Thursday, April 21, 2011

Getting Back to the Simple Life: Bakelite Tube Radios (Thankful Thursday)

This is my mood-changer.  It's a vintage tube radio I purchased about 14 years ago when I moved to this small town from an antique store going out of business.  I paid $20 for it and it has saved me thousands in therapy bills.

Here's the thing, I have a 1940's soul.  My soul, while appreciates and loves technology, likes being disconnected, likes an open calendar, likes to think (can spend hours just thinking), and daydream.  Growing up and even today, this is a comment heard about me at any family gathering, "Kelli, are you in your head again?" "Oh, she's in her own little world."

And I am.  My world now includes this radio in my morning routine.

I realized yesterday during an over-the-top spring cleaning and stuff purge, that I had placed this favorite radio on a shelf just enough off to the side of things that it wasn't being turned on.  So I moved it.  And now, I begin my mornings turning it on and listening to the Spanish station or the Oldies station.

Hearing music through this old radio calms me.  It doesn't sound like a normal radio, there is that lovely nostalgic sound you only hear when they turn on a radio in old movies.  And there's no instant satisfaction--it's a tube radio, which means, when I turn it on, I hear nothing until the tube warms up and slowly the music begins.

So I've been thinking about these little things in our lives that ground us, that bring joy and a little art to our lives.  When I look at this radio, I feel inspired.  When I listen to it, even more so.

This is why I need to live in a more simple, calming matter.  If I don't, I miss the details.  I miss turning on the radio and being taken back to the swing years and beyond.  I miss the beauty of what was, of a well-made item.  I think about the person before this who had this in his or her home.  I think about the history of this radio traveling into my life.

If I were to pick up an AM radio from any of our stores, I wouldn't have the art and inspiration that living should have.  But this old radio, it brings me into the world in a more connected way.  And I'm trying to just keep only my favorite things in my life, and this one, well, this radio will be carried through this life with me and move from home to home, wherever I go.

And when I turn it on, the whole space fills with this old ridiculous joy.  It's magic that way.  There aren't many things you can buy for $20 that pay off with riches in so many other ways.  This little guy does that.


  1. I believe my soul was born in the medievil times, also away from technology. Like your radio, I have a few things from the past that inspire me to write as well. Nice blog, I think I'll join :)

  2. Hmmm. In the 1940s people were still dying of polio. I think I'm actually from a future age. Where are the house-cleaning robots, and the DNA-repair pills, I ask? I'm lost without them!

  3. I grew up with those tube radios in the house. (More modern, transistorized radios existed, though most of the radios in the house were the older ones.) The T.V. sets used tubes too. Likewise, when you turned on the T.V. (to watch one of the five (!) available channels) you had to wait a minute for it to warm up.

    From time to time one of the tubes in the radio would start to fail. A lot of radios had more than one tube. At the drugstore two blocks away was a tube-testing machine -- you could plug the tube into it, and a light would go on if the tube still worked. The drugstore also sold replacement tubes.

    I don't know enough about the technical stuff of sound to know why the older machines sounded different, but yeah they did. Similar to the old LP records, I think -- the older radios carried more of the ambient sound of the broadcast, it wasn't as scrubbed-clean as it sounds on more modern radios.

  4. Dekkle - Thanks for your note and glad you like my blog. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Though it's mostly love.

    J9-- I'm not saying all of the 40's were terrific-- women's rights were kind of sucky. ;-) But there is a part of me that hears Glenn Miller and the swing years and feels as if I could be from a different time. It's weird. SO good to see you last night!

    Lyle-- I so remember the sound and waiting for the TV. And that very tiny center light dot that remains right before it turns off.


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