Westford, Massachusetts--February 15, 2004
BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
What's the best way for a collector to defeat the winter doldrums? Leave the shop projects behind and get out to a major meet, such as the Greater Boston Antique Radio Collector's (GBARC) Radio XXXV in Westford, Massachusetts. Despite the frigid temperatures outside, over 700 collectors did just that. From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., they gathered in the Westford Regency Hotel ballroom, foyer, and two adjacent rooms to enjoy a show that "brightens up the winter," according to John Hagman, down from Vermont for the pleasure of hobnobbing with fellow radio aficionados.
This is definitely a meet for everyone -- not just the collector in pursuit of a coveted item, but also families and friends. If you were not among them this year, we try in this report to give you an idea of the offerings -- everything from AC battery sets, crystal sets, communications equipment, and TVs to vintage audio equipment.
In addition, after the meet, there was the opportunity to visit Editor John Terrey's museum about five miles away. A number of collectors stopped by to see a collection that centers on pre-1925, pre-superhet, broadcast and early wireless sets. Among the more than 600 items were over 100 horns and over 100 crystal sets. For many, if there was a single highlight, it was the more than 37 Grebe items. The collection is spread throughout three rooms in the spacious Terrey house, but John envisions a barn/museum in the near future.
This unusual RCA San Francisco Exposition set with an asking price of $1,800, is not often seen at meets. It was offered by Bob Renkar of Southington, Conn.
Young, Old, and New Collectors
Perhaps the most striking thing about a meet like this one is the fact that it brings young, old, and new collectors together. Seasoned collectors come to communicate with old friends in the "business" of buying and selling old radios, TVs, and related equipment for the ultimate purpose of preserving radio history. But they must also be heartened by the presence of young and/or new collectors who may well carry on their mission.
For example, it was good to see Max Lewontin back for a second year. Now 12 years old, Max asked to have a table in the ballroom instead of in an adjacent room so that he would see more of the action. Three years ago, Max came as a buyer, but now he's committed to his slogan "Max Lewontin, the Art Deco Man." We expect to see him as a "regular" at the GBARC show primarily because he says, "This show is a lot of fun."
Max had a little competition in the age department this year. He's one of the old guard compared to two and one-half year old Ella Beauport who clutched her first purchase of a transistor radio and patiently did the rounds of tables with her parents.
This was the Beauports' first trip to the GBARC meet to check out tube gear and antique radios. Becca and Pierre Beauport are both musicians -- he in a rock and roll band and she a player and collector of synthesizers. Much to the surprise of our editor John Terrey, Becca owns one of his synthesizers, which he had previously sold to a dealer in New York. Another small world story. Given Ella's interest in her new-found transistor, as well as her parents' involvement, we can have high hopes of her becoming one of us in the future.
For the first time, Michelle Wood, age 11, of Stafford Springs, Connecticut, opted to help Dad Roger at his table rather than join Mom and her brother in the hotel swimming pool.
Among the exhibitors' helpers we found faithful young returnees, like teenager Lyndsey Eslinger who comes with dad Peter from Enfield, Connecticut. Another was recent college grad Ross Phillips up from Philadelphia to help dad Bruce with his "Radio Orphanage," always an impressive display. Teenager, Amanda Markell, is dad Dennis' "chief financial officer." Both were eager to show his Heathkit Model H-7 CW transmitter and his "favorite radio in the whole world" -- a Deco Westinghouse Model 104.
Two and a half year old Ella Beauport already knows a good radio when she sees it.
A first time helper was 11-year old Michelle Wood from Stafford Springs, Connecticut, whose dad Roger Wood is a collector with a strong interest in tape recorders. Michelle's mom and brother were enjoying the hotel amenities, especially the swimming pool, but Michelle had opted to be a helper. A good beginning in our book.
Educating the Young and Not-So-Young
Seeing a representative group of young people at this meet must have pleased Ron Roscoe, a radio engineer, who teaches analog circuit design at M.I.T. Ron worries about the interest of the next generation in the preservation of radio history, and so he has started a course at the university in radio repair. His hope is to infect his students with the "radio bug." To that end, Ron had picked up a candidate for repair -- a German Grundig AM/FM, which was his next project for the students back in Cambridge.
Max Lewontin, a serious collector at age 12, with his helper mom Amy Lewontin. Max was back for the second year, this time, at his request, at a table in the main ballroom where he can have a better view of the main action.
John Golden takes his interest in tape recorders to a unique extreme -- miniature reel-to-reel replicas inside a poison ring compartment and a Zippo cigarette lighter case. Precision lathe components and actual circuit boards are used to make these "props" look quite authentic. They are in the spirit of the props seen in '60s and '70s TV shows and movies.
Ron also keeps a radio library in his office for students to use as reference. He was carrying a copy of David Rutland's Behind the Front Panel, just purchased at the A.R.C. book table. Ron already has several copies of this book, which he says is the best one on circuits of early battery sets for his students.
In addition to his education plan, Ron encourages friends to come to the meet and maybe become first-time buyers. One of those was Adryann Strauss whom he described as having "a good eye." As a first-time attendee, she was attracted to a 1948 Fada AM/FM set on Dick Desjarlais' table. Dick described the set as unique because it had a mix of tubes and was one of the earliest AM/FM sets. Everyone lucked out -- Dick made a sale, Adryann was delighted with her purchase, and Ron was happy because he could go to a friend's house to see the set, which would now be loved and appreciated. End of happy radio meet story.
Perhaps the happiest collector at the meet, Tom Collins with his new-found Clapp-Eastham condenser -- the end at last of a seven-year search.
Self-education is another reason for attending this meet. Bill MacDonald, a designer of digital circuits, had decided it was time to learn something about a few sets he owns, particularly, a 1935 American Bosch and a 1940 Zenith. The Bosch hasn't played for 30 years, while the Zenith plays but needs work. Bill seemed to find his answers at Art Joly's table. Bill consulted Art who runs Art's Attic, a radio and audio service and repair shop in Manchester, New Hampshire. Bill came away saying, "I'd recommend Art on his advice alone." This kind of satisfying exchange could create a new serious collector.
A complete HRO-50 with manual, speaker, calibrator, and plug-in coils, including the original coil box, was priced at $650.
Success stories are another great aspect of meets like Radio XXXV. Collectors come to search for special items, and sometimes we almost hear cries of "Eureka!" across the ballroom. Tom Collins of Charlton, Massachusetts, had been coming to this event for thirteen years, and for the last seven, he had been looking for a tuning capacitor for a Clapp-Eastham set in his collection. Shortly after his arrival, he found it, and so, this collector smiled for the rest of the meet.
Tom is the fortunate owner of a two-story building which houses his extensive collection ranging from a DeForest Audion, early radios, electro-medical equipment, and electronics, to a 1960 TV camera. The 28' x 32' building is fully heated and well lit. Though the museum is still a work in progress, Tom is glad to open it on request. We hope to have more information in a future issue, but you may call (508) 248-1976 if you wish to view the collection.
Multiple Reasons to Attend
For Joseph Lagana, aided by daughter Nancy, this was a first time at this meet. Now they know that it's a good beginning to "cleaning out the cellar." But, Dave Sutherland and wife Karen have a different take on what to bring to this meet -- no cellar "junque" or hardware, just paper and ephemera. Dave wants to open a different market, including everything from radio food products, radio soda bottles, and radio cookie jars to a collector's item of the future -- a poster for the current presidential primary showing the ABC logo and a copy of a speech by John Kerry. An observer called it the "best thing in the show."
Bob Renkar displayed a variety of sets, including two Philcos, a Lafayette C13 tombstone, the San Francisco Exposition set shown earlier, a Santos and a Stewart-Warner set.
Richard Sharisky comes to socialize and to "prospect," not to sell, though he has a table at which he hangs his "Wanted" sign. Frank Murphy comes to help his friend Lenny Provost man his table full of multitype items. A radio wife's superb apple pies seems to be one of the rewards of this partnership.
Some folks are willing to go to great lengths to attend an event like this one. Sean Adkins arranged to fit this meet into his business trip from Hawaii. Apparently the effort was worth it, as when we met him, he had bought a few things and was arranging to have them shipped home. We hope to see Sean here again next year.
John Golden from our hometown here in Carlisle, Mass., comes to pursue his interest in very small tape recorders, which he has exhibited in area libraries. John also sells beautifully designed miniature reel-to-reel tape recorders disguised in gadgets, like a cigarette lighter, or in jewelry, like a ring -- something unexpected for new shoppers at the meet.
We know we can rely on Sam Petnov and his helper Steve Caron to come back every year. After 65 years in the business of selling, repairing and collecting old radios, Sam continues to be a regular at shows. As an aside, he is also a regular supplier of radio props for the entertainment industry. That old set you may have seen in a regional, community, or TV show may well have come from Sam.
Sam's personal collection contains models he says are so old that they are not even seen in old catalogs -- sounds like a special exhibit should be in order. Sam paid us the ultimate compliment -- "Your magazine is the best magazine in the country." Spoken like a true supporter of everything radio.
John and Jean Hartman come to show, sell and maybe even to pick up something just right for their 1890 farmhouse in Eaton, New Hampshire. In fact, what should stay in the house is often a deciding factor in what to sell. A nonradio novelty was a lure to the Hartman table -- a working Super Sieben "Rotamnint" -- an early slot machine that might have been found in bars in Germany.
Three different KLH radios designed by Henry Kloss offered by local collector Ed Dinero at the meet: Top left: the earliest of the three, a Model 18 tuner, designed by Kloss when he was at KLH; Below: a Model 21 II, a version of the KLH 21 II but designed for Singer; Right: a Tivoli Audio Co. Model PAL, the latest of the three Kloss designs and still manufactured today.
Some collectors come because, like Doris and Lowell Shultz of Ambler, Pa., they found that it was worth the trip after their first try last year. The Shultz radio story is a fairly typical one. In the army, Lowell was a radio repair man, then in his professional life, he became an electrical engineer, and now in retirement, he's back to old radios. Life comes 'round full circle.
Most people who attend this show seem to agree with the sentiment expressed by Giselle and Philip Guinan of Litchfield, New Hampshire, -- "This is just a great show, not to be missed." So be sure to put next year's date on your calendar -- February 20, 2005. See you there.
(Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)