Tuning In

Back in 1946 or 1947, there were not TV’s and certainly, no transistor radios you could buy for $9.99. That stuff was still 10 or 15 years or more in the future. Most homes had a radio, but it was generally a big, honking console. The radio provided the evening’s entertainment for a family. My friend and neighbor, Gary Casner, and I wanted radios that we could mess with ourselves without having to listen to the programs the family was interested in. Some good luck came our way in the form of a neighbor who was an engineer who worked for Western Electric in Wichita. Gary and I lived on Cliff Drive, and our neighbors, Romane and Ruth Zlomke, lived on 7th Street in the duplex that is half a block west of State Street, on the north side.

Romane was always working on his car or some other project, and one day when Gary and I came by, he said he would help us build a crystal set. We got all excited about that, and we were soon in the radio business.  Romane came up with most of the parts though I think Gary and I had to buy the crystals. I think Romane got the ear phones at an Army surplus store. The tuning coils we made ourselves, winding them on toilet paper rolls.

Building the crystal sets and then getting them to operate was a good project for us. Keeping the wire touching the right spot on the crystal was a delicate proposition, and keeping a little metal bead touching the tuning coil at just the right spot wasn’t easy either. We picked up a few stations we found, but one of them was probably that wild station out of Del Rio, Texas, that overpowered everything. It was a fun project and lasted as long as our attention spans at the time.

Dave Thomas


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