Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jerry was an important person in his time

By Dick Hirsch

Jerry had status at our house. He ranked. He was listed on that special page in the little pop-up device that we kept on the kitchen counter near the phone. That was where we kept important numbers. The mix included police and fire departments, doctors, dentist, plumber, electrician and Jerry.

Jerry was the television repairman.

He made house calls, of course, worked by appointment, usually was on schedule, and had an uncanny ability to diagnose and remedy TV problems. He was very friendly and became a regular visitor over the years, a garrulous man who enjoyed his work, he considered the appointments to be both business and social. It usually involved two or three days of waiting before he would appear because he was a very busy man. But when he did come it was a time for both rejoicing at his arrival and observing his strategy.

We would watch in admiration as Jerry worked on our TV, removing the back, fingering various wires, inspecting connections and extracting certain tubes and elements. He laid them on the carpet as he probed the innards. On occasions he had to go out to his truck and return with a particular part.

We always had good results with Jerry. He fixed a succession of three different sets over the years and during that time grew his company from what started as a neighborhood enterprise to a business employing a number of technicians serving a wide area. He became the official warranty service provider for a number of manufacturers.

And then it was over.

We still have a list of important numbers; police, fire, doctors, dentist, plumber, electrician. However, there is no mention of any TV repairman.

I realize there are now millions of individuals who are TV owners who never required a relationship such as that. They were born too late. They have no comprehension of the impact it had on the family when the TV abruptly malfunctioned. The screen rarely went black; usually the picture was indistinct or misshapen. Occasionally the sound was garbled or inaudible.

The owner would make a noble but usually unsatisfactory effort, fiddling with certain dials; the vertical hold or the horizontal hold were frequently ever so gently turned. If you never had occasion to tinker with a hold dial while family members waited, anxious to view a favorite program you haven’t experienced domestic frustration.

There were those who would try to avoid service charges and make the repair themselves. How did they do it? Good question. They went to the drugstore. Yes, the drugstore. It was common for many drugstores to sell replacement tubes for TV sets. That was in the days before transistors, when tubes were still in fashion. The store would have a display that was rigged with a top that contained receptacles into which a tube could be inserted. So, if you were a determined do-it-yourselfer you would remove all the suspicious tubes from your TV, take them to the drugstore and plug them into the test holes.

I never took that approach. It just wasn’t my style. I suppose a still useful tube would light up while any bad tubes would react differently. I was always amazed when I would be in our neighborhood pharmacy and notice guys waiting in line to test their tubes. If a person was fortunate enough to discover a faulty tube he would then join a store clerk in the search for a replacement. The stores were never able to stock a complete inventory of tubes so customers often left disappointed, went home and called a TV serviceman.

Then there came a revolutionary development. I can’t remember when the situation changed, but suddenly TVs didn’t need repairing. They functioned as promised and they were generally trouble-free even though they were more complicated. There were no more dials, just buttons. They didn’t need repairs. If there were problems with reception or quality of picture people began to assume it was in the transmission, not the set. The sets played and played. And then one day they died. They didn’t linger. There was no sense in attempting a repair. Maybe it was a symptom of the disposable society. The solution was to go right out and buy a new set, take it home and plug it in.

Progress is great, isn’t it? Philo Farnsworth, who is generally credited with inventing the first television set, would be astonished. So would Jerry and all the other TV servicemen, those specialists whose phone numbers were on our priority lists.



Post a Comment

<< Home