My name is David. I became interested in old radios when I was a kid, my Dad had an old Symphonic model 721 reel to reel tape recorder that he used to tape my siblings and I on. Our childhoods were recorded on this machine since we never had a VHS camera or super 8 or any of that stuff in the 1980s. We were on a tight budget back then. My Dad bought the Japanese made “back when Japanese goods meant inferior” era tape recorder when he was in high school. Ordered it out of the Eaton’s catalogue in the 1960s in fact. It had a magic eye for a VU meter and that got my curiosity up.
As time went on I used to go to the local dump to find old tubes out of smashed TV sets, but never found any radios as most people trashed them long ago or forget about them to the point that if I asked they honestly couldn’t tell you if they had any in the old barn, garage, attic or shed.
My Dad did bring home a “Bel-Air” radio from the dump one day, it was a wood tabletop battery set and remains a mystery to this day as I found no name plate on the chassis, but it did seem to have Canadian made components. Who made it and who sold it?
My first radio I fixed was the family’s model 2015 Silvertone radio, demoted to a garage radio where it buzzed itself into a corner of forgotten objects. A few feet away, an old Marconi lowboy cabinet stood front to the wall, used as a tool shelf, the guts long disposed of, the finish bleached out by a half century of water and used crankcase oil. I suspect that this was the first farm radio my family had. The Silvertone was the second, after hydro came to the farm.
I knew nothing about radios, but did find a bunch of articles in old Popular Mechanics at my Aunt’s place. An article about basic troubleshooting. Loud hum and filter capacitor, I made a mental note. Again I found myself bored on a Summer’s day and sick of mending barbed wire fences that the cattle would always shove each other through. I found the radio in the scrap pile in a garage corner and found the big condenser and read the cryptic numbers. It just so happened that across the road was an abandoned set of outbuildings that belonged to my father’s childhood friend who said “take what you want out of there” I looked one day a few weeks later and covered in pigeon droppings was an RCA Victor 45 rpm radio/phono tabletop unit, a cool looking unit with a red spindle top but still, ruined by the birds and the mouse nest inside that rusted out the chassis and ate the speaker cone. But I looked at the guts and found the same cryptic number stamped on a large multi-section capacitor. I ripped it out and in a few hours soldered it in place in the Silvertone. Powered it up and the humming ceased! No stations though. I goofed around with the IF cans, and was I imagining I heard a man talk? No I was receiving something. A couple of patient hours and I was getting signals loud and clear, though with no signal generator the dial setting was a mess.
So that was my self-taught beginning in the 1990s. Pre-internet, and no other person to guide me. I listened to the old Winnipeg Jets last hockey games on it too. Not too long after the Jets left so did the sound on the radio, as another capacitor most likely failed . It was too much for me to figure out at that point with my limited resources and experience. I threw the radio back on the scrap heap, my curiosity satisfied. Maybe I should dig it out in this new internet/urban garage sale world I now live in and give it a good home?