April 15, 2004
Coffee County -- Amazing people do amazing things that you may never know about. Take Marc Reed who lives in South Coffee County. The brick home looks like many others in the neighborhood with only a flag pole making it stand out. Once you get past the metal welcome sign in the hall, that connects the car port to the kitchen, you realize you have stepped into an unusual place that you would have never imagined existed.
A collector's heaven. "It's a tremendous amount of fun finding stuff," says Mark as he stands at the end of a seed display cabinet found in stores long ago. His wife, Debra, displays pasta in it. Literally, everywhere you look, you see more and more interesting collectables, then another, and another. They sit everywhere.
The manual coffee bean grinder works. They use it to grind their morning coffee that gets prepared in a 1915 silver coffee percolator. Only, the fuse needed replacing when he bought it. Colorful jars of blue, orange and purple line the top of the wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room. The Reed's have sharpened their jar collection, looking for jars with unusual tops. "My wife says I have pftra disease," says Marc with a laugh.
It stands for phonographs, fans, telephones, and refrigerators, items he collects. And, when he collects, he collects. No half-effort. Take electric fans. He has one of the first models ever sold that looks more like a wind speed sensor for a weather station than a wind machine. Another fan, with bare terminals where the wire connects to the motor, sits in the same room.
A fan with two pairs of blades used in a bank to cool two tellers at the same time. "They all have to work," says Marc, who has a gift for repairing. "If it's broke, most of the time I can fix it," says Marc, who sometimes must make a part if no available in his parts bins. "I like the late 1800s to 1935," says Marc, "People put themselves into it. Everything they made during that period was superior to what we make today."
A telephone from Alcatraz prison with eight lines in the warden's office. Marc believes the warden and Al Capone had several conversations on it. The warden's phone number, written in pencil, remains on the front. He has one of the first, if not the first, commercial refrigerator made by General Electric. The coils sit on top of the unit, ice forms in the freezer compartment since it was made long before automatic defrosting made it to market. The old refrigerator still works, cooling his beloved Moxie soft drink.
Pictures of Marc's hero, Thomas Edison, when he was young and not so young, look over one room of his treasures. "I think we have some Thomas Edison checks in there," says Marc. He likes Edison's willingness to stick with a project, and the inventor's versatility, even creating cement.
With hundreds of items in display cases, Marc prefers old items that play music. He turns a crank on a brown box and it starts playing, a single bellows organ made by GEM in the late 1800s. A cylinder with sharp points turns and moves little keys that open at just the right time to play "Dixie."
Don't like that box's sound? He has another music machine, called the Mechanical Organette that uses a continuous sheet of paper with holes in it to play the right notes, much like the old roll-type, player piano.
Marc's talents include repairing old wind-up phonographs, the ones with the big horns, the all mechanical players, the first home entertainment centers that many people call Victrolas. "I enjoy finding and fixing and bringing back to life," says Marc as he starts to repair one.
How did he learn to repair a mechanical phonograph older than he is? It started when he was transferred by the U. S. Postal Service to New Jersey. "I apprenticed with a man for three years," says Bobby remembering the gentleman who taught him how to fix the old record players.
They sit everywhere. In the home. In the garage and in the shop. He has 230 wind-up phonographs with records ready to play on them. Where does he find the collectables? "Mostly junk flea markets where a house has been cleaned out," says Bobby who waited 15 years to find just the right part for a record player.
Marc Reed does much more than fix old appliances people have forgotten about. "I enjoy finding and fixing, bringing back to life," says Marc who often spends hours in his shop, forgetting about the world, fixing history back like it use to be.
Marc has a web site: www.victrolashop.com.