Westford, Massachusetts -- February 19, 2006
REPORTED BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
If you're a collector and you have relatives in Boston, why not arrange a visit around a major radio event in the area? And if you're from Minnesota, a few degrees below zero on the morning of a meet in Massachusetts is no deterrent. So went the thinking of Alan Yelsey from Minneapolis, who was duly impressed with the happenings at Radio XXXVII, the annual Greater Boston Antique Radio Collectors (GBARC) meet on Sunday, February 19. In the first hour, Alan sold most of the 1930s and 1940s radios he had brought along, and so he was able to enjoy the crowd, the size of which was unlike anything he had seen at events back home.
This year the Westford Regency Hotel ballroom and an adjunct room in Westford, Massachusetts, were filled with 98 tables, up from last year's 90. More than 600 eager buyers and sellers crowded the room. Alan deserved a prize for coming the greatest distance, but all of the New England states were represented, as well as New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and others.
Why Am I Here?
"Old Guard" attendees were heard to ask the question with tongue-in-cheek, knowing full well the easy answers -- the fun of the chase after the long-sought-for set, the competition, the wheeling and dealing, the camaraderie -- and, of course, the addiction to old radios and anything to do with the heyday of the radio era.
Variety is evident at John DeLoria's tables: Left, top to bottom, a Wings Cigarette radio, ca 1930s; a green Crosley Showboy with bird motif; and a Hallicrafters shortwave set. Right, an impressive 1939 Zenith 15S374.
This Air-Way Type F 4-tube receiver tempted buyers at Stuart Mount's table.
That's why they're apt to hang around long after the show has officially ended to swap radio tales.
No one admits more readily to the addiction than John DeLoria, who, along with his wife Judy, whom he describes as the "heavy lifter," lives a radio life. They belong to ten different clubs and travel all over the country to all the big shows.
The addiction is confirmed when John describes the purchase of a collection of 350 radios in order to get the one or two he really wanted. Transporting the collection meant several trips to Canada. And how could he pass up the brand new 3-piece, 1931 living room set with a radio built into the couch, all still packed in plastic? Small wonder he has nine public storage spaces.
The DeLoria tables showed the variety in his collection. The Wings Cigarette radio from the early 1930s was one of many different brands that RCA had no problem advertising in times when smoking was the fashion. A porcelain ladybug crystal set sat on a round living room table containing a 1930s RCA radio. A 1950s Emerson advertising piece perched next to a large photo of another handsome set for sale, but too heavy to bring to the meet -- a Philco bar radio complete with all the glassware.
This beautiful Philco Model 16B, an 11-tube set covering 4 bands, was available at John Hagman's table for $425.
Yes, John is addicted to old radios, but he and Judy appreciate the other major attraction to the hobby -- the wonderful people and sense of community.
That's what seems to bring folks back year after year and even after a hiatus. George Kazowska had a two-year break, but he was back with his friend and helper May Yanocsko. In his 25 years of collecting, George's interests have taken many turns, from the 1930s to transistor sets to foreign sets and back to the 1930s. A Cord blue mirrored radio from the 1930s graced his table, along with a 1940s Champion Venus 975A.
A meet like this one fits into his philosophy of sharing information with fellow collectors. On his website is a page for Zenith research, containing raw data from Zenith service manuals and other references.
For a first-time seller like Johanna Mendelin, this philosophy would fit well with her impression that at this meet she was being introduced to things she wouldn't have otherwise known That was what her late brother Bob Defenderfer, a Ham and professional audio man, had done when he shared with her his love of radio and electronics. Johanna was there with her husband and 23-month old twins to try to put Bob's collection into the right hands, rather than throw it out as some relations had suggested. Bob did well to pass on the need to preserve radio history.
A Generational Thing
The Mendelin family was a good example of the increasing number of families with two or three generations in attendance. Surely a good sign for this hobby. Like the Mendelins, Bill and Darcey Dunn came from Vermont with their very young children to display their wares and enjoy the crowd. Bill has been collecting since his father gave him his grandmother's old radio about 35 years ago. That may be a longer time than many much older attendees who began collecting in their retirement years. And who knows, the children may carry on the interest.
Eric Fogel gives thumbs up to the meet as he awaits a customer for his Crosley Fiver.
Signs of that hope were everywhere. Jeff Gardner of Gloversville, New York, was back for the second year as a vendor. He was able to tour the room while his son Ben once again manned the table. Bruce Phillips did not have his usual helper, son Ross, but daughter Jonica filled in nicely at the "Radio Orphanage." Multiple progeny is certainly an asset in the radio meet business.
Of course, the "First Family" was there -- "first that is, when your father runs the meet. John Terrey's grandchildren came with son Jeff and his wife Susan. Nine-month old Katie latched on to a "Hello Kitty" novelty radio, indicating that she and her brother Joe are being brought up right.
Two generations are impressive, but three in attendance are even more so. Phil and Giselle Guinan from Litchfield, New Hampshire, had help from their grandson, 16-year-old Jayme, and his dad, son-in-law Bob LaRochelle. What an opportunity for Phil to indoctrinate the young. He has plenty of history to use as ammunition -- a radio shop back in the 1930s, a career in industrial electronics, and now lots of repair work on sets of the 1930s-1950s. Let's hope Jayme follows in his footsteps.
Ed White and Trudy Adams, regulars at the GBARC shows, are well equipped to make an announcement.
The future of the hobby seemed to be on the minds of many participants. John Hartman commented that, as he looked around, he saw many young people. He expressed amazement at the growth of interest in the hobby and confidence in the possibility of finding the right home for most old sets. He himself has filled a big barn at his apple farm in Eaton, New Hampshire, in less than three years.
That optimism was reflected in the presence of buyers like John and Jean Jesensky who were looking for radios of the 1960s and stereo of the 1970s -- "All the stuff you wanted to buy when you were a kid, but couldn't afford to.
Another husband and wife team, Francis and Barbara Pond, were also serious buyers. They were looking for promising items to stock their space in a group antique shop in Amherst, New Hampshire. Collectors for 30 years, they enjoy the activity as a hobby, not expecting it to be a big money-maker. It must also be a pleasure to share the same interest -- a repeated theme in "radio families."
Friends are often like families. Tom Cooper and Pat Franzis from New Milford, Connecticut, came together and did well as first-time sellers. Both began collecting as eight-year olds and both are lucky enough to have sympathetic wives. Pat figures he has a "radio gene" directly from his grandfather who built sets. He also has a 1920s house that is perfect for antique radio decor. These two would seem to have it all.
Bruce Mager of New York City Waves store had a bit of everything for sale, from an Atwater Kent breadboard to plastic sets. The ship speaker on the top shelf is a sought-after item.
The same might be said of Ed White and his longtime companion/helper Trudy Adams. The only difference might be that, at age 90, Ed has had a much longer time to enjoy his life in radio. In a memoir given to A.R.C. Ed has traced his interest in radio back to grade school and a next-door neighbor with a radio shop in his cellar.
Other memories include acquiring a chunk of galena ore for use as a detector, making a cat whisker from a fine guitar string, sending a box top and fifty cents for a Quaker Oats crystal set kit, and building a one-tube amplifier, to name a few. We can only conclude that radio-collecting contributes to keeping the memory sharp.
Memories were certainly a part of the conversation at John Nowacki's table. Here was a case of West meets East, as John from Kennebunk, Maine, talked with Werzhen Xu, a Massachusetts computer software engineer originally from China. Xu spoke of his growing interest in radio during his high school years in China. His father had an RCA radio and an RCA turntable in a crank phonograph, but with Chinese labels. He remembered that before 1940, all radios came from the U.S., but the family's first black and white TV in 1958 came from Russia.
Such one-on-one encounters make the radio meet experience an international affair. We realize that radio touched the lives of people throughout the world long before "global economy" became a household phrase.
Here and Now
A chat with John Hagman, down from Vermont and a sometime reporter for A.R.C., often gives a sense of immediacy. A down-to-business guy, John finds it advantageous to stay at the hotel and get a close parking space from which to move his specialty -- large table sets. Though he uses the Internet as an educational tool and to get fast information, he finds that a meet allows him to buy, sell, and socialize. Furthermore, it enables him to hand a sale over without shipping and labor costs.
On the other hand, after the meet John expressed disappointment with his sales and the lack of interest in his consoles and restored table sets. However, many others were pleased with sales; in fact some sold everything they brought. A certain amount of luck is built into any meet.
Despite his disappointment, John also found himself in a typical dilemma for many vendors -- how to resist buying and to avoid turning his house into a series of aisles. The A.R.C. staff recognizes the problem, since we work for John Terrey in the midst of his hundreds of radios! Still, how difficult resistance must be when a collector like John Hagman says, "I've already seen more exotic sets for sale here than at any other meet." As John DeLoria might add, "What's an addict to do?" Maybe it all has to do with the name "John."
Hope to see you all at Radio XXXVIII on February 18, 2007. It's always worth the trip from wherever you are.
(Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)