Hiatus week #2 continues with a website from . . . oh, 1999 or so. I'm serious. It's never been seen. I could never pull it together into anything I liked, and it seemed to be trying too hard. It was intended to go into the Institute, and like the Dorcus Collection, it would tell a story.
The story of Plotte-Point radios.
In TV and movies of a certain era, people would turn on the radio, and out would pour highly specific news - a prison break, a bridge washed out. The worst was Gilligan's Island, which always ended with everyone standing behind the radio as it explained why the castaways hadn't been picked up that episode. The radios advanced a plot point, and this got me imagining a company that made radios that told you exactly what you needed to hear.
I spelled it wrong, which should have been an omen.
Well, I found a folder on a CD that contained the original files. Whatever word processing program I used could only be opened by the most basic text editor, and it was garbled and mixed up. I salvaged what I could, along with the graphics.
Here, then, the story of Plotte-Pointe radios.
The Sanitary Radio Co. was founded by two sturdy Dutch immigrants: Geoot Buuntowt and Hans Tuub. Born in Holland, both emigrated to America, alone, at the age of 4, with the instructions that they should make their fortune and send for their family. Their parents put them on the one ship in the White Star Line, a vessel whose name followed the naming convention of the fleet - the Titanic, the Brittannic, the Olympic. They happened to be on the RMS Tragic - which, ironically, turned out to be the only ship in the fleet that never sunk, caught on fire, foundered, hit a berg, or spawned a documentary of any sort. Both boys were apprenticed to the wireless operator, and that is where they met. Between shifts pedaling the generators that provided power, they studied the wireless equipment.
Buuntowt noted that he and young Tuub “and would stare for hours at the gleaming lot to keep pedaling the generators that provided power, they studied the wireless equipment. Excited as they were, they were inevitably crushed to find that wires were, actually, required. As Tuub said:
“It seemed a bit cruel, eh? You get a lad’s hopes up with all equipment, the dials, the copper handle of the signaler. I was entranced. Mostly from the codeine. They fed us a lot - company policy, apparently. But even if they hadn’t doped me up, I’d have stared. Although I doubt I would have drooled so much.”
When the ship reached America, the boys struck off on their own, vowing to pursue this talk about wirelessness. "Turns out wires are not only involved," Tuub said, "they’re absolutely crucial. Here we thought we’d be using our brains. You know, sending your thoughts over the air by frowning, that sort of thing. God knows I tried. Sat there in the corner frowning, all hunched over, trying to send my thoughts. All I got was a case of piles. Four years old, and I had piles. Horrible.” But they loved the field nonetheless.
The year: 1922. Radio is sweeping the nation. The boys - now older, canny, wise to the ways of the world - still held fast to their dream of a radio empire. But they lacked the money and equipment.
Were it not for a chance meeting, they might not have succeeded - indeed, they probably would have ended up expiring of catarrh, or Hanson’s Scurvy, or Lad’s Mange, or any of the other diseases that carried off 70 percent of immigrant children. But they were not to suffer this fate. For they met: Henry Ford Himself.
About the Himself family, little is known. Genealogical records trace the family back to King John Himself, who appears in a church record when he married Mary Annabella Wellifiticient, daughter of a banker. We can trace the family through the centuries, but they seem to have accomplished nothing at all. Nearly every generation had a patriarch whose name was coincidentally the same as a famous man of his time; historians have speculated that this actually kept the family impoverished. (The family’s motto, roughly translated from the Latin, is “gladly they make appointments; rudely they throw us out” - suggesting decades, if not centuries, of being brusquely dismissed.
But Henry Ford Himself had been lucky. His father - Timothy Edison Himself - had a name that was close to a famous person, but different, and this enabled him to pass through life without the usual accusations of fraudulent misrepresentation. He amassed a tidy fortune as a coal-tar speculator, and passed along an estate of several millions of Henry Ford Himself. In his autobiography, H. F. Himself relates the moment when he met the industrious Dutch urchins:
“Their faces were smudged, and their teeth pitch-stained as though they used lamp-black as a dentifrice. Their eyes had an unnatural glow, as though they ate radium for supper. They never smiled. If they hadn’t spoken in high squeaking voices, I would have presumed them for adults - small, beardless adults. Bleached Pygmies, perhaps. They were blocking my way as I walked down the street, so I caned them both with Yankee vigor. I shall never forget the sound of my walking stick on their tender skulls; it was like the clop-clop of a freshly shod horse trotting smartly on the cobblestones of Washington Square - a sound, I fear, that has vanished entirely from New York of to-day.”
This would have been 1915. The boys vowed revenge - butcked up a newspaper, and discovered a story on Henry Himself - he’d purchased the top floors of the Singer Tower for use as a radio broadcasting facility. Revenge was at hand. Posing as handymen, they gained access to the office, left a back door ajar, and slipped in under cover of darkness to dismantle Himself’s radios and spirit away the parts. But
Here the manuscript is too garbled, but I assume the story said the tubes were defective. They made their own design based on the tubes, only to discover after manufacturer that they took an hour to warm up. The garble ends about here:
B&T decided to tout their old tubes as a new invention: Slo-Glo Tubes.
The B-T co. had one ad agency for 50 years - and the same man did all their ads, as well. This was F. Chester Westerman. They commanded Westerman to come up with ads for the devices, and the ingenious man obliged.
Oh GOD it's so punny. But it still makes me smile. I love the idea of a radio-supply company named Buntowt-Tuub. It's so stupid.
This, however, was my favorite part.
Westerman's objections to the ad were numerous and well taken, starting with the “Yanking our rods” line that the Dutch inventors insisted on using. “It sounds American,” Buuntowt said. Yanking Doodle Dandy. You know.”
Westerman explained the double entendre - or, rather, the single entendre - to the men, and later described that he had never seen a living human being’s face attain that particular color of white. Westerman also objected to the slogan for the company, “Sound as Pure as Jesus.”
“Why? Good slogan,” Tuub said. “Simple. Jesus is pure. Our radio sound is pure. It would be a sin if it was a lie, but it is not lie. So it is not sin, ja?”
“You just don’t use Jesus in ads,” Westerman explained. “It’s sacrilegious.”
“Is sacrilegious to mention Jesus? Sense that isn’t make. America country on God founded, no? It is bad to be say Pure as Satan.”
Westerman decided he’d fight that battle some other time. He had a more pressing objective: he believed that the very name “Sanitary Radio” didn’t quite strike all the notes B-T intended, since the public did not really believe radio was capable of being unsanitary.
And that's all I have. There's this letter from earlier in the company's history, thought -
Probably just as well it never went anywhere. But there it is.
Daily Question, as we have in these hiatal times: Do you remember the radio sets of your youth? I remember almost every one of them, except the one on the counter from the mid-60s until some ugly wood-grained plastic thing replaced it. I don't recall anything about it, but surely it went well with the turquiose boomerang-patterned Formica.
I remember the TVs, but we don't have the same intimate relationship with TVs that we have with radios.