“The Voice of _____ Your Man in Service”

Click to zoom...As I’ve mentioned previously, I recently purchased a USB turntable, so I can finally convert some of my more obscure (and generally, as it turns out, justifiably so) vinyl to digital. For the most part this consists of things such as the Hawaii Five-0 soundtrack (probably the most digitization-worthy piece in my collection) or the long-forgotten solo albums of members of Yes from 1975.

But as I was shuffling through my LPs tonight sorting them into three groups (definitely rip, maybe rip, and not a chance in hell), I came across a most curious item. It’s a thick cardboard mailer for a 7-inch record, sent from my grandfather to my grandmother back when he was in the army. The postmark is from Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, August 11, 1944.

The label on the record says “The Voice of _____ Your Man in Service.” (No, his name was not written in the blank; I suspect it was up to him to do that and he forgot. I do recognize his handwriting on the mailer.)

The sound quality is pretty bad. I spent the better part of an hour on multiple attempts at cleaning it up, and this was the best I could get it. Still, it’s pretty interesting to listen to.


Here’s my best shot at a transcript. Parts I can’t make out are indicated by […].

Introduction: […] the Pepsi-Cola company is proud to bring you this recording of the voice of your husband, located here at Camp Gruber in Oklahoma.

Howard: Hello sweets, hello Tommy. You didn’t expect to hear daddy’s voice […] a package too. […] we were told we could send records of our voices home free. […] I know how much you — it means to you, angel, and of course Tommy. What I would give right now to be near you and see you. How’s everything? Do you really miss me as much as I miss you? How is everything out there? Fine?

As a matter of fact, it couldn’t be better here. Oh, the […] food and kinds of […] just can’t be beaten anywhere. I wish you could see me. I’ve […] as much weight as you’d want me to carry and the muscles are comin’ right through my uniform. The days here pass like lightning and the nights here… well, all I’d need is you and the baby and everything’d be perfect. Give me the next best thing — keep writing. I can’t tell you how much your letters mean to me.

How are the folks back home? Ask them to keep in touch with me; give them all my best regards. Love and kisses. The end, your husband, Howard. So long, angel.

I’m glad to say he came home safe and sound after his time in the service. My mom was born 3 years later. I got to know my grandfather well over the years as I grew up. He left this life in 1996. It’s kind of weird to hear his voice (almost unrecognizable to me given how young he was — I was convinced it was not the right record until I caught a certain cadence in his voice that I just knew was him) in this recording. He’s been gone almost 11 years, and suddenly here’s this artifact from back when he was younger than I am now, and years before my mom was even born! He was a great person and I still think of him often.

Still got the fever…

I was perusing some of the older articles on my site today, such as the one about Bucker and Garcia. For those of you who don’t remember B&G (or, shame on you, were too young to experience them), they’re the one-hit wonders behind everyone’s favorite video game themed song, “Pac-Man Fever.”

Well, as we can see from this video, they’ve still got the fever.

It clearly is a home video, apparently shot in the home music room of either Buckner or Garcia (although I notice that the plaque on the gold record says “Presented to Mike Stewart). Our heroes are set up with a pair of microphones and appear to be performing the song. Buckner (I’ll assume top billing means he’s the lead singer) most definitely is singing live, but the backing music sounds suspiciously canned, despite Garcia’s keyboard (and miraculously chorus-like backing vocals).

I got suspicious when I realized Garcia was lip-syncing the backing vocals even though Buckner was really singing, and when the guitar solo appeared, note-for-note and bend-for-bend consistent with the original that’s permanently etched into my brain from the 8 billion times I listened to the song in 1983 alone, I finally realized what was going on…

You see, it was fairly common for singles released by Columbia Records at the time to include an instrumental version of the song on the flip side. And that is what was playing in Buckner’s spare bedroom. He was doing karaoke to his own song.


6:00 AM. The strident shriek of my alarm clock jolts me awake.

I slap the snooze button.

6:09 AM. Another shriek. Another slap.

6:18 AM. I put the clock and myself out of our collective misery and stumble to the bathroom.

Less than 1% of the water on Earth is considered “fresh,” which is to say it is not seawater. A far smaller fraction of that so-called “fresh” water is actually potable. I crank the faucet on the shower and ease myself under the steam and hot spray. Several gallons of pure, drinkable, truly fresh water mix with soap suds and a day’s worth of human sweat and oil, and swirl in a clockwise motion (the Coreolis Effect being, at this magnitude, a misunderstood non-phenomenon) down the drain. Into the sewer system. Into the next phase of their existence as part of that 99%+ of the world’s non-potable water.

I dry myself off, get dressed, fill my Thermos, and walk to the car. I turn the key, hear the engine roar. Its pistons fire, burning a highly-refined form of petroleum that was once, millions of years ago, the flesh and substance of untold species of flora and fauna. They lived their lives, died, decomposed, were covered over by the decomposed substance of their progeny, subsumed beneath the surface, compressed over the eons, turning to a mysterious black liquid that one day would become more valuable than gold to a species that did not yet exist. A substance that would generate untold wealth and wars, things that also did not yet exist.

A gallon of this refined liquid, formed over the millennia, transports me in comfort and — barring an unexpected collision with an SUV, the playground bully of the Interstate highway — safety from home to office.

8:30 AM. I turn the key, open the door, and walk to my desk. I sit down in front of a box of metal and plastic, a precision device, assembled in Mexico by laborers whose annual wages might… perhaps… allow them to afford one of these devices themselves, were it not for more basic needs such as food and shelter.

This box is already obsolete, and those laborers are hard at work even now as I sit at my desk, assembling the latest replacement units that will themselves pass with great haste into obsolescence, soon to find their permanent (for the next several tens of thousands of years, anyway) home in a landfill, next to the mounds of paper towels I used to dry my hands in the office lavatory and the styrofoam container and waxed-paper cup from my lunch today and eventually the larger box of metal and plastic as well, the one with 4 wheels, which burns 2 gallons of that refined liquid daily to transport me to this office and back home again.