The Sound of Vintage

 

 

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I’m loving that it is Fall again. I’ve decorated my house for Halloween, though ours will be a quiet one this year, with festive food and a scary movie, just for us. 

Most of my Halloween decor is vintage or vintage-inspired, like much of my decor. Adding a vintage vibe reminds me of times when the pace of life was slower and things were just simpler. It keeps the atmosphere at home relaxing- something that is super-important, even more so now with the stressful world we are currently in. 

Whether it is Halloween decor, everyday decor, furniture, dishes or clothes, “vintage” has a charm all its own, missing from many “modern” things. From just a bit of vintage here and there, to all-out vintage (like Gidget, our vintage camper), there is a feeling of familiarity, comfort, and whimsy that comes from old things. I like to complete that vibe with music. 

When I was little, we had a honeycomb skeleton by Hallmark in our window each Halloween. My best friend gave me this one, circa 1970 something recently. It was never put together before, and now sits on my bread box for Halloween.

When I was little, we had a honeycomb skeleton by Hallmark in our window each Halloween. My best friend gave me this one, circa 1970-something, recently. It was never put together before, and now sits on my bread box for Halloween.

The Hoosier cabinet has a spooky, vintage touch for October.

The Hoosier cabinet has a spooky, vintage touch for October.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved “old” music, but my most favorite genre is Big Band and Swing, 1940’s music.

I love my 40’s oldies! I also think it’s fabulous that there are some modern alternative-genre musicians nowadays that are incorporating and “mixing” in some of the great music from the 40’s in their songs, appealing to Generation Z, like my daughter.

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I have a few old records, found here and there for virtually nothing ($1.00 at Goodwill), and there’s nothing like that raspy sound of a needle spinning on vinyl, but for background music on a busy day bustling about, remembering to change the record when one is at the end is too much of a task. 

Back in the 90’s, I loved the “replay” feature of cd’s and could listen to my favorites all day. Nowadays, modern “Alexa” is my go-to when it comes to music. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Cab Callaway…OH MY! I never get tired of their crooning, and tunes by big band leaders Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw just make me happy! Streaming music is one of the best things of modern life. I shut off the news and turn on the ‘40’s (sometimes it’s the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, but mostly – it’s the 40’s). The only thing about streaming music is that I don’t think the “modern” devices look right with the rest of my “vintage” aesthetic. 

One day several years ago, I saw a very old, cabinet-type radio in an antique shop. Made of wood, it stood about three or four feet tall, and had been redone. It’s tubes were working, and an AM station playing oldies with that far-away sound only a tube or a transistor radio can make, wafted throughout the store. The old, dark wood and bakelite knobs on that piece really spoke to me, but it was way out of my price range.

Not long ago, we saw another old radio, a Philco Model “65 Lowboy”, circa 1929, similar to the one I had seen before (just older), offered for practically nothing online on a tag sale site. It had belonged to the seller’s grandfather, but wasn’t something she had space for. It was covered in a layer of dust, heavy and not something anyone should ever dare plug in! To me, it had the potential for beauty…one man’s trash is another one’s treasure! 

The model 65 lowboy sold for around $120 back in 1929 - an expensive model!

The model 65 lowboy sold for around $120 back in 1929 – an expensive model!

We brought it home, and after vacating a dozen spiders, cleaning off decades of grime, repairing nicks in the finish, and giving it several coats of polish, it looked as close as it could have “back in the day”-  without a total rehaul. It’s just a “shell” as the tubes probably stopped working long ago, but the art deco shell design of the front is so beautiful.

The fancy wood, complimented with shell design in the speaker front is so Art Deco! If you found one without the original fabric, you could replace it with something colorful, or with lace.

The fancy wood, complimented with shell design in the speaker front is so Art Deco! If you found one without the original fabric, you could replace it with something colorful, or with lace.

 

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It now sits in my favorite cozy, reading corner. I love that it is a Philco brand – my grandfather always had a Philco radio playing in the background when I was little. His picture graces the top.

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Grampa’s photo as young man in the 40’s sits atop the cabinet. In the room where we put our Christmas tree, can’t you imagine how cozy it will be with twinkling lights, and Bing Crosby’s voice coming through?

Grampa’s photo as young man in the 40’s sits atop the cabinet. In the room where we put our Christmas tree, can’t you imagine how cozy it will be with twinkling lights, and Bing Crosby’s voice coming through?

Look at those scary, rotted wires! The radio inside may be gone, but outside is still stunning, and Alexa is hidden inside!

Look at those scary, rotted wires! The radio inside may be gone, but outside is still stunning, and Alexa is hidden inside!

The best part? The “Alexa”speaker fits perfectly, hidden right inside! With the sound wafting through the speaker screen on front, my 40’s music has the illusion of coming out of the radio, sounding just like it would back in the day. I love reading in my cozy chair, listening to a little Ella Fitzgerald, unaware that it is 2020 if for just a bit…

Speaking of Ella Fitzgerald, have you seen the new Ella Fitzgerald Barbie from the Inspiring Women dolls by Mattel? Ella is known as the First Lady of Song and the Queen of Jazz, and I love that there is now a doll in her honor! Her singing career spanned over six decades, and no one has ever been able to “scat” like she did! My favorite Ella Fitzgerald songs are “Dream A Little Dream” (with Louis Armstrong) and Ella’s “I Want to Be Happy”, (which is a HAPPY tune!)! 

In later eras, radios became smaller, tabletop models. The versions made of colorful plastic from the 50’s and 60’s are my favorites. The charming angular cases and pretty colors they often came in remind me of stylish old cars from the ‘50s. Perfect for “hiding” the small Amazon “Echo Dot” behind; again, they do not have to be working to give that look of decorative vintage charm. I’ve also seen artists take out the “guts” of an old, non-working radio and make it into diorama at the holidays. Cute idea- but for me, I like to leave things as close to original as possible. I scored a box of old radios from a local gentleman who knows how much I love old things. None of the radios pick up anything more than static, but two have clocks that keep perfect time! The best part is when the little Alexa speaker plays “old” music from behind, giving the illusion that the radios are actually playing! Instant charm and atmosphere!

This gold and cream RCA keeps time, but the music coming from it in the kitchen is the Amazon Alexa hiding behind it...

This gold and cream RCA keeps time, but the music coming from it in the kitchen is the Amazon Alexa hiding behind it…

I love the big dial on this “Dual Speaker” General Electric, which goes with my ecletic yet femine decor  on this table.

I love the big dial on this “Dual Speaker” General Electric, which goes with my ecletic yet femine decor on this table.

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This one, with another big dial, is right at home in my 1966 camper.

This one, with another big dial, is right at home in my 1966 camper.

This dark wood tabletop model from the 60’s looks just like the one my grandparents had on their roll top desk.

This dark wood tabletop Realistic brand model from the 60’s looks just like the one my grandparents had on their roll top desk. Not as much whimsy to it, but still has cool factor, and was “fancy’”  for it’s time with AM AND FM. 

I attached the speaker to the back of the radio with a little double-sided Gorilla tape, which is strong but won’t be hard to remove if I need to.

I attached the speaker to the back of the radio with a little double-sided Gorilla tape, which is strong but won’t be hard to remove if I need to.

The clock on this pearly Zenith still works, and is easy to see on the nightstand in the middle of the night.

The clock on this pearly Zenith still works, and is easy to see on the nightstand in the middle of the night.

There are old radios hiding in barns and garages, just waiting to be cleaned up and displayed. For wooden ones, like the big one in my reading corner, I have seen quite a few offered very inexpensively, or even for free. To clean up a barn find, carefully wipe the dust and grime with a soft cloth, being very careful as old finishes can flake from years of neglect and extreme temperature changes. For nicks, use a “crayon” type filler meant to hide scratches, and polish with an oil-based, non-citrus spray (I like Scott’s Liquid Gold). For the plastic type cases, a very wrung out, ever-so-slightly damp cloth on the outside can clean off in-a-garage-for-decades-grime. 

I find this works well on antique wood.

I find this works well on antique wood.

Right now, I am drinking coffee in my kitchen, listening to Benny Goodman on a “Pandora” streaming station, wondering how many times the radio in my kitchen once played that very tune, and who was there, listening.

Everyone in the forties, including all the great singers, went through really tough times in that era. Our grandparents and parents got through it. We will, too. Hang in there, farmgirls! Decorate for Halloween, watch a campy old Halloween movie, listen to some 40’s music, and stay cozy!

Odin says, “Not again, Mama!” He was clearly displeased with our choice of spook movie last weekend!

(Odin says, “Not again, Mama!” He was clearly displeased with our choice of spooky movie last weekend)!

Remember to drop a line or two below to let me know you stopped by!

Until Next Time (and as Billie Holiday would say, “I’ll Be Seeing You” – next month), 

Farmgirl Hugs (still virtual and over six feet apart), 

Nicole

 

 

Leave a comment 48 Comments

  1. Bonnie says:

    I appreciate seeing your vintage home decor! Reminds me of my mom and gramma’s homes. Thank you!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Bonnie, thank you! I am totally nostagic for the times “before my time”. I always say it is 2020 out THERE, but INSIDE it is 19-something! Thanks for reading and commenting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Heidi says:

    Love the vintage radios and Benny Goodman is a particular favorite of mine as well.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Heidi,thank you! Benny Goodman’s music is one of my favorites (and great to listen to while knitting)! Also, thanks again for being my farmgirl friend for TEN years! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Beverly Lampley says:

    Your home is wonderful and your words very descriptive. I can hear the music. Like you , I like to be surrounded by things that remind me of my family and our history. Happy Halloween! Farmgirl Hugs from high desert, red rock Western Colorado!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Beverly, thank you so very much! I am listening to the forties right at this moment! You are so right about being surrounded by things that remind us of family and our history. I worry that the younger generations are missing out on that. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole PS I have never been to your area, but I hear that Colorado is breathtaking! Enjoy Fall!

  4. Debbie Fischer says:

    Oh Nicole, what a sweet doggie
    I love all your Halloween and Vintage treasures, I can feel the warmth of your home. All the 40’s music are oldies but goodies and they never go out of style.
    Beautiful Radio Cabinet and it looks perfect in your special place.
    Enjoy Fall and Happy Halloween

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Debbie, thank you so much! Isn’t Odin sweet? He is a big boy! He LOVES watching tv, especially cartoons! He was so funny when we took this picture. It was like he was sulking, and he did not look at the tv at all the whole time the scary movie was on, and sighed several times. I swear, sometimes I think he is human in a fur suit. Happy Halloween! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Lisa Holderman says:

    Nicole, we must be kindred spirits. I would do all vintage if my husband liked it. Alas, I don’t have a lot but love what I have. My husband says I was born with an old soul and I think he is right. Ella is a favorite. I think my favorites are The Very Thought of You and I’m Old Fashioned. I have many records from grandparents that had bought many collections from the Readers Digest record Catalog. One of my favorite things is the original Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band record collection. Do you like the Rod Stewart Song Book collection? I have them all and LOVE them.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Lisa, Kindred spirits, we must be! Like you, I have always been told that I am an “old soul”. I always say I was “born in the wrong generation”! I love both songs you mention, by Ella. I really can’t think of one of her songs I don’t like, to be honest! I also love the Rod Stewart Song Book collection. We were so lucky – over twenty years ago, friends treated us to his concert! His voice is so distinct and beautiful. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Good 0ne, Nicole. I remember those old radios and clocks when I was a child and young woman. How many Alexas do you have or do you move it around? My mother in law sang witha couple of the big bands in the forties. In Philadelphia and I think one was Benny Goodman. What foom is your favorite reading room?
    Love,
    Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mama, glad you liked the post. That chair is in the living room – you used to sit with Audrey in it and read to her. Where the Christmas tree goes. The big radio Alexa stays put. The smaller ones get moved around. I can’t believe your mother-in-law sang with Benny Goodman! WOW!!! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Marlene Capelle says:

    If only everyone still dressed like the 40’s and had the grace. I’m not too keen on the music but the fashions were fabulous (as well as the styles of those radios))

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Oh Marlene, I agree! I actually have a few outfits that are like the 40’s, and two dresses that are actually FROM the forties! I only wear them for special occasions and have to be so careful so that the fabric doesn’t fray. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. Donna Kozak says:

    We also have a vintage radio that someone gave us years ago…it doesn’t work but it reminds us of our youth – we had it refinished and it’s just nice to look at in my husband’s office ! My favourite since I was a teenager was always Billie Holiday (when everyone else loved Elvis!!)…and now I think it’s time to hear her singing “Fine & Mellow” – and it is nice to know that the younger generation is starting to appreciate music from the 40’s, especially the Big Band Era. P.S.: I also love Ella & Louis singing “Dream a Little Dream”! Love all your vintage treasures.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Donna, I love “Fine and Mellow” – can’t you just imagine Billie, singing in a speakeasy, singing that tune? There is a restaurant here in CT that has a room decorated with all kinds of antique, non-working radios. I always loved sitting in that room – you are so right – the old radios are just so charming to look at. Thanks for sharing today! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. Donna says:

    I have my grandma’s old zenith brown plastic of some sort..her first radio was repossessed during the depression. This radio was always her prized possession.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Donna, what a treasure you have in your grandma’s radio, especially when it was something so precious to her. Thank you for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  10. Jutta says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your vintage radio tour and your decorations are very fun.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Jutta, thank you so much! I am glad you enjoyed the blog! Happy Fall and Halloween! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. What a perfect post! Kindred spirits…I love music from the 1940’s and the old radio shows as well. With our satellite radio I can listen anytime…something about that time period just makes me happy. And what a great idea tucking Alexa away where it can’t be seen, but will seem like the old radio works…and, by the way, it’s beautiful, what a great find! You inspired me…an vintage radio came with our 1963 Yellowstone camper, but I put it away because it didn’t work…I’ll hide a little bluetooth speaker behind it so it “works” as well; thanks for the inspiration! Mary

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mary, I bet your camper is adorable!!!! I love that I can dial up whatever music I want to play in there. I did an “Alexa” search for music from 1966 (my camper’s year), and created a “Camper Playlist” for period music! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

      • Nicole…a camper playlist is such a great idea! Inspired again! I’m off to search out the top hits from 1963. Today I’ll set the radio up in the camper and take a little R&R in her from farm chores (even if she’s only in the backyard now). These beautiful fall days will pass all too quickly and I want to enjoy every one. Thanks again, Mary

        • Nicole Christensen says:

          Mary, you are so welcome! I love escaping to Gidget for a bit. We keep her set up all year except in deep winter. Enjoy! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  12. Carolann Harris says:

    Hi Nicole,
    The Philco radio company was based here in Philadelphia; it is interesting to see that vintage model! Your decorations are charming and I send a socially distanced virtual pat to your dear dog.
    I like 40’s music too( along with rock and roll). Radio station WRTI here in Philadelphia plays big band jazz Sunday evenings. I wonder if you know of the contemporary group named Pink Martini? They are not exactly like the 40’s but they are an orchestra with some of that influence and they perform songs in many languages. You might find them interesting. Thank you for the great photos of your home!
    Best wishes, take care,
    Carolann Harris

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Carolann, thank you for the history on Philco…I didn’t realize they were from there. I used to live for a short time outside of Philadelphia and worked in the city. I used to love to cross over to Lambertville and go antiquing there! Whenever I see a “Philco”, I think of my grandpa. After we read your comment, my daughter and I listened to Pink Martini on Alexa last night – we both LOVED them! Thank you for the recommendation! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  13. Marilyn says:

    We love vintage. We have our house decorated with mostly vintage Halloween decorations. They just do not make decorations like the vintage ones any more. Your records are great. We also have a lot of oldies records. Thank You for sharing your vintage things.
    HAPPY HALLOWEEN
    Joan,Marion and Marilyn

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Marilyn, how true- the vintage Halloween decorations just had so much more charm than the gory, scary ones that we see so much of nowadays. Don’t they make you so happy to see them? Some of mine are not vintage, just vintage-inspired. So much charm in the “old things”. Enjoy your Halloween! Happy Fall! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  14. Denise says:

    Once again, I enjoyed hearing about your latest vintage find!

  15. Connie says:

    I love your blog! I adore the 1940’s music! Your home is so cozy! I love your vintage treasures!!!

  16. Amy Holmes says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful decorating. It is all beautiful. Love how you put Alexa in the old radio. That is brilliant!

  17. Barbara Campbell says:

    Lately, I have been listening to some of the music my mother used to listen to, like Andy Williams, Rosemary Clooney, etc. I have also thrown in some of the old/classic jazz. I hav some of my father’s radios that I had no idea what to do with them. Thank you the ideas!! Now I can enjoy the radios and my music.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Barbara, How nice! Glad you enjoyed the blog. I love Andy Williams’ Christmas music, and Rosemary Clooney was so talented! Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  18. Joann Tilney-Hughson says:

    Nicole, I loved absolutely everything about this post-the radios, the music, the dance and the pics are fabulous. Thank you for this post and for letting me go to the 1940s again. I love so many songs from that era but Bugle Boy of Company B is probably my favorite and a far cry from the “music” of today. Love Halloween too. I don’t have many decorations now but I have tons of happy memories. Hugs to you too.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Joey! Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed this post. I forgot to mention the Andrews Sisters! Their music was certainly a big part of that era! Love them, too. Happy Halloween, and chat soon, my friend! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  19. Donna says:

    I’m a New Englander and fall is my favorite season. Loved looking at all your great items. They brought back a lot of fun memories of my grandmother’s home. Great tips that will be put into good use.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Donna, thank you! Isn’t New England so beautiful and cozy this time of year? I feel like we are right in a Hallmark movie sometimes (and so many are filmed here)! Happy Fall, and stay cozy! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  20. Rachel says:

    This just struck the right “chord” for me today. We live in a house from the 1960s and I occasionally wonder about the people who used to live here. We’re only the second owners of the house and I love filling our home with antique finds. I can’t wait until this is over and I can go back out to find antiques again.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Rachel, Love this comment! My house isn’t “vintage” really…built in the 90’s but I love to make it “look” vintage. I too, wonder about the lives of the people who owned things before me. And my camper – ooooooh if those walls could talk! I hear ya on wanting to go out and find “treasure” again. Sadly, so many of the cute thrift and antique shops that we had in Connecticut up until March are not coming back. Fingers crossed we get this thing over with in 2021! Until then, stay cozy! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  21. Trudie Turner says:

    Love your decorating style and hints for those of us ‘still’ trying to find a style. (I prefer British cozy & my husband thinks the 50’s are the latest & best!) Wonderful idea about the Alexa and using the speakers in old radios. I love 40’s music myself. Love to read your column!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Trudie, thank you so much! It makes me so happy to hear that you like the blog! British cozy is a wonderful style, too. Mixes well with the 50’s. That’s my best advice: mix up what you love. Make your space just that – YOUR space. Surround yourself with things you love.Thanks again for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  22. Joanne Allen says:

    Thanks Nicole, I am a big 1930s and 1940s fan too. Our home is decorated with that era very much present. We even have a spare room nicknamed, “The War Room” because it is done up entirely with actual items (and some replicas) from World War 2 Britain and Canada ( with a little U.S thrown in).I loved your blog this month, thanks so much. Stay safe and healthy and keep enjoying vintage. From Joanne in Calgary Canada..

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Joanne! It is always so much fun to hear from other collectors and those who love to preserve the past. Your “War Room” sounds so cool and interesting! My grandmother used to spend the night at our house when I was little and she would tell me stories about that time, from when my mama was little. Maybe that is why I like that era, and also the charm – everything had charm back then. Things were also made so well back then. Thanks for sharing with me today! Happy Fall! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

      • Joanne Allen says:

        Hello again Nicole, it was great to hear from you! Like you I heard many stories of World War 2 and I just know that’s why I LOVE that era. I agree with you that absolutely everything had more charm. Through the years everyone knew that if it’s vintage 1930s or 1940s it would be a hit as a gift for me. One day my boss came rushing in excitedly to give me a gift he had picked up at a garage sale for our War Room. It was a 1940s gas mask that was distributed here in our city at the beginning of the war. My co workers didn’t know about my collection and had some very strange expressions on their faces watching me be so excited over it. Thanks again for your wonderful 1940s post, I too love the music. Moonlight Serenade always gives me goosebumps!! Again lovely chatting with you Nicole.

        • Nicole Christensen says:

          Hi Joanne! That is an awesome story! Hilarious – thinking about the coworkers around you! I hear ya…I have been gifted so many neat things from that era from my friends who know how much I adore vintage. Makes those pieces that much special, as well! Thanks again for visiting the blog! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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