Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Talking Books

Talking book playerLet all my gen Z and millennial friends gather ‘round while I tell a riveting tale of life before hand held computers.  Way back when I was a kid in the 1900s, I had a record player in my room and lots of records to keep me entertained.  It’s hard to believe that a little kid could handle placing the needle on the record (and I know it’s hard for some of you to even visualize “placing a needle on a record” but we did and it worked) and not destroying it but my sisters and I seemed to manage it and spent years listening to songs and books.  
But before that, I had the latest and greatest in technology: the talking book.  Do you remember this this?  Fisher Price had their act together around 1980 when they made this foolproof device.  
You bought books that had a magic little circle on each page and when you put this thing on it, and
Talking book
pressed one of the brown buttons, it read aloud.  This was no robotic voice, it was a pre recorded audio book that was somehow impressed into the little circles and this thing would let it play!  Just the words for that page were on the circle on each page.  Anyone could do it.  Chubby toddler hands, arthritic grandparent hands.  You just put the player in that green circle and it would somehow play it.  I think it was somehow like a record.  
This came up recently because I mentioned Gertrude Mcfuzz, a Dr. Seuss character.  I vividly remember the book and the page where she had too many feathers and couldn’t fly.
This page traumatized me.  I hated how the other birds had to carry her and everyone was miserable.  

When I mentioned it to my sister, she said she never heard of her and the more I described it, the more we wondered why.  It was a very strong memory of a book that I didn’t like to read because I’d get a stomach ache just thinking about it.

I googled Gertrude McFuzz and one thing led to another and when I saw this page with the little green circle,  4  decades of a memory crashing through to 2021.  I almost remember what I was wearing the day I heard this book, the memory is that strong.

Gertrude McFuzz isn’t her own book.  She appears in Yertle the Turtle, which I know I’ve never read.  And, she’s a main character in Seussical, the musical, which I’ve never seen.  So how do I know Gertrude and why did she upset me?  

I hadn’t read the book and no one had read it to me.  I had played it with my magical device and it was the woman’s voice reading it that I remember.  I was bothered by Gertrude eating the berries to get more feathers and I didn’t like how the birds were like slaves carrying her home.

Oddly, Fisher  Price created a book that is her story, as a stand alone book, and narrated it for the Talk to Me line of books.  If you google, you’ll find a whole collection of books and I bet some of you will suddenly remember!  I didn’t recognize any of the other images that came up but I do remember having several of these books.  How ahead of the game was Fisher Price back then ?  Before audiobooks on cassettes or CDs.  Before expensive cassette and DVD players.  

I’ve never asked anyone if they had one because it was something I’d forgotten about but now I wonder who else had this? 

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