September 21, 2017

My Dad – A Young Boy’s Teacher

Circa 1938 Zenith Console Radio

My dad might have asked me, “What if there is just a horizontal line across the screen?” I would reply with something like, “The vertical output is not working correctly.” Another question might be, “What if there is no sound or picture?” My reply would be something like, “There is probably a power supply problem. We should check the fuses and the rectifiers.”

The Sears Repairman

My dad was a television and radio repairman for Sears, Roebuck & Company as it was known back then. We called the company vehicle he drove the “Sears Truck”. My dad drove to people’s homes and repaired their televisions and radios. He did this for 33 ½ years while also running his own repair business part time out of our home until eventually at around age 50, he purchased a commercial building and setup shop in it.

The Beautiful Old Radios and Televisions of Yesteryear

Obviously, televisions and radios have changed tremendously since I was a young man. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, there were still a lot of vacuum tube radios and televisions around. My dad’s shop in our garage was filled with televisions and radios that were either ready to be returned to a customer, in some stage of repair, or had been abandoned by a customer and were now being used for spare parts.

There were always old radios from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s sitting around and on occasion, even a television from the 1950s. Those old radios were a work of art and beauty with their elaborate wood cabinets, fancy lighted dials, and numerous buttons. The picture above is a circa 1938 Zenith Console Radio my dad gave me when I moved to Florida in 1982. The radio sits in my hallway to this day.

My First Electronics Teacher

There have been three different times during my life when I studied electronics – in high school electronics classes, at ITT Technical Institute where I earned my associate degree in electronics engineering, and before all of that, with my dad. My dad took a correspondence course in television and radio electronics in 1953 when he was fresh out of high school. The school would mail him one lesson at a time along with a quiz. When he finished the lesson, he would complete the quiz and mail it back to the school. The school graded the quiz and sent it back along with the next lesson and quiz.

I started studying the lessons from that correspondence course when I was thirteen years old. I would complete a lesson and then my dad would read the quiz to me and I would answer the questions. I learned all about resistors, capacitors, transformers, vacuum tubes, and how radio and television signals were transmitted, and how receivers picked up the signals and transformed the information into audio and video. I enjoyed learning all of that but most of all, I loved the time I spent with my dad talking about it and having him quiz me on it. Sometimes I would wait up until late at night for him to come home so I could tell him what I had learned, get a chance to talk to him about it, and to take a quiz.

Memories to Last a Lifetime

I cannot properly describe in words what that time with my dad meant to me back then, and what it means to me now. I have many great memories about those times and I smile when I think of them. I also cry a bit because when I go deep into those memories, I really miss him a lot and I long for those days. As an adult, there were times when I wanted to write my dad a letter and tell him how much that time with him meant to me and how much those old lessons meant. I wish I had told my dad to hang on to those old lessons. There was a set of three bound volumes each containing around thirty lessons. When I close my eyes and think about those lessons I can smell the musty binders they were contained in, and I can see some of the pages, and recall some of the diagrams and pictures. I never wrote that letter to my dad and he eventually discarded the lessons when he cleaned up the garage one year. I remember feeling sad when I learned he had gotten rid of them.

I get emotional this time of year because I really miss my dad on Father’s Day. His birthday is this month as well. I think of him a lot while I replay the memories of my time spent with my first electronics teacher. When I am out and about it always warms my heart when I see a daddy taking the time to teach his little boy or girl something.

In my dreams, I hear my dad asking, “What if there is sound but no picture?” I reply, “Dad we should check the flyback transformer and the high voltage regulator.”

Dad, Mom, and Me at Clark’s Video and Electronics Store in 2007

Circa 1936 RCA Victor table top radio. This radio was in my dad’s office for many years and now sits in my office.