Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gauen: Not All Friends Who Pass on Are People

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gauen: Not All Friends Who Pass on Are People

Article excerpt

Al Artimisi, whose email list is a big dab of the glue that holds my Collinsville High School classmates together, sent out a solemn question recently. Did we still want him to notify us of our old buddies' deaths?

This came after a particularly grim stretch which served as a reminder that with most of our parents gone, the bell now more often tolls for we. (OK, it should be "us," but I'm waxing poetic here.)

A consensus seemed to favor delivery of bad news with the good and a promise to be quicker to offset it by sharing the abundant positives in our lives. As we wait to see how that works out, I have lost a couple more pals.

I read about one of them in the business page instead of the obituaries. His name was RadioShack. At 94, he declared bankruptcy after 11 straight quarters of economic illness.

People are far more important than businesses, of course, but I do mourn the impending demise of America's premier retailer of electronic do-dads. I say this as a regular buyer of electronic do- dads, and an aficionado of the brand for half its existence.

My attachment dates to the late 1960s, when I was fascinated by displays full of shortwave receivers and CB radios and police monitors, not to mention hi-fidelity tuners and speakers and tape decks and record players. I couldn't afford much, but a visit was like watching the train sets laid out at the downtown Famous-Barr store for Christmas.

At the time, hometown Collinsville had no Radio Shack (two words then), so friends and I would drop in at the one along Nameoki Road in Granite City. There, a memorable character named Riley Webb, known as "Jolly" for good reason, not only sold the goods but dispensed friendly banter and patient advice for free.

The company also did a robust mail order business from years of catalogs which are archived, I hope in perpetuity, online.

I looked through a 1969 version a couple days ago, which reminded me of how relatively cheap electronics are in 2015. In the catalog, a reel-to-reel tape recorder went for $159.95, a 12-inch color TV cost $239.95, a CB radio was $139.95. The equivalents can be had these days for that or less, even though the Consumer Price Index shows that $1 then is about $6. …

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