One of Mom and Dad’s Christmas presents to me in 1978 was a radio.
The radio had bands for am/fm, weather, aircraft and police
transmissions. It fired my imagination and received constant use up
until it broke and then the fun was over.
Dan Maloney is from Hallock, Minnesota. In 1958, he received a Christmas gift
from his parents of a Vanguard am radio. It fired his imagination and
received constant use right up until it broke and then the fun was
over. His story is different than mine, Dan fixed the fun.
Collectors gather certain items because of the emotional reaction the
item creates. Dan Maloney got his nostalgic hit from old radios,
however old radios that still work are expensive. Old radios that
need repair are about half the price. I spoke with Maloney recently
and he described the meticulous work of testing and removing
capacitors from radio boards until he had a working unit. He also
sometimes carefully crafts replacement plastic parts and even casts
part from “JB Weld” to make a radio both working and kind of lovely.
Dan Maloney’s radios are beautiful, there is care in their construct;
some feature “reverse painting.” Reverse painting is when the radio
body is clear and is painted from the back side of the body. This
process creates depth and give the radio a nice, richer look.
Some radios form really followed function-the function of international tariff’s. Japanese-made radios were charged a tariff for anything more than two transistors and so they manufactured the “boys” radio. It was sold as a toy and not a radio.
In 1964, the rage was to make tiny radios and so came the “Micronic Ruby” which was
only 1 ½ inches square and used a mercury battery. The first am
radios were hard to hear. Customer complaints inspired radio
manufacturers to increase speaker size which affected the case size
and design. The radios became louder yet were still aesthetically
Maloney has spent up to a week repairing a single radio. In that
case, the radio was wired without enough slack in the wires and with
contraction they had come loose from their soldered connections. In
another case, the insides we so bad that he replaced everything from
a donor radio and spent a great deal of time soldering wires the size
of human hair.
Radios can tell us a little about history. All am radios from
1953-1963 had CONELRAD, an acronym which stood for Control of
Electromagnetic Radiation. CONELRAD was a transmission, broadcast on
channels 640 and 1240, to inform the public in the event of nuclear
attack. In the case of such attack, all other stations would have
shut down and listeners would have turned their dials to the “CD”
mark on the radio and listened to the end of the world.
Maloney has a working representative of the first commercial am radio
ever produced, the Regency TR-1. He paid $325 for a non-working unit
then repaired it. This radio has a 22 ½ volt battery which you don’t
just find at the convenience store. It is just one more challenge in
making old radios work.
Christmas 1958 at the Maloney household was marked by the gift of an
am radio which eventually broke. One of Dan’s radio restorations
spoke of optimistic times, when the moon was the limit. The dial was
the earth, a volume control on the side was a satellite and the
speaker guard grill was shaped like clouds. The model name “Vanguard”
was splashed across a rocket and it was all very futuristic and
entertaining. It was the same model as he had received in 1958 and
now he had restored a tangible chunk of his youth. He also restored
the same model for his brother, who’d also received a Vanguard for
Christmas which brought joy right up until it quit working. Through
care and hard work, fueled by nostalgia, Dan Maloney fixed the fun. (for more on information-go to http://www.transistor.org/ this is not Maloney’s site but it is good for those who want to know more about old radios)