By Norris Chambers

             When I finished my higher education at Brantley Draughon College in Fort Worth I was pretty well educated in shorthand, book-keeping and related office duties and I had become an accomplished radio repair technician. I took the Civil Service secretarial examination and passed with a very good grade and began a five year hopeful wait for a job.

            After a few career tries I found myself back in the country where I had been when I left the backwoods seeking a fortune in the city. My mother and dad were glad to have me back and I entered into the old routine of milking and tending the animals and farming the 80 acres we had been cultivating in previous years. I made a little money raising chickens and hogs but I wanted a career with a little more action, or at least different action.

            There were several radios in the country and I was a trained radio repairman. The old radios gave trouble at the drop of a hat, so why not use my recently acquired ability and help keep them working. Would a radio repair shop that far back in the country get enough business to justify the effort? Most little towns had at least one radio repair shop.

            There were not many homes within easy traveling distance that had electric power. We didn’t have electricity either. Where I had received my training we had electrically operated tube testers, signal generators and instruments. I would have to find battery powered equipment or build my own. There would also be considerable expense getting a supply of tubes and parts that would enable me to make quick repairs.  I soon discovered that battery operated equipment was almost non-existent. I managed to order a combination signal generator and vom, or voltage-ohm meter. This was enough to start.

            Since this was in the middle of the big depression, there was a plentiful supply of  all types of parts. Radio manufacturers dumped their surplus parts when they quit manufacturing a model that did not sell and ambitious dealers made them available to the public at ridiculously low prices. I managed to accumulate a good stock of tubes and parts for a very modest investment. There were no parts supply businesses in the area, but there were many mail order dealers that offered real bargains.

            An old chicken house that was near the road made a nice building for the business. With Clifton ’s help I had it looking presentable and ready for business in a short time. The next thing to do was to get some customers! Since even cheap advertising was too expensive for my budget I resorted to road signs to direct customers to my new business. 1”X12” boards made great signs for attaching to trees or fence posts. Although we were not the greatest sign painters, we did make them readable. Every road for about ten or twelve miles away had a sign with an arrow that said: ROE’S RADIO REPAIR. I used my middle name because it was short and easier to paint. We painted a large arrow and under that the approximate distance to the shop. In smaller print: “Follow the signs”. 

At every road intersection I place one of the signs with the arrow pointing in the appropriate direction.

            The signs got results almost immediately. My first job was from a skating rink about fifteen miles away. Their amplified music system had quit working and they were anxious to get it fixed. I knew where the rink was but I had never skated. I did know that skaters liked music playing while they skated. The skating rink was in a large tent that covered a hardwood floor. There was a rail around it and a counter and skate rental area near the front entrance. Skates were attached at a long bench behind the rail. The amplifier for the sound system was under the counter. There was a large trumpet speaker at each end of the tent. The music was furnished by an old phonograph that played the old 78 rpm records. It was not automatic and the attendant had to change the record about every two or three minutes.

            I turned the amplifier on and put a record on the turntable. There was only a loud, low-frequency hum from the speakers. I knew instantly that it was probably a filter condenser in the power supply. I removed the bottom of the amplifier and held the leads of a filter across the power supply. Immediately loud music blasted from the horns and the sound of San Antonio Rose filled my heart with joy! I had successfully fixed the first radio of the thousands that I would repair in the future! The rink owner was very happy and gladly gave me two dollars for the job, then as a bonus told me I could skate free any time I wanted to.

            The condenser I used to repair the amplifier cost me about fifteen cents, so I made a nice profit. I took advantage of the free skating a few times. I operated the shop for about three years and also found time for other day jobs in the oil field and on the farm. I would probably still be there if the big war era hadn’t arrived and changed the lives of so many.

            Was the radio shop fun? Yes, it was FUN and so were the other radio and TV shops that I owned and operated for many years.