Westford, Massachusetts -- February 18, 2007
REPORTED BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
Great show! Nice people! Great venue! Wonderful magazine! No, I'm not boasting or just carrying on as any loyal A.R.C. staff member would do. These are true sentiments that I encountered as I toured the Westford Regency Hotel ballroom at the Greater Boston Antique Radio Collectors (GBARC) Radio XXXVIII on Sunday, February 18, 2007.
From Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and all six New England states, they were there, some for the first time, most for multiple years. More than 600 had gathered to buy, sell, look with longing, and trade radio stories.
Exhibitor preregistration sold out well ahead of the weekend and 72 exhibitors occupied 109 tables, up from 90 tables in 2005 and 98 in 2006. The main ballroom was filled, as were two adjacent rooms. The enthusiasm was pervasive, and it was easy to conclude that this was, indeed, a "great show" with the necessary components of "nice people" and "great venue."
Steve Wallace offered this Medium Wave Receiver, in excellent condition, for $5,500. The label says that the set was made for the Navy by the American Radio and Research Corp. in 1920 and that its tuning range was 250-7500 M.
As for the "wonderful magazine" comment, this, of course, was my favorite moment of the morning. I had been talking with Victoria Mount of Fishkill, New York, who was "tablesitting," as wives often do, when along came her husband Stuart. An Amateur radio gear collector, Stuart was ready to talk, not so much about the meet, but about A.R.C. He has been a subscriber for over 20 years and couldn't say enough about its value to him as a reference and as a source of good response to ads. He also spoke about the books we offer as an invaluable resource -- all music to the ears of an A.R.C. staffer.
On that high note, it was back to my rounds of the meet. Though not a collector, I have covered this meet for several years and feel that many exhibitors are old friends. It would be hard to miss longtime exhibitor Bruce Phillips at his usual tables just inside the main entrance, especially this year, with his beautiful display of Catalin radios.
Jon Golden is into hi-fi equipment these days, but sets like the Emerson 707 plastic tombstone radio still keep his interest. Maybe its oversized dial and unusual magenta color are the attraction.
As Bruce explained, this kind of display takes time to set up and is more difficult to transport, but he decided that this was the year to offer really nice items, not just "clean-out stuff." A check with him at the end of the show indicated that his success was such that he'll bring more "really nice items" next year. His rare Pepsi radio caught many an eye, as a collector can buy ten Coke bottle radios to one Pepsi, according to Bruce.
Bruce's "RadioOrphanage" is on the lookout for a wide range of items from radios to television and all manner of related items. For example, the Garabedians, shoppers from Worcester, Mass., who have "about 100 radios all over their house," were taken by the Jukebox "Trash Can" of the 1950s. This item once was seen in diners across the country, but today would be a nonworking conversation piece -- maybe in the Garabedian living room. I didn't wait to see if Bruce made the sale.
This year, longtime exhibitor Bruce Phillips decided to offer "really nice items," not just "clean-out stuff." His choice was this beautiful display of Catalin radios.
The rare or unusual showed up on many tables, offered often with the seller's regrets because he was downsizing. Jim Taylor of Wakefield, Mass., displayed table models and many novelties, hoping, he said, to downsize his large collection. His helper David Mauriello expressed skepticism about this as an attainable goal. After all, how many collectors achieve it? Still, Jim was trying, and among his offerings was the purely promotional Ketchup bottle radio, which, oddly enough, was never marketed. We expect to see him next year, still at the task of downsizing.
As we all know, one man's downsizing can be another's major acquisition. George Kaczowka was offering a Zenith Trans-Oceanic 7000, a fairly common set, but with its hard-to-find box. George had saved the box from the trash at a flea market seven years ago, but decided it was time to let it go. So the cycle of acquiring a piece and then letting it move on to the next treasure hunter goes on -- another way to look at "downsizing."
Who knows, maybe that Trans-Oceanic and its box was tempting to first-time exhibitors Steven and Terry Flynn down from Sebago Lake, Maine, who are primarily Zenith Trans-Oceanic collectors. Though they had been coming to the meet as shoppers since 1996, they too were now attempting to downsize. Nevertheless, they had made a purchase of a Zenith tombstone within the first 15 minutes of the meet! No comment.
Do all radio collectors look alike? Well, maybe some do, that is, if they have the same hairdo. Charlie Small and Ray Bintliff enjoy a few laughs as the crowds pass by.
Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish the exhibitors from the shoppers, especially if the exhibitor has brought along a tablesitter. I met exhibitor Bob Sukosky from Manchester, Connecticut, as he travelled the aisles looking for "anything marvelous." An A.R.C. subscriber since the beginning, Bob has attended this meet going back to its days in the Rivers School basement in Weston, Mass. As a venue, the Westford Regency is a far cry from those cramped, dark quarters.
Let's hope that Bob's tablesitter was doing as well as Howard and Yvonne McAuliffe, also from Connecticut, who had sold almost everything fairly early in the game -- a car radio, a Ham transmitter, and a 1920s Crosley tabletop, among other items. A good day like this one had them already thinking about reserving the same table for next year. They will definitely pay attention to notices about early registration for Radio XXXIX.
Speaking of dates, a striking one showed up at the always interesting John and Judy DeLoria table. Judy pointed out a beautiful RCA Radiola Model 20 backed by an original newspaper ad. The date of the ad was February 18, 1927, exactly 80 years to the day of this meet. We should have had some kind of anniversary celebration for the RCA set.
Jeff Gardner's Grebe CR-5, RORK and CR-8 were eyecatchers for early radio fans.
Diverse Radio Passions
But then, this meet is a celebration every year of the enduring passion for old radios and related equipment. That passion expresses itself in widely diverse ways. On the professional level, Bruce Mager runs a shop in Manhattan and sells everything radio-related. A framed picture of a group of men listening to an RCA Radiola 812 and a Music Master horn caught my eye. It conveyed the pleasure of interacting with radio then as now, at this, our very own gathering of collectors.
At the other end of the "passion" spectrum, we have Walt Buffinton of Willimantic, Connecticut, who has a very personal and creative way of expressing his love of old radios. His tiny, exact wooden reproductions of classic radio designs includes Zenith, GE, Sentinel, Stromberg-Carlson, Philco, and many others, all in full detail. Walt's miniatures could be one way to capture the interest of the next generation, as his daughter Victoria was along to help Dad with sales.
Walt's miniatures, which he creates in great detail, must appeal to the younger set too, as his daughter Victoria came along to help show them off.
The Family/Friends Support System
Strong family/friend support is always evident at this meet. Longtime exhibitor Bob McTeague definitely needed the help of Betty Dochak to cover his four tables, primarily of literature. And three generations of McGraths were there to support Bill McGrath whose booklet about his World War II Navy service aboard the U.S.S. Dixie as a radio operator was available on his table. The booklet is well laid out and makes interesting reading, another testimony to the importance of collectors' stories to radio history.
Now in his fourth year as an exhibitor, Max Lewontin, age 15, who is usually accompanied by his mother, brought along his grandmother this year! Why not as many generations as possible?
Husband and wife teams abound. Jeanette Ligouri of Atkinson, New Hampshire, tended table while her husband James looked around. James' career in government communications led easily to his retirement work in radio repair. Jeannette said she was here at the meet because it was "payback time." She had helped James build up a collection; now she had to help him downsize (that word again).
First year exhibitors Mark and Helen Vess did not appear to be in a downsizing mode. They have a radio museum in their 1840s barn in Hanson, Mass., where radios, phonographs, Victrolas, TVs, cameras, and even model planes are on display. Both have busy professional lives, but their collection is a big hobby, with emphasis on "big."
Steve Wallace offered this handsome Atwater Kent Model 9, 4445, breadboard for $1,650.
Past and Present
For some, "big" may be a thing of the past, though fondly remembered. We were happy to see old friend Dick Desjarlais there with his longtime companion Polly Hadley enjoying the show, though not at his usual table. Dick recently retired from his "Dick's Radio Days" business, and his inventory has been sold. As he said, "It was time. I had many wonderful years."
That seems to be the sentiment of those involved in this hobby whether past or present tense. These are "wonderful years" with new collecting interests gradually enhancing, or even usurping the interest in the old. As an example, Jon Golden of Carlisle, Mass., A.R.C.'s hometown, pointed out that once plentiful transistor radios are not much in evidence. He has moved on to collecting hi-fi equipment, though maybe not completely, as the Emerson 707 in a rare magenta color on his table suggested.
Five beautifully restored consoles attested to Lowell Schultz's dedication to preserving the old. Schultz, known for his restoration work at the Delaware Valley Historic Radio Club (DVHRC) Kutztown meet, had transported the sets from Ambler, Pennsylvania, and expressed disappointment at not selling them all. Given the constraints of space in most homes, his selling of two sets would make a good day in most books. A 12-tube Zenith with a shutter dial was the object of collector Mike Fruzzetti's desire. Maybe by the end of the day he came up with the price, which he said was fair.
But the longtime collectors and exhibitors were not the only kids on the block here. Shopper Bill Walter described himself as one of the "low end" guys, even a "dabbler" who has his own little project room in his home in Lowell, Mass. He carried a "free prize" -- an Eico signal generator -- which, he said, even if it didn't work, could be useful for parts.
Bill was given his prize by Bill Morse of New London, Connecticut, who is definitely in the downsizing mode. He had decided to give things away "rather than put it in a dumpster" -- the sentiment of a true preservationist. Bill promises to be at the meet for at least three more years, as he continues his cleaning out process. Meanwhile, he teaches Spanish to early elementary school children and works on radio repair as a hobby.
That's the really great thing about this meet for this reporter -- the diversity of the lives of the people there, professionally and personally, and the fact that they are brought together at this meet by their common interest in radio. The A.R.C. staff looks forward to seeing you all next February here in Massachusetts for Radio XXXIX and another celebration of a great avocation -- antique radio.
(Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)