My Old Radio History
By LEE DUDEK
Pictured below is a 1938 Delco 12 Tube Radio that Frank and Rose Chilla, my Grandpa and Grandma, Blancheeee’s Dad and Mom, purchased one year after they got electricity out to their farm in 1937. They saved up for a year to purchase the new radio. It cost them $150!
Their farm was located in North Chase just north of South Chase near Pulaski. The house they built in 1902 still stands today, along with other old farm buildings.
As a kid and then a young man, I have many wonderful memories of spending time with my Grandma Rose and the family out at the farm. My Grandpa Frank died when I was 3 years old.
As a young buck, I would spend a couple weeks every summer during my grade school years working for my Grandma. She really taught me how to work!
I remember one summer job Grandma had me on at 12 years old, counting truckloads of gravel as they were loaded and passed over the scale from the gravel pit that was dug up under one of the crop fields on her property. Grandma had me sitting in the old chicken shed every weekday for two weeks counting truckloads of gravel.
She didn’t trust the contractor who purchased the gravel from her. He had no idea I was there marking down every load that left the pit. She would run out a sandwich and a soda for lunch. I had my BB gun with me just in case a pigeon flew into the shed. Grandma Rose had a great recipe for baked pigeon! She was a great cook and fed me well!
One day, as the gravel crew took their lunch break, I started looking around the old chicken shed. After moving some old lumber and other stuff out of the way, I came across an old radio.
That night at supper with Grandma, I asked her about the radio. After she shared some stories she asked me if I wanted to take the radio home. I was absolutely thrilled! “Yes, Grandma, I would love the old radio”! I didn’t know if it even worked, but my Mom and I loaded it up and we brought it home in the summer of 1965.
The old Delco needed some work. The cabinet was in rough shape and it needed a couple new radio tubes. We found a place in Green Bay on Chestnut Street that sold old radio parts. I don’t think they’re in business anymore. Mom was able to purchase the two tubes I needed. Both original tubes made in the late 1930’s were still in their original factory boxes.
The guy who ran the shop provided instructions on how to install the tubes. We also had a friend who was an old radio guy. He helped us take the radio apart to install the new tubes. We got them installed, put the radio back together, plugged in the power cord, and turned on the radio. IT PLAYED!!!
The reception or sound was not the best, so our friend helped me install an outdoor antenna. It was a 50 foot run of bare copper wire that we hung from two porcelain insulators out in the backyard, running from the house to a large maple tree. We ran another covered wire connected to the antenna wire through the wall down into the basement and hooked it up to the radio. Wow, what a difference!
“My interest in radio at age 12 shot through the roof!” At night, I would listen to AM stations from coast to coast around the country. All the major high powered 50,000 watt AM stations could be heard after smaller AM stations closer to home turned down their transmitter power about 8:00 PM each night.
I listened to DJ’s like “Wolfman Jack” and many other popular radio pros back in the late 60’s. The radio also had a shortwave band that brought in stations from around the world when they would broadcast programs in English.
I also kept a log book of all the stations I found and listened to. I still have the log book in a box at home. Most nights, my Mom had to yell downstairs late at night for me to shut it down and get up to bed. I would listen for hours at a time.
My Mom Blancheeee, who passed away at the age of 101 almost one year ago, told me stories about how they would gather at home on the farm and listen to many classic radio programs “live”! The old radio was their connection to the outside world.
Some of the greatest radio programs ever produced were aired “live” at night. Mom, as a 17 year old high school student in 1938, would pull up a chair with her parents and brothers, Lawrence and Buck, to listen to some great drama story broadcasts and musical performances, many “live”! This was entertainment at its best for a hard working N.E. WI farm family.
In 1938, they listened “live” to the original broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” by Orson Wells. Supper ran a little late that night, after a long day of farm work. By the time they turned the radio on, they missed the disclaimer at the beginning of the live program. The radio drama aired at 7:00 PM CST on October 30, 1938.
They listened to the entire program, and like many others around the country that night, they were concerned this might be really happening! Aliens from Mars invading our country! At the end of the program, my Grandpa Frank told the family he would not be going to bed that night!
He grabbed his 12 gauge shotgun, a box of shells, a box of cigars, and a flask of homemade cherry bounce, and then sat out on the back porch in a rocking chair all night, waiting for the Martians to land in the backyard. True story! He was ready to shoot “those darn Martians” the moment they landed!
I kept listening to the old Delco radio for many years through high school and into my early 20’s. In 1980, I took the radio apart and refinished the cabinet. It was a job but revealed the beautiful wood used to build the cabinet. I also wired up a second speaker in the cabinet and replaced the speaker cloth.
I had the radio in my office at the station when I served as part time GM, “as a reminder” of my old radio history and all that God had done. The radio is back home now in my office down in the basement. I plan on hooking up an antenna in the backyard this spring and firing up the radio once again! I’ll let you know how the old Delco radio works!
At the age of 12, after discovering the old Delco radio in Grandma’s chicken shed while working at counting gravel trucks, I never realized what God had planned then for me with the opportunity to be in radio ministry service some years later.
I never dreamed that at the age 35 I’d be blessed with the opportunity to serve in Christian radio ministry starting back in 1988 as a new member of the board of directors for Lakeshore Communications, Inc.
What a blessed journey it has been over 36 years to be part of a dedicated team of faithful radio ministry professionals at Lakeshore Communications, Inc, WORQ, Q-90 FM! All the years have been a great testimony of God’s sovereign plan, faithfulness and provision.
God has great plans with His unique mission for Q-90 FM going forward. Our listeners need Q-90’s “Truth At Any Cost” programming NOW more than ever in the times we’re living in. God will provide for all of Q-90s’ needs as we Trust Him with HIS radio ministry in 2024 and beyond!