What’s the most memorable Christmas gift you’ve ever received? Maybe not the most expensive or the most practical, but the one you remember most.
For me, the gift under the tree on Christmas Day 1976 ranks No. 1.
Back then, entertainment for a sixth-grader in Pontiac was pretty much limited to riding your bike, watching “Gilligan’s Island” reruns after school, listening to WLS radio and playing record albums.
My friends loved Elton John, Captain and Tennille and the Carpenters. I liked all of them, but as I’ve written before, I was nuts about the Beatles. (Still am.) I memorized the words to their songs, watched their movies on “The Late Show” and kept notes on index cards of important details such as their birthdays.
Somewhere in 1974-75, I came across a printed list of all the Beatles’ albums. This started something like the search for the Holy Grail. I was determined to own all the records on the list.
Whenever I saved enough baby-sitting money, my mom would drive me to Hornsby’s, a large discount store in town. I zoomed to the music section, straight to the bin of albums by artists with “B” names. After two years of hunting and collecting, I knew exactly which records I needed to complete the list, and if luck was on my side, one would be in stock.
Nothing was more disappointing than standing at the “B” bin and finding it sold out. I was at the mercy of the music supplier for the store and in competition with every other fan. Worse was finding a rare album, but not having enough money to buy it. Then I would try to hide it by filing it in the “C” bin until I could return and purchase it. That never worked. (Yes, former store associates, that was me messing up the filing.)
Desperate to buy a new album, I once seriously considered purchasing a duplicate copy of “Magical Mystery Tour.”
“Don’t you already have that one?” asked Mom.
“I could save it in case the original gets scratched,” I rationalized.
“Put it back,” she said. “There will be more another day.”
See, kids, how hard it was growing up without eBay? You had to WAIT for things. And when you were 12 years old, with no transportation and no access to information other than your parents, you listened to what your mom said in the middle of Hornsby’s.
But back to 1976. My collection still needed five early Beatles albums which were not easy to find. For months I searched for “The Beatles Second Album” and “Something New.”
(I may forget where I parked the car at the grocery store, but I can remember the names of elusive Beatles records from 40 years ago.)
I asked Santa to bring any album he could find. “Hope your elves have connections with the distributor at Apple Records!” I said.
On Christmas morning, I ran to the living room. There, propped on the orange and green shag carpeting, were not one, but all five missing albums. Santa had not bothered to wrap the LPs (must’ve been a long night), but apparently the jolly old elf knew someone in the record department who placed a special order.
I could hardly believe my eyes. John, Paul, George and Ringo were everywhere.
My parents once said gift giving was a satisfying experience for them because, as a kid, my response was never lukewarm or under appreciative. It was not uncommon for me to jump up and down, do cartwheels or scream at the top of my lungs. You can bet I did all three that day.
Over the years, gift exchanges with family and friends have been fun, creative and meaningful. But in my heart, the albums under the tree in 1976 still rank at the top of the charts. Yeah, yeah, yeah.