Shirley’s father George turned out to be a very interesting man, he was a coal miner without much formal education but his hobby was building and repairing radios. He and I got on well together when I visited, usually with Rayon his visits to Shirley. They arranged to go camping at Hart (Crimdon Dene) for a week’s holiday and invited us to join them at the weekend. We did not have any real camping equipment but my brother Billy had two army waterproof capes that fastened together with press-studs that made a bivouac tent. George’s wife invited us to eat with them, I remember only taking canned goods as we did not have any equipment for cooking .
There was an exceptionally low tide that weekend that expose an area of rocks on the beach that were normally under water. George got a long iron rod with a hooked end and took us crabbing. We crawled around the rocks pushing the rod into the deep crevasses and pulled out a couple of dozen large crabs. We took them back to the campsite and cooked them in a bucket over an open fire. He showed us how to open them up to get to the meat and which parts were not edible. While I enjoyed eating a few crabs that evening, I was violently sick during the night and from that day to this I have never eaten crab again. If fact the smell of crab is enough to make me want to puke.
George and his wife were very nice people and he and I became friends, which lasted a number of years. I got very interested in his hobby and he encouraged me to start building and repairing radios. He subscribed to a magazine called “Practical Wireless” and let me borrow them to get ideas. He gave me a large box of obsolete components together with a book “Practical Radio” by Newness which had plans for building radio’s from scratch. I did build some of them, winding the coils on cardboard forms. The radios I built were an obsolete design called “Tuned Radio Frequency”, before the war they had been replaced by the “ Superhet” design. While the TRF design worked, it was difficult to tune into the stations. While not going into the technical differences, when I was tuning into a station, the reaction variable condenser would produce a very loud screeching sound out of the speaker, this was corrected by further tuning . There was a big problem with type of radio in that while tuning, it affected all of the radios in the surrounding area in a similar manner. Needless to say that after mother had had several complaints from the neighbours, I had to give up on this old technology any move on to the more modern designs.
Post war television was starting up again in London after being shut down during the war. They also had plans to build a few other transmitter towers in other areas of the country. “Practical Wireless” now added “Television” into their title. They produced designs using surplus radar equipment with a six inch Cathode Ray Tube having a green trace. George and I would make trips to Middlesbrough to a government surplus shop and pick up the radar unit components very cheaply. These would be stripped down for their components and remade into the television receiver. George was the brains behind building the TV receiver which in size filled the dining room table and about the same amount sitting on the floor underneath. The components were all exposed, there was no case and some of the voltages used for the CRT were about 2000. When the “Holme Moss” in West Yorkshire started transmission in 1951, he connected the set to the copper hot water pipes in the house for an aerial and after a few tries managed to get a signal and a bad picture. This was subject to a local newspaper article. It was 1953 when TV became available in this region when they started broadcasting from the Pontop Pike tower.
I stopped visiting George a couple of years later when my work and technical school filled in the time. We did bump into them occasionally in Hartlepool and were able to keep in touch with them for a number of years. I recall that Shirley. Ray’s girlfriend, married a policeman and lived in Castle Eden. I lost interest in building radios in the mid-fifties and gave all of the equipment I had to an electrical engineer that I worked with.