Through my early teens, I had an allowance from my parents, and in my later teen years, I had pocket money from a part-time job. A lot of that money was spent on records.
At that time, vinyl record albums were relatively pricey for someone earning $2.35 per hour. Christmas became that opportunity to ask Santa for the albums I did not get a chance to pick up myself through the year.
In preparing that wish list, there was some careful consideration and a few (if not several) trips to the record store(s) to ensure that the albums I chose would bring maximum enjoyment. I would meticulously review the song lists and count the number of songs I knew versus the ones I didn’t, and then compared from one album to the next.
We didn’t have listening stations, YouTube, iTunes or Spotify to check out those other unknown songs. Sometimes I might have been able to borrow a certain album from a friend or from the library, but for the most part, those other songs were often a mystery until the record was home and on the turntable.
When I think back, I am surprised at how methodical I was for such a young age, but value for money was pretty important given my limited means and my appetite for music.
Once I made my decision, the list was sent off to Santa, as I waited with bated breath to see what Christmas Day would bring. If I received one or two record albums from the list, I was happy as a clam for the days and weeks to follow.
Then it happened around age 13… the life-changing discovery that rocked my world metaphorically and musically: the Sam the Record Man Boxing Day Sale! This was the one day of the year that Sam the Record Man would have a sale on all regularly-priced records in the store, as well as deep discounts on selected chart-topping titles.
It only took one newspaper ad on December 24th for the math geek in me to realize the obvious: instead of asking for albums for which Santa will probably pay full price, perhaps I should ask for gift certificates (yes, “certificates” as they were still of the paper variety, not plastic) and I could get more records for the same money. Duly noted for next year.
In late November the following year, the planning process began for “Project: Boxing Day”. When asked what I wanted for Christmas, the top item on the list was “Sam the Record Man gift certificates”. Through the month of December, between studying for mid-terms, I was back in the record stores studying song lists from album covers, preparing my shortlist. Excitement was building. On Christmas Eve, I checked out the newspaper for the Sam’s Boxing Day Sale ad and started planning my strategy.
Because I was already of age to take the city bus on my own to get to high school, I asked my mother if I could take the bus to the mall on Boxing Day to take in the sale. She agreed. Out came the bus company’s map and schedules to make sure I could get there as soon as it opened.
To my great delight, that year, Santa brought my first Sam the Record Man gift certificates, which ensured that “Project: Boxing Day” was a go.
That first time, Boxing Day morning was more exciting than Christmas morning, as I hurried through my shower and breakfast, to get to the bus stop on time to make it to the record store as it was opening.
When I got there, my heart sank when I saw a line-up that seemed to go on for kilometers, of other music fans with the same idea. Just the same, after all the planning I did, there was no way I was just going to turn around and head home.
I stood in line, reviewing my list and checking out the people in line ahead of me to determine whether they looked like ABBA fans or not, and whether my number one choice, “ABBA’s Greatest Hits”, would still be available by the time I got in.
As the doors opened, my adrenaline started pumping.
Despite the length of the line-up, it didn’t take long to get in the store. Sam’s seemed well-prepared for Boxing Day. They were fully staffed, both on the sales floor and at the check-out, and they had both cash registers running.
The store was a little crowded but being on the short and skinny side, I had no problem squeezing through the other music fans, to scope out and scoop up the items on my list.
Even though I didn’t mind the line-up at the check-out, I recall feeling quite warm after the dash through the store full of Boxing Day shoppers in my winter coat. I was worried that the vinyl records under my arm would melt before I’d be able to pay for them, but it all worked out.
As the Sam the Record Man cashier security-sealed my plastic bag of records and sent me on my way, I recall the feeling of euphoria of having claimed more records for my money. It was brilliant.
Throughout the Christmas break, my turntable was quite busy, playing my new record albums, and replaying the euphoria of the great prices I paid for them.
My New Year’s Resolution was to do it again the next year, which then became an annual tradition for me for many years that followed.
Whenever I think of Boxing Day, I smile when I recall the fond memories of the Sam the Record Man Boxing Day sales and of the great music it added to my rapidly growing collection.
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