Martin Winch's new book adds eight-track sound to the turbulent '70s

by: SUBMITTED PHOTOS - Milwaukie teacher Martin Winch cuts a different figure traveling recently in the Grand Tetons (above) than as a student of the '70s (below).You’re walking past your local library or bookshop when a large, yellow plastic box catches your eye on top of a newspaper stand. Upon closer inspection, it’s a case containing oversized cassette tapes (of a sort), which lie next to a ‘zine-sized teaser of a Milwaukie man’s music-and-booze-infused teenage memoirs.

Martin Winch, who turns 50 next month, likes eight tracks so much that he runs a publishing company named after them and makes sure that he has the antiquated music recording technology available in his record shop. His 143-page book from Eight Track Publishing is “Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s.” It is available online and in local bookstores for $12.99.

In addition to working at Green Noise on Gladstone Street, which has about 1,000 eight tracks, Winch has also been a New Urban High School regular substitute teacher for the past five years in Oak Grove.

Eight tracks were the first musical recording format to go into cars, and they were only popular in America during the ‘70s. Occasionally, people will try to get up to $3 for a “rare” eight track, but Winch has a problem with charging too much for a format that tends to self-destruct quickly.

“The eight track was definitely the best sound, and people would just give them to me, so I embraced them,” Winch said. “But then they purposely started to make eight tracks poorly once the oil crisis hit to get people to switch over to cassettes. I figure not too many people have eight-track players, but it’s something for people to get nostalgic about the era.”

And it’s that same nostalgia for an imperfect paradise that infuses “Kalamazoo.” Winch’s book about small-town life halfway between Chicago and Detroit waxes on his penny-pinching dad, his quietly commiserative mom and big-brother Mike, who accidentally severed his thumb in a closet door.

On the way back from the hospital with mom, Mike would “get a burger that would look pretty dinky next to my Whopper,” Winch writes.

Working class culture

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Winters in Kalamazoo, Mich., are cold, and the Winch family made fun with what they could scrounge up during the 1970s.Seventies Kalamazoo’s blue-collar ethos, suburban dining options and penchant for two-stroke lawn toys will remind readers of present-day Clackamas County.

Winch moved to Forest Grove in 1996, and in 2002 bought his house in Milwaukie, where he plans to stay for its hometown familiarity.

“Clackamas is not trying to push ahead as much as Portland, and it really doesn’t seem that different from the working-class culture that I grew up in,” he said. “It’s a different generation and a different place, but it’s not that different from where I grew up.”

This attitude helps Winch relate to his first batch of students who will not remember the 20th century. He doesn’t feel connected with baby boomers, so he considers himself part of another lost generation. Like many of his students, Winch finds solace for academic challenges in focusing on art and science projects.

“I’ve never had any problems connecting with teenagers, and I still remember what it was like,” he said. “As soon as I found New Urban, I knew it was the home for me. They’re very interested in the music I grew up with, and they enjoy that they know a lot more about technology than I do.”

Find out more

At 1901 S.E. Oak Grove Blvd., New Urban’s fall Presentation of Learning showcase of student projects is scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14. The public is welcome to join students for a hardy harvest dinner before checking out their diverse work.

Winch blogs and posts his photos at

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