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I Get a Kick Out of You

Nick, George, and Tom, c. 1961.Nick, George, and Tom, c. 1959.

By Tom Soter

For years, the tape existed in obscurity. Apparently, when I was three years old, my parents took my brother Nick and me on a summer vacation visiting friends in Connecticut. The couple we visited was apparently technologically very advanced for 1959 because they had a bulky, reel-to-reel tape-recorder, with which they would tape everything, including unsuspecting children.

To back up: my father, George, never much liked children's songs, or children's books. He abhored the simple-minded, sing-song rhymes of Dr. Seuss. No green eggs and ham for him; he preferred to sing us to sleep with his favorite Frank Sinatra tunes (very much in vogue in the late '50s, with his swinging jazz Capitol LPs).

So when our host brought out his tape-recorder, we did one rendition of "I've Been Working on the Railroad," before falling into our own unique duet of "I Get a Kick Out of You." If the recording hadn't been lost for 20 years, my dad and I may have had completely different careers.

Or maybe not.

Listen to:
A Duet

By Tom Soter

Q What were we like as kids?
A You were absolutely adorable and I was thinking the other day… You were absolutely sweet and lovable. I really liked you when you were a kid. You evoke such pleasant memories and such a nostalgia for the time, more than of the other two kids. In a way, I sort of related to you as a child.
Q: In what way? What were you thinking of?
A: I don’t know, I sort of identified with you because you were very sweet. Although you were also very willful.
Q: Um-hmm, what are you thinking of?
A: Specific things?
Q: Yeah, I mean something must (inaudible)…
A: Well, you know, you wouldn’t try certain kinds of food if you thought you didn’t like them. You were just like very stubborn about certain things. And well, later when it got to television, you were obsessive about seeing certain things and any interruption would make you furious (laughs). Like going to the theater was like pulling teeth. What night is it or what time will we be out? One night I think there was somebody I’d seen when we’d gone to the theater and I think Carol zoomed up in a taxi with you almost before the curtain was down so you could see whatever it was you liked to see.
Q: But what about me little did you identify with? I mean I don’t know if you identified with the willfulness, but…
A: No, I identified with the sweetness.
Q: But I mean was it just the manner or was it things I would do?
A: It was the manner and I can’t… I’ll have to think about it, I can’t articulate it quite well, it’s just the memory of it (inaudible). Well, it’s like on that record where I asked you to sing something and you said, “I can’t do that, daddy, I can’t do that,” there was something nice about it. At any rate…
Q: And I said, “Sing with me,” and you were asking all the story about the snake and all that stuff.
A: Yeah, right. But there was a lot of competition; Nicky felt usurped because he had been there first for a while, suddenly there was this other guy that everybody was paying attention to.
Q: When did he start hitting me?
A: (laughs) From day one. Oh, I don’t know, not when you were an infant. It was when you started playing together. You and he had different tastes; he didn’t like all that theater, playing with soldiers and forts. I don’t know if he didn’t like it, but he didn’t do it.
Q: What did he do? How did he play? What did he play with?
A: I don’t know, I don’t remember. But he wasn’t… you had all these little scenarios with your forts and your soldiers and all this stuff and you were always doing that. I don’t remember him doing any of that. He was more athletic from an early age, when they’d go into the park.
Q: Like baseball and stuff.
A: Yeah, throwing balls and baseball and doing stuff like that rather than… He wasn’t in his head so much the way you were. You were sort of… You played with yourself, in a way, you did things… Now there may have been times when you did war games together, they just don’t stand out in my head. My memories of you moving all those little soldiers and trucks and stuff, having whole plots based on… you know, it was improve.
Q: Right, whole little villages of people.
A: Yeah, right and you had plots concocted and I don’t remember Nick doing that sort of thing, using his imagination. He wasn’t imaginative the way you were.
Q: And then Peter, when peter came on the scene? That was four years after I was born.
A: Yeah, and very quickly, within the first year, you became Peter’s caretaker. When he started going to school, you would help dress him and walk him. You were very paternal towards him even before that, when you played games with him and stuff like that. But it was fun, I enjoyed having kids around. Better than dogs.