Groovin’ is My Hobby by
(303 Stories)

Prompted By Hobbies

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Around thirty years ago, I discovered among my possessions a recording I had made in my 8th grade speech class, some twenty-five years before that. Written on the dust jacket, in handwriting that was identifiably my own, was my name and the name of the speech teacher, Mr. Fanelli, who taught a unit in our English class that year. It was the size of a 45 rpm record, although it only had a small hole in the middle, not the big one that 45s traditionally have. It turned out to be a 78 rpm record. Our turntable didn’t have a 78 setting, so we played it at 45. It was low-pitched and sluggish sounding because of being much too slow, but I knew it was my voice because it was saying my name, my address, my birthdate, and other information about me.

If a hobby is "an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure," my only true hobby as a child was reading.

Remembering as I was getting ready to write this story that one of the things I was required to say on the recording was what my hobbies were (and forgetting that it was a 78 rpm record), I thought I would dig it out, record it on my phone, and then attach the audio file to this story. Unfortunately that will not happen unless I can find a turntable with 78 on it. I don’t want you to listen to the growly voice, although it is pretty amusing.

Listening to it again now, I was surprised to hear myself say “My hobbies are swimming, playing the oboe, playing the piano, reading, and collecting stuffed animals.” I wonder if we were required to come up with five hobbies, because these do not ring true to me. Reading certainly. Swimming in the summer, sure, but only at camp, because we didn’t have a pool of our own or membership in a swim club. Collecting stuffed animals, yes, whenever possible. But playing the oboe I did as a chore because I was taking lessons and had assigned pieces to learn, and because I wanted to be good enough to play in the orchestra at school and at summer camp. Piano I’m pretty sure I had quit playing by this point.

A hobby is defined as “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” By that definition, I would say that my only true hobby of those five that I listed was reading. I also loved to play jacks, either alone or with friends. It was a hugely popular activity at camp, and easy to play at home since I could play by myself, sitting on the floor in my room. I was really good at it too, I could bend my fingers way back for the flipping part of the game, and I was adept at picking up the jacks in the other part of the game. I wonder why I didn’t include that hobby when I made my recording.

I never got involved in any of the hobbies that involved kits, as described in the prompt text – paint-by-numbers; model airplanes, cars, trains, and boats; beading and weaving; stamp and coin collecting; paper dolls. I wonder now why I didn’t. But I don’t recall that any of my friends did either. My father had a stamp collection, but I never had any interest in it. I may have done paint-by-numbers a few times, but it seemed silly to me, and not anything like real art.

In high school and college I played a lot of cards, mostly bridge and hearts. (See Bridge Over Troubled Waters.) In more recent years I have immersed myself in playing mah jongg. (See Mah Jongg Blues.) But probably my most consistent, and most satisfying, hobby for virtually my entire life has been singing. I should have included that on my 8th grade recording too, because it was certainly as true then as it is now. I was on the right track when I talked about music, because music has always been an important part of my life, but much more as a singer than an oboist or pianist. My family sang all the time, whether in the car or around a piano (but not played by me). I have always sung along with my records and with the radio. And I have sung in choral groups at summer camp, in high school, college, and as an adult. Basically, I sing all the time.

So if I were making that record now, I would say my hobbies are reading, singing, swimming (now that I do have my own pool), and playing mah jongg. If I were required to add a fifth hobby, I would include writing stories for Retrospect.

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Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    That’s great that you have the old recording, Suzy! Too bad it is a 78! But at least you could make out the words to give you a clue about the assignment. I suspect, our tastes are quite similar from that era. Since I had this prompt before I got the whole description, I already had the story formed in my head and didn’t realize we were supposed to go back to childhood.

    I had forgotten about jacks! That was a fun activity, like rollerskating and bike riding for me. I suspect that many of the other writers will bring up things that I did (but didn’t write about) that will resonate for me. Happy memories. Fun that you mention “collecting stuffed animals”. I don’t think I ever thought about it in those terms, but the second bed in my bedroom was full of them, gifts from my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and I, too, cherished them. That’s a pleasant memory as well.

    I never really played an instrument, but of course, like you, I sang all my life, and also loved to read until my dry eyes made it uncomfortable. I used to play a lot of cards, but have never gotten into mah jongg. Now, writing takes up a lot of time. Hooray for Retrospect!

    • Suzy says:

      Betsy, I’m really surprised that when you saw that “Hobbies” was a prompt, you didn’t assume it would refer to hobbies of our youth. After all, the whole purpose of this site is to “think back” to our youth and “share forward.” So if you do have youthful hobbies to remember, you should write another story this week that more closely reflects the prompt.

  2. Great recall Suzy, and great story of your past and present hobbies!

    Brava to all you do and for keeping Retro such a great creative outlet for us all!

  3. John Shutkin says:

    That is so cool that you have that recording with your hobbies on it! I am envious, and it would sure help our (or at least my) fading memory to have such contemporaneous evidence for our stories. Though, as we lawyers know, even testimony can be pretty unreliable. Particularly when your “jury” is your 8th grade teacher.

    And thank you for including reading as a hobby. As a book lover (or really Kindle these days), I considered writing about it myself, but was a bit reticent to classify it as such. But your mention of it validates it for me. And you also validate your “separated at birth” sibling-ship with Betsy by listing not just reading, but singing and writing as your current hobbies.

    All in all, a great prompt and a great story.

    • Suzy says:

      Not sure what you mean about the “jury” being my 8th grade teacher. Isn’t the jury anyone who is listening to the record now? And yes, I definitely consider reading a hobby, so you can add it to your list.

      • John Shutkin says:

        Good point about juries, Suzy, but I assume that the initial jury –and judge, too– for your record was your eighth grade teacher. (Incidentally, the nicest cop in our town was Officer Fanelli, and his son Danny, who later also became a cop, was a classmate. I wonder if the New Jersey Fanellis were related to the Connecticut Fanellis.)

        And, yes, I’m delighted that you have officially sanctioned reading as a hobby. Maybe an Olympic event, too? Speed reading?

    • John Shutkin says:

      Let me add that I didn’t realize until I googled that “Groovin’ Is My Hobby” was an actual song title. I had just assumed that you had just expanded on “Groovin'” by the Young Rascals from our youth and you were cleverly referring to the grooves on your 8th grade recording. But your song title is an even better — indeed, perfect — fit for this prompt.

  4. Dave Ventre says:

    I’ve always thought of “hobbies” and “sports” as different things, but by the quoted definition (“activity”) they are not. Under my old definition, reading would have been the only hobby I ever had!

  5. Marian says:

    Very nice recap, Suzy, and it would be fun to hear your voice from that speech class recording, but does anyone have a 78-rpm turntable anymore? Reading is so ubiquitous among our group that I didn’t consider writing a story about it. It’s obvious that music was and continues to be a pleasurable part of your life.

    • Suzy says:

      Marian, I’m hoping that somebody who reads this story will tell me where to find a 78 rpm turntable. I read advice online about just speeding up a record with your hand, but it didn’t work at all for me.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    I smiled at the memory of jacks–I used to like that too and wonder if anyone even knows what that is anymore. Singing for sure should be on your list, and I liked the fact you included Retrospect too.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    Thanks for reminding me about jacks, Suzy. I did play that for a period of my childhood. Also pick up sticks. Wish I could say I was a decent singer since I loved to do it, but always ended up in the alto section of the school choir. One of my daughters and one of her daughters have beautiful voices, but not from my side of the family. Glad we share the hobby of Retrospect.

    • Suzy says:

      Laurie, I must take issue with your comment about not being a decent singer so you “always ended up in the alto section.” Altos are the BEST singers, and I am proud to be one! Sopranos sing the melody, which everyone generally knows already, and altos sing the harmony, which is more challenging. In fact, the standard musician joke is that the definition of an alto is “a female singer who can read music.”

      I loved pick-up sticks too, and actually played once recently with some other people, although I forget the context. Of course the sticks are plastic now instead of wood, which makes them slippery, so it’s more difficult.

  8. Suzy, not to make your story about me, but I have one of those records, too! Mine was made in a booth at Union Station…I’ll never know, but I think we’d just gotten off the train or were waiting to board. I’ve always wanted to listen to it because my older brother was on it, too…sadly, never found a way.

    You’ve made me feel nostalgic for jacks, too! I played by myself for hours on end…but I don’t know what you mean by bending your fingers way back for the flipping part. What have I missed?!?

    I wish I’d had a chance to hear you sing last week…one of these days!!

    • Suzy says:

      How fun that you have a record too. Maybe we can get the turntable that Dave mentioned, and then we can both listen to our records at the right speed.

      I wish we had talked about jacks when we were together last week. Easier to show you what I mean than tell you. We ought to do a zoom about jacks.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      I also made a record at a boardwalk booth, along with a niece and nephew. We sang, of course, “Under the Boardwalk”. It became a standing joke because I was so flat and off-key, wounding my ego. It was, mercifully, destroyed. But I still sing in the shower.

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