Surfin’: Buyin’ Parts
By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
April 23, 2010
This week, Surfin’ waxes nostalgic about buying radio parts at the local electronics emporium.
When I was getting into ham radio in the late 1960s, there were two electronic parts stores in my hometown: Bond Radio and Lafayette Radio. Bond had its one store in town, while Lafayette was a national chain with stores across the land and a big mail-order catalog business.
There was also Hatry Electronics up in Hartford, which at the time was the place to go in these parts to buy ham radio equipment. But before the completion of the Interstate Highway System, the trek to Hatry took the better part of a day, so Bond and Lafayette were my parts stores of choice.
I was such a novice back then! I recall copiously copying a parts list from a build-it-yourself VHF pre-amplifier article in QST and taking my list to Bond Radio to buy the parts. The article instructed you how to modify a trimmer capacitor and the parts list in QST listed that part as a “modified trimmer capacitor.”
When I asked the man behind the counter at Bond Radio for a “modified trimmer capacitor,” he looked at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears, as K2ORS was bound to say.
Eventually, I caught on, but by then Lafayette and Bond had folded their tents and Radio Shack had taken their place. Whereas, Bond and Lafayette always had some old-timers on their staffs who knew the difference between a diode and a triode, Radio Shack seemed to staff a younger crew who often knew less about electronics than I did!
Typically, I would find the part I needed in the Radio Shack catalog, go to the store and the sales person would ask me what I needed. Half the time, the sales person had no idea what I was talking about and I had to show him what I wanted in the catalog sitting on the store counter.
On the other hand, Radio Shack also had some excellent sales people, often holders of ham radio licenses, who were very helpful and able to steer me in the right direction when I was lost in their racks.
Sadly, Radio Shacks stuffed with parts are rare these days. “The Lost Tribes of RadioShack: Tinkerers Search for New Spiritual Home,” in the May issue of Wired, tells the story of the Shack’s demise as a parts store and its reincarnation as RadioShack, a phone store.
If you pine for the Radio Shacks of old, you can peruse their catalogs at the Radio Shack Catalogs Web site. For you Lafayette Radio fans, Phantom’s Vintage Catalog Collection has their catalogs online going back to 1939.
Until next time, keep on surfin’!