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Working through a personal record collection from Gabriel’s

The $5 bag sale happens a few times a year at Gabriel’s Books. I swung by on Saturday and filled a grocery sack with a book on new testament theology by Rudolf Bultmann (what kind of nerd has a favorite theologian, in this case an “existential theologian” committed to “demythologizing” the Bible?), and a book by Frederic Wertham (now that is comic nerd excellence right there) and a stack of 45rpm records.

The records, some of them, were in an album like my grandma used to have, so you could pull ten or twenty records out from the shelf all at once, in an order that could be preserved, instead of as a stack of loose singles.

One of the binders included the Blue Skirt Waltz by Lawrence Duchow and his Red Raven Orchestra. Duchow was from Potter, Wis., although he was a national figure and I feel sure this record was collected because of national, not regional, interest. Duchow and the Red Raven Orchestra, named after his family’s Red Raven Inn in Hilbert, Wis., recorded on the RCA Victor label from 1932 to 1954.

The first folder in the collection included a number of polkas, some not yet available, at least easily, online: the Emilia Polka, the Tinker Polka, the super-cool blue vinyl “You in My Arms.” I’ve disposed of most of the records in this post (left them in a convent in central Minnesota), but I kept the blue vinyl.

The “Cuckoo Waltz” is called an “international folk dance” on YouTube. That makes me wince — this folk music was just music, in my home, where we “rolled out the barrels” regularly, having a barrel of fun.

But yeah, it was “folk music,” ethnic music, even the 7-inch disc by Spike Jones in this collection: A din skal a min skal, the Polca Svedese.

Or maybe “regional music” — what contemporary single draws attention to today’s regional practices the way the oft-recorded “Mule Train” does? A Duluthian listening to this record would have been unlikely to have seen or owned a mule.

My grandma would also have loved dreck like “Melodie d’Amour.”

Who owned this collection? Were they kids when my grandma was a kid? Younger? Older? Was a Duluth childhood like a Milwaukee childhood? Were there Swedes listening to the Swedish polka in Duluth, or were they just polka fans?

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