radiocompass at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 28 13:58:44 EDT 2006
Sort of late, but here's another contribution to the
history or nostalgia or good-ol-days radio-row thread.
In eastern NC, the closest thing we had to "radio row"
was Surplus Electronics, in a strip-shopping-center
storefront on US 70 on the western edge of Kinston,
NC. The owner, Ernest Smith, had a treasure trove of
all sorts of gear from WW2 vintage and some later
stuff. The stock of parts was unbelievable, mostly
consisting of items removed from equipment undesirable
or unusable from a ham radio standpoint, such as radar
or sonar. Tubes, sockets of every description;
resistors, meters, oil capacitors, variable caps,
inductors, relays, rotary switches... even a good
selection of various new parts still in their National
and Millen boxes, mostly with WW2-era contract dates.
The stock constantly changed, as Ernest not only
bought lots of surplus from the government but also
horse-traded with the area ham population.
The gear included brand-new Navy TBW-4 transmitters
complete with all accessories, cables and manual;
brand new SCR-522's still in the overseas packing (my
first VHF rig was one of those beauties); and
literally a "wall" of ARC-5 transmitters that stood 6
feet high by at least 20 feet long, 8 bucks each,
as-they-come. I never saw anything in that pile
except the 3-4 MC range, though I looked long and hard
for a 7-9.1 MC unit. Occasionally a few Command Set
receivers would show up but they didn't stay there
long. My first encounters with an ART-13 and a BC-610
were in that shop; but Ernest wanted big money for
stuff like that.
Other goodies I remember there were a TDE VHF-AM
transmitter and a 6-foot-tall Wilcox transmitter that
opened up in front like an office supply locker,
several hundred watts of plate-modulated AM on 2-18
MC. You had to open the front doors to crank the
variable caps and rotary inductors. I also recall
some kind of DF receiver that tuned through the HF
range, big enough to anchor a battleship. Lots more
stuff was good for cannibalizing for parts, such as
radar IF strips, ILS receivers, IFF transponders, bits
and pieces of various radio gear otherwise
unidentified, etc. And the prices for that sort of
stuff were quite reasonable.
The first Halli receiver I ever helped "restore" (if
you could call it that, then) was a ragged SX-24 --
filthy dirty and missing its case top and back --
that one of my friends bought for $18 on one of our
weekly Saturday forays. He was a new Novice and had
no gear yet. It was the first SX-24 I'd ever seen.
At the time I'd never heard of one; but knew what an
SX-28 was, sort of. We looked it over and hmmm...
S-meter, a crystal filter.... might be worth it. We
had the radio going by that night and my friend used
it for quite a while as a Novice.
One of the most "fun" treasures I bought at Ernest's
place was a Navy APA-6 pulse analyzer with a 3 inch
scope. I stripped it out except for the power supply
and scope controls, and built a RTTY converter on the
chassis which worked wondrously well -- except that my
SX-96 receiver was "somewhat" microphonic and I had to
keep one hand on the BFO knob while copying RTTY to
apply "manual AFC' as the teletype machine rattled the
Hams from all over eastern NC flocked to the place.
You could find enough stuff there on any given
Saturday to build a husky linear amp or even an AM
transmitter, for very little money. Plate
transformers, big tubes, you name it.
Ernest lost his lease on the store and moved all the
collection to his home and garage. He lived alone,
and the house was groaning from the weight of the
goodies. For a while he continued to sell his wares
to his old customers who could find the place. If you
were one of his extra-good friends he'd let you go in
the house to find what you wanted; but if he didn't
know you, it was "wait here and I'll be back."
When Ernest passed away suddenly, a couple of years
later, I often wondered what happened to all the
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