Rural Missouri - February 2012 - (Page 24)

W by Jason Jenkins ith the turn of a knob and a distinctive “click,” an electric buzz begins to resonate from the speaker of an old AM radio. As the tubes warm and begin to glow, the set slowly comes to life. A quick bit of tuning, and a far-off radio station crisply cuts through the static. The old radio may have broadcast one of President Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” or Edward R. Murrow’s latest report from Europe during World War II. It could have been tuned to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game or the latest episode of “The Lone Ranger.” Or, perhaps it was the Grand Ole Opry that filled the air on Saturday nights. No matter the program coming through the speaker, America lived life on the radio. Eric Miller doesn’t just remember those days when the radio was a focal point of a living room. Today, he repairs and restores radios and other vintage electronics through his business, Radio Revival, helping enthusiasts relive a simpler time. “I work on anything that has tubes in it,” says the 60-year-old. “I specialize in radios and amplifiers, but I seem to have a penchant for rounding up old electric clocks, record players and some of the other stuff we got in the shop Eric Miller learned the trade of radio repair from his father. Today, his collection of antique tube radios numbers in the hundreds. back in the day.” The son of a radio and television repairman, Eric grew up around all things electronic. His father, Bob, worked for the Zenith Radio Company in Chicago during the 1930s. After serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, he moved the family to Gasconade County and opened Miller Radio & TV in Drake. As a boy, Zenith Tombstone radio. “Eric’s really sharp at Crosleys and Philcos. When he retired Eric began learning the trade. anything electrical,” says Jack, whose collection from Linn Tech four years ago, he “Dad started me off on radios and gave me simple consists mostly of cathedral-style, tabletop decided to crank up Radio Revival. stuff to mess around with to see if I could fix it,” models. “He’s fixed quite a few radios for Over the years, Eric has built up a recalls the Three Rivers Electric Cooperative mem• me. I can’t recall taking him any radio considerable inventory of parts — includber. “By the time I was in high school, I was pretty Bonnots Mill that he couldn’t fix.” ing new old stock from his father’s shop good at it.” But fixing radios and other elecand elsewhere — so he’s able to diagnose Seeking a career path separate from his father’s, tronics is a remnant of a bygone era. and repair almost any make and model of Eric attended the University of Missouri at Rolla Eric laments how the speed of technotube-type radio produced from the 1920s (now Missouri University of Science and Technollogical innovation has contributed to a through the 1960s. People often assume a ogy), earning a degree in mechanical engineer“throw-away” society. tube has burned out in the set, but usually it’s the ing. After a brief stint with Caterpillar in Illinois, “There used to be a lot more care in the making capacitors that are bad, he says. he returned to Missouri as an of the radios, more time spent on the woodwork and instructor at Linn State TechniDepending on a client’s wishes, the components,” he says. “Nowadays, there’s no cal College where he remained Eric will repair a radio using hands-on, taking things apart and fixing them. You modern replacement compofor 33 years. just toss it, go to Walmart and get another one.” nents or vintage stock. “Some In the late 1980s, just as And if the designed obsolescence of modern elecof the serious collectors want the last of the radio and TV tronics wasn’t enough to frustrate this audiophile, to keep everything looking repairmen were disappearing, just ask him about the sound that emanates from original; others just want the tube-type radios became fashtoday’s digital music players. set to operate,” he says. ionable as collector’s items “Even though it’s clean as a whistle with no statWhile some may carry with those seeking the nosic, your ear knows that it’s not natural,” Eric says of sentimental value for their talgia of their youth. Eric was digital music. “The analog sound from a tube radio owners, most old tube-type among them, but instead of is organic. It’s mellow and rich and is pleasing to the radios aren’t that expensive just collecting, he began fidear. But the young kids don’t have that experience. to collect. Eric estimates that dling with the old sets to see They’re not used to hearing good sound.” the average vintage tabletop if he could get them running. Today, Eric’s personal collection numbers about radio sells for $50 to $200, “It took a little learning 175 operating radios spanning nearly 50 years of and console radios can reach curve to get it all back,” he American history. He admits that while he enjoys up to $400. He adds there are says of his repair skills. “I bringing any radio back to life, the Zenith sets hold niche radios, such as those wouldn’t say it was like riding many fond memories of the old days working at the made from Catalin plastic, a bicycle because I kept fallshop alongside his father. that are more rare and can ing off all the time.” “This is old technology that’s still useful. You sell for thousands. Eric’s hobby would grow can still tune in a station on these radios,” he says. Lowell “Jack” Akers of into a small side business as “There aren’t many things from the 1920s that are Pacific has collected vintage word of his expertise spread still doing what they were designed for.” radios for the past 16 years. among other collectors. With its distinctive “roll-top” cabinet, the threeThe 70-year-old met Eric Before long, the basement of band Silvertone Model 4663 sold for $22.95 in To inquire about Radio Revival’s services, call 573in the late 1990s when he his Bonnots Mill home was 897-4121 or visit hired him to repair a 1938 full of old Zeniths, Emersons, the 1938 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog. Radio Revivalist Bonnots Mill man gets vintage radios humming again 24 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2012

Rural Missouri - February 2012
Table of Contents
Better together
A plague of enmity
Out of the Way Eats
Rink redemption
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Radio revivalist
If the shoe fits
Around Missouri
Mr. Aviation

Rural Missouri - February 2012