Picture, if you will, walking down a street in Center City Philadelphia; and lining both sides, as far as you can see, are nothing but stores packed full of electronics goodies. A mere fantasy you say? Not really. Because such was Arch Street in the late Nineteen Fifties and early Sixties, as I remember it.
“Radio Row”, as it was called, started around 12th Street with Herbach & Rademan, or H&R as it was fondly known. The company still exists today on Erie Ave (actually Moorestown NJ, now), and features as it did then, an enormous variety of gadgets and scientific devices for the hobbyist and industry.
Across the street from H&R was the Radio Electronics Institute. This was a technical school which taught Radio and TV technology.
Down at 11th and Arch was The Philadelphia Outlet Store. In this Emporium featured, what seemed to be hundreds of little bins, each stacked high with some kind of unusual tool or gizmo, all at unbelievably low prices.
From 10th to 6th and Arch, store after store tantalized the electronics buff, offering a vast variety of goods and services. To mention just a few establishments, there was: Soundtronics, Almo Radio, Lectronics Distributors, Captain Joe’s, Radio Electric Service, Foremost Electronics, Barrett Brothers, Consolidated Radio.
There were also a number of electronics surplus stores, whose names escape me. These stores, bursting with equipment, placed much of their wares out on the sidewalk for everyone to examine.
An ARMY-NAVY store like Captain Joe’s was not a place to buy designer jeans as “I. Goldberg” is today. They actually sold Army and Navy surplus equipment from the Second World War, and the Korean Conflict. A large amount of useful electronics, as well as parachutes and uniforms were available for purchase.
The “Big Daddy” of all the stores in the area had to be Radio Electric. This was a giant place which stocked just about everything. I remember many times walking in, with my Popular Electronics Magazine under my arm and running down a list of parts I needed for my latest project. With a great deal of patience, the counter man would run around getting me my one resistor, two capacitors, and a 12AX7 (a vacuum tube).
Today it is all gone.