Wednesday, April 22, 2009


On the way home from Church the other night with our son Jim and his wife, Joyce, Jim said, “On your blog, Dad, why not tell about some of your experiences with radios at Schetter’s?”

Since I’m always looking for new ideas on what to write about, this struck me as a possible good idea that I had not considered. This has been common with me. Many of the postings I have made (58 since last November) came about after a suggestion, or thought, or idea, - seemingly “out of the blue” - as this one is. And, sometimes suggestions from someone else.

So………what about “Schetter’s”?

When I returned home from Manila at the end of World War II, having installed, checked and repaired aircraft radios during that war, Bob Schetter, the Town Jeweler in Mechanicsburg, offered me a position repairing home radios. I had known Bob before my stint in the Army, and then he laughingly indicated that when I came home, maybe he could use me as a radio repairman. He was doing some of it, while repairing watches/clocks and running a Jewelry Store - R. W. Schetter Jewelry. The offer “panned out”.

Of course, with no other job readily available, and the repairing still fresh in my mind, I took him up on the idea, and joined him in his store.

To let the townsfolk know about my radio repairing, Bob took out an ad in the local paper, The Daily Telegram. (Later, it became weekly, and still later, moved out of town. ) I remember the ad as being not a very big one, and though I can’t remember all it said, the basic wording was: “Expert Radio Repair”. Some of my friends kidded me about being an “expert”. That didn’t matter.

Before long, radios began “trickling in” for repair.

I think the thing that MOST helped my repair business, was the popular radio “Soap Operas”, sponsored by Ivory Soap; Dreft; Oxydol; et al. If their radios went bad, those housewives “had a fit” until they were repaired. I got the radios right after they quit.

Over time, I learned a little secret that endeared me to those housewives. While I had their radios, after getting them to work again, I turned on the Soap Operas in the shop and listened - to be sure they were REALLY repaired. I had several working at the same time tuned to different programs, so that, if one quit, I would notice it right away.

(You understand, that if they were all tuned to the same program, one or more of them could quit without my knowing it.)

The REAL benefit to them was that, when I returned the repaired radios to them, I found out what “Soap” they listened to, and filled them in on what had transpired while I had their radio.

They were THRILLED!

I listened to “Ma Perkins” (along with Shuffle Shofer); “Lorenzo Jones” (with wife Belle. “Lorrrennnzo!”, she‘d say.); “Just Plain Bill“; “Pepper Young's Family”, starring Mason Adams as Pepper; “Arthur Godfrey”; et al. And, for the kids, “Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy”, et al; and in the evening, “Lowell Thomas“; “Amos ‘n’ Andy” and “Lum and Abner”, with their Jot ‘em Down Store, along with their friendly competitor, Dick Huddleston. My memory of these last ones was: starting at 6:45PM was Lowell Thomas; 7:00 PM, Amos ‘n’ Andy; and at 7:15, Lum ‘n’ Abner; then there was “One Man’s Family”; “Suspense”; “The Shadow”; “Major Bowes Amateur Hour”, et al, in the evening.

(A few days after starting this posting, I remembered more about “Lorenzo Jones”. He was an inventor. Some of his “inventions”: Steam heated streets, which was a disaster; and a speed control for the car that when a certain speed was exceeded, the car recording would say, “Take it easy Bub”. As you may have guessed, when Lorenzo tried it, the “voice” rattled him so, that he had a wreck. All of his “inventions” were disastrous.)

I KNOW there were other programs that my feeble brain can’t come up with now, but you get the idea.

(By the way, I use the term “et al” all the time. It occurs to me that not everyone is aware of what that means, or at least, what I mean when I use it. Literally, it means, “and others”. It implies that there are more, if I could just remember them.)

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes at that time - and, eventually got up to over 2 packs (40 cigarettes) a day. It turned out that “in between puffs”, I fixed the radios. (Maybe not that bad, but you get the idea.) After some puffs, I laid the cigarette down on the bench, and when I didn’t pick it up quickly enough, it burned a brown/black spot on the bench.

You say, “Why didn’t Bob caution you about that?”

Well, Bob smoked also. He and his wife both smoked Raleigh Cigarettes, with “cork tips”, each pack with a coupon on the outside, that could be redeemed for small gifts. He laid HIS cigarette down on his bench, also, though he may have used an ash tray more than I. His bench was marred also.

Fixing the radios was pretty simple: you tested tubes; checked voltages; watched for shorted capacitors, or a charred resistor. Sometimes a coil would burn out, but not very often. Couldn’t do without my trusty “Simpson 360 Multimeter” for voltage, current and resistance tests.

I don’t recall how much we charged for fixing the radios, but it surely wasn’t much. Things were a lot chaper then - just compare the then cost of cigarettes at 15 cents a pack, or $1.35 a carton of ten packs, to today’s prices.

Eventually, most of the radios in town were fixed, and business slowed down a bit, so Bob Schetter taught me how to repair large wall and mantel clocks. I was later graduated to #16 and # 18 pocket watches.

The wall and mantel clocks had large springs. It order to fix the clock, you had to “unwind” the spring. Well, not really “unwind” it, but it had to be released from pressure. To do that, Bob had some large metal one piece round rings,

with an opening that permitted it to be inserted around the large clock spring after it was tightened, then the latch on the gear was released, and the spring expanded to the size of the ring.

With the springs disabled, you could take the clock apart. Most clocks had two springs - one for the time, and another for the chime.

The outside of the clock works was two brass plates, with holes drilled in them, just the size of the “pinions” on the wheels. (Each “wheel” needed different sized holes, of course.)

The result of wear on a clock and/or watch, is in the hole in which the pinion is inserted. With wear, the hole expands, and the wheel and pinion can’t turn properly. They’re “off center”. Fine watches have “jewels” for bearings, and they don’t wear. Still need oil, though.

How to make the holes smaller? You might use what a supervisor of mine - Leigh Robinson - sometimes called a “put on tool”. You just use it to “put on” some brass in that hole. Except, or course, there wasn’t such a tool made.

If the hole is too big, how do you make it smaller?

You close it, that’s how. With a “closing punch”. The punch had a hole in one end, that was larger than any of the holes in the clock. The edges of that hole were sharp and sloped, so when hit with a hammer over a clock wheel hole (laid on a steel railroad bar), the brass around the hole “closed up” - not all the way of course - but enough that the wheel pinion could not be put in it.

Then, using “trial and error”, one uses a “reaming tool”, or actually, an “awl”, to gradually ream out the hole to make it round, so the wheel pinion could turn freely in it, but not “wobble”. Trial and error.

That had to be done to all the wheel pinions - at least where testing revealed some wear. (The wheels closest to the spring went “out of round” first. More pressure there.)

The next trick is to get the clock, wheels, pinions, and escapement back together, with all the pinions in the right holes at the same time, and the plates “screwed” back on. (NOT an easy feat!)

What about the springs? Well, you used the clock key and tightened the springs - one at at time - to make the spring small enough to take off the metal ring.

Then, each bearing had to be oiled - to forestall further wear. The escapement also.

Complicated? You bet. But, wait until you get to the smaller pocket watches, then small wrist watches. The same procedure was done for all - at least it was 60 plus years ago.


In 1949 or 1950, I believe (don’t hold me to the years), Television hit Mechanicsburg. WLW-TV in Cincinnati began televising the Cincinnati Reds home baseball games.

Mechanicsburg was, and, I suppose still is, a “Reds Town”. People began going to
Columbus or Dayton to buy TV sets. When they broke, they wanted them to be fixed.

Bob paid for me to go someplace (I don’t remember where), to get trained as a TV technician. Then, he decided to SELL TV sets, as well as radios. My “repair” life changed forever. Radio repair decreased considerably.

Eventually, I got so I could repair the television sets, and we were “off to the races”.

Before I got to fixing the small pocket watches, by the way, I bought out the radio/TV part of the business, and opened Maddex Radio and TV. Earlier, I mentioned my selling that business, and entering into the Radio Ministry.

That was “Schetter’s.”, in 1946 - 1952.

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