As a young teenager in the the early 1960s I was fascinated by the radio that stood in a corner of my grandmother’s front room, in fact I was interested in any radio or electric equipment at that time of my life. The radio was on a small table in the corner of the room and was an imposing relic from an earlier era. What fascinated me was the mechanism, it had push buttons to change a selection of pre-set radio stations and when activated a small motor whirred into action and the needle on the tuning dial changed position as the new station was being selected. I was interested in the choice of stations as shown on the button labels, they showed names which were vaguely known to me, Droitwich, Clevedon, Hilversum and Luxembourg as well as Home, Welsh Region, Scottish Region and other British areas. There was also a button each for Long, Medium and Short waves should you wish to locate stations for yourself. Some of the buttons took you to stations that were no longer in operation but I discovered that by opening a drop-down flap on the rear of the radio there was a complicated arrangement whereby you could tune it in to your choice of stations and I spent some while reconfiguring it to 1960s transmitters.
Made by E K Cole Ltd of the Ekco Works, Southend-on-Sea in 1939, it was their model PB 515 Radio Receiver. It had seven valves and had eleven pre-set push buttons as well as three band buttons and one for off as well, an impressive total of 15 buttons on the front of the radio. Below the dial there were three knobs, one each for volume and tone, and a third for hand tuning. Either side of the tuning knob were two small brass push buttons which activated the dial to either left or right to guide you quickly to roughly where you wanted to be on the dial, you then fine-tuned via the tuning knob. Priced in 1939 at 15 guineas, this was a very expensive radio, equating to about £925 in today’s values.
When my grandmother passed away in 1975 the radio was moved into storage where it remained until around 2004 when I retrieved it and put it on display in my home. Some time in the past my father also acquired another identical model from someone whom he knew who had the same model. That was not in such good condition as my grandmother’s but had been acquired as a source for spares. Of course, you know, I still have both these radios, neither of which have been used for fifty or more years. As part of my recent rationalisation of my acquisitions I have decided to part with the second radio and have offered it to a local group who wish to recreate a 1940s room at a local historical project. Unfortunately when I pulled it out of storage it had suffered damage from damp, so I’ve had to spend some hours gluing the veneer back on to the radio and staining the repair, it’s now as ready as it’s ever going to be for its new life!