Ghosts of Main Street: The Entertainment Repairman

November 1, 2018

By Julie Traynor

In the 1950’s Marionites began to embrace the newest form of home entertainment—the television.  One by one, household by household, residents welcomed a television set into their living rooms. Television antennas, bristling with tubular aluminum spires sprouted from rooftops or atop a metal tower in the yard all across the Village. The never-ending quest for the perfect television reception had begun.

Early television sets were weighty items and built to be regarded as a piece of furniture. The ‘console’ television was most often set in a beautifully finished mahogany cabinet and may or may not have been accompanied by a radio and turntable. This combination provided the owner with the three most popular forms of home entertainment, all enclosed in one piece of classy furniture. It was the original entertainment center and the place many proud folks posed for photos and often displayed them, along with other treasures.

Not only did Marion need a place to purchase a television, we also, from time to time required someone to, should the worst occur, repair the set. When the horizontal hold began to fail or the picture went black or, horror of horrors, the selector dial broke, it was time to make a call. Enter the television repairman; the guru who could make sense of the many tubes and wires hidden behind the mahogany and bring back your talking heads.

Dennis’s Marion Radio and Electric. The bold red and green Zenith sign was a presence on Main Street for years. It went up in 1956. 

Dennis’s Marion Radio and Electric. The bold red and green Zenith sign was a presence on Main Street for years. It went up in 1956.

Filling the bill of both sales and repairmen were the folks at Marion Radio and Electric. Herman Dennis and his sons were dealers in radios, televisions, appliances and repairmen for all. Dennis dealt in Zenith televisions, radios and record players. In 1956 Marion Radio and Electric moved from the old Piper store into what was then known as the O’Donnell Building or the Crescent Theatre.

Built almost 100 years ago, the brown glazed block building with the mid 1950’s updated sandstone and glass front was first known as the Crescent Theatre, showing movies inside and out; free movies were shown against the white west wall. After the theater business folded, the building housed everything from a Chevrolet dealership to a beauty shop before the Dennis’s long tenure. This venerable ghost stands today, waiting for a new life. It was last known as the Insurance Lab.

By the 1970’s Robert DeHaan’s Osceola Electronics was a thriving sales and television repair business located on south Mill Street, just across from Brown’s Gulf Service, and behind Julia DeHaan’s Park Beauty Salon. Both businesses were adjacent to the red brick DeHaan home.

Like many television dealers DeHaan also sold and installed television antennas and the various gadgets required to make them work at peak performance. As more stations became available to local viewers the demand for optimal reception was high. Mr. DeHaan installed many an antenna and tower in this area. A good antenna came equipped with a rotor to change its direction from the living room and a ‘booster’ to hopefully upgrade the signal. Long before anything wireless this technology came tied together by many feet of wire.
11-2-18 Ghosts of Main The Entertainment Repairmen Osceola Electronics DeHaan 1970
Glen Adams was also a local television repairman of note and had a store front business on Main Street for several years. The specific location and time frame remain somewhat illusive at this time. We suggest perhaps the old Eagle’s Nest building or perhaps it was Glen who occupied the Marion Radio/Insurance Lab building when the Dennis’s moved to Clark Street.

The repairing of a television was not to be attempted by the owner of the set. Every television carried that bold warning on its back, along with one regarding electrical risk. They still do and it still applies. Then as now, few understood just how a television or flat panel does what it does. For those who did and reckoned that they could attempt a repair, such as replacing one of the many ‘tubes’ in the set, there was a way.

There were a few smart do-it-yourselfers who could successfully remove and check a brown bag of tubes, purchase and install the required new ones and sit down to watch television that evening. To that end, a visit to the ‘tube tester’ in the back of Van’s Drugs was a must. The status of old tubes could be checked and if found to be bad, a new one could be purchased from the stock in the machine. Both radio and television tubes were available.

Among those who were regular tube testers was a certain local dentist who was known to attempt the repair of everything from a television to the family washing machine. His joy was in the tinkering and the process. He was also quite successful. The antenna stood tall at the good doctor’s home and the tubes in his television set were always fresh.

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