It started out innocently enough… Beach Boys 8-track tapes and 45s from Ben Franklins, but it wasn’t long before I wanted to concentrate on the great format of 331/3 rpm records. Ben Franklins had it’s charms, but not the focus of a real, independent record store. My Freshman year of High School was all the horrors of the movies and TV shows we’ve seen for years and it became obvious the lunch room was no place for me. So, if I wasn’t hiding in the library I was roaming outside the school grounds during my lunchtime. It was on one of these walks I discovered Val’s Halla on South Blvd. One great thing about starting high school at OPRF was since I lived by Concordia College in RF, I was given money to ride the bus and buy lunch. Tho I’d never stepped on a school bus, my instincts told me it’d be every bit as bad as the lunchroom. Of course, as I started bringing home records weekly – at Val’s I could get a used LP for $2.14 tax included – my folks figured out I was neither buying lunch or riding the bus. After they argued whether I should still be given any money, my Dad thought I shouldn’t but my Mom stated that I was learning the value of money by sacrificing something to gain something of more importance to me, it was decided their youngest could develop much worst habits and I was allowed my vinyl stipend. There after I spent two to five lunch breaks a week in Val’s Halla for four years running. I bought my first Bob Dylan LP there, my first copy of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, my first copies of The Beatles Revolver and The White Album (yes, I now own many copies of both) and so many more.
Val's halla, safe haven
Perhaps as great as the music I took home was the safe haven Val’s gave me. I may have been an outcast, scared and leery in the school hallways, always an easy mark for those in need of a chump to take their frustrations out on, but Val’s was my home turf. I loved music. I knew vinyl. I had home field advantage and no one ever dared to mess with me there. Unlike most male dominated record stores of the era, this one felt extra safe as a female run enterprise. I can’t thank Val Calimetti or her staff enough for that. I know the Oak Park Arts District is not the hub of activity North Blvd. & Oak Park Ave. were, after all I’ve had a gallery space there for ten years, but I am so grateful Val’s Halla has made it to the 40th anniversary mark. In this scary, crazy world I know there is a safe place for me. May every awkward, unhappy, adolescence find their Halla.