Rusty in Orchestraville

I still remember afternoons spent in our finished basement when I was a kid, listening to albums on our old RCA console. My dad had rigged speakers into the drop-tiled ceiling when he refinished the basement, so we could lounge around in the space normally reserved for adult parties – complete with the orange Formica/fake wood paneling wet bar, harvest gold carpet tiles, and the obligatory coffee table made from an old city limits sign.

(My sibs and I used to raid the basement the morning after particularly rambunctious parties, sampling the last of the grasshoppers left in dirty glasses while scarfing down scraps of cheese balls and other dips long since gone crusty. Ah, 70’s entertaining, complete with creme de cacao…but I digress.)

We’d dip into records ranging from soundtracks to movies like West Side Story and Godspell to the later-day bubble gum and/or treacly collection (think Barry Manilow and The Partridge Family) sent by my uncle, a marketing guy for Bell Records. Yes, he’s responsible for my decades-later fascination with David Cassidy.

album_cover.jpgMy mom also had a collection of old 78’s, handed down from her grandmother. We could only use these under supervision – but to be honest, we weren’t really interested in most of the records she wanted us to listen to. Fibber McGee and Molly? Uh…not our cup of tea. But she persisted, especially when it came to the collection of children’s music (it was probably her blocking strategy when the bubble gum threatened to pop her last nerve – a strategy I’ve similarly employed, of course…)

So we also listened to Rusty in Orchestraville. Tubby the Tuba. And other classics from the 40’s and 50’s.

Alas, the 78’s have been stashed away for 25+ years now when the old console player died. And I’ve thought about trying to find a way to play the records or transfer the music, especially to foster Drama Mama‘s education – but kept coming up empty. But all is not lost, thanks to the wonders of digital music and Kiddie Records Weekly:

For the entire 2005 year, Basic Hip Digital Oddio will be featuring weekly stories and songs from the golden age of children’s records, a period which ran from the mid 1940s into the early 1950s. This era produced a wealth of classics, headed by Capitol’s Record-Readers and the RCA Victor Little Nipper series. Each one of these recordings has been carefully transferred from the original 78s (plus a few 45s) and encoded to MP3 format for you to download and enjoy.

So I’ve downloaded Rusty in Orchestraville. Already have the calendar marked for Tubby the Tuba.

Now, to deal with the sudden cravings for grasshoppers and that cream cheese – cocktail sauce – canned crab dip (on a Ritz cracker, no less)…


  1. Oh I loved Tubby the Tuba!! And your finished basement sounds JUST like ours…

    I came here via michele, but I realize how much I love reading your stuff so I need to make sure I come back regularly. ;)

  2. Ahh! The memories this post drew out of the rusty cogs of the past: Finishing the dregs of the adult snacks the night before. Drinking the leftover alcohol. Being cured of drinking the leftover alcohol after guzzling a nearly full can of open beer and realizing it also contained cigarette butts!

    Falling asleep under the coffee table when our parents were playing pinochle with aunts, uncles, and grandparents. We were left to our own devices because for at least one day, they didn’t care if we only ate fudge. Waking up in the fold out bed – seemed to be magical – smelling coffee, sausage and eggs.

    We played Rusty in Orchestraville too. Nice little walk down memory lane.

  3. oh, I think we had the same basement, and the same record player. loved it. I need to try to figure out where all of my records are..

  4. I once had a 78 about 3 men floatin’ down the river on a marble slab. One guy had no eyes, one had no arms and one had no legs. The guy with no eyes saw a duck, the guy with no arms grabbed a gun and shot the duck, the guy with no legs ran and fetched the duck. “What do you think of that?” “That’s a doggone lie, that’s what that is.” Very entertaining.

  5. I loved tasting my grandmother’s grasshoppers. Yum. My favorite kids’ album was Marlo Thomas’ Free To Be You And Me. I played that thing a million times. I even have it on CD now, and you know I don’t have kids…

  6. Thomas Hallett

    Hey Old Horsetail Snake,

    My grandfather had that 78 and I would do anything to get a copy. The “A” side was “Turkey in the Straw and the “B” side was entitled “Whistlin’ Pete.” It was a series of jokes concluded by Pete whistling up a storm. I pretty much had the jokes memoraized when I was a boy. The marble slab joke was as follows:

    Four men floatin’ down the river on a marble slab.

    “On a marble slab, oh come on!”

    First man he’s blind he seen a duck.

    Second man he’s got no arms on, he picks up a gun and shoots the duck.

    Third man he’s got no legs on, he runs after the duck and brings it back to the fourth man who’s got no clothes on, and he puts it in his pocket. Now what is that?

    “That’s a goddamn lie, that never did happen!”

    Am I right or what???

    If you have any further information about this recording, I would appreciate hearing from you at Thanks.

    Tom from NJ

Surely you're not going to let me have the last word - are you?