By Norris Chambers

            In the dark days of the big depression I became a business man. In other words, I opened the Country Radio Shop, my first business enterprise. With Clifton’s help I moved a surplus junk building from an area east of the chicken house to the edge of the lane that served as a road.

Clifton and I became instant sign painters and polluted the north end of the county with signs announcing the benefits received by following the signs to the Country Radio Shop for all electronic needs!

            The shop business elevated my income above the possum hide level. I was now financially able to subscribe to several trade magazines such as Radio News and Radio Craft. These magazines were intended to bring information and time and money saving tips to radio servicemen, as well as other readers who might be interested in electronics. Readers were invited to send information and tips that might be of interest to other readers. If an article were printed a small payment or subscription extension was offered to the writer. I took advantage of the offer and kept free subscriptions as well as a check now and then for two to five dollars! Nice earnings for an old possum hunter!

            During the late twenties, when country folks received good prices for the products they produced, many bought the new battery operated radios that had become available for a nominal price. In our area several stations could be received and the programs they transmitted were interesting. With the beginning of the great depression the cost of batteries was more than the farmers could afford. The old radios required an “A” battery, two or three “B” batteries and at least two “C” batteries. The smoke houses, attics, cellars and chicken houses became storage bins for radios.

            In the mid-thirties a series of improved tubes that had been developed just for battery operation was introduced and a single battery pack that would last 1000 hours was available for a 5-tube radio set. The new battery operated radios were ideal for the country folks without electricity. There was one problem – the price was too high for many who wanted a radio.

            With a little study and determination I could take one of the old radios and by changing little more than the tubes and sockets, I could rebuild an old radio and make it work like a new one. Owners of these old radios were ready to get rid of them and they were available free or for a very low price.

            I was very busy converting old radios to the battery-saving type. I wrote a short article for a radio magazine and it was accepted and published. I received several letters from readers asking questions and thanking me for a bit of useful knowledge. One man, Brad Hoskins, with a radio sales store in Oklahoma, was apparently very interested and we exchanged letters a few times. He offered to send an old battery radio and pay $15.00 for a conversion. This was considerably more than I charged our local customers.  I accepted and he sent a nice little table model. It was very neat, but had the bundle of wires in the back that required the attachment of several batteries for operation. I changed the tubes and a few parts and it performed like a new set. He was very pleased!

            I rebuilt many small radios for him and we corresponded until the beginning of our war preparation program in 1940. He got a job in an aircraft plant in Kansas and I did not hear from him again until after the war.

            How could I work so cheap? My success was due to purchasing factory overrun parts and tubes. These were parts that had been purchased in bulk by radio manufacturing companies that discontinued a model and sold the components for a fraction of the regular wholesale price. Battery radio tubes that normally sold for thirty cents each could be advertised as low as 50 battery radio tubes, assorted types, $4.99. By ordering several assortments from different companies a needed tube or substitute was usually available. The same strategy applied to resistors, capacitors, sockets, coils and other components.

            I operated a radio shop for a while after the war and did a nice business converting battery operated radios for operation on electrical power. The government was building power lines throughout the country and the old farmers were enjoying the advantages of electrical power! Every new electrical customer meant there was a potential radio power conversion. Since my shop was the only one offering this service in a large area I was kept as busy as a motivated bee.

         Brad and I exchanged several letters after the war. In 1953 one of his relatives sent me a letter telling me that he had died. Although I never met Brad in person, I will always remember him as a true pen pal!

            Was there a fun thing during this period? Yes! I converted a nice little radio for Clifton and somehow it fell off of a table and landed on his foot! Everyone laughed but Clifton.