A Gigantic Vinyl Stash?

Record Club of America
Manchester, Pennsylvania
submitted by “wendyvee”

Do you have the 411 on the current state of the RCOA?
Any fond (or not so fond) memories of mail-order music clubs?
Please share in the comment section at the end of the post!

 

wendyvee says:
I wanted to take a fairly quick ride late yesterday. I didn’t have a lot of time; but I wanted to take advantage of the nice weather, before thunderstorms and lower temperatures overtake my area this weekend. It occured to me that I had enough daylight to check out a sign that I vaguely remembered passing a few years ago.

The Record Club of America warehouse/office complex is on Route 181 in Manchester (near York, Pennsylvania). Though it’s only about 30 – 40 minutes away from my house, I don’t ride on 181 very often (it’s not very challenging or interesting as a motorcycle road and much slower than Interstate 83 if I’m not flower sniffin’).

There isn’t a lot of information on the Web about the RCOA (oddly it does still have a telephone listing which seems to function, though no one answers) What little info I found via some message boards - indicates that the club went bust at some point in the mid-70s (I also found some unconfirmed accounts of  the company’s brief resurrection via a massive catalog of back titles offered at some point in the 80s). 

The Arrival:
I pulled in front of the vintage 60s-era sign, thinking I’d snap a few pictures and quickly be on my way … but then I turned and saw the front office windows! There appear to be rows and rows of albums still in the building!!!! The windows pictured are in the office attachment at the front of the building.

There is a leasing opportunity sign on the property … but it seems pretty weird to me that a 70,000 square foot warehouse & 12,000 square foot office building appear virtually untouched. I did find some old court documents involving RCOA lawsuits via Google (including one involving Columbia Records) … is it possible that legal proceedings could keep things tied-up this long?

I had no way to discern if the warehouse itself was full of records, but can you imagine the scope of this collection if it is??? There were some fresh-looking pallets stacked by the loading dock … maybe the warehouse has been re-purposed and the office area is the only section of the building that holds old inventory? It’s a mystery for sure!

Note:
Seeing these pictures definitely doesn’t convey the shock of seeing a building full of vintage vinyl very well … but trust me, it was cool (and puzzling)

Though the Record Club of America was slightly before my time – Oh, how I remember falling for Columbia House & BMG cassette offers! You know … the “13 Free Tapes” (and then we own your immortal soul for all of eternity <insert evil corporate cackle here> bwaaa, haaa, haaa, haaa) offers from yesteryear?

I would be in boombox heaven for weeks. Then the subscription cards and automatic mailings would arrive. I would endure endless parental lectures about fiscal responsibility and avoiding marketing ploys. Fulfilling the contract meant keeping ahead of request cards and paying outrageous shipping charges. So, I would resolve to never fall in the “music club trap”. Eventually, I would start filling-out new offers just for fun (putting stars beside the artists that I wanted, followed by 30 painstaking minutes of whittling the options down to 13).

As time went by, I would develop selective amnesia and take the bait on another too-good-to-miss offer … lather.rinse.repeat :)

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10 Responses to “A Gigantic Vinyl Stash?”

  1. Bee says:

    I can remember filling out those cards… I don’t remember if I ever sent one in though, fearing the wrath of an irate father!

    Interesting story, I bet you find the answer!

  2. OMG I just drove past that yesterday (4/17) myself and took a photo of the sign too! I wanted to poke around some more but I swear I thought I saw someone in there. I thought it was apropos for me to see that sign since it was Record Store Day. Great minds think alike!

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2684/4532285359_0f1101fea9_o.jpg

    • wendyvee says:

      How funny would it have been had we been there at the same time? LOL

      I just found out that a pallet company uses the warehouse section (which explains the tower of new-looking pallets that I saw at the rear of the parking lot).

      I found out a bit more about the owner too. I’m trying to see if they’ll let me go in to take pictures … but I’m doubting that they will.

  3. Chris says:

    Just drove by there last week (April 2012) and took a picture of the sign. … Here’s a blog post I wrote about it in Summer 2010: http://www.yorkblog.com/onlyyork/2010/08/when-vinyl-was-king-rememberin.html

    • wendyvee says:

      That’s so great to see the catalog scans!

      I saw a few bady scanned ads when I Googled while originally writing this post; but nothing as cool as yours :)

  4. Blake Stough says:

    I’ve been by the property several times over the past few weeks during my visits to the historic Hake’s Distillery property I wrote about. I’ll bet you didn’t realize you were only a few minutes away from it.

    Excellent post.

  5. Blake Stough says:

    Nope. If you drove south for… oh… a minute, you would’ve been there.

    There’s always the next trip!

  6. Jim E says:

    I have fond memories of my membership to Record Club of America, started around 1972 or 1973 when I was just developing my own musical taste. Many titles in my long-ignored vinyl collection carry the RCA stamp: Yes, Allman Bros, CSNY, Who…
    Other clubs seemed a rip-off, but this one was cool.


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