A Day at the Museum: How Was That Entertaining

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By Rick Palsgrove
Southeast Editor

Messenger photos by Rick Palsgrove
Groveport resident Marie Kujawski gently places the heavy tone arm needle of a 1915 era Victrola record player on a spinning 78 rpm vinyl record during the Groveport Heritage Society’s event, “A Day at the Museum: How Was That Entertaining,” held at the Groveport Heritage Museum on Jan. 25.

Humans love to be entertained and over time people have created many interesting devices that bring us both pleasure and mental stimulation.

On Jan. 25, the Groveport Heritage Society presented, “A Day at the Museum: How Was That Entertaining,” held at the Groveport Heritage Museum located at 648 Main St. The event displayed entertainment devices that embrace sight and sound, which visitors could pick up and try out, from various eras of history.

Visual devices included items that produce some of the earliest forms of movies and animation, such as (as defined by Wikipedia): a thaumatrope, an optical toy dating to 1827, featuring “a disk with a picture on each side that is attached to two pieces of string. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures seem to blend into one image;” and a zoetrope, which dates to 1834, and is considered “one of several pre-film animation devices that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion.”

Myah Paxton spins a zoetrope, which was one of several styles of hand held spinning devices on display at the event that were some of the earliest forms of movies and animation. As the zoetrope spins the images within in it appear to move.

Also on hand was the familiar 20th century era Viewmaster and other similar devices. The Viewmaster uses a circular photo disk that, when looked at through the Viewmaster, produces a colorful 3-D image.

Groveport resident Marie Kujawski was happy to discover that when she looked through the Viewmaster at the event she found that the image disk she placed into the device was the same disk she once viewed when she was a youth.
“This really takes me back,” Kujawski said with a smile.

Also on display were various devices that enable us to hear recorded music and voices. These ranged from a working 1915 era Victor Talking Machine Victrola record player (recently donated to the Groveport Heritage Museum by the Cramer family), to a portable record player and transistor radio from the 1960s, to a 1970s era cassette tape deck.

Of the portable record player with its small built-in speakers, Carla Cramer of the Groveport Heritage Society joked with visitors, “We played music like Led Zeppelin on this!”

Cramer also noted how it was common to have portable record players in the 1950s and 1960s where one could stack up 45 rpm records that, when one record finished playing, another one would slap down on to the turntable from an adapter post in the center of the turntable for the next tune to be played.

The transistor radio on display was familiar to anyone growing up in the 1960s as it was common to carry the small radios around with oneself everywhere to hear the latest rock n’ roll hits played by our favorite disc jockeys. The small speaker on these radios tended to produce a tinny sound, but at the time all that mattered in our youth was “rockin’ on” to the music wherever we happened to be.

The Victrola looks like a piece of formidable furniture in its fine wooden cabinet. The Victrola plays thick, 78 rpm vinyl records, which contain just one song per side. To operate it, the user: flips a small lever, turns a hand crank on the side of the machine several times to get the turntable spinning, and then gently places the heavy tone arm with its needle (a needle that is so thick it looks like a nail) on to the spinning record. During the event one of the records that was played on the Victrola was the jazzy, “Pussy Cat Rag.” Appearing on this record’s label were the words an “Edison Record” and included a picture of Thomas Edison, who came up with the concept of the phonograph in 1877.

During the event, some older visitors mentioned that some of the devices on display that they themselves were familiar with would be completely foreign to the youth of today. But Karen Richards of the Groveport Heritage Society observed that the reverse is also true.

“There are devices being used by kids today that we in the older generation know nothing about, so it works both ways,” said Richards. “The best thing is for the generations to learn from each other.”

Cramer said events like this at the Groveport Heritage Museum can work to present history that all generations can embrace.

“An event like this also brings a focus on the Groveport Heritage Museum and lets people know what is in the museum,” said Cramer. “It’s a way for people to stay in touch with the history of their town and more.”

The Groveport Heritage Museum is located in Groveport Town Hall, 648 Main St., and is open daily during Town Hall’s regular operating hours. For information on hours call 614-836-3333.

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