It seems Tony Sanfilippo is living the dream. The Busti man is married, has four children, eight grandchildren, two dogs, and is surrounded by one of his beloved hobbies. The key actor of the dream is Chris, the very understanding wife of Sanfilippo, who gladly allowed him to fill their house with his collections.
When Sanfilippo was about 14, he and his friends heard piano music coming from a house they passed on their way to play baseball. Out of curiosity, the young boys approached a man who was sitting on the porch and asked him who was playing the music inside. The man invited them to his home to watch a piano player produce the music they could hear from the sidewalk. It also featured an Edison big horn phonograph and jukebox. The young Sanfilippo never forgot that day or the instruments that were foreign to him before.
“It hit me hard,” he says. “I had to find out about this stuff.”
He wasn’t exposed to any of these gadgets until the early 1970s while serving in the US Air Force, when he discovered a coin-operated piano in a Shakey’s pizzeria.
“I spent more on the piano than on the pizza”, he says.
He acquired his first jukebox in 1984, a Wurlitzer, from a woman who lived only a mile from his home.
“I bought a playing piano around the same time because I wanted to see what made it vibrate.”
Most collectors can fill a few shelves or even a room, but this collector collects massive jukeboxes, some weighing up to 350 pounds, among others, and displays them throughout their home. He knows every make, model number and facts about the coins he collects and can tell a story of how he acquired it.
A 1940 Wurlitzer Model 800 dominates the Sanfilippo dining room. It was the first jukebox to have bubble tubes and this model’s tubes mesmerize because they are in the center, going from the bottom to the select buttons. Bought at auction, it returned from California within 100 miles of where it was made in northern Tonawanda.
On the day I visited, Freddie Cannon’s Palisades Park exploded from a Wurlitzer Model 1015 in the living room. The 1962 release had yet to be recorded when the jukebox framed by an arc of orange, red, yellow, purple and blue lights, was built in 1946. The bubbles in the tubes of this unit flowed from the bottom of each side and met in the center at the top of the brightly lit arch.
A third jukebox, a 1947 Wurlitzer 1080, sits in the couple’s office. The interior mechanism is the same as the 1015. This model was designed for discreet places and chic restaurants. After twenty years of ownership, he recently located and purchased an ornamental star that was missing from the front of the unit. The automatic phonograph was beautifully lit, especially in a dark room, which the owner demonstrated.
Gigantic music machines were designed to play 78 rpm records, the popular size of the day. After 1950-51, they were converted to play 45 rpm vinyl.
There were few collectors when Sanfilippo started. He rented a store in Lakewood for a few years where he sold jukeboxes, pinball machines, arcades, pop machines, bowling pins, gas pumps, slots, and records. Later, in 2015, he opened the Golden Era Music Gallery, a large booth in the VSK Emporium in Frewsburg. A nickelodeon, which is a piece piano that plays seven other instruments, shares space with a player piano, old phonographs, floor model radios, 78s, 45s, 33 1 / 3s, 8-track tapes, cassettes and of course, jukeboxes. There is also an Elvis section.
“I love having the Music Gallery there. My main goal is to have a museum, more than a store, ” he pretends. “We’re gatekeepers, basically.”
Two other jukeboxes, some being the variety of wall boxes that were found above tables in dinner cabins in the 1950s and 1960s, are at home in a basement room. A boxy 1951 Seeburg Model B plays 100 selections from 50 records. Wurlitzer jukes became obsolete when Seeburg came out because they only play 24 caps.
“Three hundred and fifty pounds and he plays 24 songs,” said the owner with a smile.
One of his jukeboxes and wallbox reads 200 selections, which Seeburg only made for a few years.
“They were stereo and really collectable.”
A 1946 Seeburg with a bright red dome and rounded tubes on either side, has the sleek curves of 1950s machines. Three Seeburg teardrop-shaped speakers, each in a different design, hang above the two. jukebox. The crowded room has a central pool table surrounded by a pinball machine, pay phones, drive-in cinema speakers, soda machines, soda bottles, and soda crates. A gumball machine, old dining room stools, an air pump for inflating tires, a token scale, a 1940s Mills slot machine, and an insulated Lake County Dairy milk can filled with milk bottles in glass also fills the space. Pewter signs advertising pop, fabric patches from the uniforms of the gas station officers and other memorabilia are scattered throughout the room. A box full of rolls for a player’s piano lies on the floor.
“All the grandchildren love the playroom” and his Vendo 81 Coca Cola machine from 1957, which still has a few bottles of Ice Coke for them.
Part of the reason I have my store in Frewsburg is to expose the younger generation to see that they exist,»Said the grandfather. “This is my main motivation. “
When his children were young, he took them to jukebox shows and music museums in Rome, New York and Franklin, Pennsylvania.
“They haven’t strayed from my hobby,” he said with a smile.
He is happy that his youngest grandson, Gage Delahoy, took an interest in “old business” and enjoys going to the store and informing visitors of the content. The young man follows in his grandfather’s footsteps with a collection of military uniforms.
In the past, he has attended three auctions per week, but has reduced that number to one, which he attends every Tuesday. Over the years he found many coke machines that were rebranded with other logos of pop companies and some machines that had been painted another color. He’s currently in the process of refurbishing a pop machine that he chased for thirty years, only to eventually buy it at auction when the company closed. He patiently awaits the arrival of a Wurlitzer 750 jukebox, which he has never owned, but which he has “Always wanted to find.”
Sanfilippo retired from Titan X in 2013. Classic cars are another passion. He owns a 1940 Ford Coupe and a 1970 Chevy Chevelle. He is a member of the Classic Chevy Club.
Anyone wishing to sell a jukebox, other old music machines, pinball machines or pop machines should call Sanfilippo at (716) 665-9813 or 483-1769. The VSK Emporium is located at 54 West Main Street in Frewsburg. Hours of operation are Wednesday to Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5:00 p.m.
4 tsp romaine lettuce
4 tsp iceberg lettuce
1 artichoke hearts, cut into quarters
2 oz chilli, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons of red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Pinch of pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Combine lettuce, artichokes, onion and chili peppers in a large bowl. Combine salt, pepper, oil and vinegar in a separate container. Mix well. Makes 4 good sized individual salads. Add dressing to taste.
Aunt Gene Cookies
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 c shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add shortening and work until it looks like crumbs. Add the buttermilk. Stir until the dough sticks. Place on a lightly floured surface. Knead about 12 to 15 strokes. Roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 12 cookies.