Information on the company featured in today's column might have been a little hard to come by were it not for a somewhat common parking infraction given a surprisingly detailed account by a weekly tabloid.
This matchbook, put up for auction by the aptly named user matchcovers, is offered by Bill Retskin of Asheville, N.C., author of The Matchcover Collector's Price Guide. This item was made for the New England Music Co. at 31 Golden Street (now the home of ). The matchbook also lists American Vending Corp. at the same address, though this business was similar. The companies installed jukeboxes, cigarette machines, and other coin-operated vending and amusement devices.
The New England Music Co. was co-owned by Irving Geltzer (who also worked as an auxiliary policeman in New London) and Nathan Lesser. Information on the company itself is somewhat sparse. It frequently got a blurb in Billboard as Geltzer appeared in various trade events. In 1954, he was named sergeant at arms of the Music Operators of Connecticut.
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Then in September of 1952, the Sunday Herald breathlessly reported about how Geltzer was convicted of a parking fraction outside the business. The newspaper, which was established in Bridgeport in 1886 and ran until 1974, covered eastern Connecticut and had quite a bit of New London news in this issue. Surprisingly, "Torn Up Tag Jolts Jukebox King" was given top billing in the issue even over headlines like "Sex Crimes Agitate Police" and "Boy Slits Baby's Throat, Cites Dream-Urge To Kill."
According to the tabloid's account, a police officer named John J. Shea spotted Geltzer's station wagon parked in a loading area outside the Golden Street business. Unable to locate Geltzer or Lesser, he wrote out a tag and attached it to the wheel. A little later, Shea was accosted by "an indignant little lady," Louise Camba, who lived in an apartment across the street. She claimed she had seen two men arrive at the vehicle, and that one of them had ripped the tag off and thrown it into the gutter.
Shea later spotted Geltzer driving on State Street, confronted him about the tag, and asked him to go to Golden Street. There, Shea got Geltzer and Lesser together and asked Camba, who was keeping watch at her window, to identify which man had thrown away the tag. She pointed to Geltzer.
The matter went as far as a trail, where Geltzer represented himself before giving in to the judge's suggestion that he should hire an attorney. He was finally fined six dollars for parking in a restricted zone after trying unsuccessfully to put the blame on Lesser. "My partner did it, and wanted to say so in court, but I wouldn't let him," said Geltzer.
When Geltzer died in 1978 at the age of 60, his obituary said he had joined several local organizations and worked in the vending business for 40 years, 15 of which were running his own company. At the time of his death, he had moved on from the Golden Street business and was operating G.G. Vend-o-Matic on Boston Post Road in Waterford.
Retskin describes the matchbook as being "near mint and unstruck" with all matches still in place. The starting bid is $7.19, with an additional $2.25 for shipping and handling. The auction ends at about 10:17 p.m. on Friday. You can also get more information by e-mailing Retskin at email@example.com.