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Old-time sounds in southeast Nebraska

Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 1:17 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A restored collection of wind-up phonographs is on display for your listening pleasure at the Table Rock Opera House.

We caught up with Suzanne Ellis, who is the curator of the collection, to talk more about them. “These phonographs were the entertainment that people used to have, and they pre-date electricity for the most part,” Ellis said. “These would have been used in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s.”

Ellis says one of her favorites is the tin record player. “The record is very large, and it’s like a music box, and you wind it up for music on a grand scale,” Ellis said. “Our grandma Roberts used to have one in her house, and it was a great thing to wind up that record player, and put on a record, and listen to the music box. It was such a beautiful sound.”

There are other types of phonographs as well. “One of the more unusual ones is called ‘a cob’. It’s what I think of when you see the movies where you see a monkey and an organ grinder out begging for money,” Ellis said. “These players all had a wide variety of different songs.”

The collection may not be totally rare, but they are in really good condition. “When you think of these, you think of them stuck in a barn or garage, and they have cobwebs on them,” Ellis said. “But we found Gary Heckman from Lincoln who is fixing them all, so we have a large selection of them that actually play. It’s extraordinary that we can play them all, and being able to share them with other people, especially with the acoustics of the opera house is very stunning.”

If you’d like to see these wind-up phonographs, you can give the Table Rock Historical Society a call at (402) 839-3003, and you can get a tour.

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