Firestone’s Shocking Radio

Firestone Air Chief 4-C-3 radio 03-03-2016This Firestone Fire Chief 4-C-3 radio was born the same year I was – 1947 – if Google info is correct. It was the size of a small suitcase, and quite shocking in its day (more about that later).

You can click on the pictures to make them larger.

Dad and Roy Welch would take it fishing

LV Steinhoff fishing with Radio of Death in backgroundDad worked at the Firestone store in downtown Cape for awhile, so he might have been the one who bought the radio, but I usually associated with my grandfather, Roy E. Welch. A huge 9-volt battery made it portable.

You can see it on the bank behind Dad while he’s fishing.

The radio’s innards

The battery is long gone. I find it interesting that the case and the side brackets are all wood.

A spec sheet on the Radiomuseum website said the “Reception principle was Superhet with RF-stage; ZF/IF 455 kHz; 2 AF stages.”

Tubes, remember tubes?

Firestone Air Chief 4-C-3 radio 03-03-2016Tube testers could be found in all kinds of stores. If your radio or TV stopped working, you’d pull out all the tubes and drag them to your nearest drug, grocery or hardware store. There, you’d stick them in the tester gizmo one at a time until you found the bad one, pay a buck or so for a replacement, then go home to plug them all in again.

There was nothing that made you feel more like a scientific genius than seeing your gadget come back to life.

Radio made in Akron

Firestone Air Chief 4-C-3 radio 03-03-2016A handy-dandy sticker said the radio was made in the U.S.A, in Akron, Ohio, to be exact.

It was even nice enough to include a little schematic showing the type of tubes it used and their locations. In case you are playing along at home, here are the six tubes it took: 1N5GT, 1A7GT, 1N5GT, 1H5GT, 3Q5GT and 117Z6GT.

A couple knobs are missing

Firestone Air Chief 4-C-3 radio 03-03-2016The top opened up to expose the volume and tuning controls and a tiny selector switch in the middle that determined if you were running on AC power or the battery.

The knobs are missing, which proved problematic when it was plugged into a wall outlet. The radio was poorly grounded, so as soon as you touched any metal part on it, you would find 60-cycle electrical current passing through your body, a distinctly unpleasant experience.

One learned very quickly to approximate how loud you wanted it to sound BEFORE you plugged it in, and to turn it off by pulling the plug.

Always set to 960 AM

Firestone Air Chief 4-C-3 radio 03-03-2016There was no need to tune the radio: it was always set to 960 AM, KFVS radio. That’s where Dad would listen to Harry Caray calling the St. Louis Cardinal games, hoping to hear his signature line, “It might be … it could be … it IS! A home run! Holy cow!”

I was tempted to see if it still worked, but I think I cheated death enough when I was a kid. That device might have been hiding up in the attic for 45 years just waiting for me to plug it in, thinking, “That fool is going to give me one more crack at him.”

Dad’s Murder Mysteries

LV Steinhoff murder mysteries 01-25-2016After I started school, we quit following Dad from town to town in the trailer he’d park in whatever space he could find for us. That meant that he was living in hotels, motels and boarding houses for weeks at a time, maybe making it home every weekend or two.

There wasn’t a lot of entertainment options when you’re building roads and bridges from cain’t see to cain’t see, even if you weren’t too tired to avail yourself of them.

That’s when he turned to paperback murder mysteries.

He preferred Perry Mason

LV Steinhoff murder mysteries 01-25-2016His first choice was Erle Stanley Garnder’s Perry Mason mysteries. If nothing else, the story descriptions on the backs of the book were almost as good as the book.

“You find too many bodies, Mason,” said Lieutenant Tragg coldly. [Tragg was the cop who always seemed to be the one accusing Mason’s clients of murder.]

“Don’t be silly,” Perry Mason answered, “I had no idea this man was dead. I brought you here to hear him confess.”

Pocket books became popular during WW II

LV Steinhoff murder mysteries 01-25-2016Pocket Books, now a division of Simon and Schuster, produced the first mass-market, pocket-sized paperback book in 1939, but they became really popular when material shortages during World War II worked to their advantage. The books would fit in a pocket, were easy to read and cheap to produce.

Most of Dad’s books cost a quarter, although I did see the price start to creep up over the years to 35 and 45 cents. They generally had brassy colors and semi-revealing models.

Mickey Spillane and others

If he couldn’t find a Perry Mason, he’d dip into a Mickey Spillane or Shell Scott or whoever else happened to be on the shelf. Their covers tended to be a bit cruder (both in execution and subject matter), and their tease copy wasn’t as well done.

I read lots of paperbacks, but they were mostly non-fiction I picked up at Metro News on Broadway across from the Rialto. I never read the mystery genre, so I’m going to dip into Dad’s stash to see what I missed.

I asked my grandfather why HE liked to read murder mysteries, but never picked up any of my sporting or adventure magazines like Field and Stream or Argosy.

“Reading a murder mystery doesn’t make me want to go out and kill somebody. Reading about fishing would make me want to go out and do that, and I can’t,” he explained.

Mystery book photo gallery

Here are some other books cluttering up the shelf. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.


A Model Hobby

USS United States models 09-23-2015Dad and I spent many a winter evening building plastic models of ships and planes. Well, to be more accurate, I sat at the table WATCHING Dad build plastic models of ships and planes.

He was a follow-the-directions kind of guy, so he would get frustrated when I skipped around and ended up having to take apart stuff that I had assembled out of order. Before long I would be relegated to applying decals and sorting parts.

One of our largest projects – at least in size – was The U.S.S. United States. It wasn’t the most complicated, but it lit up and it was about two feet long.

A memorial to my Grandfather

Ken Steinhoff and Roy WelchHere’s something about the model I never told anyone: when my grandfather, Roy Welch, died when I was 10, I wiped all the dust off the deck and vowed that I would only dust half of it in the future as a way of remembering the passage of time since I had lost him.

When I took it down from the attic to put in a box of stuff going to Annie Laurie’s Antiques, I looked for the dust demarcation, but 30 or 40 years had made it ALL dusty.

Despite that, I still remember my Roi Tan cigar-chomping grandfather. I guess I really didn’t need the U.S.S. United States to do that.

L.V. Steinhoff’s Hats

LV Steinhoff hatsBrother Mark found a bunch of Dad’s hats in the top shelf of the guest room a few weeks ago. Some were in the original boxes.

We’re not hat people

Mark Steinhoff in LV Steinhoff's hat 07-07-2014I put out the word to family members that they were available, but, as Mark’s photo shows, you have to have a certain flair to pull off wearing a hat these days. We’re missing that gene.

We set the hats aside for future consideration by Niece Laurie of Annie Laurie’s Antiques.

Kitty Ruessler hat exhibit

Kitty Ruessler hat exhibit 08-10-2015I was watching Cape Girardeau County History Center Director Carla Jordan working on an exhibit of hats loaned by Kitty Ruessler the other night. I casually mentioned Dad’s hats to her, and she suggested we display those, too.

Dad’s hat’s

L.V. Steinhoff hat exhibit at Cape County History Center 08-10-2015She found a hat rack and made them look good. I was amazed at how they were still in good shape. Dad died in 1977, and I’m sure they hadn’t been touched since then except to shove them in a corner in the closet.

Carla and her staff have done a great job of building unusual exhibits in the short time the History Center has been open. You should stop by. It’s across the street from the county courthouse in Jackson, in the old Andrew Jackson building. It’s open seven days a week. The hours are 10 – 4, Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 4 on Sunday.

Dad could wear a hat

LV Steinhoff w 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon 1960Dad spent most of the week pushing dirt around building roads and bridges, but he cleaned up nicely.

Photo gallery of Dad and his hats

Some of the older pictures were taken when I was about two years old, when Dad, Mother and her parents piled into a car and headed off to Mexico and the American Southwest. One shot, which includes Wife Lila, was taken at Christmastime in Athens, Ohio. I took the two color pictures in 1961ish.

Click on any photo to make it larger, then use the arrow keys to move around the gallery.