Remembering when it was the 1970s calling Radio Shack

This mobile Citizen's Band transceiver is a real icon of the 1970s. CB radios found their way into many a drive-in-classic movie of the decade.

Making its debut during this year's Super Bowl, a new Radio Shack commercial commences with a store associate taking a telephone call from "the '80s, wanting their store back," followed by a number of iconic figures from the decade causing general mayhem while removing all of the store's contents.

After hearing some buzz surrounding that commercial I looked it up on YouTube and, being one who was a "twenty-something" throughout most of the eighties, enjoyed it quite a bit. Geeky as it may sound, that commercial reminded me of the days in the early 1970s, before earning my driver's license, when I'd look forward to any opportunity to check out what was new at Radio Shack, as well as a few long-gone area radio and electronics stores that existed back then.

The Radio Shack I found myself hanging around most often was in Elyria, just to the west of Midway Mall (before being relocated to the mall itself). While the rest of my family shopped in the mall I'd take a hike across the Route 57 overpass to the Radio Shack store nestled in a little nearby shopping plaza.

There, I'd gravitate toward the police scanners, shortwave receivers and CB radios prominently displayed on a wall near the front of the store and look at the new models with fascination (told you I was geeky).

Back in those days Radio Shack was by no means the only specialty radio and electronics store in town. There was a chain called Olson Electronics based in Akron that had several stores in the Cleveland area. The one in River Plaza was the place I'd end up while family members shopped elsewhere in the center. Olson's sold a pretty eclectic mix of radio and electronic equipment, as well as an array of individual parts and components. (Once, while looking for a CB antenna at that Olson's store, I kind of eavesdropped on local media legend Dick Feagler as he had a detailed discussion with a sales associate regarding stereo gear.)

While I didn't find myself there as often as Radio Shack or Olson's there was another specialty retailer in our area known as Lafayette Radio Electronics, also with several stores of a nationwide chain located around Cleveland. Their North Olmsted store was on my radar scope for checking out when I got the chance.

My favorite geeky memories, though, have to be walking a mile or so from my grandmother's house in Parma to oogle over the offerings within the old Heathkit store at Ridge and Pearl roads. I'd look at all of their great electronic gear and dream of being able to build it, let alone afford the stuff. I'd at least try to buy a radio magazine there from time to time.

That was a much different time, when more people seemed to have a fascination with radio equipment than now. A Radio Shack store from the '70s would really be like a museum today.

Dan Hirschfeld

I'm a longtime resident of the Bay Village and Westlake area (Bay 1965 to 1977, then Westlake since) who has always enjoyed living here while seeing lots of change over the years.

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 9:27 AM, 02.18.2014