Friday, May 17, 2013

An Unsung Heroine of our Musical Life: Marion, Queen of the Record Bar

An Unsung Heroine of our Musical Life: Marion, Queen of the Record Bar

My favorite local record shop, the biggest one in my town, was Lofquist’s Record Bar. It was an independent, not a chain store. You’d go downstairs into the basement of the TV and Appliance store where the manager Marion helped people buy their records for over 20 years. There were several tiny listening booths with windows where you would close the door and sample play the album (vinyl LP 33 1/3 RPMs—revolutions per minute), or maybe a 45 RPM, that you were considering purchasing.

The last record I remember playing in this way was “After Bathing at Baxter’s” by the Jefferson Airplane. The very proper Marion, who’d known me for years and had played Gerry and the Pacemakers records for us, seemed troubled by the change. I was choosing this San Francisco album of psychedelic rock, not Bobby Vee, Neil Sedaka, or The Sound of Music soundtrack.

This store was also the place where local rock and roll bands would visit to autograph their albums, 8 X 10 glossies, and meet the fans. I don’t think this happens anymore! One band we met was the Toronto group, the Paupers, who later morphed into a band Americans might remember: Lighthouse. Here is an interview with Marion I found on Oakville’s history site. She was 98!  

“Marion Nicoll, 98 years old, proved to be a fountain of information, observations and opinions, only partly formed by her daily reading of the Globe & Mail. She has a lifetime of memories filed away and one of her fondest is of Lofquist's Record Bar in downtown Oakville. … From 1952 until 1974, she managed the music department at Lofquist's Television, Radio and Appliances store. Her customers came in all sizes, ages and levels of notoriety from a bona fide Princess, to a writer of hymns, plus a pair of world champion skaters.

“But it is the teenagers from the local high school who were her near constant companions. They came to Lofquist's on a regular basis, … to peruse the CHUM Top 50 Chart posted in the front window and to sample the music in the tiny listening booths.

“According to OTHS alumnus, Sandra Haig, now Deeks, "up to three kids could crowd into a booth" if they were careful. Deeks, a nurse and Burlington resident, is still a big fan of Nicoll, whom she visits at the Oakville Seniors' Residence in Bronte. "She never got upset with us or bothered about things," Deeks said.

“For her part Nicoll, who never married, always enjoyed the young people; the ones who worked in the store part-time and the ones who bought the records. ‘It seems to me they were all exceptional,’ she recalled, and to hear her talk you would think they were all brilliant, honest and perfectly behaved. Well, she said, maybe it was a more innocent time. It was a good time to be in the record business.

"It was the heyday of records," she recalled. "We certainly did well with Elvis records in the '50s and The Beatles in the '60s. You couldn't ignore them," she laughed. "They were our bread and butter. They brought in a lot of money."
“Of course, the classics never went out of style, she added. Chopin has always been her personal favourite.” (2007)

No comments:

Post a Comment