by Elsie Walker
The thrift shop which opened this summer at Stanhope United Methodist Church in Netcong is called Hope’s Hidden Treasures. For Netcong resident, Bill Rosequist, that name took on a new meaning when a family treasure was found and returned. It was a vinyl record with the voice of his father, Carl, recorded for him as an infant, found among records that had been purchased at the shop.
Carl “Bob” Rosequist entered World War II at age 19. When he came back, he joined the Pennsylvania National Guard. The Korean War started on June 25, 1950 and Rosequist and his wife had their first child, a boy named Bill, on June 26th. Later, Bob Rosequist would find that he was called to serve, and would be stationed in Indiana. Having to leave his son at only a year old, the elder Rosequist wanted to give him a way to hear his voice and know what he meant to him. At the time, people could make a voice-o-graph record. According to the article, “The History of Those Recording Studio Booths,” voice-a-graphs were made in a coin-operated recording booth which was about the size of a phone booth with a microphone in it. A person could record about three minutes on a voice-o-graph, with the audio scratched into the vinyl (rather than pressed into the vinyl as mass produced records were). Rosenquist recorded himself singing the first three verses of the Al Jolson song, “Sonny Boy” on a voice-o-graph.
Some may recognize the song from the first verse:
Climb up on my knee Sonny Boy
Though you’re only three Sonny Boy
You’ve no way of knowing
There’s no way of showing
What you mean to me Sonny Boy.
The song is a father telling his son what he means to him. On the record label, Rosequist put, “From Daddy to Bill…first one….will do better later”.
For the early period of his young life, Bill Rosequist only knew his father through the voice on the record and his picture in the dining room. Even when his dad returned, a standing family joke was to ask Rosequist where his dad was. He would always point to the picture in the dining room. The record of “Sonny Boy” was kept in the original envelope used to send it to Rosenquist’s mother and put in a foldout multi – record holder with other records to keep it safe. Bill Rosequist’s grandma had it at her home and would play it when the family visited.
Over the years, the record was lost and forgotten as it changed hands. When Bill Rosequist’s grandmother died, her house was cleaned out, and the record went to Bill Rosequist’s parents. Bill’s dad passed away and then his mother. Their house was cleaned out and somehow the record got forgotten and was mixed in with things that were eventually donated for sale at the church. However, all was not lost, even though the records were purchased and ended up in Pennsylvania.
A member of the church, Bette Jaegar of Stanhope, saw the records at an advanced opening sale at the thrift shop and thought they would be perfect for her son, Gary Troutman, of Pennsylvania. whose hobby is collecting antique records. She asked if he wanted them, and when he said “yes”, she bought them and he picked them up. However, one day when he was listening to his treasures, there was a big surprise on one. Troutman heard someone singing “Sonny Boy” in the scratchy audio those recording booths were known to produce, and then saw the message from a father to his son on the label. Troutman realized the record’s sentimental value and looked for a way to identify its owner. The original mailing envelope was still there and on it, the name “Rosequist”. Troutman contacted his mother, who attends the church.
On the official opening day of the thrift shop, Jaeger came up to Rosequist who was also volunteering there. Bill Rosequist recalled Jaeger saying to him, “I have something that belongs to you”. Rosequist noted that it was lucky that someone connected to the church got it and that his last name is not a common one, as that made it easy to identify just who the record belonged to, so it could be returned. Now, Bob Rosequist’s voice-o-graph, the gift of love from a father to son, has been returned to his “Sonny boy”.