OKLAHOMA CITY -- A bit of Americana is tucked into a stone building in Oklahoma City -- it's a bubbling, flashing, throbbing display of the machines that helped mold the country's musical tastes for more than half a century.
They're lined up back to back, nearly 100 of the money-gobbling wood, plastic and chrome jukeboxes that belted out the tunes that set feet tapping for the bobby-soxers, the cool and the punk.
"It started out just as a hobby," says Don Fairchild, owner of the Jukebox Hall of Fame. "I'd wanted a jukebox for a long time and bought one about five years ago. Then our children wanted to put their music on it and there's only room for so many records. So we got one for their music.
"One led to two, two led to four, and finally my wife said that something had to be done."
So Fairchild created a temple to that staple of the hamburger joint and the sock hop.
Packed into the building are jukeboxes from 1935, the second year of manufacture, to the newest 1988 models. Included among them are some that Fairchild says are extremely rare, including a 1938 Wurlitzer table-top model and a 1946 AMI referred to as "The Mother of Plastic."
Fairchild has jukeboxes made by each of the "Big Four" companies: Wurlitzer, Rock-Ola, Seeburg and AMI. Only Rock-Ola and AMI are still in business, Fairchild says.
Most of the jukeboxes Fairchild has are for sale, but not the 1941-42 cherry wood Wurlitzer Model 780.
"That's the only one like it in the state," says Fairchild, a 45-year-old former truck driver. "They made these for two years, kind of snuck them in at the beginning of World War II."
Fairchild says he tries to display the advances made over the years.
"The first jukebox was made in 1934 and it was pretty rough technologically," he says. "It held only 12 records and was in an all-wooden cabinet."
The technology has changed with fashions. Fairchild points out one as an example.
"The grille resembles a 1948 Buick," he says. "The dashboard is off a '48 Buick. Even the keys are identical to the keys that were on the car's radio."
Nearby is a futuristic-looking jukebox with a wraparound listing of records.
"That's the space model that came out in 1957, the year the Russians launched the first Sputnik,' Fairchild says.
The prices for the jukeboxes are high -- up to $9,000 for the 1946 Wurlitzer with oil-filled tubes that bubbled as the music played.
For the more modest purchase, Fairchild has the old wall- or table-mounted selection boxes found in diners, where customers could drop in their nickels to hear their favorite tunes.
"People are buying these to use as rotating telephone directories," he says. "They just flip the cards over, write in the name and phone number. A 12-volt power supply will make it light up and everything."
Fairchild's Hall of Fame is something like a trip back to the 1950s. A view through the window shows a jukebox flanked by mannequins dressed in jeans and bobby socks. Inside, an eight-stool make-believe ice cream parlor completes the idea.
Fairchild travels the country looking for additions to his collection. "I can tell you where each and every one came from," he says.
In addition to restoring and selling jukeboxes and related memorabilia, the company also repairs jukeboxes for private owners. Fairchild is also a retail dealer for new ones and rents the machines for parties. The back of the establishment is given over to records.
"If someone buys a jukebox, they can pick out the music they want on it," Fairchild says. "They can have music from the era of the jukebox or from any other time they'd like."
Fairchild says he has about 200,000 of the 45 rpm records and around 8,000 78 rpm records, some going back to the early part of the century.