Westford, Massachusetts -- February 17, 2002
REPORTED BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
"We're having a great time! Wish we had this four times a year!" So said Dennis Markell of Bedford, New Hampshire, as he and his 13-year old daughter Amanda arranged their table at the Greater Boston Antique Radio Club's (GBARC) Radio XXXIII on Sunday, February 17, 2002. According to Dennis, Amanda is his "chief financial officer." What a pleasure to know that the next generation is on track with the preservation of radio history!
My, how radio has changed. Top: Zenith tombstones from the 1930s. Bottom: Zenith transistor radios of the 1950s.
Held from 8:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the 7,900 square feet of the Regency Ballroom, Whittier & Emerson rooms of the Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center and managed by the A.R.C. staff, Radio XXXIII has become the premier radio event in the Northeast. Despite a dire weather forecast that never materialized beyond drizzling rain, collectors gathered from all the New England states, New York, New Jersey, and Canada.
Exhibitors numbered 72 and the 106 tables were sold out well ahead of time. The count for attendees was approximately 791, somewhat down from 911 in 2001 and 851 in 2000. However, the enthusiam for person-to-person contact with other devotees of antique radio collecting remained undiminished.
Many said that eBay can't compete in that department with events like this one. And according to comments on the Internet, eBay can't compete for price either. Lou deGonzague remarked that a beautiful Philco 90 selling for $400 at Radio XXXIII would be twice that on eBay.
Thirty-five hotel rooms were booked, some for two nights, as couples and families have come to enjoy the hotel amenities. Bill and Gerri Rindfuss of Radio Daze in Upstate New York said that coming for the weekend works out well for them. They have a chance to get away, while also meeting both old and new customers at the meet. They had their many repair products on display, as well as the 5th edition of the Collector's Guide to Antique Radios, which John Slusser and the staff of Radio Daze took over from Marty Bunis last year.
Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil -- unless you have a loop antenna by Wally Worth, center, supported by Dave Crocker, left, and Ray Bintliff, right. All three are contributors to A.R.C.'s editorial pages.
Rules of the Game
Organizing this event is no small feat for the A.R.C. staff. However, one of the questions we are constantly being asked is why exhibitors can't go in to set up ahead of the crowd. Alan Douglas answers the question nicely for us on the Internet. He says it "makes for a friendlier atmosphere. You need to keep the exhibitors from scooping up all the good deals before the show opens, or many buyers won't come. The question is how to do it. You can make rules like 'No dealing before 8 a.m.' but how can you enforce them? By patrolling the aisles with your Gestapo? ...Make people feel unwelcome and they won't come back.
A Philco Predicta ca. 1958 with a 21-inch black & white picture tube.
...Far better to make a self-enforcing rule: if no one can unpack before 8:00, it removes most of the temptation. ...You need to encourage the casual attendees, and at least present the illusion of bargains and surprises to be found. There are other ways to do it, but John's [Terrey] idea has worked well for this meet."
Another request A.R.C. makes of exhibitors is that they stay until 1 p.m., even if they sell out. In this way, they remain a part of the information flow that is a component of a meet. Also, potentially new buyers express disappointment when sellers are not there for the advertised span of time. Chuck Weimer sold out two tables by 9:00 a.m., but he honored the request and stayed until noon. Alan Douglas did the same.
The general comfort of the Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center and the camaraderie of the crowd seem to encourage more family participation in this meet each year. Positive comments were made by exhibitors and buyers alike. For example, Bruce and Ross Phillips, a father and son team, said that this is their favorite show. They like the facility and the fact that, as a 1-day show, it requires less of an up-front investment than a multiday show. This makes the pursuit of what Ross calls an "obsession" less expensive. Their new banner "Radio Orphanage" was hard to miss.
Peter Eslinger's two daughters admitted to being pressed into service but also expressed interest in their father's collection. Katherine, age 19, has been coming for ten years, while Lyndsey, age 13, was new to the game.
For the Longobardi family, who are buyers, this has been a favorite event for the past five years. Dad's interest stems from a radio handed down by his grandfather. Mom tours around with the three children, Vinnie, Jr., Regina, and Gabrielle, who are on the lookout for transistor radios to add to their collections.
An Alan Douglas quote on the Internet: "John Terrey was running around taking pictures, but I turned the tables on him. We'll see if he prints my photo in A.R.C."
Scott and Melanie Seichel from Northern New Jersey were there with their two very young children -- Rebecca, carried in Dad's arms, and 4-year old Kailyn, circulating with Mom. Scott is particularly interested in TV from the 1920s to the 1940s, but he works at keeping his collection under control. We didn't get Melanie's take on that assertion.
Husband and wife teams, of course, are much in evidence. Dave and Karen Sutherland in their "Got Radios" hats presided over their table of books, manuals, and ephemera. They were excited about this event, as well as about the impending move of their specialty gift and toy shop into new space in the beautiful Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene, New Hampshire.
Trudy and Ed White have been into "everything antique" for 60 years. Ed, now 90 years old, joked that his latest bargain is old Enron stock certificates. Trudy sports earrings, made by Ed, in the shape of tube boxes with real tubes hanging from them. What more could a "radio wife" ask? Obviously, these two thoroughly enjoy their "life in radio."
Midge and Andrew McInnes from Long Island mentioned the fun they were having seeing lots of good people year after year. While showing their classic stereo equipment and records, Matthew Kevy and buddy Chris Jones bantered about this "disease" that infects radio collectors. A customer at their tables labeled that remark as "usually spousal commentary." Others chimed in with "life style" and "way of life." With that we have to agree.
"But I don't have one, so what else could I do?" said John Terrey after purchasing this 1927 Shepard Stores tube radio. The inset label reads: "Shepard Six Sales Division of WNAC The Shepard Stores Boston, Mass."
One manifestation of the "disease" factor could be called the "But, I don't have one" syndrome. Among the many victims of this disorder is our own editor John Terrey. His purchase of a 6-tube Shepard radio, ca. 1927, when radio stations were owned and operated by department stores, comfirmed the diagnosis. This treasure was procured, it seems, right out from under the nose of local, avid collector John Wolkonowicz. Such transactions make the day at a meet -- and without risk of a cure for the disease.
Human Interest Stories
Human interest stories abound at a show like this, and the successes are both large and small. Cindie Dickinson happily clutched the one thing she'd been looking for -- a Jim Resse and Patsy Cline LP -- while her friend Scott Fowler prepared to go off with his bargain shortwave radio. David Moore, now legally blind, but still able to participate in collecting everything electronic, spoke with obvious pleasure about his hobby and his carefully organized basement display of old equipment.
Mike and Suzanne Urban of Westport, Connecticut, had an unusual beginning to their radio story. It was she who initiated his interest in old radios. Working at home as an artist, she listens to NPR, and one day hit on the idea that, as an engineer, he might be interested in restoring old radios. She, in turn, finds radio designs aesthetically satisfying. The result is a virtual store and showroom and a full-time commitment to radio restoration. Both had been in the corporate world and find this work infiniitely more satisfying. That is what any antique radio radio collector would call a real success story.
Perhaps the human interest story we found most compelling stemmed from last year's show after which Adam Schoolsky's photo, just by chance, was chosen to appear on our cover. A few months later, we received a letter from Adam's half brother in Louisiana, saying he had seen the photo and hoped to connect with Adam whom he hadn't seen in years. As Adam went about with his cell phone this year, we asked if he and his brother had gotten in touch. The answer was "Yes, thanks to A.R.C." We're happy to say that more than one good thing can come of radio collecting.
Well known collector and author Alan Douglas, right, and A.R.C. Managing Editor Dorothy Schecter. Maybe she talked him into writing an article.
A word with Michael Katz, known as the "man of the cloth" (grille cloth, that is) revealed that he's been having a successful "going out of business sale," New York style, for about five years. Michael has the least cluttered table in the hall because his product takes up little room. Besides, he says selling grille cloth is fun and allows him to go home sometimes with more money than he had when he came.
Let's hope most sellers had that experience and most buyers went home well satisfied. The consensus continues to be that this show is one of the best, so mark your calendars for President's Day Weekend next February. We'll look for you.
(Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)