Friday, March 24, 2017

Old Time Repair Shops

When I was growing up, television was relatively new, and was a substantial investment, a fair portion of a weekly paycheck.  TV repair shops littered the landscape.  Indeed, my own father fixed TVs for a while in the family storeroom.  He put up a bench and made a little side money fixing television sets.

Those old repair shops have gone the way of the dodo bird.  Foe rhe most part, consumer electronics are disposable; if something breaks, you throw it away and buy another.  The time of fixing TVs is long gone.  But, there are still a couple of old-time repair shops around that can do stuff that was once the province of any good electronic repair shop.

One such repairman is a guy I'll call Ricky.  Ricky runs a repair shop that specializes in audio=visual equipment for a local governmental agency.  When I have an issue, Ricky is the easy answer.  He doesn't always tell me what I want to hear, but he'll give me the straight scoop.  Ricky likes old guns, so we trade expertise and talk about the time when things got fixed, rather than thrown away.

You'll remember earlier this week, when I bought my portable PA system.  I showed it to RIcky, and he noticed the two plugs on the back of the unit for attaching it to a battery for 12 volt power.  He told me about a shop downtown that sold little electronic parts.  "Go there and get two banana plugs and two battery clips.  Come back here and we'll build a power cord so that you can hook it to a battery."

So, I went to this shop he told me about.  Stepping in through the door was like stepping back 40 years. Dusty, musty, lots of shelves and bins.  I found the proprietor and told him what I was looking for.  "Ricky sent me."

"Okay", he said and started looking in bins.  In just a few minutes he had found banana plugs, one red, one black, but he was having trouble finding battery clips.  Then he remembered that he was using them as clamps for a gluing project.  He disappeared into the back of the shop and returned in just a minute, with two battery clips, one red, one black.  I gave him a $10.00 bill and out the door.

At Ricky's shop the next morning, Ricky plugged in his soldering iron and let it heat while he found a piece os suitable scrap wire.  In ten mites, he had soldered the banana plugs on one end and the battery clips on the other.  In the space of an couple of hours, I had a custom made, professionally crafted power cable for my PA system.

I didn't have to wait on Amazon, or go to a box store wondering if I could find what I needed, just talk to two old craftsmen who knew their business.  In many ways it was like stepping back into my grandfather's shop, or my Dad's shop.  When we lose these guys, either trhough the economy, or normal mortality, the country will have lost a treasure.


Anonymous said...

Fixing things is a lost art, as is building things.

I saw a TV commercial last weekend that nearly made me throw something at the TV. It was for an insurance company, and featured a middle aged woman and her 20-something son, and she said "(insurance company name) rescued him with their roadside assistance when he got a flat tire at midnight." My reply was "Shame on you for sending him out in his own car without making sure he knew how to change a (expletive deleted) tire instead of waiting for someone more competent to show up!"

My wife's friend at work was amazed, and I mean shocked, to learn that I'd changed a brake light bulb on my car. She said she takes it to the dealer when a bulb burns out. There was only one time I ever paid to have a bulb changed, we were on a trip and stopped for gas, the gas attendant told me I had a headlight out, and rather than get wet (it was raining) I let them do it. They just charged for the bulb and I tipped the guy a few bucks for doing it. Had there been a wait for someone to do it, I'd have gotten wet and done it myself.

Oh, regarding your earlier posting, I'm also from up North, in my case New Jersey.

Mark D

Bob said...

Remember when drug stores featured TV tube testing machines that allowed you to test the vacuum tubes from your TV so you knew which one needed to be replaced, and offered a supply of replacement tubes on a shelf below the testing board?

Old NFO said...

Radio Shack and Heathkit repair 'classes'... sigh

Jester said...

Mechanical and Electrical have continued to separate more and more exponentially.

Though consider this. To replace a headlight bulb in a 2009 Chevy Malibu requires The front bumper and a few other parts to be removed just to get at the headlight assembly. That is an "American" car.

Bryn, Isle of Anglesey, UK said...

My wifes uncle, prior to LCD/LED screens becoming mainstream, had a thriving TV/Electronic Goods repair business. When flat panels came along, he found that very few manufacturers were willing to make the circuit diagrams & parts list available to other than their "authorised repair agents".
It was quite remarkable how many apparently simple repairs regularly cost as much as buying a complete new unit..... from the shop run by the "repair agent" of course.....

Anonymous said...

@Jester: Well yeah, there are stupid things like that. My favorite was, IIRC, a mid-80's Chevy Celebrity which required you to pull the engine out to replace a spark plug. Yeah, some engineer should've been drawn and quartered for THAT one.

I drive a 2006 Jeep Liberty, replacing the headlight or fog light bulb requires removing the grill, which is held on by five clips, then it tips off. Then there's a screw holding the bulb in place. The whole thing takes ten minutes tops, five if which is spent trying to figure out where I left the (expletive deleted) screwdriver. The tail lights are even simpler, the first time took me longer because I didn't have a proper sized Torx driver so had to go get one (which now rides in the little pocket in the back of the Jeep).

Mark D