History Of The Southern California Antique Radio Society

      The following is from a two-part article by former club president Thurston Armstrong, and appeared in the August and November 2001 Gazettes:

This year, 2001, marks the 25th year of the existence of SCARS, so it seemed appropriate to honor the occasion by writing a short history of the club. The following is excerpted from one page penned by Alan Smith that was found by Bette Smith last year when going through Alan's things. In Alan Smith's own words: "Not much knowing what I was doing, I started collecting radios in the mid 1970's. I bought a couple of battery sets, some 201-A tubes and a horn speaker at an auction of a bankrupt radio store in San Diego. I didn't have any other sources. The general swap meets yielded nothing. I knew I needed contact with other collectors. From a book of hobby clubs in the library I found out about the Antique Wireless Association and joined it immediately".

"The AWA was too far away for me to go to meetings but they had a fine journal, the Old Timers Bulletin. From OTB ads I bought a few radios and learned that there were other collectors in Southern California. Also from the AWA, I heard about the California Historical Radio Society."

"CHRS meetings in Northern California were within weekend driving distance, only 695 miles from San Diego (you will understand if I lack sympathy when I hear complaints about driving from Inglewood to Santa Ana for a SCARS meet). It was worth the trip. CHRS was a fine club with good people. I got some radios and made some lifelong friends. I still wished the meetings were closer to home but starting a club in Southern California seemed like a risky venture. Would there be enough active members? Where would we meet? ...And so on. My experience with other clubs indicated that about five percent of the members would help with club activities."

Author's notes: 1. Oh, were it so! Today barely 2% of the members help with club activities. 2. CHRS at the time was only one year old, as it was started in 1975.

"The August 1976 AWA journal announced a joint meeting of AWA and CHRS to be held in Los Altos, in August of 1976. An elaborate program was planned and some of the AWA officers would be there. If a section of AWA could be formed in San Diego, it would serve the purpose and also eliminate most of the problems of starting a new club. It seemed the way to go, so I went to the meeting."

"During the meeting I was able to talk to Chuck Brelsford, who was the president of the Antique Wireless Association at that time. To my disappointment, he said that the question of having chapters within the AWA had been discussed before and their organization had decided against it. So that was that; the only option remaining was to start our own club". Authors note: The AWA even today has only one real "chapter", the Carolina's chapter, per my discussion with Ron Lawrence, chapter president.

I was fortunate last year to have a chat with Grant Manning, the first year president of SCARS. He related to me that the formation of the club took place on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1976 at the home of Alan Smith. The instant coffee served must have been inspiring, since it led to the formation of a rapidly-growing club soon to be known as the Southern California Antique Radio Society. He believes that Jack Sheriff was also in attendance. In true Southern California '70s style, Grant sported a pony tail, and drove a VW microbus to the first meet, accompanied by Patti Webster, his then "main squeeze".

"The first meeting was a considerable success. About thirty persons attended, coming from San Diego, the Oceanside and Escondido area, from many parts of Los Angeles and as far as Port Hueneme. During the morning a swap session was held and many radios and other items were for sale or trade. Trading was brisk. Among those bringing radios for sale or trade were Glenn Streeter, August Link, Bill Condon, Alan Smith, Bob Reidmuller and Claude Ruyle. Bob Herbig's books, components and magazines were a center of attraction. Morgan McMahon and his charming wife, Gladie, gave us an opportunity to see the latest books in the Vintage Radio series. The instrument collectors gathered around Bob Denton who brought some choice articles for sale from his extensive collection."

"After lunch, an organizational meeting was held at which a constitution was adopted, officers were elected, and plans were made for future meetings. A movie was shown on tube production at Mullard. After the movie, the group heard the plans of DSI, Inc. to manufacture replacement WD-11's. The society is grateful to Patti Webster for manning the registration booth and collecting names and dues. The Annual Meeting will be held on November 20, 1976 at the Lockheed Employees Recreation Center in Burbank. The use of the Lockheed ERC facilities for this meeting was arranged (via wireless) by Bob Herbig, W6ME, of SCARS, with the generous aid of the Lockheed Amateur Radio Club and their President, Bill Welsh, W6DDB." The first newsletter listed twenty-three members. By the end of 1976, the membership was up to 68--some growth! Twelve of the 1976 members were still on our roster as of February 2001. Five from 1976 are stalwart members and still frequent our meets. These are August Link, Morgan McMahon Gladie McMahon, Sterling Jensen, and Jack Weatherby. Associate members were authorized at the November 1976 meeting with the dues for them set at one dollar, the same cost as today--so much for inflation!

The growth of the club continued unabated for many years. In fact, one might consider that it somewhat followed the market--stagflation in the late 70s through 81, the the start of the great bull market in 82, recession in 91, slowdown in 94, followed by continued growth until 89/99, and then? We only missed the hiccup of 87. A connection??--unlikely, but interesting. At the peak we reached 800 regular members, and about 150 associates for a total of 950. In the late 80's it was believed that we were the third largest club in the US.

What really makes a club successful though is its people, and we've had our share of successful and enterprising members. Authors of successful radio collecting books have abounded in SCARS. In 1987, fully one-half of the books sold by AES were authored by SCARS members. These included: "Vintage Radio" and "A Flick of the Switch" by Morgan McMahon, "The Radio Horn Speaker Encyclopedia" by Floyd Paul, "The Radio Collector's Directory and Price Guide" by Robert E. Grinder and George H. Fathauer, and "Radios-The Golden Age" by Phil Collins. Other books by the same authors include: "Radio Collector's Guide" by McMahon, "Los Angeles Radio Manufacturers- The First Twenty Years" and "the Horn Speaker Notebook, Rev./ H" by Paul, the 2nd edition of "The Radio Collector's Directory and Price Guide" by Grinder, and "Radios Redux" by Collins. Richard Gray entered the author's arena in 1996 with the "Radio Diagram Sourcebook", as did George A. Fathauer Jr. with " Radio Tubes and Boxes of the 1920's" in 1999. In addition to their individual tasks of writing, Morgan, Floyd and Richard have given much of their time in service to the club. There have been only three presidents in the club who have served three terms--Floyd Paul, Richard Gray and myself (Thurston Armstrong)-- I am honored to be in that group! Floyd also served nine years as asst. editor of the Gazette. Dedication, however, is no greater than that of our current treasurer, Mary Curry. Mary has served in that capacity for a total of fifteen of the 25 years of the club's existence, and is currently serving under her 8th president. Other noteworthy long-termers are: Joe Knight with five years as VP and six years as Gazette editor, Fred Braddock; four years as Gazette editor, and Bruce McCalley, our current editor, who has assisted on the Gazette and in other club administrative functions since the early 80's. And now he does all this from the Pittsburgh area!

The club has relied on two venues more than any others during its existence. The first was the Lockheed Employees Recreation Center (LERC) in Burbank. The club met there from November 1976 through February 1989. The second was the Velvet Turtle in Torrance, where meets were held from November 1981 until August 1993. Both venues lasting twelve years! During the periods that these venues were in use, the majority of club functions were held there. The most popular event recently has been the February auction, held at a church in Van Nuys for the past six years. That church, incidentally, was the location for a SCARS mini-meet in September 1991, and now hosts SCARF meets (it seems that the Valley and South Bay locations are still favored, based upon turnouts at events held there after the earlier venues became unavailable--author)

The club participated in two major public events, the first being at WESCON in the fall of 1984, when the IEEE was celebrating its 100th year anniversary. WESCONprovided about 600 square feet of floor space for our exhibit, ten large glass display cases and several tables. About twenty of our members provided equipment for the display. It was an excellent show, with about 4000 of the estimated 100,000 attendees passing through the booth. Compliments on the show abounded, including one received from a representative of the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum. The second event was at the Del Mar Fair in the summer of 1990. The fair at the time was the second largest in California. The exhibit was much scaled compared to the one at WESCON, but nonetheless over 100 application forms were handed out.

So there you have it, twenty-five years and still going strong, but also well into maturity. Many reasons are espoused for the decline in membership, including the Internet, lifestyle changes, older members dropping out, maturity of the hobby in general, etc. No one knows for sure. Things bode well for the future though, with the introduction of our new website this June (here). We also had the largest recent attendance at a non-yearly meet with 70+ at the Queen Mary brunch in August (2001). Let's keep it up!

SCARS Key Events:
Sept 76: First meeting in San Diego
Oct 76: First newsletter
Nov 76: First meet at LERC in Burbank
May 78: First Gazette
Nov 78: First 2 day meet and auction at Plush Horse, Redondo Beach, 185 registered
Feb 79: Mrs. Lee DeForest visits SCARS
Nov 79: First color photo used in Gazette, a centerfold
Nov 81: First meet at Velvet Turtle restaurant in Torrance
May 83: SCARS logo first introduced
   SCARS became a non-profit mutual-benefit organization
   First member "awards" announced
Feb 95: First large scale "Auction Only" event in Van Nuys
June 01: SCARS website created with its own URL
June 03: SCARS website rehosted on MODUK.NET and updated
BACK to Home Page