65-year-old recording brings back memories
By Tom Weber
Arthur Schmidt is about to hear a voice from the past — his own.
A letter home in the form of a recording Schmidt made at a USO club on June 19, 1943, surfaced last week at John Kruesel’s General Merchandise shop in Rochester. Schmidt hasn’t heard the record since he recorded it 65 years ago.
"My gosh, isn’t that something," Schmidt, 86, of Rochester said as he held the record in his hands.
Problem is, he needs a 78 rpm phonograph to listen to the words he sent home to his parents that summer long ago. That’s where Kruesel once again enters the picture.
Kruesel has been restoring World War II-era heavy-duty phonographs used by the Army to provide entertainment at bases, dance halls and air strips. To make sure he had the units working properly, Kruesel dug into his collection of 78 rpm records.
"I pulled out this stack of old records, and it was there," Kruesel said. He saw the name and address on the jacket of Schmidt’s USO recording and wondered if the guy who recorded it was still around. Some quick checking led to Schmidt’s phone number.
"He was so excited when he called me," Schmidt said.
Kruesel said he has no idea how he got the record.
The disc was recorded by Schmidt when he was in basic training at an air base in Pocatello, Idaho.
"Well, it won’t be long until I’m coming home," he tells his parents, Paul and Vesta Schmidt, in the recording. "I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be swell."
Of course it was going to be swell — Schmidt was coming home to get married. He and his late wife, Wanda, were married July 11, 1943.
"We got married on my first furlough," he recalled. "My dad was the best man because none of my friends were home. They were all in the service."
Then Schmidt and his new bride rode the train back to Idaho, where they lived in a rented room until Schmidt was sent six months later to England for the duration of the war.
After the war, Schmidt made a number of musical records at family gatherings and they, too, were part of the collection found by Kruesel.
As for his letter home recorded by a lonely serviceman at a USO club, Schmidt said, "I really can’t say that I remember a thing about it."
Perhaps hearing his own voice from across the decades will jog his memory.