My dad was a salesman for an electronics company that worked with spot welders (transformers, relays, capacitors, etc.) that were used on the auto assembly lines. It was a good job for a young man fresh out of college with his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He married my mom shortly before his 23rd birthday in 1946. In ten years he fathered five children; by his fortieth birthday he had fathered another five (one stillborn). There would be one more birth, in October 1964, to close out the stable at ten kids, fulfilling the biblical imperative to be fruitful and multiply.
One of the things I remember from those early years was how every so often he’d bring home reel-to-reel tape recorders, from large “portable” ones – they had handles and weighed maybe twenty pounds, and could handle 7” diameter reels of audio tape – to much smaller battery operated ones, one with 3” reels, another with even smaller ones (Two inches? Who remembers? Small.)
It still boggles me a bit that he’d bring these things home from work. I guess his workplace would occasionally get some new equipment, and company was glad to see him haul the old stuff off to his home so his kids could play with them. Play with them we did; the Olson 20 pounders had this little green tube of an indicator light that sat between the two reels of tape that would bounce reactively to whatever audio you happened to be recording.
I came across some of those old audio recordings years later. The two oldest siblings at the time were five and three years old, saying their names and home address and telephone number recorded for all eternity – or, at least as long anyone held on to the tapes before they’d disintegrate. Number three was maybe two then, and I don’t think the fourth one had yet been born – so we’re talking sometime around 1952.
It was one of the first times I ever got a real sense of what life must have been like in the house with only three children. It crossed my mind that Dad was not only a lot younger and more energetic then, but that, with only three children, he could give each of them some the “quality time” kids need to have with their parents. Of course, with every subsequent arrival, the time that Mom or Dad had to give to the kids would shrink – their responsibilities increased, and the time so easily available before became an ever increasing rarity.