Westford, Massachusetts February 20, 2000
"Old Stuff is Cool"
REPORTED BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
Once again antique radio buffs gathered at what has become the New England regional radio show of the year -- the Greater Boston Antique Radio Collectors' (GBARC) Radio XXXI. The event, which is managed by Antique Radio Classified, was held in the Westford Regency Hotel's 6,500 square foot Regency Ballroom, on Sunday, February 20, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Despite the 2-day snowstorm that preceded the show, an eager crowd gathered early in anticipation.
As indicated by the name, this is the 31st GBARC show; the first, called "Radio East," was in June 1977. There's no doubt that the show continues to grow in size and quality. In fact, all 92 tables were sold two weeks ahead of time, and a second room was required to accommodate the overflow. Total attendance, including buyers and exhibitors, was 851, an impressive turnout.
One reason for this show's success is the extensive publicity handled by A.R.C. This effort includes 225 press releases to newspapers, museums, and radio, cable, and TV stations. More than 3,000 flyers were mailed to interested folks in New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Yankee Magazine gave us a plug in its "Traveler's Journal," and even after the event, we made the front page of the Westford Eagle with two photos of action at the show. Besides publicity, the timing of the show works in its favor -- a weekend, 1-day event means everyone can come, either for the weekend (41 rooms were booked) or just for the day.
Norm Hertz has the help of daughter Ashley in selling crystal sets and microphones.
What is most interesting about this day to the A.R.C. staff, many of whom are not collectors, is meeting the people who travel days ahead or before dawn to attend. Through correspondence, we feel we already know many of them, but now we can put faces to the names. Still, we have to ask, "What is the special madness that draws them here?" The answers are as varied as the folks themselves, as I found out by talking to them in a round of the hall.
My hat with the feather boa may have taken them aback at first, but, in general, they were willing to share their enthusiasm for the show. And the hat confirmed the fact that, although I don't own a vintage radio, I was a genuine antique and would understand their passion.
Some folks were just curious about the event. Joe Kiebasti, for example, had read about it in a regional paper and brought 9-month old A.J. with him "to give Mom a morning off." He had an old shortwave radio at home and wondered if anyone at the meet could tell him something about its worth. So, not a collector per se, but whoknows, after this exposure.
On the other hand, Bob Fuerderer and his wife of Keene, New Hampshire, who came to spend the weekend at the hotel to celebrate her birthday and have a mini-vacation, are serious collectors. He calls himself "an active addict" and says he "loves that magazine" (A.R.C., of course).
The Fuerderers joined Dave and Karen Sutherland -- he is the president and treasurer of the New England Antique Radio Club in Nashua, N. H. -- for a social evening the night before the meet. Obviously, the hotel offers reasonable rates and good facilities -- an indoor pool (unfortunately closed for renovations this weekend), a health club, racquetball courts, and three restaurants -- to make the stay enjoyable.
Back to the other end of the spectrum. Russ and Alexis Burgess came from Connecticut to look for one particular radio only -- a 1934 RCA 128 -- just because he has fond memories of the one his grandmother had. Or there were the onlookers. Christy and Jon Avery came to see what her father, Ray Bintliff, an exhibitor and A.R.C. contributor, had been so excited about all these years. They were duly impressed by the enthusiastic crowds.
Pauline and Bill Morin of Topsham, Maine, came last year as spectators, but this year, their table displayed their primary interest -- radio-related books. With their penchant for the literary, they say they love the articles in A.R.C. -- good news for my department, I must say.
Perhaps the most striking thing about this event from the human standpoint is the number of children present who seemed genuinely interested. Our subtitle -- "old stuff is cool" -- is a quote from 12-year old Lauren Kopec, there with her father Tom from Amherst, Mass. Lauren also commented that looking at the old equipment made her think that "people have become a lot less creative." A savvy lass, to say the least. She and Dad were also most interested in books.
John DeLoria with a customer interested in one of his items for sale. John's wife Judy, who helps out at his table, can be seen in the background.
Nearby, Ashley Hertz, age 13, was tending her dad Norm Hertz's table. They've been coming to this meet for four years from Staten Island, New York, bringing crystal sets and microphones to sell. While I talked to them, they sold an AIWA crystal set for $55. For them, this is a favorite meet because of the "interesting people and the quality goods available."
Ann Marie and Binny Longobardi from North Haven, Connecticut, brought not one, but three children for the weekend. And everyone was looking for novelty transistor treasures. The littlest girl had already bought a Miss Piggy radio; the middle-sized girl, a computer radio; and the boy, a Bel Air. Mom is a Coca Cola collector. The consensus was that, in addition to the radio show, the hotel offers enough to interest the children, and it makes for a great weekend.
Young Jeffrey Small came with his father John "to humor Grandpa Charlie." But it sounded to me as if Jeffrey is a collector-in-the-making. He talked about his 1956 Zenith table model that he had bid on at a town hall auction. The only trouble was that the auctioneer didn't hear his bid, and someone else got the radio.
"It just wasn't fair," said Jeffrey. However, he prevailed. His dad convinced the buyer that he should sell the set to Jeffrey, who, incidentally, was able to describe some of its technical attributes.
Michael and Lisa Phelps were there with 7-month old Hannah. They just like to have consoles and table models that work around the house, and this was the perfect place to look.
Up from Philadelphia was one of the grown-up kids -- Ross Phillips, who came to help his dad, Bruce Phillips, from Stratham, New Hampshire, with his full three tables. Both are avid collectors, Ross of Drexel plastics of the 1950s, and Bruce of Catalins and the Predicta TVs yes, the Predictas were working that made an impressive display. Of course, in true radionik style, they also expressed interest in everything from early battery sets through transistors.
An interesting radio sideline showed up at Stuart and Hildy Altman's table. In 1990, they started to go to shows selling his Bakelite polish. Now this is the only show they attend, and business here is good -- in an hour and a half, they sold all their stock.
One of few women collectors, Candace Savage from Plymouth, Mass., was there with David Pope. They are most interested in crystal sets and radios of the Soviet Union. His collection numbers 300-400, while hers is around 100. They rate this show at the high end, right up there with Rochester. They sold more than 3/4 of the equipment they had brought and said that the buyers here appreciate "better stuff."
Among the familiar faces was Richard Sharisky who has been collecting old vacuum tubes, battery sets and hi-fi equipment since 1988. He says that the rest of his family is "sane." The ubiquitous Steve Finberg was also there spreading the word via flyers about the local, immmensely successful M.I.T. electronic flea market. Though Steve collects "absolutely everything," he says he has no time to sell anything.
Mike Katz shows some of the many variations of his grille cloth used in radio restoration.
Well known historian, author and collector Alan Douglas was among the buyers looking for "new toys." Alan has been doing just that since he was eight years old when his first radio came out of the trash. One of the great things about this show is the gathering of seasoned collectors along with newcomers, all seeking and sharing info about radio history.
No one I spoke with was more enthusiastic about the show than first-time vendor Len Provost from North Andover, Mass. He was happily ensconced in the overflow room where he wants to be next year. Len commented that he thinks people are sick of the Internet already because buyers can't see what they're getting.
"And why go to all the flea markets," he asked, "when you can find people here who know a lot and who are more focused?" Len's parting words were, "You run a very good show -- I'll be back next year!"
That's what we're hoping -- that the more than 800 who attended this year will spread the word to many more. We have the option of opening up more space at the hotel, so be sure to watch for word of Radio XXXII in February 2001. See you there -- I'll be the one in the hat.
(Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)