Mac's Old Time Radio Museum
BY CHARLES "Mac" MacQUARRIE
When antique radio collectors are traveling, they welcome the discovery of a local museum and the opportunity to view someone else's collection. On your next trip to California, be sure to drop in on Mac MacQuarrie's newly reopened museum. (Editor)
Some years ago -- October 1, 1989, to be exact -- I began a radio museum inside the small antique and collectibles store my wife and I had ventured into when we took early retirement from the business world. Though we were both products of New England, we had moved to California in 1950 when I was a flight radio operator with a new commercial airline known as Transocean Airlines. Founded in 1946, the airline was based in Windsor, Connecticut, at what is still known as Bradley Field.
Mac gets big advertising for his Old Time Radio Museum.
Radio was in my blood even before Transocean Airlines. During World War II, I had served in the U.S. Army Air Corp as a radio operator attached to the 15th AAF B-24 Bomber Squadron. After discharge in 1945, I attended Boston Radio and Television on the GI Bill. Then came the pursuit of a job.
Having heard that airline companies were advertising for flight radio operators, I thought I might qualify for such a job because of my Air Force experience. I also thought more education might be necessary. So, my wife and I took a gamble and moved with our young son to Kansas City where I could enroll in the Central Radio and TV Flight School.
The job with Transocean followed in 1949. Intercontinental flights, which required a radio operator using Morse Code and voice communications, made up 95 percent of our business. Among the company's more memorable jobs was the airlift called the "Magic Carpet" which transported Jewish refugees to the new state of Israel. This operation involved several airlines manned by many World War II pilots and crew. Another such operation was the West Coast Korean War airlift. Airlines like Transocean all made history, but it was not widely publicized, no doubt due to the political complexities of the times.
This partial view of Mac's Old Time Radio Museum provides an indication of the range of items on display.
This unique piece is a 1930s radio in a cabinet designed to resemble a stringed instrument from the Far East.
My flying career ended in 1953 when I was asked to return to the East Coast for a position at a New York base. Knowing that my job as a flight radio operator trained in Morse code communications would soon be a profession of the past, we decided to stay in California .
I switched professions entirely and went to work for the Prudential Life Insurance Co. from which I took early retirement in 1975. Given my long history with radio, it was only natural that our retirement antique and collectible business would include radios.
A view of Mac's collection showing a few of the military items.
The Growth of the Antique Radio Museum
In the 1970s, I began buying and selling radios, many of which I brought back from Massachusetts. They were purchased at yard sales in my hometown of Charlton, Mass., and, of course, at the renowned Brimfield Swap Meet only 15 miles from Charlton. At the time, I wasn't skilled enough to do repairs, but I met an expert, Ray Cadell, at a swap meet in California. This is another small world story.
An unusual item -- a Martin planter radio from 1948 in great condition.
It turned out that Ray had been in the radio business in Brookfield, Massachusetts, in the 1930s. He had actually traveled the road by my family home in Charlton, but I never knew him until our chance encounter in California. I don't think there was much he didn't know about radios, and I learned a lot about repair from him. He has since passed on at the age of 90.
As our antique and collectible business grew, I became more interested in preserving these radio gems of the past and decided to establish a museum. My wife was very supportive, and we put together a nice little collection of 150 radios, a few TVs, and some radio collectibles. These occupied an area of 350 square feet in our newly leased building. Naturally, the major portion of the building had to be devoted to the antiques and collectibles that provided the income to sustain the business.
As the years moved on, we eventually purchased the building, thus removing the fear factor of having to move if the building was sold. With that out of the way, we continued to expand. However, between July of 2002 and June 2006, the museum was closed, as my wife had passed away and plans for remodeling the building and setting up a new museum took time.
But, the new Mac's Old Time Radio Museum is now open. Visitors are welcome to see over 450 radios (400 in reserve); some early TVs; telegraph equipment; Air Force radios of World War II; radio pieces from my flight days in World War II, as well as in the commercial airline industry that became a thing of the past in the late 1950s; and some of my own accounts of the Magic Carpet Flights. All this is in a dedicated 1,500 sq. ft. area in our building.
I hope many A.R.C. readers will want to visit. My hours are 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, or by appointment. Mac's Old Time Radios and Radio Museum is at 4335 W. 147th St., Lawndale, CA 90260. Bus.: (310) 675-6017; Eve.: (310) 674-5306.
(Charles "Mac" MacQuarrie, 4953 Lennox Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90304)