Archive for the ‘I Remember…’ Category


I Remember…The TV Antenna Rotor

   Posted by: John

I have mentioned before about not having a TV that worked for most of my younger childhood.  When we finally got a working TV, there were only a few channels we could get.  Eugene had two stations that I remember.  Channel 9, the ABC station and Channel 13, a combination NBC/CBS station.  Channel 7 in Corvallis was PBS.  And that was pretty much it.  Cable TV was not a thing yet.

Someone at the shop gave Dad a TV antenna rotor. It allows a person to remotely rotate the TV antenna to point it towards the TV transmitter antennas.  This is a great thing since TV antennas are very directional.  If the transmitter was more than 20 miles away and the antenna wasn’t pointing at it you probably weren’t going to be able to watch it.

Dad went through all of the process of getting the thing set up, the direction indicator correct, and wiring put in.  And it worked great!  Now we had 4 more channels from Portland we could watch!  They had separate CBS and NBC stations.  (A few years later, Eugene got channel 16 which became NBC and channel 13 went all CBS.)  Sure, the big networks were duplicates, but there was channel 12, an independent station and they played all kinds of movies and cartoons and stuff.

Amazing how something as simple as a rotor could double your TV world.


I Remember…Brown Primer

   Posted by: John

It’s kind of funny to see cars running around town that are primer coated, not painted.  It reminds me of two cars we had when I was a kid (and young adult).

We didn’t have a lot of money so you make do with what you have and try and keep it working.  That applied to cars as well as stuff around the house.

Over the period of several years, we had two station wagons that ended up being brown primer for years.  Granted, it keeps the vehicle from rusting away, but it sure was an ugly color.  But we drove them and they did the job they needed to do.

I suppose these kinds of things that help keep you humble.


I Remember….Westerns

   Posted by: John

One of the things we did not have when I was a young child was a working TV set.  There was a monster console Zenith that sat in the living room for years but it did not work.  Basically, it was a nice cabinet to put things on.

Every couple years we would visit my Grandparents in southern California.  They had a working 25 inch color TV that I thought was just fascinating, and it could get about 10 channels.  All kinds of shows.

In the evening, Dad and Grandpa would often sit down and watch a movie that was playing, usually a western.  John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Clint Eastwood…one of the channels would play them.

When we did finally get a TV that worked, and we would get a whole 4 or 5 channels, the westerns would be on.  One of the Portland TV stations would have them on all the time.  I don’t remember which ones, but there have been many made.  These are kind of fond memories, and while I did not really watch them myself, there’s something about a 1950’s western that is a lot more wholesome than so much of the garbage made today.

I guess that’s why I am trying to collect and watch a few of them.


I remember…Fall weather

   Posted by: John

Well, the title is a little bit of a misnomer because Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the colors, the cooler weather after a hot summer, the fall rain, the harvest…lots of wonderful things in the Fall.

I do remember having this huge oak tree in the front yard of the house I grew up in. It’s still there, but seems to have been trimmed back some.  Years ago, there was a ton of ivy that wound it’s way up the trunk and covered the bottom third of the branches.  It was a big tree, lots of leaves.  I remember a few times when the leaves had been raked into a huge pile and we would crawl in them and hide. Nice thing about leaves like that is that they are not super messy. They don’t stick to you and don’t cover you in grass clippings. They are light and you can breathe when you are under the pile. It was a country road, so no people walking by on the sidewalk to scare. So, it was a lot of just goofing around and pretending.


I Remember…Grandma’s Gas Stove

   Posted by: John

One of the things that I remember about my Grandparent’s house is that things never seemed to change a lot. The few times they did, they were fairly big (carpet replacement, new couch). But, prior to those changes the original items were well beyond the range of general use. Part of that has to do with the great care they took of things. That couch (or davenport as they called it) was there for a long time past it’s useful life.

Anyway, Grandma had this stove in the kitchen, an old Tappan gas range. Just looking at old stuff, it appears that the stove may be a 1943 model.

Tappan Range

Anyway, I was thinking about when we go to replace the stove here. The original electric range has been decent, but we both would like to see about getting a gas unit. Maybe something like this:

Things sure have changed since the 1940’s. Nice big oven, different size burners, probably a lot more efficient. I would have to have someone plumb gas into the kitchen, but that will be a piece of cake…the gas lines are just behind the wall.

Anyway, that’s what we are thinking.  Still kind of fun to remember Grandma’s stove though.

We were visiting my sister a couple weeks ago. Of course, we picked the weekend where the temperatures were the highest of the summer. Someone at the weather channel has a sick sense of humor.

Anyway, we arrived and it was a hundred degrees. Inside the house was close to 90. There is no way I can sleep in temperatures like that, so we put one of the air conditioners in the bedroom windows and refrigerated that room down to about 65.

But I got to thinking about that a little. It was the same bedroom I had as a kid. We never had air conditioning in the house at all. No window units either. I don’t remember it being that hot in the house.  Maybe I tolerated the heat better when I was young and didn’t notice it so much.  There used to be a couple of trees that shaded the house from mid-afternoon through the evening but those are gone now and that side of the house gets the direct sun all day.  Maybe that made the difference.  Anyway, it was something I thought of but can’t remember details about.  I guess that was a long time ago.


I Remember…My Grandparents and Dishes

   Posted by: John

I remember going to visit my grandparents on occasion.  They lived 971 miles away from us, so we didn’t get to go very often, usually once every other year.  Anyway, I don’t ever remember Grandpa doing any cooking at all. That was Grandma’s job, and she was good at it. For that matter, I don’t ever remember Grandpa taking things from the fridge and making a sandwich. If it was already on the table for lunch or something, that was different, he’d put something together then. Of course, with the small kitchen they had, it was difficult for two people to prepare food.

But, when the meal was done, I remember Grandpa ALWAYS helping with the cleanup and dishes. Grandma washed, and he dried and put the dishes away. When they traveled in the motor home, it was the same thing. She cooked, but he always worked with her on the cleanup.

This is one of the things that come to my mind when Laura and I finish a meal. Most of the time we get things put away and get the kitchen work done together. It’s a small thing, but I find it is very satisfying to do it together.

I hope that our kids reflect on how we do the simple but necessary household things together and do that with their sweethearts when that time comes. Not only does it keep the house neat, but it maintains a bond of togetherness that I think is missing from so many families.


Extinct California Signs and Stores

   Posted by: John

My friend Larry sent me this email with a bunch of pictures of California signs and stores that no longer exist.  It will be interesting to see if my sister remembers any of these.




Kinney Shoes

Thom McAn Ad

I remember going to FedCo and GemCo with my Grandparents when we were down there.  I remember Thom McAn and Kinney shoes, but I do not recall ever going to a store or owning any.  I do not remember FedMart at all. 

One store I am sure my sister remembers is this one.


Lucky, just up the street from my Grandparents house.  It was purchased by Albertsons some years ago and I remember Grandma just not liking it much after that.  (Took me 20 minutes to find this picture!  I must have 40,000 pictures and/or scans to look through.)

Surprisingly, Lucky is still in business, but it appears they are limited to the San Francisco area now.


I Remember…Football…

   Posted by: John

I am sitting here watching a football game on the TV.  You know that goofy feeling you get when something reminds you of something else similar?  I think that’s called Deja Vu.  (No I am not like comedian Steven Wright who says he experiences deja vu and amnesia at the same time.)

Anyway, I was remembering having football on the TV when I was a 12 or 13 years old.  Back then there was not cable or satellite TV.  You had the antenna and happened to get a few channels.  One of the big 3 networks would have the game on.  Dad was the big football fan.  I remember pro ball being on most of the time, but when the college bowl games were on, we watched them.

The big bowl games were the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl.  The Rose Bowl hosted the Pac-10 champion and the Big-10 champion.  Unless one of them went to the championship game and then the next down was invited.  Orange bowl was the championship game.

The game is the same, but it isn’t the same.  I am not sure how else to describe it.  I guess I miss Dad having the game on even though I didn’t watch all that much.

Speaking of football and the Rose Bowl…Pasadena is the cty just North of San Gabriel, where my grandparents lived.  I remember a couple of times being down there for Christmas and New Years.  A couple of days before the Rose parade and football game, we would get in the old Travelall and drive up the parade route from beginning to end, then go over to the Rose Bowl.  There were a couple of entrances open so you could go in and see the inside of the stadium.  It is not as large as it appears on TV, but still amazing that 80,000+ people would be there on New Year’s day.


The hard way and the easy way

   Posted by: John

When I was a kid (I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but probably 8 or 9) my folks decided to put in a wood stove.  Dad braced the floor under a corner of the dining room and bricked the floor and walls, up to about 5 feet or so.  He had to run 24 feet of stovepipe there up through the 2nd floor, attic and out the roof.  That done, we headed up into the forest on several occasions with woodcutting permit in hand to collect enough wood for the winter.

After a few years of that, my parents decided that it would be better (if not cheaper) to just purchase a log truck full of wood.  So they did.  About 30,000 pounds of it, about 12 cord worth.  They dropped it off in three piles at the edge of the side road.  Of course, we had to cut, split, haul it into the back yard and stack it.  By hand.  We did have a nice large chainsaw, and Dad made a platform to put on the back of the tractor to haul it with, but the rest was done by grunt labor.  It took us about 2 months of evening and weekend work.

I wish we had one of these firewood implements that would have done the job in about a hour.

Yeah, I know, so much for building character through hard work.


I Remember…The Ham Radio Stuff

   Posted by: John

One of the things that Dad and I were into was the ham radio gear.  Dad accumulated a marvelous collection of some good stuff and lot more junk.  I remember a number of radios we had and used.  Some of them were troublesome and others were good solid workhorses.

Like this Drake 2-NT transmitter.  These were easy to use and nearly idiotproof.

 It’s only good for Morse code.  And you had to have crystals to use or have  a Variable Frequency Oscillator (VFO).  I did not have a VFO.  When I first got my ham license in 1978, I had exactly 3 crystals.  But at some point Dad came up with a VFO and that was very useful.

We had a Drake 2-C receiver that I used with this.  Again, dang near bulletproof.  They were a good set.

I remember I had these in my bedroom at one point.  I also remember having this massive Hallicrafters receiver that I could listen to the foreign radio stations on the shortwave band. 

I think originally Dad’s “shack” was the little alcove in the south bedroom upstairs.  I think there are still holes in the ceiling where Dad ran cables out of the house.  At some point the other upstairs bedroom became the radio/office/library.  We had lots of room for stuff in there, and boy did we  have stuff in there.  There was a huge desk that we could put all kinds of stuff on, shelves on the wall above it for stuff, another alcove for stuff, a large walk-in closet for stuff.  We had more radio and electronics stuff than the old ham radio store downtown.

We had this Yaesu FT-dx560 behemoth (I know the picture says 400, but the 560 was nearly identical).  I kind of melted the final power tubes in it once when I was using the teletype.  They were not cheap to replace.

The problem is that when transmitting teletype, there are no voice fluctuations nor are there any drops like in morse code.  Just solidly on until you are done transmitting and the tubes get a break.  So, they overheated and melted some of the insides.

We had this Yaesu FT-707 radio.  It was able to run on 12 volts so it was considered a mobile unit.

We had a Kenwood TS-820, but I never really used that radio a whole lot.  There was something wrong with some part of it and I don’t remember what ever happened to it.

Dad built a huge antenna tuner with some massive capacitors and a rolling coil that was about the size of a spaghetti sauce can.  I think it had a couple of antenna switches built into it as well.  And we had this massive antenna rotor that was up on the barn.  The problem was the rotor was from a radar installation and was designed to be moving all the time and it did not have a brake.  The wind would push the antenna and eventually it broke the gears.  But the control box was another huge metal box in the room.

Lots of homemade stuff for Radioteletype (RTTY).  Ah yes, the RTTY stuff.  Like this Model 19 teletype unit.  Huge ancient mechanical thing.   We had a couple of these hanging around, right down to the heavy steel desks.

Then we also had a model 28 unit.  A lot more streamlined and used a letter block for printing instead of old style arm hammers.  Still heavy and bulky though.

The box that demodulated the signal and created the tones was a homemade thing, but the audio tone generator board was a kit.

Dad built a high power RF amplifier so we would not have to push the transmitters so hard.  We needed to have a 240 volt power outlet upstairs but we didn’t.  The final tube in the amp was one that had been used in a commercial radio station and it was capable of over 30,000 watts output, considerably more than a ham operator is allowed.  The power transformer was one of those units that normally sits on a power pole to change the line voltage into 240 volts  before running into the house.  It was hooked up backwards (yes you can do that!) and controlled by a variable transformer (another heavy lump of equipment) that had a big steering wheel like handle on it.  It was real easy to get 5 or 6 thousand volts into that tube if you wanted.  The cool thing was if you wanted to get 500 watts out, you only needed about 40 or 50 watts in, so the transmitter was just loafing.

I found that the transmitter was easier to tune while pushing more than 40 watts.  So I would let it run about 200 watts (the Yaesu 560 radio was capable of about 400 watts out to the antenna), tune it up, then reduce the power output.  Then I would tune the big amp to about 500 watts and be good to go.  One time I forgot to turn down the transmitter power.  I had about 200 watts going into that amplifier.  There must have been 4000 watts heading out to the antenna.  The wattmeter needle hit the stop peg so hard it bent a little and I had to fix it.  The lights got real dim but for some reason it did not blow the fuse.  I could see any bird flying within 50 feet of the antenna getting a little cooked.

We had 2 meter radios as well.  At the time, 220 and 440 MHz were not real common.  But the 144 MHz 2 meter band was.  We had this old Icom 22A 2 meter radio.  Used crystals.  I remember we had 146.94, 146.82, 146.79, 146.52, 146.88,146.79 and a few other frequencies.  We used it for quite a while.

The problem was being bound to a few channels, and this radio only had 22 it could use.  And if you wanted to change them you had to buy crystal sets (2 per channel) and open the case, put them in, etc.  At some point Dad purchased a KDK 2015R and we used that for years.  I still have the KDK but I am not sure if it works or not. 

When I upgraded my license from Novice to Technician, I was able to use the 2 meter band.  One of the nice things about 2 meters and up is the ability to have handheld radios.  Dad had purchased an Icom 2-AT handheld radio.  He found another one for me.  I still have both of these indestructible radios and they still work.

There was a lot more stuff, but these are the ones that I remember using the most.  Good times…


I Remember…Hauling Hay

   Posted by: John

I remember…Dad always had problems with hayfever and some asthma related to it.  Of course, the Willamette valley was also the ryegrass seed capital of the world, so that didn’t do him any good. 

We had cows, so we used to go out and get hay every fall.  We had this rickety old box trailer that we would drag around and pick up a ton of hay at a time in.  Then when we got home it had to go up into the hayloft.  (At some point Dad built a frame with a chain of some kind on it that could hook up to the tractor.  We would just chuck the bales from the trailer onto the thing and it would zip them right up to the hayloft.)

Anyway, one year the hayfever season was real bad.  We were hauling hay and Dad could barely breathe.  He had to have been in his late 40s at that time and I don’t know how he managed to get the work done.  Even though he had some medication it took him a couple of days to get back to normal.  In spite of it, we hauled three tons and stuck it up in the barn that day.