Re: Fair Radio Sales Lima Ohio

Greg Muir

I’ll try to make this a brief note but it probably won’t happen.

Having spent nearly 35 years of my profession in Colorado I managed to visit many surplus stores around the area. It was a treat to see anything from more recent (I’m talking 60’s) back through WWII equipment. But, alas, one by one these stores slowly disappeared.

Then there were the stores that collected legacy & excess parts & supplies from other local business who deemed the stock no longer necessary. Of note was one superb store in Boulder that had an impressive inventory of all kinds of parts from the local HP factories in Colorado Springs, Loveland, Fort Collins and other areas. In addition they had a equipment consignment area where they would take in test & miscellaneous equipment for sale. The prices were right. A virtual gold mine to visit. But the demise of this resource ended in the sale to a new owner a few years ago, their not being able to pay the rent and the landlord moving everything out into dumpsters.

I learned of “surplus” at a very early age (and I will not allude to what the term “early” is for fear of reminding myself about how old I really am). But it was in a different form. The local air force base in my home town never really dealt with selling off excess property to any extent but, rather, simply sent it over to the local scrap iron yard.

During the summer months I would ride my bike over to the iron yard to see what goodies had been dumped by the base. They were always generous with their offerings to include things like complete radar systems (yes, transmitting equipment, antennas, scopes – the works), actual aircraft trainers (still have boxes of nice P&B relays and instruments pulled from them), test equipment (including HP, Tek, others) and a myriad of other items in very good condition. One day I even encountered a battle tank from the local army reserve complete with twin Cadillac engines. It became parted out rather quickly by the scrap iron yard.

All items that came through the yard from the AF base were tagged as to the repairability status. Most carried a yellow tag (no problems, just excessed) and the few red tagged items (repairs required) were found to have simple fixes (bad line cords, etc.).

The old man who ran the yard was wise enough to store much of the test equipment in an old Quonset hut located on the property behind a locked door. But he was always welcome to open it up for me since he knew that my browsing would result in a sale. He really ran a hard deal when purchasing items. But since I went to school with his son he would offer a generous “discount.” Base price for anything was $0.10 a pound (yes, 10 cents) but when presented with an item containing any copper (transformers, etc.) the price went up to $0.15 a pound (yes, again – 15 cents).

My home basement was always filled to capacity thanks to a generous weekly allowance of a few dollars. But I had to put up with the nagging from my parents whenever I called them from the scrap iron yard to come over with the car to haul everything home. Not all 10 through 14 year olds in the neighborhood had nice test equipment in their basements in those days.

My last foray to the yard was when I had already been living in Colorado but went home for my summer vacation. On a whim I decided to stop over to the yard to see what they had. To my surprise I found plenty. This was the time when the USAF SAGE system (,
( was being decommissioned and the Air Direction Centers (of which the local AF base had one) were being torn out.

As I approached the yard I couldn’t believe my eyes. There in front of me were the two massive AN/FSQ-7 vacuum tube computers with many of their 50,000+ vacuum tubes either missing or broken (, the radar transmitter equipment, the radar scopes – everything sitting out in the weather. One area of the property contained hundreds of 55 gallon drums containing long lengths of white and orange pipe sticking out of them which turned out to be the remnants of the massive radar antenna (
So it turned out to be a multi-day visit to obtain a few memorabilia from that system. Somewhere in my stuff I still have boxes of the nice Westinghouse panel meters removed from the radar transmitter cabinets).

I miss those days. Now everything is put onto the markets no matter if it is worth anything or not to be purchased at high prices through the bidding process or cutthroat sellers trying to exact every penny from items they don’t even have any idea as to what they are. Aside from that we have to be thankful for hamfests and such where buyers and sellers still can come to reasonable agreements about cost (but the prices still often exceed my past $0.10/pound experience but I have to be very understanding).


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