father was a pretty amazing man. He was big
and tall and had hands the size of canned hams. Yes, I am talking about
the same man who dropped-kicked the turkey through the living room
window. He loved electronics and electricity and often built things in
the basement. It was kind of like living with Grandpa of Munsters fame.
Pop would disappear for hours in the basement or garage and emerge with
some contraption or other. A plumber by trade, my father was a
frustrated engineer. He loved to tinker with radios and televisions.
As a matter of fact, before I
was born, my father built the
neighborhood’s first television. They were very expensive back then, so
Pop simply acquired the tubes and such and set about to make one. I
believe it had a six-inch screen. The story goes that the entire
neighborhood came out to experience the premier. I think it was a
boxing match they watched. My mother made pie.
built radios out of oatmeal containers, copper wires, and a
nail. One day my mother innocently suggested that we needed new lamps
for the living room. Pop jumped into action and flew to his basement. A
few hours later he came out with two lamps constructed from copper
pipes. That right. My father used plumbing materials to make lamps for
the living room. They were odd. My mother cried.
He built a canon once. An actual
cannon that he wheeled out onto the
front lawn one Independence Day and fired into the night sky. Very
impressive. Where he got the gunpowder, I don’t know. But I think
explosives were easier to come by back then.
My father was the first to hook
the Christmas tree up to the stereo
system so the lights danced with the music. He showed me how to build a
robot from an empty thread spool, a rubber band, and a birthday candle.
Yes, Pop was MacGyver. He designed and built the most amazing paper
airplanes that seemed to soar forever.
But I think it was
television that most interested him. This was back in the days when we
had horizontal hold and vertical hold and sharpness controls on the
set. Do any of you remember that? The television picture would start to
roll funny, so you had to adjust the horizontal hold until it stopped.
I think Pop lived for these moments. And when he got the full-length
mirror out and a funny black box with gauges and dials on it that
tested volt and ohms, I knew we were in for excitement. When Pop got
behind the TV to fix whatever was happening, it was either going to be
a very good day or a very bad day. Pop set the mirror up so he could
see the picture while he tinkered in the back. He pulled vacuum tubes
and tested them on his tube-testing thingamabob.
occasional swear word would drift out, but
that was okay. That usually meant we were taking a ride to the Bazaar
of all Nations, an odd place, a place out of time. It was the first
mall in America. The Bazaar sold everything from carpet cleaner to
to underwear and, yes, even TV vacuum tubes. So off we’d go in
our green Studebaker, and Pop would bring his brown bag of blown tubes
into the store and purchase new ones. Then after a stop at the Sticky
Bun store to buy two
of the best sticky buns in Philadelphia,
we’d head back home to fix the TV. It usually worked. Except for the
days when nothing seemed to go right and the day eventually ended with
my father putting his foot through the TV. It made an interesting
explosion, which resulted in the dogs howling and my mother hollering
“Art, Art,” she’d call from the
kitchen. “Did you blow up another television set?”
But Pop was also a visionary. He
knew there was something amazing
going on in television land. I remember when he told me, “Joyce, you
wait, probably when you’re all grown up they will be making TVs so thin
you can hang on them on a wall.” Wow. He was right. I only wish he was
here to see it. Pop passed away a couple of years too soon to see it
happen. He would have been amazed. Heck, I remember when hand-held
calculators first arrived on the scene. Pop was the first on the block
to own one. It was made by Texas Instruments and weighed about ninety
pounds, but he thought it was amazing. Good Old Pop. I miss him. I miss
TV tubes (sort of).
There was just something special
about those days when technology
was still a mystery but did more to bring families together than to
Prayers of Agnes
Sparrow has been selected as one of the top five Christian
Inspirational titles of 2009 by Library Journal.