Graham's True Stories
Number 12, The Phonograph Horn
The pawnshop was about the only building standing in the vast demolition site to the north of Dublin. The area was being cleared in a new housing project and I'd been called in to help the owner of the shop clear out his final goods before the bulldozers moved in.
First thing I saw when I got in the door was a magnificent horn phonograph - minus the horn. It was a fantastic piece of furniture, floor standing and in rich red mahogany which, unlike in America, is more highly regarded in Europe than oak.
I obviously asked about the machine and, having no horn, it was cheap. It went to the top of a list which, over the next two hours, grew and grew as the owner dug items from his back room. Many still had pledge tickets from the 1920s and his price structure seemed to contain a formula depending on the original cash he had allowed, multiplied by just how many of his seven cats were on the stained marble counter at the time.
To an antiques dealer like me this was a trip to heaven. Just about everything I asked for was met with a "Just a moment, sor" and a trip to the back room. He'd return, blowing dust and cobwebs from the very item I'd mentioned with a "Was this what you had in mind, sor?"
The counter began to fill with my purchases. Music boxes, microscopes, typewriters, many sewing machines from the 1880s, early woodworking tools, cameras - all left when money was tight in the 1920s and never redeemed.
At last we were through. I'd never got to see in the back room, but I'd asked about everything I could think of.
Maggie and I loaded the lot onto the truck we had hired. As we set the last item, that magnificent phonograph, carefully aboard it suddenly occurred to me that there was one more question I could ask.
I wandered back in and said: "I don't suppose you've got any phonograph horns?" He disappeared into that Aladdin's cave of a back room again and returned with a wonderful phonograph horn, craftsman-made in a deep rich, red mahogany. He said : "Just the one, sor, but it's cheap as there is no phonograph to go with it."
Maggie and I didn't say a word about it all the way home. Back in London we unloaded the truck, took the phonograph up to her apartment and re-united it, after half a century, with its horn.