There was no destination, just driving. Eventually I found myself in a small town on Oregon’s rocky coast. I spotted a place to eat that looked local and inviting and made a turn at an intersection to circle back.
The parallel street was covered with patches of sand swept by the wind. There was a garage sale sign at a handsome but small cottage. Tables made from planks and sawhorses were scattered in the driveway.
There was no idea in my head what I was looking for, but for some reason something attracted me to this place.
Beneath one of the makeshift tables was a box full of assorted items. It looked more like junk than the rest of the items displayed more prominently on the tables’ tops.
I struggled to remove it.
Inside was an old reel to reel tape recorder. I recognized it immediately. It was exactly like the one my parents purchased for me as a teenager. I recorded hours of music from the radio to play back at my leisure. Inside the box was a stack of reeled tapes in their boxes.
“The recorder still works,” an old man said sitting at a card table.
“How much?” I said.
“Name a price?” the old man said.
“I’ll give you $10,” I said.
“That’s nearly and antique,” the old man said.
“So that’s why it’s under the table,” I said. “This is probably the forth garage sale you’ve tried to sell it and I’m the first guy to offer you anything for it.”
“$10,” the old man said.
“That’s if it works like you said it does,” I said, smiled, and handed the old man $10.
“Plug ’er in and give it a try,” the old man said.
I lugged it to the garage and plugged it in. The “play” button was depressed. It immediately began to play Del Shannon’s Runaway.
“What did I tell ya,” the old man said.
“She plays alright,” I said and rummaged through the boxes of reels..
“You ever listen to these?” I said.
“A year or so ago,” the old man said. “Probably belonged to some kid that played with it all the time.”
I picked out reel labeled “interview” written on it. I threaded the tape and pushed play.
“Good evening everybody,” said the voice of a teen age boy. “This is you reporter Bill Garland interviewing old man Garland. Hey, old man, what’s cookin’?”
A voice of a man laughed. “Get that thing our of my face.”
“Come on, Dad,” the teenager’s voice said. “Let me interview you.”
I pushed the stop button.
“I wonder if that kid ever became a news reporter?” the old man said.
“He probably tried it, gave up, and sold hardware supplies the rest of his life,” I said.
“Well it works,” the old man said.
“Did you buy this at an auction near Rochester, New York?” I asked.
The old man looked at me strangely and grinned. “Why yes. How did you know that?”
“That’s me and my Dad on the tape,” I said. “It’s been 40 years since I heard his voice.”
“So you sold hardware supplies,” the old man said.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Well it’s a good thing,” the old man smiled. “Because you’d have starved as a reporter.”
“That’s what my Dad told me too,” I said.
The old man handed the $10 back. “I can’t sell a man’s memories back to him.”