The story of my Crosley Model 125 'Litlfella' AM table radio, 1931-32
One day long ago I was hiking in a wooded area a few miles from my house, and came across a dilapidated little barn. One side of it was open and I peeked in and saw a big old radio sitting on a shelf, or a pile of wood. As you'd imagine, everything was gray with dust and webs, but I could tell what it was, I'd seen radios like it in old movies, where curved-top sets like that were part of the decor in parlor rooms.
I don't know why, but I left for home and came back later on my bike. I was around 11 or 12, and went everywhere on my one speed bike, so maybe I thought I couldn't carry a 17 pound radio all the way home without wheels. I sat it on the bike's seat and wheeled it home.
The Crosley had a couple of issues, the cloth behind the speaker opening was all torn up, though the speaker cone looked okay. A bigger problem was cracks in the '80' rectifier tube's glass envelope, which meant the radio couldn't possibly play without a replacement tube. My theory at the time was that since the power cord had been stored in the back of the radio, the plug had hit the tube, but I'll never know for sure.
For a speaker cloth, I went to mom's fabric box, where she kept lots of carefully folded scraps for patches to mend clothes with. I got something I thought would look good in the radio, took out the speaker and put the cloth in front of it. It looked a little like Hawaii, but I thought it was okay at the time, and I'm glad I put it in, since it's protected the speaker cone from damage over the years.
After that I stored the radio on the bar top in the basement, waiting until I could get an 80 tube for it. At the time I wasn't connected with the radio scene or collectors, so I didn't know how to get a tube, just thinking antique stores might have it, or I'd find another radio that had a good 80, but I never did. Years later I was at a radio gathering and made friends with someone who had an 80 tube, and he offered to send it to me free of charge! Thanks Workingman.
The new 80 brought the radio to life, the tubes lit and it had some hum and a scratchy volume control, but in spite of that the tuner was able to pull in a few local stations, weak but listenable. I put the radio away again and thought that sometime later I could restore it more. I was writing with a friend at Hobby Broadcasting's blog about his old radio restorations, and he mentioned that radio companies have made replacement speaker cloth for these old radios more recently, and asked what kind model of Crosley it was. I didn't know and went to check, and thought I might as well do a photo shoot while I was at it, inspiring this article.
It's interesting to think about the history of this radio, how it probably sat in someone's parlor and was the main source of electronic information a household would have at the time. Television wouldn't come to Pittsburgh for another 16 years yet, 1948.
Here's a small gallery with more pictures of my Crosley:
Someone has restored their 125, different cabinet, looks to be the same chassis:
The 125's schematic:
Hobby Broadcasting's blog