Hi-fi console units and 33 1/3 long-playing records became popular among music listeners in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. When I was growing up, I think that our hi-fi appeared in our living room sometime around 1960. I recall that ours was a small faux-mahogany cabinet that contained a record player and radio. There was an auxiliary speaker cabinet in our basement that was connected by speaker wires to the main console.
My parents enjoyed listening to music, particularly at Christmas. My father was always alert for bargains, and scoured the newspaper advertising each day in his quest. His two interests – Christmas tunes and low prices – were piqued by an advertisement in the December 6, 1961 Chattanooga News-Free Press. The local Goodyear stores were offering “The Great Songs of Christmas” for only $1.00 to customers who stopped by a tire and auto center.
Goodyear had stores downtown at 135 Market Street and in the Rossville Shopping Center, which included some of our favorite stores such as the S.S. Kresge and Miller Brothers. One of the two Goodyears, probably Rossville, gained a sale that year, and the Christmas album became part of our annual celebration. That record and others were played over and over each year.
The album’s individual tracks were recorded by several popular orchestra leaders and soloists of the day. The first “Great Songs” album wasn’t labeled “volume one,” since I suppose that the popularity of the first couldn’t be predicted.
Leonard Bernstein directed the New York Philharmonic in “Unto Us a Child is Born” from Handel’s “Messiah.” Frank DeVol and the Rainbow Strings performed a medley of “Ring Christmas Bells,” “The First Noel,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Folk singer Burl Ives sang the tune that I always hoped would never acquire a scratch that would cause repetition: “Twelve Days of Christmas.” My favorite from the album is the instrumental “Sleigh Ride” by Andre Kostelanetz and His Orchestra.”
In 1961, some of the record-playing equipment on the market was a Westinghouse stereo with AM/FM for $199.95 and a Motorola unit for $149.95 at Cherokee (Boulevard) Radio and TV. Cooper Dyer Furniture down on Main Street also carried Motorola.
My father also responded to Goodyear advertisements in 1962 and 1963 for volumes 2 and 3 of “Great Songs.” The albums again featured popular orchestras and soloists, including Julie Andrews and Nelson Eddy.
Firestone also offered a collectible Christmas album series which showed up a couple of times at our home. Like Goodyear, the records were $1.00 each; limit one per customer. The company had two stores - downtown at 2nd and Market, and Eastgate - in 1966, when volume 5 of the Firestone series joined our Christmas music. The album exclusively featured Julie Andrews, who was a ubiquitous star of the 1960’s for “Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins.”
The visits to Goodyear and to Firestone weren’t all about Christmas music. I recall that on one visit, my father was also in the market for tires. The salesman pitched the idea that the width of whitewalls changed with each change in U.S. president. He showed us an older, wider Kennedy-era whitewall compared to the narrower Johnson tire. Even at my grammar school age at the time, I didn’t buy it, since I knew that styles change quite often regardless who is president.
My parents’ Christmas record collection has been archived until recently. Christmas has a nostalgia dimension, doesn’t it? We often search items of family history which have been preserved.
I decided to play some of the old Goodyear and Firestone albums recently. I didn’t get trapped in the attic, though, like Clark Griswold of “Christmas Vacation” watching his old family home movies. The records were easier to access than Mr. Griswold’s movies.
I was amazed that the LP’s weren’t more scratched, given how many times that they were played. They brought back pleasant memories of Christmas when I was growing up, and may have been a musical influence on me at a young age.
If you have memories of the Goodyear or Firestone Christmas album series, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merry Christmas to all, and may your records of “Twelve Days of Christmas” never be scratched!
The advertisement from the 12-6-1961 News-Free Press that started the collection