YEAR OF 1949 - THE START OF MY RADIO INTEREST
In 1949 we lived in
the inner working class suburb of Auburn, 7 km east of Melbourne, above
and at the back of a small shop, in Burwood Rd. My
mother sold confectionary, biscuits, ice-blocks and ice-creams from the shop. I still have one of the original tall screw-top
glass jars in which were stored the lollies!
My father was a sole
proprietor of a concrete paving business with the name of “Grumento Paving Company” – he had emigrated to
Australia from a village in southern Italy in 1926. He was an expert in the art of colored terrazzo paving, and continued
to manage his business well into his 70s. He passed away at the age of 81 in 1980. My mother left this world at the age of
93 in 1997.
In 1949, as a schoolboy, my parents presented me with a crystal set and
pair of earphones for my 10th birthday.
This was to be my pride
and joy for a long time – it was mounted in a wooden box about 6” cubed, covered with black shiny leather, and
the components were mounted at the back of a black bakelite front panel.
The controls were few
– the round tuning dial made of a hard black substance, with white engraved calibrations 0-100. I still have that dial!
There were two terminals for the phones, as well as antenna and earth terminals. The crystal detector was screwed to the front
panel, with a rotatable “cat’s-whisker”, and its positioning on the galena crystal was very critical.
My brother and I shared
an upstairs bedroom, which looked out over the tin roof of the ground floor kitchen and across the rather small back yard.
At the end of the yard was a laneway, about 20 metres long, which ran between a large bakery and brick stables for the horses.
The covered bakery carts that they pulled were kept in an open space at the end of the laneway.
Those stables survive
to the present, now occupied by an upmarket car sales company.
I had set up a long-wire
antenna from our first floor bedroom.
I recall the "cricket"
and "soccer" matches we played in the laneway which was next to the stables - our school friends from nearby would come and
join in - the "soccer' ball was a dilapidated old medicine-ball. We set up stumps at either end of the lane, with wickets
of pieces of wood and tins.
We even had "rules"
- the balls were old tennis balls - if we hit these out of the laneway we were given out!
Interestingly, on the
corner of Burwood and Auburn Rds was the Hay and Corn Store, run by Murphy Brothers. Built in 1906, this sold all kinds of
farm products. It is still there today, selling the same sorts of things as in 1950, and looks much the same!
At the end of our small
backyard at Auburn, Pop had built a little raised wooden woodshed.
He added a second level with roof and a power connection. This had a bench in it and served as my electronics workshop. It
was in this shed that I experimented with radios and electronic devices. I had trays with electrical components – resistors,
capacitors, coils, valves, everything!
I continued to use this
little shed until we moved to Mont Albert in 1959.
We would eventually
move away from Auburn in 1959 to a “real” home, built in 1925, in Mont Albert,
15 km from the city, one of thousands of such homes constructed around Melbourne
in the “Californian bungalow” style – front veranda, garage, lawns, large gardens, weatherboard, and terracotta
My father’s paving work
may still be seen here in Mont Albert, having stood the test of time for more than half a century.