Music in the Rec Room

As a kid, growing up in the sunny suburbs of St. James, the family rec room was a place for cast-offs. While my dad’s hunting trophies hung on the walls—dead deer heads, trophy fish and rifles—it was also where my mom put stuff no longer good enough for the living room. Because it usually seemed cold and had bad lighting, nobody spent much time down there—except me. 

It was where I catalogued old 78s and listened to them over and over. While my school friends listened to the Beatles or Beach Boys, I listened to Dad’s music collection comprised of hits from the thirties, forties and fifties. I loved the music and while upstairs the TV ruled with either hockey or football, I filled the basement with Dad's old music. 

Growing up in a church where dancing was considered sin, I could only invent dances to the fox trot, waltz and tango melodies, in private. I breathed in the romance of another time. 

One of my favourites was Ich Weiss es wird einmal ein Wunder Geschehen by Zarah Leanders. I imagined the German soldiers—my dad—fighting a hopeless war and yet hoping that a miracle would happen to save them from their inevitable end. No, I wasn't cheering for the Nazis, I think I was just trying to relive the tragedy of it all. 

Zarah Leanders, photo from 

Another favourite singer was Lale Andersen, singing the original Lili Marlene. (Later released by Marlene Dietrich who'd left Germany for the States.) How many times did I listen to that song and visualize the lamplight and the endless waiting?  I imagined my dad’s heart broken over and over again by his first wife whose name it was taboo to mention. I imagined Dad dancing the tango, to Roter Mohn, sung by the Chilean nightingale—Rosita Serrano. Hey Jude or Good Vibrations could not compete with my favourite music down in the rec room. 

Then one day, most of those records got broken. (I'd leaned back and put the weight of my hand on the fragile pile I’d been sorting). Now through the magic of technology, streaming has brought back the music and while out walking the dog, I'm down in that basement rec room all over again. Trying to imagine how it all went so wrong. 

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