Reel to Reel

Aunt Vera and some of her clown pictures

One of the first things I bought when I started working after high school was a fancy hi-fi set of components. I had a receiver, turntable, speakers, and a reel-to-reel tape deck. I also bought some fancy shelving for this set of electronics and proceeded to buy many vinyl records. With the advent of the internet and many other much smaller components, most of the electronics of that era sit idle.

Aunt Veras Reel-to-Reel Tape Deck

Aunt Vera’s Music

During our recent visit with my aunt, she talked about her purposes and priorities. I will share more about what I learned in future posts, but one thing stood out as a theme in her conversation. She was thoughtful and purposeful about the environment she created in Waukegan store called The Pet Shop. One key element I certainly remember was the circus wagons.

Sheba’s Circus Wagon
Buster the Capuchin Monkey was one of Aunt Vera’s favorites.

There were large circus wagon cages she designed for many of the animals she lovingly tended. My grandfather was a skilled carpenter, so he built the wagon cages. One thing I didn’t see or notice or hear was the music she played in her store. Her music, I learned, was a purposeful choice on her part. There were two main themes: Circus and her faith.

Circus Music and Hymns

Aunt Vera liked the circus, probably because of her love of animals. She also liked the colors, clowns, calliope music and collecting. She had a huge miniature circus, clown posters, clown figurines and just about anything else you can imagine. She recorded circus music on her reel-to-reel recorder and played it in the pet shop.

The old reel-to-reel is stored in Aunt Vera’s overflowing garage.

Even more important to her were the hymns she loved. That is obvious in her little home today. On her refrigerator I saw a familiar hymn: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. When asked about her favorite hymns, she mentioned “The Old Rugged Cross” as one of her favorites. “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” “How Great Thou Art” – loves George Beverly Shea’s version of it. “Blessed Assurance.”  And so, it isn’t surprising that she recorded hymns and played those in her store as well. As a boy, I don’t remember any of that. I was mesmerized by the animals, the smells, the piranha fish in a huge aquarium and the talking birds.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Sheba and Buster

In some future posts I will talk about her ocelot named Sheba and a capuchin monkey she called “Buster.” I have a delightful video of Aunt Vera talking about and laughing during her story of Buster. Stay tuned for that post.

Cindie says I laugh like Aunt Vera. Her laughter is delightful, so I hope that is true of mine as well.

How Great Thou Art

But don’t miss the main thought of this review of my aunt’s life and her pet shop. Aunt Vera loves joyful music and she loves and follows her Savior. She has a soul that sings “How Great Thou Art.” You can hear it here: How Great Thou Art.

This is another great video of George Beverly Shea in his later years: How Great Thou Art. His voice was still strong and resonated with joy and faith.