Old Radios...

Industry Observer with ARFCO Media

I was helping a friend out last Saturday, but I’ll skip that story. We were at Hawthorn Stereo on Roosevelt Ave in Seattle so he could sell them some studio monitors to make rent. “Media says”... we’re recovering from this recession yet I know several friends that are having a hard time making ends meet.

While my friend makes his deal I wander around the store. I notice there's a room off to the side and step in to take a look. Oh my, it's like an audio museum, full of beautiful old radios, turntables, speakers and receivers. I'm in awe and at the same time trying to juxtapose my feelings about my friend having hard times and suddenly being confronted with my past through the filter of old audio technology.

What immediately captured my attention was the radios. Many of them were old, even when I was a kid. I remember seeing them everywhere back in the 50’s and 60’s.

My Grandfather had a big old round top Philips almost identical (but not quite) to the one in the picture. It was downstairs in the basement in his shop for many years. When I was in the 9th grade I asked him if I could have it and take it home.

Of course, being a respectable teenage boy in the mid sixties who loved Popular Mechanics and Popular Electronics magazines, I eventually had to take it apart!

I just had to!

When I think of it, that was a turning point. I didn’t really know anything about electronics then, I just started tinkering. I was curious.

I love this old technology made of steel, aluminum, hand crafted wood cabinets, and bamboo wicker weave over the speaker(s). No circuit boards, cloth braided wire coverings, resistors the size of your cats litter box potty pellets, hand soldered, big round tuning knobs (no transistors yet), and tubes that glowed and got really hot.

It was a mono AM world.

Truly these were works of art but for some reason it makes me laugh. I'm in a time warp about then and now. They were made with awesome materials and craftsmanship. So much care was taken to make an aesthetically pleasing object with one simple purpose.

I loved turning through the channels. Not only was this analog technology, but these were AM radios and you could hear all kinds of amplitudes getting modulated between the stations. It was almost like the first synthesizer, but I didn't know that yet.

Posted by

René Fabre

"Where there's conversation, there's opportunity."

Please Note - The views expressed herein reflect only the individual’s personal views and are not the views of the author’s employer.

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Comments (20)

Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Rene - Definitely analog.  It's unfortunate we don't build things the way we used to.  We miss so much.

Oct 13, 2011 05:00 PM
Fred Griffin Florida Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

The Cathedral Radio is a work of art.   And the Philco and the rest, Wow!

   Nice pics, René. 

Oct 13, 2011 05:07 PM
Peter Preston-Thomas
Real Ottawa - Kanata, ON

Two things I love about the old electronics - first, they were furniture.  As you say, hand-crafted, bamboo wicker weaves - awesome.  Second, for all their science and complexity of the time, they were fairly simple from an electronics perspective and anyone with enough interest could understand and recreate them.  My dad probably build 10 or more Heathkit products.

Your post reminded me that I've been meaning to work with my son Daniel, now eight, to build a crystal radio.  The current generation has a tough time believing it doesn't need a battery.  And it needs so few components.  And anyone can build it.  I did a quick search for instructions and found an extensive tutorial at http://scitoys.com/scitoys/scitoys/radio/radio.html#crystal.

It is more than you might need or want if you're just interested in building a crystal radio to see if you can make it work, but I found (find) it fascinating.  I haven't explored the scitoys website yet but you can bet I will (on behalf of Daniel, of course.)

How many of us have lain in bed after doing our best to tune our crystal radio to a favourite station (or possibly the only one you could find) and enjoyed falling asleep to music or possibly some of the radio dramas that were still on back then ... batteries not required.  I recharge my iPhone daily but a crystal radio will go on forever.

Oct 13, 2011 05:41 PM
Kristin Hamilton CA REALTOR
Berkshire Hathaway California Realty - Beaumont, CA
(909) 557-6966- Specialize 55+ Communties Banning

Hi Rene,

I love old TV's and radios. I can remember seeing them when I was little and then about 7 I got a new radio. A transistor radio that I could replace the batteries and carry with me. What a wonderful prize as I won it at Bingo night at the Officers Club in Minot, ND. What great memories you have brought back.

I too love the sound when you turn the dial and you hear all the sounds in the background. So far ahead we have gone! I loved black and white TV and I think we used our imagination more than when everything became color. I remember we could not vacuum in front of the new color TV as they said it would de-magnetize it. What a bunch of hooey!

Oct 13, 2011 06:14 PM
Than Maynard
Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma - Purcell, OK
Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862

Guess you won't see antique flat screen tvs in 50 years will you?

Oct 14, 2011 04:33 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Christine: Definitely analog! What cracks me up is looking at all the room inside the cabinet. There wasn't all that many pieces.

Oct 14, 2011 07:06 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Hi Fred... thanks! Like old cars, they all had some signature look on the front like a hood orniment. 

Oct 14, 2011 07:07 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Peter: Too funny! I love Crystal Radios... did a post a while back: http://activerain.com/blogsview/1460765/what-was-the-very-first-personal-technology-you-owned-

What a great project for your son... the technology is so simple, it's got to be magic!

I have many good memories listening to my crystal radio at night laying in bed upstairs looking out the window at the night sky.


Oct 14, 2011 07:23 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Kristin: I totally remember my first transistor radio! And thanks, you reminded me about vacuuming in front of the color tv... The Edmonds lived 4 doors down from my Grandparents. I remember going to their house to watch Disney in color on Sunday evenings! They had the first color tv on the block. It was one of those great big one's in a wood cab about 5 feet long. 

Oct 14, 2011 07:30 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Than: I'm thinking probably not me... unless I make it to 112 years old. Funny you mention it. My kids will someday go to the used electronics shop and think, "Wow remember when we had one of those old flat screen tv's. How archaic is that!"

Oct 14, 2011 07:33 AM
Todd Clark - Retired
eXp Realty LLC - Tigard, OR
Principle Broker Oregon

Now this is the kind of museum I would love to go to, now you have a place to take me when I'm up there next - lol


Oct 14, 2011 07:52 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Todd: Right on... Hawthorn's is just north of the U District!

Oct 14, 2011 08:30 AM
Lori Churchill Cofer
Beasley Realty - Pullman, WA
Realtor - 509-330-0086 - Pullman, WA


Although the radio shows were a bit before my time, they hold fond memories for me in that my Dad sung on a radio show for Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians...

Oct 23, 2011 07:15 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Hi Lori... Wow, now there's a big piece of musical history! I remember hearing them on the radio and seeing them on television in the 50's.

Oct 23, 2011 08:45 AM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

Rene' - Those old radios catapault me back to childhood.  I hate to admit this, but I was born before televisions came to American homes.  As a kid, my favorite entertainment came on Saturday mornings, when I would grab a blanket and a pillow and put it on the floor in front of an old floor model Philco radio, so I could listen to the Big John and Sparky show, and The Whistler.


Oct 26, 2011 01:00 PM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Myrl: That's an awesome picture. What a beautiful old radio! I listened to the radio on Saturday mornings until about 1958 I think. Also at my Grandparents home. Funny, with both the radio and tv, we could listen to a show at a particular time, but neither were on just cuz...

Oct 27, 2011 04:43 AM
Christine McDaniel
Christine McDaniel Realty, LLC - Avon, IN
Broker Associate

Loved the awesome pictures of the old radios Rene.  I saw your post in a reblog by Peter.


Jan 17, 2012 04:09 PM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Thanks Christine... I'm looking forward to going back sometime soon. They had a lot of them. I was thinking it would be fun to do something retro.

Jan 18, 2012 03:54 AM
Toni Weidman
Sailwinds Realty - Trinity, FL
20+ Years Selling Homes in New Port Richey, FL

Rene I stopped over after seeing this on Peter Preston's reblog. I love seeing those old radios; I remember them too from my uncles garage-he kept all kinds of "junk" as my aunt called it. Wish I had that "junk" now.

Feb 16, 2012 12:05 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Toni: I had an uncle like that to, and a few neighbors. I loved garages. Growing up they were also a workshop and an inventors haven. Thanks for stopping by... 

Feb 16, 2012 03:02 AM