By Norris Chambers

             In the old days a microphone, amplifier and speaker when properly combined constituted what was called a public address system. My first system was a little crude, but worked very well. Clifton and I did some blacksmith shop work and fashioned a microphone stand from an old automobile brake drum, three feet of three-quarter inch pipe and another three feet of three-eighth inch pipe. The microphone was a three inch radio speaker housed in the prettiest square box we could build. The pretty grill, taken from an old radio, made a nice looking front. This dynamic mike screwed on top and a thumb screw about the middle allowed the height to be adjusted. The silver paint job gave us a “one of a kind” but functional microphone. The amplifier was a product of my radio shop and was no problem for a county engineer! This creation had an output power of 18 watts, derived from an automobile battery. The speakers were also home brewed from two regular eight inch speakers mounted in modified horns from old Atwater-Kent radios. These fit on top of a car or anywhere else you needed them.   

            One balmy Saturday we did our radio show in Dublin and peddled Farm Boy peanut butter to the grocery stores in the towns between there and Brownwood. We were in Sam’s big Hudson and had the speakers mounted on the car’s top. We were inclined to advertise our peanut butter a little when we saw a likely place. In Brownwood we spied a likely place just east of the court house and across the street from a big grocery store. We placed our fancy microphone on the sidewalk, took out our musical instruments and the four of us began to make some music – maybe not too good, but certainly loud enough.

            Sam and Elbert cuddled up to the microphone and began singing Chinatown, My Chinatown. They finished that song and we were about half way through Maple on the Hill when a nice little crowd began to form along the sidewalk and on the court house lawn. After a short advertising break and a tune called Cotton Eyed Joe cars were stopping in the street to listen. The music probably wasn’t that good, but there was a lot of cheering from the crowd. Requests were being shouted from the admiring audience and we were happy to comply. The crowd began to sing along when we played Just Because.

            Everyone was having more fun than a barrel of monkeys when a uniformed policeman made his way through the crowd and to our little spot on the sidewalk. He didn’t lose much time in letting us know the reason for his visit.

            “You boys are disturbing the peace,” he began. “And obstructing traffic. Not only that, but the crowd is tramping on the courthouse lawn. There is a strict county rule against walking on the grass. In other words, what you are doing is just not allowed!”

            Sam volunteered a comment when it would have been better to remain silent. “We’re not hurting anything. The people are having fun!”

            “The law is the law!” was his answer. “You’ll have to shut it down or I’ll have to escort you to that jail over there!” He pointed to the big rock building west of us. There were bars on the windows and it didn’t have a friendly appearance.

            Someone in the crowd yelled out real loud, “Let them play one more song!” 

            “One more!” the policeman answered, “And either move on or go to jail!”  There were several “boos” from the crowd. Elbert and Sam walked up to the microphone and we started playing In the Jailhouse Now.  There was a lot of laughing from the crowd and even the policeman smiled.

            We finished the song and began packing our sparse equipment. Many well-wishers gathered around and chatted a little while. Then we moved on to peddle some more Farm Boy peanut butter. As we drove away the policeman waved and we waved back at him.

            Several years later I had a radio repair shop in downtown Brownwood.  During the Christmas holidays I had a speaker outside with some peppy Christmas music and a homemade, jointed, dancing gentleman on a small wooden stage in the window. An old speaker beneath the stage with a rod connected to the puppet kept him jogging in perfect time with the music. This display attracted several watchers and listeners.

            You guessed correctly. That same policeman walked into my shop and announced that my speaker was too loud. I recognized him instantly and I think he recognized me.

            “You won’t have to take me to jail,” I explained, smiling, “I’ll turn the sound down!”

            “Not even one more song!” he said. He was grinning like a happy ‘possum. He stopped at my shop often after that and I considered him a good friend. 

            Was this fun? It was; perhaps you ought to irritate a policeman and make a friend out of him. That is real fun!