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.

Edison Phonograph - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Edison Phonograph – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

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.

Edison Phonograph - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Edison Phonograph – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

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.

Antique Radio - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Antique Radio – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

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.

Antique Radio - Metchosin Schoolhouse - Metchosin, BC, Canada

Antique Radio – Metchosin Schoolhouse – Metchosin, BC, Canada

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.




  1. avatar abarlow says:

    Man, I love those table top radios so much. The design of them is just very appealing. I’m working in a custom commuter case that incorporates many of those design elements in it. Awesome photos sir, very exciting.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Wow, I’d love to see that, Aaron! Thanks so kindly for popping on by today, and for your fabulous comments my good friend!!

  2. avatar LensScaper says:

    What a trip down memory lane that was! I was brought up in the 50s and 60s and vividly recall the sizeable cabinet within which the radio was stored – actually the rodaio was integral to the cabinet. I also remember the first Record Player we had. I still have tucked away in a chest about a dozen old 78s – the original speed for those ceramic discs that were the first ‘Records’. Only problem now is that I don’t have anything to play them on!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Geez, Andy, what wonderful memories and thoughts to share here today, thank you! It’s amazing how fast stuff has changed, it’s a real eye-opener when we have a chance to shoot stuff like this because it reminds us. Thank you so much for your kind visit today, my friend!

  3. Love that old technology. Ever notice the difference in mentality? That stuff was built to pass on to your children, current stuff is built to last until right before next Christmas.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Well said, Derrick, well said! I totally agree! I believe the new term is “planned obsolescence”. A little scary that this is engineering right into the design these days… Thanks so much for taking the time to pop by and see us, and for your great comments!!!

  4. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    What a great blast from the past Toad. These have so much quality and substance to them and are to be treasured. I have a cousin who used to find old Victrolas and restore them. I wish I had one of them now as they were beauties. Superb post as usual my friend.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Oh wow, Len, that must have been real neat to see! I am absolutely enchanted by these old devices and how they worked, early designs and the ingenuity that goes into them fascinates me to no end!! Thank you so much for your kind visit today!

  5. I am always amazed at the great sound that these old master-pieces were able to produce. It was always so rich and had a depth to it that the modern systems cannot get near. Great story and wonderful photos, as always.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Funny you should mention that Mark, I was just chatting recently with someone about the differences that were notable when CD’s came out, versus albums. Sure, the digital format allowed for full dynamic audio range, and very clear at that, but the digitization process altered the “feel” of the sound subtly. It took me a bit of time to get used to CD’s, myself. Of course, today it’s the norm, but it’s something I was reflecting on recently. Thank you so much for your great visit here today, and for your comments!!

  6. Fantastic, memories long remain!!

  7. avatar Perry Bailey says:

    Wow Toad, what a trip down memory lane! Your description of your parent’s hi-fi reminded me of my father’s big Zenith console phono-stereo. It was at least six feet long, with a hinged lift-up cover heavy enough to require a support arm to keep it open. It was all solid wood back then, none of that press-board stuff. I remember the slightly tinney sound of the 78 RPM records he used to play. Hadn’t thought of that in years.

    Another stellar collection of images, and the processing is so perfectly suited to the content. Terrific work as usual, Toad!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I totally know the hi-fi you’re talking about! One of our family members had one exactly like it! Your description immediately took me back there, Perry, how wonderful! Thank you so so much my kind friend for your visit and your fabulous comments that I am sure everyone will enjoy!

  8. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Great post and images as usual Toad. I really have to visit this museum when I get to BC. I remember my grandparents having a similar radio in their bedroom and I used to live playing with the big nobs when I was a little girl. Brings back wonderful memories.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so, so much Edith, it’s a true highlight for us when you pop by to visit us here! Thank you so much for leaving these great comments, we really appreciate you taking the time like that!

  9. A great edition to a great series Toad. It’s quite amazing to think of the advances? we have made in the last century

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      I love the way you put that, Chris, great comments here today my friend! Thanks kindly for your visit, and for taking the time to leave these!!

  10. avatar Richard Taylor says:

    Beautiful images.
    Work took me away from home in 1960, when I was 15, and we never had a TV, however we all had our favourite radio shows and serials. Mine was the Goon show.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Gosh, I remember that too, Richard, vaguely! Great comments my friend, I just can’t thank you enough for your visit!

  11. avatar Jim Nix says:

    love those closeup shots Toad!!

  12. A very nice essay and beautiful photography Mr Toad. Man there is a lot of stuff in this museum. I hope to pay it a visit this summer.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You would love it, Joseph, absolutely!! Thank you so much for taking the time to pop by and see us, and for your wonderful comments!