set up an ‘entertainment center’, such as it is, in my office in the upstairs loft. I built some shelves and started the process of moving records from the downstairs closet to the newly built shelves upstairs. I took them a handful at a time, not because I couldn’t carry more, but because I wanted to reminisce as I flipped through each one as I brought them to their new home.

'Entertainment Center'

The ‘Entertainment Center’

There were many duplicates among Don’s collection and mine, as both of us were part of the ‘Folk Scare of the ‘60s’ and were thus big fans of the Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four, Bud & Travis, The Limeliters and Peter, Paul and Mary. But after that, our collections took two very divergent paths, mine was more pop, things like Neil Diamond, The Everly Brothers and Linda Ronstadt; Don’s reflected his personality: eccentric, esoteric and genius. Classical masterpieces, Broadway musicals, Classic rock, Gregorian chants, pop, flamenco guitar, bluegrass, opera – you name it, he had it. It was an unbelievable collection of eclectic music. Looking through these albums was like exploring the many facets of Don’s complex personality. He may have been the only white, 16-year old in America who owned every one of Ray Charles’ albums. As you might guess, it took me quite a while to move 200+ albums upstairs, as with each handful I had to use my new turntable to hear at least one song on each trip. Then I found it.

Radio Record

The ‘Radio Show’ Record

Wedged between the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s rendition of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Don’s personal favorite) and Janis Joplin’s Farewell Songs was a record in a plain paper sheath, no album cover, no label, no markings of any kind, just uneven grooves cut into a black vinyl disc. I was delirious with anticipation as I gingerly placed it on the turntable and eased the stylus onto the first cut.

In 1961 when Don and I were seniors in high school we, The ‘Neverly Brothers’, were asked to sing on Hugh Turner’s radio show, ‘What’s Doing in Novato’, on KTIM, which was broadcasting from Pini Hardware on Grant Avenue in downtown Novato. Don’s parents recorded the show from home by putting a small tape recorder next to their radio – which is the excuse I’m using for the way we sounded. Don’s dad then took the recording into San Francisco and had it ‘pressed’ into a record. I had only heard the record once, shortly after his dad brought it home.

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The ‘Neverly Brothers’

I remember that day like it was yesterday; it was bad enough that we were nervous about singing on the radio, but through the window in Pini Hardware we could see a most-attractive girl, Carole Garavanta, who was definitely out of our league, sitting in her parked convertible in front of the store watching us through the window and listening to us on her car radio.   She was probably waiting for us to stop singing so she could come into the store and buy some wing nuts.  We sang three songs and were interviewed by Hugh Turner, answering questions about ‘our music’ and what we planned to do after we graduated in June from Novato High School.

I sat motionless, mesmerized by the spinning record as it took me back to that time and place.  We sounded like . . . a couple of naive high school kids.   As the record came to a scratchy end and I was brought back to the present, there was a smile on my face and a tear in my eye.  It was great to hear Don’s voice again.

Just a few days away from the four-year anniversary of Don’s passing, his record collection has helped me understand a little bit more about my enigmatic best friend; and discovering our ‘radio show record’ was a gift that he probably didn’t even know he left me . . . or maybe he did.

A TRIBUTE TO MY FIRST BEST FRIEND

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

In the spring of 1957 a housing development rose like an oasis in the field across from our parent’s home.  Twenty mid-century homes were built, complete with aqua appliances and pink tile bathrooms.  I was the only girl under age 10 in our neighborhood so I anxiously awaited their completion, hoping that a girl would move in.

Leslie, at age 10

Leslie, at age 10

For months I watched new families arrive in the neighborhood, but, alas, there were no girls in sight.  Then one summer day a 1956 Studebaker station wagon pulled into the driveway at 48 Madeline Court and it was filled with children.  I dashed over to the car and saw a girl my age.  She was leaning out of the rear window so I ventured up and introduced myself to the person who would become my lifelong friend … Leslie Sherman. She seemed friendly enough, explaining that they had driven across country from New Jersey.  Then she suddenly whipped around, picked up a small bar of hotel soap and asked if I’d like to buy it for a nickel.  Would I???!!!!  I was so excited to have a potential friend move in right across the street that I would have paid a whole dollar!

Before I could fish a nickel out of my pocket, Leslie’s mom discovered her daughter’s entrepreneurial scheme. Naturally, she was mortified that the Sherman’s introduction to the neighborhood consisted of Leslie hawking free hotel soap to anyone foolish enough to buy it.  Like me.  But that first transaction, when we were both 7 years old, became the basis of our friendship.  We laughed about it in almost every conversation for the rest of our lives; I always chastised her for trying to swindle me, while she chided me for being stupid enough to actually pay for free soap.

Despite that rather shaky beginning, from that moment on we became fast friends.  Each day on our half-mile walk to school and back we shared secrets and plotted adventures.  In retrospect, we really couldn’t have been more different. She was as bright as a penny, excelling in every subject.  Let’s just say … I did not.  Social skills, however, were not her strong suit, while I was gregarious and outgoing  She liked cats, I liked dogs.  She was a Camp Fire Girl, I was a Girl Scout. My idea of a fun game was paper dolls; she liked to play in the dry creek bed with bugs. She was book smart, clear-headed and logical; I was street smart, emotional and impulsive .   But somehow, it just worked.  I think we both admired in each other the traits we didn’t possess.

We became inseparable, sharing all the silly things that young girls do.  The high point of every Saturday was getting our twenty-five cent allowance and walking a mile to the Five and Dime at Nave Shopping Center.  We would spend an hour poring over our choices of candy bars and comic books.  Even there we differed; she would read about the adventures of Superman and I would laugh with Archie and Veronica.

As pre-teens we enjoyed our annual summer trip into San Francisco with her dad.  He would take us to lunch at the Cathay House in Chinatown and then to Blum’s on Union Square for hot fudge sundaes.  Looking back, his tolerance knew no bounds, for in later years he also took us to Peter, Paul and Mary concerts in the City two years running and patiently waited for us in the car while we listened to what he referred to as “yowling”.

1967 - the year of the Vietnam discussion at Tahoe

1967 – the year of the Vietnam discussion at Tahoe

My parents took her on every family vacation to Lake Tahoe, where we made memories in sunshine and snow.  We loved it when my parents would go out to dinner and leave us at the cabin with Swanson’s TV dinners and a television set with rabbit ears that got ONE station from Reno.  We would lie in bed, watching that old TV and laugh until our stomachs hurt.

As we got into high school we accumulated more friends, but never to the exclusion of each other and her trips to Tahoe with our family continued.  In the summer of 1967 we were on the beach in Tahoe City (Leslie reading TIME and me perusing Seventeen) when two boys wandered over.  I was thrilled – until Leslie launched into a discussion of the Vietnam War, the “domino theory” and stemming the tide of communism in Southeast Asia.  Needless to say, the boys were quickly overwhelmed and made a speedy exit. I just shook my head – there was no changing her.

Later that year she suffered injuries that would plague her for the rest of her life.  She was spending the night at my house, listening to the Beatles and eating junk food.  We ran out of potato chips and TAB so she decided to walk to the corner store for more provisions .  When too much time had passed and she hadn’t returned, I ran down the block.  The street was cordoned off  and police lights were flashing.  She had been hit by a car, catapulting her into the windshield, injuring her head, back and hips.

After high school we went off to college and our paths varied.  As the years passed, we both rounded off our edges.  She became more social and I became smarter.  We both had good careers and were lucky enough to work in San Francisco and would occasionally meet for lunch. Without fail, we always contacted each other on birthdays and at Christmas.  Although we didn’t see each other often, we kept up enough to know what was going on in each other’s life.

Leslie, at our 20th high school reunion

Leslie, at our 20th high school reunion

Last August, she called on my birthday only to discover that I had chickenpox.  She burst out laughing – “How could you not have had them when I did?  We were together every day!”  She made me laugh too, just listening to her hearty guffaw. She updated me on her recent activities – she was full of plans for the future.  Then she began to reminisce about the good times of our childhood.  For some reason, she just needed to talk that day.  We spent more than an hour on the phone, laughing and remembering. I am grateful that we each ended the conversation by saying “I love you”.

Because on November 21, suddenly and without warning, she died of a massive internal infection.   I did not find out about it until last week because, true to form, the passwords to the address book on her computer were in Greek and Latin.  I have had a difficult time reconciling myself to a world without her in it. Certainly it is a dimmer place without her dry wit, keen intelligence and loving nature.  Personally, my life will now be different.  She was the touchstone to my childhood, the only person with whom I could share memories about the neighborhood, our teenage pranks and our early hopes and dreams.

I’ve made a lot of friends since that first fateful meeting in 1957, but no one ever replaced my first best friend.  Now she is gone and the space in my heart where she once resided is empty. I take solace in knowing that she is free of pain, undoubtedly somewhere hawking soap to the unsuspecting masses.  And laughing.  Definitely laughing.