What could be more beautiful than starting a record store in the 1960s, the decade of all possibilities? And, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful for music? At nine o’clock in the morning, my mother, Marie Van Brabant, raises the shutter of her store and opens the door to the magic grooves.
A Record Box with Belgian origins
I wrote it here, Marie Van Brabant started her professional life as a secretary in the famous American firm RCA, with King Elvis as American star… what shall I say… worldwide.
But Marie (or Mimi for her close friends and good customers, including some friends of the elegant septuagenarian) did not yet sell records of the white rocker singing black blues.
No, in 1959, Mimi was typing reports, managing agendas and phoning, again and again. For work, of course. From time to time, a certain Camille Schoepen calls her, to say a few sweet words.
Krrr, scratch…. 1961, the needle zaps two years. After the first meeting, the flirtations, the seriousness and the officialization of their union. Marie and Camille get married. Three years later, the author of this blog was born, but that’s another story.
Everything could have gone well for my parents at RCA, but the work rules at the time forbade married couples. This rule, not so obvious to understand in 2020, would precipitate events.
But Mimi still doesn’t put vinyl on her Lenco turntable in HER Record Box.
Because one of her brothers-in-law, the artist Bobbejaan Schoepen, has asked Camille to work with him. Bobbejaan needs two other people to found a limited liability company to build the theme park.
By now everyone knew about the Bobbejaanland amusement park, but no shovels had yet been turned in 1961.
Hats off to the Schoepen family!
Camille has a strong sense of family. He left a great job to help his older brother. My dad’s boss had warned him though: “Be careful, Camille, it’s never easy to start a business with your family.” Staff, his other brother, completes the trio.
As for Mimi the lover, she also gives her notice at RCA to follow her love of husband. Direction the North, Lichtaart.
Mimi remembers: “I started at Bobbejaan as a waitress. We stayed in a cold trailer. After two years, the atmosphere deteriorated. We decided to leave Bobbejaanland. But we had no job! So the prediction of Camille’s boss came true.
Staff Schoepen, Bobbe “Jean” Schoepen and Camille Schoepen, the trio from before the park.
Fortunately, Camille had kept good contacts with Mr. Roelandt. Mr. Roelandt offered him to take over the store, which had already existed since 1958. Indeed, the manager of the time wanted to take over a trade of pious objects in Charleroi.
Mimi the secretary turns independent
Marie continues: “We had a moment of hesitation, because my husband wanted something else. And the store in Brussels was a godsend for me, although I had never been a shopkeeper before. Camille applied for a job at Vogue, he stayed there alone in Lichtaart, for many months.”
The couple, already at a key moment in their lives, had to make a decision. They met the manager of the store located at 22 Avenue Jean Volders, her father, a businessman (Richard Massinon) and their former boss, Mr. Roelandt.
Marie and Camille then took a different path. They moved to Dag Lichtaart, a town where they had bought a piece of land thinking they could make a life there.
They sold the land (nearly 600.000 FB at the time!). With the money, they buy their independence and the contents of the store.
Ding, dong: first customer in the new Record Box
1959 – 1961 – 1963. Mimi starts a new life, pregnant to the teeth.
The store keeps the name “La Boîte à disques”. It is in good condition, remembers Mimi, but the records smelled of mothballs. Old nightingales, as she says, remembering also the first time when, while cleaning the huge window, she saw the very old trace of the name of the bakery which was the first commercial function of this place.
Braderie in Avenue Jean Volders – year unknown. Sign on your left
And indeed, I remember the two big cellars under the store which sheltered, a long time ago, the ovens of the bakery of 22 avenue Jean Volders.
Camille was always going back and forth between Lichtaart and Saint-Gilles. Then they decided to live together, at the back of the store. There was a small living room, a micro kitchen, then a staircase and a long corridor leading to two bedrooms and a bathroom.
October 10, 1963: death pangs
Double death in the world of French culture. The French poet, graphic artist, draftsman, playwright and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau, died at 74. Edith Piaf had 2