It’s no secret to anyone who knows me (or reads this blog) that I have a penchant for old things. I don’t know if I would go so far as to use the term “antiques”, since sometimes they are just old and dusty and not particularly valuable to anyone else…but I so enjoy them. I sure don’t know many other people of my demographic hauling around an old typewriter, a Victrola, a Singer sewing machine table, an ancient speaker cabinet, and an assortment of old cameras, vintage luggage, and kitchen utensils every time they move. They’re right up there with my overwhelming collection of art books and shoes. Oh my, true confessions.
Imagine my surprise/delight when I visited a new store in South Austin the other day – The Gifted. They have handcrafted jewelry and such as well as rehabbed vintage furniture. At first my eyes fell on a low coffee-table-style working radio and turntable console circa 1960-something. Tempting, since it worked, but overlarge, and not very attractive, honestly. I was pleasantly surprised by the price tag – $168 – which led me to think not everything in the store would be wildly out of my price range. I turned around and saw a gorgeous Victrola console – I couldn’t splurge on that ($495), since I already have a working Victrola, though this one was more cabinet-like and tempting all the same (mine is a tabletop model). I restrained myself. (Mightily, considering I was coming from a lovely dinner and 2 Proseccos at Enoteca.) Then, stuck in the corner, I saw an old radio cabinet. It had no price tag, so I wasn’t sure it was even for sale. I asked the proprietor, and he started by saying that another man had been in recently and wanted to buy it and had put in on hold. I asked the price just for reference, and it is no exaggeration to say that when he uttered the words “eighty-five dollars”, my jaw dropped. I clarified – no, the radio cabinet. The piece of furniture in the corner. Not the small portable radio in the back room. And again he said”eighty-five dollars”. I asked if he would take my name in case the other interested buyer never reappeared, and he said he would sell it to me since it had been a little while and I was so interested. Right place, right time, right price!! Here is my lovely new radio cabinet.
He was so kind as to deliver it to me a few days later, since it was too big for my car and I live quite close to his store. I cleaned out all the dust from the insides after my mum cleaned out all the cobwebs and spider egg sacs (gahhhhhhhhhh). I set it in its new home, and stood back to admire. It was only then that I actually looked closely and carefully at the front of the console and what the labels were. How cool is this??? All these international city frequencies…Paris and London and Hong Kong and Havana and Tokyo and Moscow and Rome…even Vatican City! (Umm, how did Schen’y – which I presume is Schenectady – get in there?! Radio crossroads of the greater Northeast?) Police, aircraft, tropical broadcast, and amateur frequencies… (You can see them if you click on the photo to zoom.)
I had to do a little online digging to see when the radio dated from with this kind of dial – the model year is 1940, but it may have debuted at the NY World’s Fair in 1939. This very year, coincidentally, was the year that RCA introduced television…beginning the process of making radios mostly obsolete.
I love old advertising too – who could have resisted the “Auto-expressionator” and the “Mystic Hand” – not to mention that teensy conductor in a radio tube?
All in all, pleased as punch with my new (old) find! Vive la Radio!