OLD TIMER CAN’T WIN THEM ALL!
By Norris Chambers
When we moved to this area many, many years ago I followed my usual practice of setting up a radio repair shop. I had repaired radios is Cross Cut, Brownwood, San Antonio, Grand Prairie, Dallas and Weatherford and was now about to begin anew in an area that would later become part of White Settlement! The homestead that we were lucky enough to rent, and later buy, consisted primarily of a small box house without interior finishing. A private water company provided water. A pipe with a faucet protruding through the north wall and over a table was the indoor plumbing. In the front yard there was a pipe with a hose connection which the truck that moved us ran over and disrupted what water service we had. There was electric service and we had four lights on cords hanging from where the ceiling would later be. There was a half window where the builder had planned to install a bathroom someday. The improvements included an outdoor toilet several paces north of the house. A little farther north and a little east was a long building that was to serve as a chicken house, cow shed or some other livestock refuge. There was no telephone, no garbage pickup and no paving on any of the residential streets in the area; but we were happy to find some place to live in an era when living facilities were almost non existent. Even Liberator Village was full and could not accommodate new residents.
My first important action was to close the front of one of the shed compartments, add a crude floor and set up my first radio shop in the new area. Repair business was a little slow at first so I had time to do a few things that I wanted to do. I built a little radio on a masonite panel and mounted it on the wall. Some of the newer houses that were being built had wall radios with an intercom speaker on the front porch. The person at the radio could converse with the visitor at the door. I added the intercom feature to my radio and installed a speaker in the house. Ella and I could talk back and forth from the shop to the house!
It wasn’t long before one of the electronic supply salesmen came by. He was interested in my wall radio. He asked if I could build him one. He would furnish a box to fit in the wall and house the radio and we would design a nice aluminum panel for the dial, knobs and switches. Our efforts produced a beautiful unit that fit flush in the wall and worked exactly as it should. He had taken the aluminum panel and had louvers pressed in one side for the speaker and an artist that he knew had done the lettering for the switches and the dial. It was a real work of art and he said he could sell some of them to building contractors. He brought five boxes with panels and I added the parts that resulted in five nice looking units that worked perfectly.
My partner, Jim Stone, left with the radios and soon disposed of them. We divided a substantial profit and prepared to build some more. After I had ordered parts for fifteen units Jim came in one afternoon with a troubled look on his face.
“Bad news!” He said. “The city code requires a steel box for our master unit.” The five that we had built could not be used and we would have to change the box or take them back. We made a quick decision to have some steel boxes made and continue our project. A couple of days later Jim brought five steel boxes and the radios. I soon changed the enclosure and he took our little jewels to be installed. This time there was no problem, so we continued to work on the next fifteen.
Since we were industrious workers we soon had the fifteen new units ready to sell. We were making plans for a screen printing process to replace the hand-lettered panels. As before, the units were quickly disposed of and we were enjoying our financial success and making serious plans for the future. I was disappointed when the fifteen units were brought back and Jim explained that the box must contain an electrical outlet so that the electronics could be removed for service without disconnecting any wiring. Once more we modified the units by installing an outlet box inside our steel case and an electrical plug on the radio unit. The inspector was satisfied and again we were encouraged to continue.
We were doing well with our new screen printed front panel and the construction of 25 new radio units. Jim brought bad news again. A new ordinance required that all equipment such as our radios must be approved by the Underwriter’s Laboratory and be appropriately labeled. I wrote a letter inquiring about the procedure for getting an approval. I was told that a finished sample must be submitted for analysis and that it would be inspected and evaluated for $1600.00.
Additional inspections that might be required would cost $800.00 each.
A quick conference resulted in our decision to discontinue the wall radio project and try something else. He concentrated on selling radio parts to repair shops and I concentrated on repairing radios.
Was our manufacturing enterprise a lot of fun? Yes, it was fun! A similar way to have this kind of fun might be to try selling postage stamps to a customer who is using smoke signals!