Westford, Massachusetts -- February 20, 2005
BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
Luck was in the air at the 36th Greater Boston Antique Radio Collectors (GBARC) Meet in Westford, Massachusetts, on Sunday, February 20, 2005. First, a threatened storm held off until Monday, and though cold, the day dawned bright and sunny. The effect was a generally upbeat mood that pervaded the Westford Regency Hotel ballroom. From 8 a.m. to noon, collectors gathered to engage in their favorite "sport" -- buying and selling, or just exchanging favorite stories about their latest finds and projects.
Luck was also evident in the positive comments that prevailed at the end of the show. Several sellers were heard to remark that they had sold everything they brought, many within the first hour. Our A.R.C. colleague Ray Bintliff said that even his repair business card container was empty.
The room was sold out, with 60 exhibiters displaying their wares on 90 tables. Attendees totalled 725. Among those with multiple tables was Dick Bergeron, down from Maine, offering a spread of tubes on four tables. A retired IBM engineer, Dick is fairly typical of those with the longtime radio bug -- he's now in the radio "business" full time as a dealer in tubes.
Jeffrey Gardner and son Ben of Gloversville, New York, first-time vendors, show a 1948 Globe Electronic 558 clock/radio mounted on wood. Ben's share for his help was 10 percent of the profits.
The kind of camaraderie inherent in this annual meet was evident in the good-natured kidding Dick was taking about the plaid cap he was wearing. He tells a good down-Maine story about it. At his local post office recently, the clerk commented on his cap. Dick let it be known that his wife had made it for him. The response was, "Well, how long do you have to wear it for?"
No doubt the cap will become a talisman, especially if it draws attention and helps to keep Dick's business as brisk as it was. After many years of attendance, he still says, "This is the best show."
Jay Ballard, a Ham, audio, and old test equipment collector, finds a pair of 7591A vacuum tubes at Dick Bergeron's table.
Perhaps the pleasantest side of a show like this is the sense of family that manifests itself in different groupings -- husbands and wives, parents and children, longtime friends -- who work together to make the experience a success. For example, fourteen-year-old Ben Gardner, from Gloversville, New York, kept the "store" while Dad Jeffrey toured the room. The deal was that Ben would take home 10 percent of the profits. The sale of a Majestic Melody Cruiser in the first ten minutes must have given his bank account a boost. Though Jeff had come other years as a buyer, this was his first time as a seller. We expect to see this team back next year.
Lurene and Edward Melvin with son Mike of Arlington, Mass., made a trio fully engaged in the business of the day. In this radio family, the driving force is Lurene, who sold 15 table radios in the first hour of the sale. As I spoke to Ed and Mike, Lurene was hard at work selling one of her last remaining items -- a framed 1937 Philco ad -- to Keith Hutchins of East Hampton, Connecticut. Happy sellers and satisfied buyers are what this meet is all about.
John DeLoria's table displayed some handsome sets: left to right, a Philco 168, selling at $395; a Crosley 1055, at $295; an RCA Victor 128, at $395; and a Zenith 5S228 at $250.
Music and transistor radios were featured at the Bernd family table where another trio held sway. Walter and Jane, and especially son Chris, seemed to be enjoying the day -- Chris had just purchased his first radio, and his parents were finding Beatles fans, like themselves, in the crowd.
There must be a maxim that "people who collect together stay together." Our prime example in the "old timer" category has to be Ray and Edith Chase. It would be impossible to tally up the shows they have attended and the auctions they have covered for A.R.C. This is a team extraordinaire, and it was a pleasure to see them enjoy this show to the very end.
Lurana and Keith Dennison of Victory Mills, New York, are another husband-wife team, who, like many others from out of state, stayed at the hotel and enjoyed its many amenities. In this case, Lurana kept the store as she has done attending this show for several years. Meanwhile, Keith cruised the room looking for the plastics, Catalins, cathedrals, and crystal sets that interest him. At a fairly early hour, they had sold almost everything -- a happy beginning, to say the least.
Still another team, Larry and Lynn Whitlock, married for 39 years, continue to collect early battery sets, while he also does restoration work. Larry said he has been at it ever since he "stuck a fork in a light circuit" and that he is "the luckiest guy in the world" to have a wife involved in the give and take of his avocation. "Radio wives" are not as rare as we once thought.
Bob and Louise Masterson from northern New Jersey started collecting Deco radios, plastics, and transistor radios 12 or 13 years ago. They have been coming to this show for 10 of those years, and again, illustrate that cooperation seems to be the norm in "radio families."
Other combinations also make productive teams. Though a collector since age 15, Dave Sousa was attending this show for the first time. Interested in battery sets, as well as Ham radio and stereo equipment, he brought along his wife Kathy and his friend Tom Hodges, both good helpers, to join in the action of the show.
From his "Waves" store in New York City, Bruce Mager's display featured early to late sets: bottom, an IP-500 selling at $6,250; above, a Grebe CR-8, at $650; top right, a KLH Model 8, selling at $125; and top left, a small Detrola, at $185.
And how about buyer John Flynn from the greater Boston area, accompanied by his daughter, as they enjoyed stopping at each table for a look? This father/daughter team already had arms full of a Silvertone and a cute little Philmore. By show's end, they may have needed a dolly to get to the parking lot.
In the "just happened to drop in" category, Herb Goldberg and Nancy Cronin found much that reminded him of his early days in this country by way of Germany and Israel. They browsed at A.R.C.'s book table and decided that the Xtal Set Society Newsletter, Volumes 6 and 7 would be a good beginning to a building project with Herb's grandson. At age 90, Herb is always ready for a new project.
David and Kathy Sousa enjoy showing their Heathkit communications equipment: left, a HW-100 single sideband transceiver with speaker; bottom right, an SB-401 transceiver; and above, an SB-610 scope monitor.
As for a parent/child team, no one has a better support system than Max Lewontin, now 13 and in his third year as a seller at this meet. Max's mother provides transportation and moral support, but, as we learned two years ago, "Max the Art Deco Man" can handle his own business.
We worry, however, that he's moving on to other pursuits, as rumor has it that he has used his radio proceeds to pay for a movie camera. Still, he was in the process of selling a very nice Emerson 544 to first-time attendee Alan Sharky from Lincoln, Rhode Island. A man with Max's ingenuity can no doubt have multiple interests.
Alan, incidentally, commented that although flea markets don't yield as many treasures as they did in the 1970s, he still finds a few. One was a 1929 U.S. T.V. radio that he had promptly shorted out. Swapping such tales, whether of cheer or woe, with old and new friends is part of the sense of family at a show like this one.
Looking to the Future
What does a show like Radio XXXVI tell us about the future of antique radio collecting? One striking thing is the age range of the attendees. Even among longtime collectors, many are first-timers at this long-running show, a fact that could indicate a renewed interest in what's happening beyond their shops or computers. For example, John Nowacki, a collector for over 30 years, came down for the first time from Kennebunk, Maine, primarily to sell a lot of accumulated literature. John describes himself as one who buys and sells in cycles -- he can't do both at the same time. Now that he's seen what's possible at this show, maybe he'll find a way to do both next year.
Two handsome tombstones on Phil Guinan's table: Left, a Crosley 515, ca. 1935, selling at $189; and right, a Crosley 5M3, ca. 1934, at $135.
Gordon Bello, a collector for 36 years and Vice-President of the Framingham Amateur Radio Association, set up a table for the first time to spread the word about the club activities. These include an FCC License weekend and a flea market. Naturally, he caught the ear of 82-year-old Maurice Bpolayes, N1CRK, who still collects after 35 years and just recently restored a Hallicrafters and two Zeniths.
Whether the interest is longtime or renewed, it's a good sign for the future of antique radio collecting. But, even more hopeful is the sign that young people are tuning in. Already mentioned are the children who come as sellers themselves or as aides to parents. Then there are the young adults who happen to have an unexpected exposure to the hobby.
One such example is Todd Szahun who showed up at this his first show. Only three months ago, Todd happened upon a 1935 Zenith 970 console in a thrift shop in Andover, Mass. It was in great shape and had tubes, but no sound. Todd thought this beauty should be repaired, and he surfed the Internet for help.
Whose name should come up but that of our own staff member Ray Bintliff. Todd talked to Ray, and decided, as we know from first-hand experience, that this was a man who knew his stuff. The radio now plays and lacks only the glass dial front for which he was on the lookout.
Christina Moneghan, age eight months, knows a good toy when she sees one. Her mother Myra minds both Christina and the table while dad Jim may be looking around for Atwater Kent products, his primary interest.
Todd, who once interned in college for NPR as a reporter, was beginning to sound like one of the converted. He liked the friendliness of folks at the show who were open to newcomers and ready to share information. We feel confident that he'll be back next year.
Of course, the youngest newcomer was 8-month old Christina Moneghan who still thinks radios are toys. In a sense, we have to admit she's right. Christina was there with parents Jim and Myra, first-time sellers, whose specialty is Atwater Kent. Who knows -- Christina may be a leader in the next generation of Atwater Kent collectors.
From Christina on up the age scale, the folks at this meet had a great time, if their reluctance to close down was any indication. Many lingered on for more radio talk. More than a dozen collectors with family members went on to John Terrey's home/museum to view his impressive collection and to enjoy more radio talk. As usual, the star of that show was the RCA Theremin, on which everyone had to make a vain attempt at playing a tune.
If winter gets you down next year, be sure to think of Radio XXXVII on February 19, 2006, to pick up your radio spirits. The consensus is that it's a show not to be missed.
(Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)