On my way back from a recent conference in Boise, I stopped at a little thrift store in Uniontown, WA, to stretch my legs and look around. A plastic bag labeled "Old Record from Military Man to Family" caught my eye. I bought it.
The back of the disc features "Authentic scenes of Gem Blade reporters making thousands of free voice-o-graphs throughout the nation."
The Museum of Obsolete Media tells us that Voice-O-Graphs was "a recording system about the size of a telephone box that allowed people to record their voices directly onto a phonograph disc." Developed just before the Second World War broke out, companies like Gem Razor hit on the idea of providing free recording booths at military training centers, along with "reporters" to help soldiers use the unfamiliar technology. It is not clear how many soldiers recorded their messages in this way, but from the prevalence of these recordings on Ebay and the like it must have been tens or hundreds of thousands. The recording machines became popular novelty items at carnivals and the like into the 1960s. Today, roots rocker Jack White has a restored 1947 Voice-O-Graph at his Memphis Record store, where patrons can record their own discs for $20. (You can listen to some of these modern recordings at the link.)
|Hispanic soldiers at a Voices of Victory mobile recording studio in Riverside,|
California. Image courtesy of the National Archives.
"Hi Mom and Pop! Boy it sure is swell down here, we're having a fine time." Dick begins. "I guess you won't have me home this Christmas but we'll be home next anyway, so what's the difference?" He mentions some fellow sailors from his hometown (he calls them and himself "kids") and sends well wishes to friends and relatives. "I'll be seeing you whenever I get my first leave. So long." he concludes. The recording is brief and poignant. He is so young, so optimistic. It is as if the war is a lark to him, and he has little idea what he is entering into.
So what happened to our young blue jacket from Priest River? Unlike the last time I tried to follow up a local boy setting out to the Second World War, I am not sure. Richard Slocum is a more common name than you might think, and I am really not very skilled with Ancestry.com and similar resources.
So I ask you, Dear Readers, what happened to Dick Slocum? Where was he deployed? Did he survive the war? Marry and settle down? And does he have surviving ancestors, who might like to hear this record? Anyone want to take a crack at telling the rest of the story?