It was definitely love at first sound for Wenatchee’s Steve Howerton.
As an 8-year-old boy watching television in 1964, “I saw the Beatles … and something in me clicked on,” he says.
“I’d never heard or saw anything like them. They were awesome.”
The British band’s bold harmonies and messages of love and peace captivated worldwide audiences during the ’60s and ’70s, reshaping modern musical architecture.
Indeed, that first U.S. appearance in February 1964 on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was met with screams from a live audience.
Trailing notes of that same mania play on today in Howerton’s home, located on a quiet cul-de-sac off Maple Street.
His designated “Beatleroom” — a family-sized room on the lower floor — showcases thousands of vintage and novelty items, such as:
- Numerous autographs, including from Paul McCartney, Pete Best (the drummer who preceded Ringo Starr), John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono, and the band’s driver, Alf Bicknell
- A supposed strand of John Lennon’s hair from a company called “Historical Hair”
- A replica of the guitars and drum kit played during the Ed Sullivan show appearance that sparked Howerton’s love affair
- Replicas of the motion displays the band also used in 1964
- Hundreds of 45 records and LPs, some of historical significance, along with record players to spin them
- A “Yellow Submarine” slot machine that “still works great”
- A 1966 Beatles pinball machine
- Two pairs of original “Beatle boots” — one brand new (“Every boy in 1964 wanted Beatle boots,” Howerton says. “They were fab!”)
- Two wind-up, musical John Lennon whiskey decanters (one still full) that play “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
Howerton’s collection of other vintage pop culture pieces includes original 1964 lunch boxes; Beatles “soakies” designed to dispense bath soap; a Beatles “Flip Your Wig” game in unused condition; toy drums and guitars both large and small; purses; hair pomade and hair styles magazines; Beatles dolls of every kind imaginable, including blow up dolls that could be ordered from Nestle Quik cans or Lux soap (he has 30); Esco statues; trading cards still sealed with gum from 1964; licorice candy and cookie jars; talcum powder “with talc still in it from 1964;” and a Beatles air mattress … whew.
“I started collecting as (much as) an 8-year old boy could in 1964,” Howerton recalls. “Back then I would rake leaves or shovel snow for neighbors for a quarter, save them up, and head to Bob Godfrey’s record store in downtown Wenatchee to buy a Beatles 45 record.”
Nowadays, “I collect anything Beatles, (including) vintage or fantasy items,” adds the retired hospital engineer. “But vintage items are what I’m searching for; they are getting harder and harder to find. Plus, if you do find something, the asking price is always over the top. Still, things can be found if one searches,” he says.
His favorite item? That would be his Beatles record player.
“Very, very, very few survived over the years and mine still works. It’s probably the most sought-after Beatles item, but finding one — especially in working order — is near impossible … Only 1,000 were made in 1964.”
Steve’s wife, Beth Howerton, says of her husband’s collection: “Until you experience it, it’s impossible to explain. We’ve been together 20 years and I am still flabbergasted by it; it’s incredible.”
A purchasing agent at Confluence Health, she recalls living in a much smaller house in Cashmere several years ago.
“We were literally living in the collection,” she says.
“For Steve it was perfect. For me it was difficult.”
The couple went searching for a home that could accommodate his need to collect with her need to “enjoy living and entertaining.”
“Everything below the front door is his to do with as he wishes -- which actually means our laundry room is decked out in memorabilia,” she says. But everything upstairs is mine… It’s quite literally a two ‘story’ house.”
During the past 58 years, Howerton has found items at yard sales, record stores, secondhand stores and online; he made the bulk of his purchases during the ’90s and ’00s.
“My collection will never be complete” he says. “There is just too much out there to be discovered. My current hunt is for a brown Beatles “Disk-Go-Case” record holder. I have all 8 of the other colors, but not the brown one.”
As for his top-rated Beatles tune: “My favorite era is the ‘Fab4’ mop-top early days, though I love all the eras,” Howerton says. “My favorite song from back then is (1963’s) ‘From me to you.’ I still remember listening to it while walking to (former Wenatchee elementary) Whitman School on a little transistor radio.”