In Christopher Paul Curtis' novel The Watsons go to Birmingham -- 1963, Dad is a kind, sentimental but slightly irreverent father to his three children. As the Watson family is preparing its trip from its Flint, Michigan, home to Birmingham, Alabama in the Deep South, Dad, as described by ten-year-old Kenny, has upset his fiscally-minded mother by having a state-of-the-art record player installed in the family car. As Dad explains to the kids the new contraption:
"Well, well, well, Dad said, leaning down into the car, "I see you three have the ultimate in taste. I see you've chosen the top of the line, the cream of the crop, the True Tone AB-700 model, the Ultra Glide!"
The "Ultra Glide," of course is a record player that the music-loving father has purchased special for the road trip to Alabama. It's rugged design and engineering will enable Dad to play records without the usual skips that occur whenever the car hits a bump or pothole.
Few of today's students have ever owned a record player or listened to vinyl records, the format having been replaced by compact discs and, more recently, digital "down loads" of music. Record players have a tone arm that supports a stylus cartridge that, in turn, supports a needle that sits on the revolving record. Very little turbulence is necessary to cause that tone arm to jump around on the record, causing skips and other malfunctions. In short, record players were very fragile, and not well-suited for use in automobiles, which prompted the development of magnetic tapes as a means of storing and playing music. In Curtis' story, Dad is a lover of music, and wants to be able to listen to his records on the long drive. The "Ultra Glide" will, he hopes, make that possible.