The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow

Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin is the author of the popular Bright’s Pond Novels, including The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, which was named one of the top five Christian titles of 2009 by Library Journal; and Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise, releasing September 1, 2010. She is member of ACFW, The Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship, and is a popular conference speaker. Joyce also runs Narrative Destiny, a manuscript critique and evaluation service. You can also visit her blog at:

Of Televisions and Men and Household Explosions

My 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.

Pop 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.

An 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

pretzels 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

boxes 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 at him.

“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 separate them.


Narrative Destiny

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow has been selected as one of the top five Christian Inspirational titles of 2009 by Library Journal.

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow