Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

I love vintage electronics!

19

OldZenithAs a boy, I was fascinated with the design of everyday things – the choices made that affected their looks and how they worked. When we’d leave somebody’s house I’d spend the car ride home telling my parents about the Kelvinator refrigerator, the Hotpoint stove, and the Setchell-Carlson television I saw in the home. I asked them why some refrigerators had a freezer on the top, some on the bottom, and some on the side. I puzzled aloud over how older appliances had rounded edges while modern ones had square corners. I gave lectures about the advantages of placing a TV’s channel-selector knob on the side versus on the front. It’s good thing I sat in the back seat where I couldn’t see my parents rolling their eyes.

Fast forward to my young adult life. When I got my first apartment, its kitchen featured a Tappan stove from the early 1950s. I brought the 1960s black-and-white RCA console TV of my childhood with me, even though it hadn’t worked in years. I had a working 1946 Philco table radio that I listened to every morning over breakfast. And somebody gave me a 1949 Bendix console radio and phonograph that still sort of worked. All but the Bendix are gone now.

If I had money and space I’d have a home full of old appliances, radios, and televisions. Fortunately, I get to live vicariously through this gentleman. He goes by drh4683 on YouTube.

I get this guy. When I was a boy, my parents were sure I was headed toward a career in engineering because I liked figuring out how things worked. I could hardly keep my fingers off anything with buttons or knobs. My great grandmother’s TV was straight out of the 1950s, and behind this panel right at kid height were about a million knobs. Whenever we visited, if I was left alone with that TV I turned as many of them as I could before being discovered. This almost certainly caused her to utter choice words when she settled in that night to watch Gunsmoke. Also, I ruined my grandfather’s new clock radio by turning one apparently important knob past its stop point. Grandma asked me many times if I did it, even years later, but I didn’t have the guts to admit it. When Grandpa got a CB radio in the late 1970s, Grandma took me aside and said, “Jimmy, now, if you turn that knob,” pointing to the one labeled SQUELCH, “it will explode!” It was several years before I figured out that was a scam.

But back to this collector. He takes his vintage extremely seriously. Check out a video he shot last Christmas of his living room. Suddenly, it’s 1965!

Most of what this fellow posts on YouTube involves showing off items, mostly televisions, in his collection after he has restored them. This is a typical video. The Muppets make a special appearance.

At this point, my life is full of hobbies – roads, writing, photography, and old cameras. Thankfully, my old-camera collection takes up way less space than an old-TV collection! So to satisfy my old-electronics desires, I’ll just wait eagerly for the next video from drh4683.

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I like vintage TV programs, too.
See everything I’ve written about them.

19 thoughts on “I love vintage electronics!

  1. ryoko861

    I can appreciate the vintage electronics. I just acquired a vintage portable radio from my dad this past summer that I have very fond memories of listening to when I was little. Then there’s the phonograph player that played 78’s and I cringe thinking about what may have happened to it. My son loves the vintage electronics as well. Dad was an engineer, too, so that helped having some of this stuff around longer than it should have been because he was good at fixing it. Probably where I got my nerve to not be afraid and open something up to see why it won’t work.

    1. Jim Post author

      My mom still has her Symphonic record player that plays 78s. I secretly hope to inherit it. I don’t know what I’d do with it particularly, though.

    1. Jim Post author

      Yeah, when my mom finally decided to replace her 1966 Tappan stove a couple years ago I was DYING to figure out how to move it from their house 2.5 hours north to mine, but ended up giving up on that quest.

  2. Lone Primate

    I can remember heading into the middle of town just before I started university to sort of consult with one of my high school teachers who’d transferred from my school, built in the early 80s, to another built in the early 50s. What stood out for me was that all the corners of the joins… the corners of the halls, the places the walls met the ceilings… they were all rounded. I think it was a feature of the 50s… it’s how they envisioned the future. Smooth, streamlined, cities on the moon. :)

    “Squelch” is another trip back. I had a friend in the 70s, a few years older than me, a wheeler-dealer of a teenager who worked all summer to buy first a 23 and then a 40-channel CB. Up at the cottage he used to wait like a spider in a web for truckers to breeze by on the local highways. He was born about 15 years too early; he was waiting for the internet like Leonardo was waiting for flight. :) But that’s the only place I can ever remember seeing the word “squelch”. :)

    1. Jim Post author

      Heh. I remember a lady who lived up the street. She had an illegally boosted CB radio she used to make, well, dates… is dates the right term? Well, it will do… with the truckers on US 31. If we tuned our TV to channel 3, we could hear her loud and clear.

        1. Jim Post author

          Wow, I’d never heard that song before. The only CB-related song I knew from the 70s was Convoy by C.W. McCall.

      1. Lone Primate

        Ummm… I’d also like to point out that my friend was not making dates with the truckers, though. He just got a huge kick out of being able to talk to people from all over North America. Sort of like random pen pals of the moment, though I remember he struck up radio friendships with a few guys who passed through regularly. It all seemed like magic to me back then.

  3. Jennifer S

    I’m also a huge fan of mid-century appliances and electronics. I just love the way they look. I often think, if we had the cash, I’d turn our kitchen into a circa 1960 museum exhibit but with all items restored and fully working.

    Love the post!

    1. Jim Post author

      I’d love to fill my kitchen with 1969 appliances to match the year my house was built! …Except that I’d have to have a modern microwave oven, since those were very uncommon in 1969.

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