Have you ever wondered what people did for entertainment 100 years ago? Back then, there was no such thing as 697 channels to choose from, as a matter of fact there was no TV! There, I said it. I know it’s near impossible to believe, but trust me friends, it’s true. Today, there’s almost a 50% chance you are reading this blog on a smart phone. And if that’s the case, you’ve got a TV in your pocket right now.
When you think about the thousands of years that have gone into evolution and advancement in humanity, it’s a little overwhelming to think of how far we’ve come technologically in less than 100 years. We’re heading back to the Metchosin Schoolhouse Museum, continuing our running photoblog series “Olde School“, where today we’re going to explore antique radios and entertainment devices.
In 1877 an invention by Thomas Edison changed the world. He was responsible for many inventions that altered the course of history. Many of these inventions made drastic improvements to our quality of life, both in terms of necessity and leisure. This is when he created the phonograph. This big, old, wood piece of furniture was the earliest rendition of HiFi allowing the user to place a disc on a table that spun, drop a needle on it, and hear music. Sound quality was poor in comparison to modern-day stereo gear, but at the time it radically changed society and life.
The day we visited the Metchosin School Museum, we had the luxury of spending an entire afternoon in the facility. Even as such, compositions in these tight quarters proved to be very challenging. Still, the items on display are well worthy of sharing and discussing here.
This picture features the incredible work that went into creating pieces like this. It was as much a piece of furniture as it was an entertainment device. Even as I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I recall Hi-Fidelity stereo systems that everyone had in their front rooms. In many cases, they resembled dressers or cabinets, and were made of the finest wood materials. My parents had one constructed of mahogany. It was a key piece in our living room, one that was displayed with pride, and one that my sister and I were distinctly not allowed to play with. I remember opening the lid to the cabinet and smelling the wood and polish that my mom used to use. Even all these years later, I recall these memories as if they were from yesterday.
As progress continued, mankind became a master of the airwaves. Early radios were constructed using basic tube technology, requiring the units to warm up before you could use them. In many places, only one radio station was available, that was your entire choice. Again, we take in the lovely woodwork of the piece, the inlays, and all the art-deco touches that were truly synonymous with the times. This piece would be just as much at home today on our mantle as it was a century ago.
As time carried on, new features were added that mirrored back the personality of the times. This radio was a real treasure on our shoot that day. I knew it was special the moment I came across it. At first blush, it appears to be yet another antique radio from the times, but closer scrutiny reveals a real treat; it’s got a “Magic Eye“. It was a terrific feature that helped the user tune into the radio station easier by augmenting the audio with a visual cue.
For me, one of the very best parts of this radio is the wear from years of enjoyment around the tuning and volume knobs. All the character, the nostalgia, of such a wonderful antique really comes to life with the natural weathering of time. Who’s fingers turned the knobs? Was it children huddled around the radio in the front room, listening to their stories? Was it an elderly couple who used it as a lifeline to the outside world, keeping up-to-date with the latest news? Or perhaps, was it the central focal point in someone’s front room as the entire family gathered around to listen to “The Shadow“? No one knows for sure, but the indelible prints of those who loved and used it remain.
Thanks so kindly for your visit today, we really do appreciate it! As always, we love to hear from all our visitors so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have! Until next time.