By Steve Palec Special to OnMilwaukee Published Jan 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM

I believe the keys to aging gracefully are to work out regularly, to try not to worry and to act like you are still in junior high school.

I also try to avoid yelling at kids crossing my lawn, to avoid making strange noises with my mouth closed even when not eating, and to attempt to not constantly be waxing nostalgically.

BUT ... I can't avoid the irony and delight in "waxing" about record stores ... and the coolness of vinyl.

The first album I ever got was "Three Adventures" of Davy Crockett. I loved listening to that over and over. A few years ago I found it on eBay and bought a replacement copy for way too much money. That was the first LP I got ... not bought!

Somehow, there were Beatles albums around and for the life of me I don't know how. I certainly didn't have the $1.98 necessary to buy an entire LP. My money went for penny candy, baseball cards and an occasional 45, which I would get at Woolworth's, Treasure Island or Kresge. By the way, the K in SS Kresge became K-Mart. Woolworth became the Larry King of stores, just hanging around as long as possible.

I must have been gifted the first few Beatles albums. I do confess to actually stealing (from a relative, not a store) the Herb Alpert album with the woman wearing whipped cream on the cover. I eventually interviewed her and was surprised to learn the ampleness of her attributes may have had something to do with her pregnancy at the time.

When I did physically leave junior high, I started going to real record stores. That is when I started buying more albums than Big Boy hamburgers. And, at the risk of nostalgic whining ... man, I miss shopping for music!

There was nothing like going into a record store and discovering stuff you really wanted. Which isn't that amazing when you consider that today's classic rock artists were releasing those class rock albums as new material! But it wasn't just walking in to buy what you wanted; it was finding things you didn't know existed. Hearing something on the radio or even in the store, and taking it home to discover the other 11 tracks were good (or the musical filler equivalent of plastic peanuts).

How about cut-outs? Those albums with the hole punched in, sometimes with the precision of a sniper and often precariously close to the actual album. You had to sift through dozens of horrible albums, like "Bernie Madoff sings the Best of Hall & Oates" to find an occasional gem. But some of those gems are still the favorites of my library.

Bootlegs were also an eventual source of continuing the discovery of music. But that was like an occasional dessert -- a guilty pleasure (sorry, FBI) but not an entrée.

Don't get me wrong. I actually do appreciate the ability to legally download one song I need without buying an entire album, cassette, picture disc or CD. I also like the convenience of not even having to put on my pants.

But, just hanging out in a record store was an experience for a music fan to relish. If you can't relate, check out the movies "Empire Records" or "High Fidelity." Or maybe head over to Record Head or the Exclusive Company or Rush-Mor.

They are still around. But if you, like I, can close your eyes and conjure up images of Peaches, 1812, Dirty Jacks, Radio Doctors and Mainstream, then welcome to waxing nostalgically. There were even places like Musicland -- in the mall -- the Orange Julius of record stores. There was even a recent demise, Atomic Records, where I have to admit I found some cool gems but felt out of place without any piercings.

Much like kids setting up lemonade stands on the street, possessed music aficionados would open little wonderful record stores in various neighborhoods from Menomonee Falls to Monroe (OK, maybe not Monroe).

But I am sure I am missing a bunch. So go ahead, scroll down and post a Talkback about some other record store names that will put a smile on our faces.

Steve Palec Special to OnMilwaukee
Steve Palec, the host of WKLH's "Rock and Roll Roots" wrote a letter to every radio station in town when he was a sophomore in high school. He offered to sweep floors.

Two responses came back, including one janitor position. Steve took the other: the opportunity to hang out at WUWM.

After that, he worked at WAUK, then WQFM, then WZUU, then back to WQFM ... and finally worked afternoons at WKLH for a little while.

"I gave up Eddie Money to earn money in 1986," says Steve, who eventually entered the world of commercial real estate.

"But 23 years ago WKLH offered me the chance to wake up early every Sunday morning," he says. "I mean every Sunday morning. I mean like 5:30 am. I mean no matter what I did on Saturday night. Live every Sunday morning. I love it."