The Radiola Guy is:
C. E. "Sonny" Clutter

 
Updated
1/31/2011

Member of
Northwest Vintage Radio Society
and
Antique Wireless Association


Me

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Amanda 1983

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My first workbench


Dixie


My  workbench today


My  workbench today

^ Click to enlarge ^

 

The Radiola Guy handle is not meant to infer that I am an expert or specialize on the RCA Radiola line. I choose that for my domain name and ID for several reasons, one; the name readily relates to early radio, two; the first radio I ever restored was a Radiola 17 and three; I like the RCA Radiola line, I presently own a number of them and over the years I have owned a good many if not most of the early Radiola line. Most importantly, the Radiola guy handle was my wife's suggestion.

I am located near Portland, OR. I have been collecting and restoring vintage radios and related since 1962 (unofficially at a much younger age). I have been a member of AWA (Antique Wireless Association) since 1963 and a member of NWVRS (Northwest Vintage Radio Society since 1984.

I'm a true Kentucky Hillbilly, I grew up in northeastern Kentucky (Ashland) during the 1950's and most of my relatives are KY natives and still in that area. As a youngster I was known as "Sunshine Leader" (I went by my stepfathers last name). Sunshine was a nickname given to me by my mother right after I was born. I found out years later that on the way home from the hospital (with me in arms), the then popular tune; "You are My Sunshine" was her inspiration for the nickname.

My wife is a native of Morgantown, West Virginia and alumni of WVU. We met and married in 1962 while I was serving in the USAF.

I became interested in radios around  the age 10 or 11.  My stepfather (Mother re-married when I was 9 years old) was what you would call a "picker", he would buy and sell anything and everything he could get cheap, I started traveling with him when I was about 12 or 13. We frequented local appliance dealers (they took trade-ins then) and would often buy a whole truck load of stuff. I can remember seeing 7 - 12" TV's stacked high in the back rooms of these dealers. Typically you could buy all the old TV's you wanted then for $5.00 each. He would buy trade-in items by the truck load. We would either dismantle the acquired stuff for scrap metal or sell the better stuff at the local auction houses. Many of these items were refrigerators and washing machines.

The first TV I was able to make work was a 1949, 10" Meck found at a dealer in Huntington, West Virginia around 1953. He allowed me to have it to play with, what a treat that was. I was able to make it work and that became our first TV! (and my first TV repair). These sets were of little resale value in the early and mid 50s, a working one might bring $25.00 if it was clean and had a good picture.

I remember the old console radios he would get, especially the large Majestic's, I marveled at all the intricacy of the various parts, circuitry and the sealed containers. I would remove and open the beautiful constructed aluminum and sometimes copper cans containing the intricately wound coils on these old pieces of engineering and would marvel and wonder how these made sounds and music. For the most part the remnants of the wonderful old sets ended up in the junk yard and the small components in old coffee can containers. Around 1953-54 I found an old NRI (National Radio Institute) home study course and taught myself the basics of radio and electronics. I can still remember the first old radio and that "Meck" TV that I made work! What a thrill that was for me (just a kid) to bring one of these old relics back to life. BTW, the first radio I made work was a large Coke bottle radio made of thick Bakelite (found it sticking out of a garbage can in South Ashland during spring clean-up) and I even remember what the problem was, a leaky coupling capacitor to the grid of the audio output tube. Do I ever wish I still had that radio.

During 1956 I took an after school and week-end job at a local Radio & TV repair shop in Ashland (Supreme Radio & TV). The owner (Jake Rodman), couldn't afford to pay me a salary, so I started working for nothing (a "gopher at first) just to learn more about the technology I loved. Jake taught me many of the things that I still practice to this day, he was a first-class service technician. I started by working in the shop doing odd jobs, sweep the floor and later was trusted to test tubes for customers at the counter. I recall it was a Hickok model 533 or similar. I spent time on the work-bench asking questions and learning his trouble-shooting techniques. Later I traveled with him on service calls and antenna installations, after a few weeks he started paying me a small amount. I later landed a full time job at a local dealer (Jacks Auto Store) that sold appliances, radios & TVs and of course auto parts & accessories (mostly radios, seat-covers & simple automotive stuff). I became one of  three technicians working for him. I worked there until Jan. 1959 when after a salary dispute, I walked out and joined the Air Force.

After basic training in San Antonio Texas, electronics was of course my field. My first Air Force assignment was at Pope Air Force base which is right in the middle of Ft. Bragg, NC (home of the 82nd Airborne) where I worked in the MARS station. Then to a remote assignment to Shemya,  Alaska (1960). My last tour was  NSA located at Ft. Meade, MD. I was assigned to the R&D department. While working there I met and married my wonderful wife, who was introduced to me by my former supervisor Joe Tomba (former president of  Tomba Communications of New Orleans). After discharge from the USAF I went to work in the field of consumer electronics service where I spent my entire working career as a technician, business owner, division 57 service supervisor (for a Sears Service Center) and Service Manager for a fine local Consumer Electronics Service Center in Portland, OR. In 1996 I resigned myself from the modern consumer electronics service business and turned my hobby into an Internet business.

In 1962 while working for Sears as a TV technician in Northern Virginia, a customer donated to me an old 1927 "Kolster" AC radio. I spent evenings on the loading/shipping dock of the high-rise apartment where we lived, cleaning and re-finishing the cabinet of that set and my love for the early radios started growing again. I joined the AWA (Antique Wireless Association) in 1963. We got fed up with the traffic and a few other issues in the DC, northern VA area and moved west in 1970. I could go on and on but will end here.

I am still married to my wonderful wife (Lila), we had and raised 4 beautiful children (pictured left). One of them (our precious daughter Amanda), we lost in 1987.

I invite you to take the virtual tour of my collection and maybe you might find that old piece of nostalgia on one of my for sale pages that you must have. Yes, like others before me I have become a collector/dealer.


My radio room, east end.

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