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Organization is a good thing, right?

The last few days (years) we’ve been trying to update Hubby’s lists of Important Things I Have Placed in Storage Units. We haven’t as yet gotten any further than the pages for old “vintage” auto radios, which he repairs for his old-car-nut friends.  We started collecting these about forty years ago, picking up a couple of rusted-out radio carcasses at a swap meet.

“They’re cheap, and I can use the transformer and vibrator and stuff to fix Jerry’s ’52 Ford radio,” he told me. I thought that taking a few minutes of his time to help a friend was great, almost noble. There aren’t that many guys around who still know about tube radios, you understand. Very satisfying. It would only cost us a few dollars, and Jerry was a good friend, after all. He might even reimburse Hubby for the parts, and that would be the end of it.

Ah, woman, what were you thinking?

Jerry had a friend, of course, but I didn’t know that when I answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi, you don’t know me, but I understand your husband can repair old car radios. Jerry was telling us about him at the Ford club last night, and I have a couple of radios that need fixing. Could I talk to him, please?” Foolish me, I handed Hubby the phone and it was a downward spiral from there on.

I didn’t mind much when Hubby, with a handful of tools and a faceful of grin, took over a third of the garage for a workbench. The problem arose when he needed the other two-thirds to hold the parts radios he started to amass.I guess the first clue that everything was about to get out of hand came when Hubby told me about an old guy who wanted to sell out all the inventory from his radio repair business. For only $750, we could have his entire stock of old radios. Okay, they weren’t complete radios, and much of the weight of these things consisted of rust and broken plastic bits, but What a Deal!

“You just can’t find these parts anymore, honey. Besides, I think I’ll have more customers all the time. Last week I had a call from someone with a ’49 Cadillac. It’s not just the Ford club anymore!”

But he was having fun, and the guys would pay him a little something to make their AM radios start pumping out oldies music again. It was just a shame that he couldn’t bring himself to ask enough to cover his costs, especially when the costs—in dollars and in storage space—kept escalating.

In general, addiction is not one of Hubby’s faults (not that he has many), but somehow an acquisition gene kicked in when it came to the old radios. Swap meets, garage sales, the dreaded phone call from a “friend” to let him know about some fellow who had hundreds of used General Motors radios for a fabulous price, all these became part of our daily life. Remind me some time to tell you about the bread truck, the shed, the other shed, the first storage unit…

In the early days, we tried to keep track of what he had on hand with a cute little card file. Each radio got a 3 x 5 card with year, make, model, serial number, and a whole bunch of other important information. We even put little round stickers with an ID code on each radio for future identification. Of course, this didn’t last past the first truck-load.

“Well, I’ll just try to keep all the Chevrolets together, and all the Dodges…” That didn’t last either.

Now, after thirty-some years of trying to keep track, we’re putting everything in a spreadsheet. Each radio gets a line, with notations of year, make model…you get it. So far the Excel sheet has 1344 lines, and the second storage unit (Number 409 on the west side of the building) still has something like ten ceiling-high racks of precariously-stacked radios yet to be counted.

I tell myself that other people collect antiques and nobody thinks they’re strange. Of course, those folks usually collect things like holiday cards and dressers and doilies—displayables, you understand—that add a bit of color to their decor and a possibility of gain should they decide to sell their investment.

But here’s the thing: He gives me valentines every day. They aren’t made of paper, and they don’t take up any space in the garage, but they’re there nevertheless. I keep them all in my mind, disorganized and wonderful.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.

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