Early Recordings of Wendy's Family

Wendy Lynn Harrington, daughter of Linda Shepherd, daughter of Jane Culmer and Frank Shepherd. In 1940, Linda was 8 years old, brother Billy was 4, and sister Sara was soon to be born. They lived in Elmhurst Illinois, about 20 miles west of chicago. Needless to say, Wendy was not even imagined at this time.

Vonnie appears on many of these recordings, she is Linda's cousin, thus Wendy's cousin once removed. She is older than Linda, a teenager at this time, and the perfect age for making recordings. Other relatives have brief guest appearances.

Around 1940 there was a Home and Garden radio show out of Chicago. The host allowed people to talk and make their own records. Of course he always mentioned the sponsor, the Iron Farm and Manufacturing Company. These were 78's; the 33 long play format was still 8 years away. Sometimes you can hear the scratches, about one per second. Yes, the records are in bad shape, well played, and subject to various environmental conditions over the past 75 years. Hats off to Jay, a good friend with audio processing software, who cleaned up these recordings considerably. The difference between these mp3 files and the original shellac is like night and day.

Sometime during 1940, we don't have a specific date, Jane and Frank went to the Home and Garden Show and made this recording. Interestingly, Jane introduces herself as Mrs. Frank Shepherd. This seems quite foreign to us today, but it was standard protocol back then. The wife took the husband's last name legally, and even his first name in casual conversation. she belonged to him, lock stock and barrel. Jane and Frank at H&G.

They obviously thought this was a lot of fun, because they went to Chicago again to make another recording, this time with Linda and Billy. Now Linda is the star of the show, and she is a charming, happy girl. Easy to see how she became such a wonderful lady. Linda at H&G.

A friend and neighbor, Vonnie Wilson, (not to be confused with cousin Vonnie), was so enamored with the technology that he bought a "home recording machine". The Culmer clan used it to make several recordings over the next couple years. As mentioned earlier, Vonnie is the perfect age to enjoy this new technology. This one is from November 11, 1941. Side A begins with a commercial for Carter's Liver Pills, followed by three questions in the styl of The $64 Question, a popular radio show at the time that was recapitulated as the $64,000 question on tv in 1955, then inflated to $128,000 in 1976. Vonnie's $64 question asks whether Sara has another tooth; she was born 7 months earlier. We have her hospital bill from that time, hand written, and totaling $90.50. All the medical services for Jane and for Sara: $90.50. Wow. After the $64 question comes the news, then Vonnie's relatives deliver short messages, then Vonnie identifies herself as the host of the show and wraps it up. The record seems to be made for Jane's family, with messages addressed specifically to them. At the end Vonnie says, "Hope to see you at Christmas," which is just six weeks away. Carter's Liver Pills.

Side B of the aforementioned record is Vonnie, we believe, singing Delilah. No, not the Plain White T's, This is another song about Delilah that is all but forgotten today. It's a terribly hard song to sing, and yet she does it beautifully. Her soprano voice is spot on. And remember, she is only 13 at the time. Delilah.

This one takes place in early 1942. Jane leads off, and says hello to an assortment of relatives. Yvonne is Vonnie's legal name, which is rarely used, but used here. In contrast, Jane continues to refer to her brother as Fred, even though his legal name is George Fredrick. Jane refers to Sara and Cay, her daughter, and her niece through Fred. Both are asleep, so no action there, but she convinces Linda and Billy to say hello. Linda and Billy say hello.

Jane encourages her kids to recite some poems. Poems 1. Poems 2.

Now it's Jane's turn to sing. Little Wee Man.

A christmas message from Linda to her parents. Unfortunately the piano is louder than her voice, so the words are hard to hear. Christmas Message.

A man has a good time imitating various sounds. I don't know who it is, maybe Fred. Sounds 1. Sounds 2.