Retired Virginia Beach teacher remains optimistic after shed fire destroys 50,000 records, Beatles memorabilia

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The shed fire in Jones' backyard destroyed about 50,000 records, The Beatles memorabilia, music equipment and antiques. (Justin Belichis)
The shed fire in Bob Jones’ backyard destroyed about 50,000 records, The Beatles memorabilia, music equipment and antiques. (Justin Belichis)

VIRGINIA BEACH — For someone who said he’s listened to vinyl records since he was two years old, a local music virtuoso is hopeful in the wake of losing thousands of priceless LPs and 45 rpm records to a shed fire last week.

Retired Kempsville Middle School teacher and Old Dominion University professor Bob Jones, 67, lost albums and singles featuring music from artists like Led Zeppelin and The Who, records he said were collected about 30 to 40 years ago, as well as radio programs on vinyl, Beatles memorabilia, music equipment and antiques — all of which will be covered by insurance.

“They’re just records,” Jones said in an interview. “It is a loss, but it’s just stuff. I still have most of the music.”

Jones said he woke up at around 12:30 a.m. on March 2 after “good Samaritans” came into his home through a window they broke to rouse him. When he stepped outside, firefighters were in his backyard battling the flames engulfing the shed.

“It was like an oil refinery burn,” Jones said. “It was upsetting to see, with the flames rising.”

According to Jones, firefighters came three different times to the property to water it down and cover the area in foam. The records also suffered water damage and the flames were so powerful, they stretched and melted areas on the back of his home.

Virginia Beach Fire Department public information officer Art Kohn said the fire’s cause is still undetermined, but evidence points to either a space heater or an extension cord in the shed. Jones said the heater turns off when its jostled, and used it to control the shed’s climate.

“Coldness doesn’t bother records that much, but air conditioning you’ve got to have,” Jones said. “Heat is just sort of a nicety, and records don’t have to have it.”

Despite losing his collectibles, Jones said he decided to bring his turtles Truman, Tiny and Tess inside the night before the fire. They would have otherwise been in a cage next to the shed that burned down.

“I’d left them out the three nights before because it was warmer, but I bring them in when it’s colder,” Jones said.

Jones lost 50,000 records, but he said that’s only about a third of his collection. He supplies Birdland Music in Providence Square with all of their used vinyl.

His passion for music reflected in his teaching style, which incorporated creativity and melodies in social studies lessons. This unique curriculum earned him the Virginia Council for the Social Studies teacher of the year award in 1986.

Now that the band he sings for, The Stingrays, are in hiatus, Jones said he is ready to prioritize his 20-year work-in-progress to open a Virginia music museum. The museum would honor musicians from the Commonwealth he said will soon be forgotten.

Looking forward, Jones said he wants to rebuild the shed and that his insurance will take care of the cleanup, but he still wants more time to sort through it all to see what could still spin under the needle.

Bob Jones holds the album “Tommy” by The Who in his personal record collection room. (Justin Belichis)

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