In the middle of 2007, an eBay seller listed a slew of Veterans Administration Christmas records for auction. I won two of the records (including Christmas 1971 which I shared out last year) while the rest didn't sell.
The seller was located in Marion, IN - 45 minutes from my home. I asked if he would be willing to meet me in Marion to settle up and possibly get a look at the other albums. He agreed to do this at his booth in a local antique store.
This is how I met Marc Bird. Marc was an admitted pack rat, music lover, and keen collector of the rare and obscure. His booth overflowed with records and CDs that he lovingly created, crafted, and sold.
For instance, back in 2004 when John Kerry was running for President, Bird was the guy who had copies of Kerry's old garage band and sold them online - Kerry himself wrote to Bird asking for several copies!
I spent an afternoon with him and the stories just poured out of this guy. The best story was of a local Marion radio station looking to get rid of thirty years of records - half of which were obscure Christmas LPs (like these VA records) and crackpot homemade Christmas novelty records.
As I was getting ready to leave, Marc met a fellow booth owner and they shot the breeze for a moment. I learned Bird's mom was aging and sick but what floored me was finding out Marc himself was undergoing treatment for leukemia.
I paid for my auction albums ($25) and I asked about the other albums. He pulled them out and as I admired them, he knew I was interested. "If you got an extra $25, they're all yours." Sold.
We settled up, shook hands, said goodbye, and kept in touch via e-mails. Several months later, Bird sent me one of his Christmas comps that he sold online entitled "The Lighter Side of Christmas V1" that had a slew of novelty records and obscurities.
The contact between Bird and myself dried up as he was in and out of the hospital for chemo treatments. He kept transferring vinyl as if his life depended on it when he should have rested - his passion knew no bounds.
This past summer, a gentleman named Bill Dann contacted me at the yuleblog and informed me that leukemia had gotten the best of Marc on January 9, 2008.
To honor Marc Bird's memory, I'm posting the five other Christmas VA hospital records ranging from 1953 to 1976.
This is the 1953 recording - one side, one track. It features Harvey V. Higley, the then-current VA Administrator, calmly and quietly talking to recuperating veterans in VA hospitals.
No frills, no elaborate Christmas programs (yet). Just a simple talk from Higley that last 7:14. This sounds more like a home recording that a government agency. A testament to its times.
Tell us another story, Uncle Harvey!
Christmas 1953 Veterans Administration Hospital Program