Astro-Sonic

A much-beloved aunt and uncle of mine who live not too far away from here, in a lovely suburban split-level they moved into — what? 45 years ago? — are preparing to move to an assisted living facility a bit further away. My uncle being an engineer, once by trade and still by temperament, even this long into his retirement, there is zero doubt that this move will take place with anything other than scientific precision. At least if he has anything to say about it.

Of course, one of the things about this stage of life is that one has a decreasing amount to say about it, or perhaps just as much to say, but what one says seems to have a diminishing effect. The facility my aunt and uncle will be moving into is currently at capacity; they’re waiting for an apartment to open. And while I hope for their sake that one opens soon, one hesitates to wish for the precipitating cause of such an opening.

Nevertheless, the waiting is difficult for everyone, not least my uncle, who is a man of Plans and Preparations. As a result, he’s trying to take care of what details he can now, so that the drill team can go into motion as soon as the word of that vacancy is received.

Those details include giving away as many of the belongings that they won’t be taking with them as they can. And hence my part in the story.

Since I was a small child, I loved their stereo. Its hi-fidelity stereophonic sound seemed to me then to be the peak of musical sophistication. By my early twenties, when its audio technology had become thoroughly outdated, I had fallen in love with the cabinet, with the era that turned technology into furniture you might want to have around even after the gizmos it housed had fallen into disrepair.

The turntable has long since stopped turning, and one speaker has a fairly serious buzz. Aside from that, however, it’s still lovely, and capable of producing some remarkably good sound. And so when my aunt and uncle asked me if I wanted it, along with their modest collection of LPs, I said absolutely.

What I did not realize at the time was the challenge that would be posed to The Ways Things Are Done Around Here by trying to get one piece of furniture moved from a house 30 miles away and into my apartment. And then there was the matter of my imminent departure, which meant that I had a two-week period to get the thing taken care of, lest I leave my uncle unduly stressed about the possibility that the apartment would open up and they would need to move into it before I returned home.

After more calls and emails than I care to go into, what finally did the trick was yesterday’s rain, and the fact that my landlord has a family handyman (yes, really) who was painting his house out on Long Island, but whose work was prohibited by the weather. So he and his subordinate ran out, picked up the cabinet, and moved it in for me. The entire thing was done in a matter of two hours.

So I came home yesterday evening to this, the Magnavox Astro-Sonic Hi-Fidelity Stereo:

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good spot for it; right now it’s sort of crammed along the wall next to my dining room table. If I were able to stand back far enough from it to take a proper picture, it would look something like this, except without the small handles on the far right and left “drawers” (which are of course not drawers at all), and with slightly different legs and trim

The actual workings of the stereo are still as gorgeous as ever:

And my uncle, ever the engineer, preserved not one but two all but pristine copies of the documentation it came with:

(I’ve posted the full brochure to Flickr, if you’re curious.)

I’m touched beyond belief to have this gorgeous thing in my apartment, both for its extraordinary coolness and for the bit of my aunt and uncle I’ll now get to have with me as long as possible.

A project for August: get the electronics restored to their Astro-Sonic glory.

05 June 2012 by KF | Categories: family, technology

Comments (6)

  1. A beauty. But I bet it’s a heavy beast. How wonderful your uncle kept the manual.

  2. Awesome!! Yay, you. I love it. Ours was “Mediterranean” in style–like the color of 80% chocolate with all these pseudo-Spanish whorls and wrought iron and whatnot. Ah, me.

    Best wishes for your aunt and uncle’s move to pastures new.

  3. Just noticed the appeal to obsolescence on the cover of the brochure. This thing was clearly meant for me.

  4. My folks have the exact same model, and its definitely worth it to get it restored. Theirs sounds awesome, especially that Boston Pops album at Christmastime.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work by Kathleen Fitzpatrick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
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