Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Reel-to-Reel Tape Recordings

Picture obtained from

In today’s digital world the reel to reel tape recorder is considered an antiquated piece of technology. But back in the day, that was the way we Joneses kept in touch. More specifically, tape recordings were the way daddy and Aunt Martha stayed in contact with their brother, Uncle Claudius, who lived in Florida.

When I think about all the recordings going back and forth between North Carolina and Florida, the thought of them brings a smile to my face and warms my heart. It always felt like we were right there with Uncle Claudius and my cousins. However, as a shy and sometimes withdrawn child, those reel to reel recordings were pure torture for me, also. Daddy and Aunt Martha always had me talking on them. I can still hear it today, “Come talk to your Uncle.” I never said much, usually only saying “Hi Uncle Claudius. This is Mavis.” Of course daddy and Aunt Martha were always standing there telling me to tell him about this or that (my good grades, playing the piano, whatever else was going on in my young life.) Whatever I said definitely had to be pulled out of me.

Like so many things that would be a treasured piece of the past, I’m afraid that none of those old recordings are left. As we moved from reel-to-reel to cassette tapes, the tapings became less and less frequent. The cassette tapes just weren’t the same and right now, I don’t ever remember us sending any of those back and forth. In addition, we never did keep the recording that was received. It was always taped over when doing the return tape. But wouldn’t it be fun if my cousin LaFrieda and I could figure out who sent the last recording and better yet, discover that it didn’t get taped over.

Until Next Time!


  1. Wow, Mavis. As if I haven't had enough nudging from the ancestors over the past few days, now you've gone and given me another "task" to do! LOL...
    I don't have as clear a memory as you do of exactly what was on our reel-to-reels, and I don't think we sent them back and forth with anyone, but we did have them, and I know exactly where they are at my mother's house. Time and time again I've bypassed them when I've gone over there to collect things. I've been somewhat afraid to even put them into the player (yes, that's there too) for fear that they might snap and break, as they were so famous for doing if we weren't careful back in the day. But now, inspired by your post, I think I'm going to have to head down to Hampton and give it a try. Somehow, I'm thinking that if nothing else, there will be recording of my (deceased) brother and me in our roles as Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack. Oh, that would be so cool! :)

    I'll fill you in once the deed is done, and thanks for the nudge!


  2. Hey guys, if you find those tapes, consider consulting with a specialist that can convert from tape to digitial. OOO, and please report back, what an exciting find that would be! I'll be staying tuned (ooooo, play on words there) to see how you do on this.

  3. Oh...the reel to reel. Makes me want to go downstairs to the basement, and pull those precious items out!

  4. Mavis,
    Great post! What a creative way to keep in touch. We never did any thing like that in my family. I wish we had.


  5. Renate,

    Back then, dad use to always splice a broken tape back together. Wait, I think I'm thinking of the movies he always made. Will talk about them in another post, maybe.


    I'm not sure how that got started. I think part of it was because my family was cheap, so they definitely weren't going to pick up the phone and call and dad's side of the family wasn't the type that wrote letters, either. I think the exception would be that my cousin Lafrieda and I use to write each other.

  6. What a great reminder for each of us to find any old audio tapes that still exist today - and re-record them digitally, if possible. I had some old poloroid photos in my hand this afternoon... they are starting to fade away...


  7. Carol,

    Contacted my cousin to see if she remembers who sent the last one. Will keep you posted if she remembers anything.


    Have some of those old polaroid pictures, too. I think I had one of their first cameras. It only took black and white pictures. Dad bought me that camera. He later went back and got mom probably the first one that took colored pictures. Anyway, my black and white ones are holding up great but mom's colored ones are definitely fading.


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