WILBER, Neb. (AP) — Along with the town drugstore, grocery shop, the restaurant and bars, there is a shop on the two-block business strip where six tunes still run you a quarter — if you can find a machine that runs.
"This here is the second-heaviest jukebox ever made," said Will Togstad, 28, of All Tunes Entertainment, pointing in the direction of a 1956 Seeburg VL 200 that is on his long list of things to do.
It weighs in at 450 pounds. For that reason, among others, Togstad said, operators loathed them. Many of the VLs found themselves in trash bins behind bars, busted up with baseball bats to prevent theft, Togstad said.
So yes, they are rare. The hulking drum that delivers the 45s to the record player — its finicky behavior also caused a lot of operators to take some swings — runs about $1,500 to $2,000 on its own. A fully operational machine is worth around $10,000, Togstad said.
He will get to this one. And the 30 or so other dust-covered jukeboxes bunched together in the dark of the shop. And the hundred-plus others they keep at an off-site storage facility.
Currently Togstad is putting the finishing touches on a shimmering Seeburg M100C, the same model that the Fonz violently abused at Arnold's, episode after episode. Togstad is far more delicate, and deliberate, with the 1950s-era beauty. He's tested each and every capacitor and the amp and control center to make sure they're firing. He's switched it to free play. He's removed the motor and the three clutches, and sprayed each with a little air and gasoline.
"After about 50 years, they get a bit sticky," he said.
The lights running up the sides of the machine warmed after Togstad plugged it in, and he turned off the shop lights to enhance the effect.
"Let me play you a tune," he said.
He ran a finger past the typewritten labels haphazardly placed beneath six categories, from the Hit Tunes section, which included the "Bread and Butter Polka," to the Hillbilly section, which contained a Beatles 45.
The Seeburg plucked Togstad's selection from the spool, and Christina Aguilera's voice began to crackle. The 45 is one of about 40,000 records acquired by All Tunes over the years. Togstad can ballpark a single's age by feel alone. They've gotten thinner and thinner over the years, he said.
The small-town 28-year-old became something of an encyclopedic font of this archaic medium partially through inheritance.
"This one might've been Grandpa's," he said as he looked at that 450-pound Seeburg in the basement.
For 50 years, Dale Togstad repaired amusement machines for a living in North Dakota. He repaired one scorched in a fire. He saved one seemingly lost to a basement flood.
And he fixed everything else, from the family TV to his own boots, along the way.
"Dad didn't believe in hiring anybody," said Tom Togstad, Will's father and Dale's son.
One of the perks of growing up in the home of an amusement machine repairman was having amusement machines at home.
"We always had jukeboxes, all my life," said Tom Togstad.
In May of 2004, the Hallam tornado razed the Togstads' rural Clatonia home, destroying, seemingly, everything. Will, his brother Terry and two friends who were home at the time, survived the storm in a basement room.
In the aftermath, Tom Togstad found the family's jukebox, a Seeburg 220, face down in the yard. The glass paneling was shattered. He was ready to junk it. His dad wasn't.
"'Nah,' he says, 'let me take it and look at it.'"
The repaired Seeburg is one of three machines in the basement of the Togstad family's rebuilt home.
"You'd never notice it was in a tornado," Tom Togstad said.
Later that year, Dale Togstad's wife, Dorothy, passed away. Tom Togstad, who owns Air & Fluid Management just down the street from where All Tunes now sits, suggested opening the side business.
"Starting this would be a good thing for him," Tom Togstad said, and it'd be a nice break from routine for himself.
Dale Togstad's expertise and equipment — he saved about 15,000 power tubes from his repair days — allowed All Tunes Entertainment to open for business in late 2005 or early 2006.
Some of the few remaining jukebox repair and restoration places left specialize in one brand or in vinyl over CD players or vice versa. All Tunes doesn't discriminate.
"It's a huge undertaking to cover this much," Tom Togstad said. "But if you're gonna do this, this is what you have to do."
An All Tunes' jukebox resides at Sokol Hall, and another rode a Czech Days float last year, but nearly all of All Tunes' business comes from its eBay store. A pin-covered map of the United States shows the places where the Togstads' rebuilds have wound up: Seattle to New York down to Jacksonville, Fla. (Not pictured: London).
Most of those machines were repaired by Will Togstad, who has kept All Tunes Entertainment going since his grandfather passed in 2008.
"We worked on 'em together before he passed, for about three years," he said. "Once he passed, I took over."
The first machine he finished on his own was identical to the 450-pound Seeburg in the basement. He put about 40 hours of work into it. Now, he can get one up and going in about 10 to 12 hours.
"We work on pretty much any jukebox," he said. Asked who else works on them, and he corrected himself. "Well . me."
Though he specializes in repairing relics, Will Togstad sees a future for the home jukebox. He's done some work on touch-screen models that populate bars now, and he's tinkering with a prototype of his own.
"What our plan is, is hopefully in the next few years we'll have a quality iTunes machine," he said.
You'll be able to connect your computer wirelessly to the jukebox and do everything from watch videos to sing karaoke to call up whatever songs you have stored on the machine's monitor.
"You could have everything you ever wanted in there," Tom Togstad said.
He has the first model in his basement, and American Express shut down his credit card after its initial use. Family and friends bought about 110 songs through iTunes with it, which constituted "suspicious activity" on his account.
Tom Togstad routinely reloads the 45s in the record player he has at home. His collection is vast and in alphabetical order, and there are no title strips on his Seeburg due to the frequent changes he makes to his analog playlist.
"I even like the sound of it," Tom Togstad said, referring not to records but to the exposed motor of a vintage machine, one of the ones in the storefront ready for sale.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com