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A Tehama Home Companion: 1940

November 1940.  Tehama County, California. John Frost and his daughter listening to the radio in their home. View full size. Medium format safety negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration.

November 1940. Tehama County, California. John Frost and his daughter listening to the radio in their home. View full size. Medium format safety negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Beautiful old radio

I have an RCA 111K, which is very, very, similar to the one pictures. It is a great sounding radio.

Fond memories of the Good Old Days listening to the RADIO

My great grandmother owned a radio similar to this one. I remember gathering around the radio listening to "The Squeaking Door" as the light from the kerosene lamp flickered around the room. The year was 1942 and I was seven years old. My great grandmother raised a Victory garden - her part in the War effort. She also raised chickens, cows, and pigs. She wasn't a wealthy woman but we ate well. It occured to me that she may have sold a hog to pay for the radio. The radio sat near a window. I'm wondering if maybe the antenna wires were run outside the window. And the battery - I am also wondering if the battery had to be charged and how that was done. Can anyone help?


I have this exact radio but one of the wires came loose from the back of the speaker. I can't begin to see where it was connected in order to reconnect it. Can anyone help or does anyone know of a speaker I can buy? The number on the back of the speaker is RL70J1 and the number on the coil is 89610-504.

Radio Days

I was born in 1933, and some people we knew would spend a lot for a big radio. You could buy them on an installment plan. Often, this was the nicest thing in their house.

It was the only thing bringing the world to us, since we lived out in the country. We didn't get a newspaper. My dad thought they were wildly extravagant and ours was a tabletop Truetone from Western Auto, also bought on installments. We had a windmill charger for the batteries.

Even though it was little, we could hear it all over the house and outside, too. It was next to a window, with the wires for the antenna and charger going outside. I still have that radio and it still works after I fixed it.

I can still remember Dad laughing at Jack Benny and Rochester.

John Frost

Re Brent's comment, you can read a lot into a photo that may or may not be there. In the 1940's my college educated, former Naval officer grandfather bought a run down farm with no indoor plumbing. In fact, they didn't have indoor plumbing until the 50's. He had some money and more dreams. He valued education and followed world events but he lived much like this guy lived....with mud & manure on his boots and his child on his lap! I can imagine him in this very pose listening intently to the world news. He died a millionaire many years later. A picture may speak a thousand words but it still doesn't tell you the whole story!

[More on John Frost: "Mr. Frost is part owner of 135 acres of semi-marginal land in Tehama County, California. He has a family of seven. His crops are turkeys, hogs and dairy cattle. He is a Farm Security Administration client." He also had a piano. - Dave]

The Radio

I stand corrected. Thank you, Dave.

Re: Radio

In Dave's close-up detail of the dial bezel, the brand name looks like Zenith to me, not RCA.

[It says RCA Victor. - Dave]

Radio techie details

Now that the unit has been identified, here are some more techie details about it for those interested in such.

The pushbutton preset tuning is explained. The tuning dial shows that it did cover a goodly chunk of the shortwave bands (1.4-4 and 6-18 MHz). The same tube types were being used in some equipment still produced into the early 1960's.


My radio buddy says its an RCA 19K. So yeah, a big console by a name brand. They must have made sacrifices to get that one. I hope they enjoyed it!


It might be that the radio and the books are all he has left from better times. I am glad to see that he was getting his child involved in the world. So sad that some respondents try to compare it to today's world and are ready to criticize on such meager information.

Fred Allen

I'm reminded of what Fred Allen said: ''I don't hold with furniture that talks.''

Denny Gill
Chugiak, Alaska


he wanted a greeeat big set so he could hear it out in the yard.

Wedding present or bought on installment by a news junkie

Perhaps it was a wedding gift, or it was bought on installment, no credit in those days. It's possible the hubby was a news junkie; remember the year, and the war clouds gathering--shortwave radio would be like the CNN of the 40's. It'd be expensive, but as a commenter said about HDTV it would be the thing to get. Note also the big bound books in the background: dictionaries or encyclopedia volumes?


I wonder how much this radio cost? It looks like a pretty high end piece of equipment for someone who quite frankly doesn't look like he can really afford it. The again I sometimes wonder how a lot of people who are buying HDTVs can afford it.


My grandparents had one like this, maybe even bigger. I didn't understand all the applications but there was an image of the world and a switch that let you light up different parts of the globe--maybe short wave?

tuning dial

Interesting to see that the medium-wave am-broadcast band
is "split" (550 kHz-1300 kHz and 1400 kHz- well up to what
back then were common police dispatch/car frequencies).
The top segment may be short-wave (c. 7-MHz to ?) with the
cities/countries listed on it. Of course kHz=kc/s and
MHz=Mc/s in that era as well.

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