As Lamar Pruitt cranked a handle on his Victor Vic III, a phonograph produced in the early 20th century, and dropped the machines, the room in his Cumming home filled with the sound of “Golden Slippers” by Vernon Dalhart and Carson Robinson, a gospel tune recorded in the 1920s, played from a shellac disk, a predecessor to modern vinyl records.
“You have to wind it up,” Pruitt explained. “No electricity.”
While many may have never heard – or heard of – a phonograph or other antique devices, the Vic III is one of about 25 of the machines that Pruitt owns, including phonographs – machines like the Vic III with a horn and hand crank – and Victrolas – larger players with internal horns inside a wooden cabinet making it more of a piece of furniture.
Each of the machines has its own story and intricacies, and most are filled with records.
Pruitt said his first player belonged to either his grandfather or uncle and aunt before it came into his mother’s possession. Pruitt said he decided to take it after a business owner made an offer to his mother he wasn’t thrilled with.
“She said, ‘This lady down below us wants it for a bar,’” Pruitt said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that. I’ll come and get it. Me and my wife went down there and got it and cleaned it up real nice.”
Along with the machines, Pruitt owns an impressive record collection, a multitude of Coke items, including some over 100 years old, and a museum’s worth of other antiques ranging from furniture to musical instruments to farming equipment and more.
By his own estimation, Pruitt owns upward of 60,000 records, many still unopened.
“I think I counted them one time, I had over 20,000 45s and about that many of the 78s, and probably more than that of long plays [LPs],” Pruitt said.
A collection of that size takes time, and Pruitt said he first began collecting more than 60 years ago with his first wife, Patsy, a hobby the pair continued until she passed away.
“When we first started, that was right after we married, I guess, in the ’50s,” he said. “And my wife and my brother’s wife, to get a good deal on groceries, they’d go to Gainesville to get them. If they had a dime or a quarter left over, they went by the dime store and picked up a record. You just had to do what you could back then, but later on, it got out of hand.”
Some locals might remember the pair from the Cumming Country Fair and Festival, where he and Patsy had a booth and their names and the iconic Victor Talking Machine Company, the company who produced the Victrola. The sign now hangs in the same room as the larger part of his collection.
Pruitt’s collection is heavy on country music and gospel, and artists such as Elvis, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and the Chuck Wagon Gang, a particular favorite.
As a collector, he also sold records and many are still on displays fit for a record store.
“Most of this right here are bluegrass, and there’s some really, really good stuff there,” Pruitt said. “Most of them are just like new. If they’re scratched up, I don’t want them myself.”
Interestingly, a good part of his collection is picture records meant more for being seen rather than heard and bearing images of artists, college sports teams, movies and others.
“Back I guess in the ’80s is when you could find most of them like that. That’s when the picture disks came out,” he said. “They didn’t [take any] time until they were gone.”
Some of the more interesting parts of his collection come from Edison Records, founded by Thomas Edison.
In his extensive collection, Pruitt has Edison disc records, which are much thicker than most records, up to a quarter-inch thick, and have to be played on one of the company’s machines, a competitor to the Victrola.
Pruitt also owns Edison Records unlike any other kind of record.
Whereas most records are a flat disk, Pruitt also has a number of cylinder records, which as the name suggests was molded into a cylinder with the groove on the outer edge.
“This one, it is different,” said Pruitt, adding after playing a brief example of its music, “that’s kind of odd.”
While his record collection is impressive, and came first, Pruitt also owns a collection of Coca-Cola products and merchandise including whistles, toys, cups and other collectibles.
Of course, he has thousands of bottles of different sodas, including special Coke bottles commemorating events from sports teams to local events to anniversaries of the company and almost anything in between.
A significant number of bottles date back to the 1910s and 1920s.
That collection, Pruitt said, started when his father-in-law ran a store in town.
“What they would do is they would save me older bottles when they came in,” he said. “So I got a lot of stuff that way, then my family gave me stuff. Coke used to put out a lot of good stuff.”
These days, Pruitt said he doesn’t add as much to either his Coke or record collections but that doesn’t mean he has stopped entirely.
“I really don’t look for too much anymore because I’m running out of room,” Pruitt said. “But I do look at records every once in a while to see if there is something I think I don’t have.”