Last week, when I took my family to see the, uh, unique display of Christmas cheer that is 34th Street, I spied a small sign in a window high above the busy street: A tombstone-style wooden radio flanked by a pair of antennas, under the title “Retro Radio/Audio-Visual Service”. Excited, I patted my pockets for a piece of paper and a pencil, then suddenly remembered I was carrying a camera. Duh.
Today, after getting my Garfunkel cut in the same neighborhood, I stopped back over to 34th Street to investigate. I was met at the door by a very friendly older man who invited me in out of the snow to a landing surrounded by radios, amplifiers, and electronic equipment of all sizes and shapes. At that moment, I knew my ten-year search was over.
Long ago, when I suddenly got into collecting old tube radios, there wasn’t a whole lot of information to be found on repair. I cleaned the cabinets up but had no idea how to fix the wiring inside. After some research, I found a guy in the phone book who did radio repair, and drove out to Lauraville to meet him. The shop was old-school to the point of time warp: rickety shelves holding dusty TVs and radios, oscilloscopes, HAM equipment, and assorted junk, old RCA and Emerson signs, and a pleasant musty smell. I remember the proprietor as a wiry old fellow who seemed surprised a skinny kid was bringing him a set to work on, but he told me to leave it with him for a couple of days and he’d see what he could do.
$30 later, I had a working set that sounded as good as it looked, and I started bringing him more as I could afford it—he rebuilt five or six of my bakelite sets, and sorted out the guts of my console (no small task). After about six months of regular visits, other financial priorities kicked in, and I had to postpone further repairs. A few years passed, and by the next time I was able to return, the storefront was completely gone, replaced with a CVS parking lot.
The fellow I met today was friendly and personable, and as I talked with him, I started mentally cataloging my collection to decide which one would get looked at first: the wooden Philco, or the wooden Emerson? Or, maybe the off-brand Everbest?