Originally published in August 2017
John Arthurs knows a thing or two about old car radios.
In fact, he might know more about them than anyone else in the Yakima Valley.
The 86-year-old Zillah resident has been tinkering with radios of all shapes and sizes since he was a kid growing up in Seattle.
Now he’s got a garage full of them, mostly of the automobile variety.
“It’s just a hobby, but it keeps me pretty busy,” said Arthurs, who moved to Zillah with his wife, Genie, from Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood in 1999. “Some people like to golf. Some people like to fish. I do this.”
The 1951 graduate of Queen Anne High School ran a similar operation out of his west-side home called John’s Old Car Radio and TV Repair. He used to work on black-and-white TVs, but these days he doesn’t fuss with them much.
But he never minds picking up a new radio (or 10) at a garage sale or swap meet — especially a car radio.
“You can never have too many radios,” he said. “I collect them, but it’s also a business. More than anything else, I repair ‘em and sell ‘em.”
Arthurs loves working on radios in his spare time, though nowadays he doesn’t dedicate as many days to it as he used to.
“Just when I have time,” he said.
He can’t get to all the trade shows and flea markets that once were the backbone of his business. But after living in Zillah for 18 years, he knows enough people in the area that he still gets plenty of calls.
“I enjoy meeting people with the same interests, so that’s why I like going to the car shows and swap meets around the state,” Arthurs said. “But there are a lot of people around here who need my help, which kind of keeps the business going.”
Fixing radios and TVs isn’t the only trade Arthurs has mastered.
He explored a number of other careers, working as a piano and organ deliveryman for 25 years and for a rug cleaning company. He also worked for 14 years at the MacDougall and Southwick department store in Seattle.
He enjoyed each of his jobs, but for Arthurs, it always comes back to the radios.
“You’ve got to enjoy what you do,” he said. “And fixing radios is just part of who I am.”
Another incentive for Arthurs to keep John’s Old Car Radio Repair going is that not many people know how to fix the old radios anymore.
He figures that if he weren’t around, most of these old radios would stay broken.
“It has become my thing, and I don’t mind that there are fewer of us out there,” he said. “There aren’t many places you can take old radios to be fixed anymore, but I’m one of them. People know where to find me.”
When Arthurs isn’t fixing radios, he’s probably out looking to add to his collection.
Aside from boxes of old car radios and a varied collection of standard radios, Arthurs’ workshop on Pollock Avenue also features a steady supply of musical memorabilia.
He’s got everything from vinyl to audio cassettes to .45 records — even some 8-track players. Poke around and you’ll find an old ham radio used back in the early 20th century.
From the looks of his garage, it’s apparent that Arthurs is still completely tuned in to his lifelong hobby, even as he gets older.
“I like having this collection; it reminds me of a lot of good years,” he said. “I love what I do.”