My mother's greatest dread was the Victrola

Memories of the Phonograph


By James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times


The following was written by Thurber in My Life and Hard Times (Harper & Brothers, ©1933) about his mother's phobia's:

Her greatest dread, however, was the Victrola--we had a very early one, back in the "Come Josephine in My Flying Machine" days. She had an idea that the Victrola might blow up. It alarmed her, rather than reassured her, to explain that the phonograph was run neither by gasoline nor by electricity. She could only suppose that it was propelled by some new-fangled and untested apparatus which was likely to let go at any minute, making us all the victims and martyrs of the wild-eyed Edison's dangerous experiments. The telephone she was comparatively at peace with, except, of course, during storms, when for some reason or other she always took the receiver off the hook and let it hang. She came naturally by her confused and groundless fears, for her own mother lived the latter years of her life in the horrible suspicion that electricity was dripping invisibly all over the house. It leaked, she contended, out of empty sockets if the wall switch had been left on. She would go around screwing in bulbs, and if they lighted up she would hastily and fearfully turn off the wall switch and go back to her Pearson's or Everybody's, happy in the satisfaction that she had stopped not only a costly but a dangerous leakage. Nothing could ever clear this up for her.



Come, Josephine, In My Flying Machine - Ada Jones and American Quartet - Victor Record 1911 (Courtesy DAHR)



Sheet Music, 1910