Dean Hall's obsession with old radios started when he bought a 1935 model four years ago.
When the Dubuque man got the upright Zenith console radio home, he fell in love with its clean lines, its fascinating, and archaic, glass vacuum tube technology and its deep, rich sound. That did it. Hall wanted more. To date, he has brought home 40 to 50 classic console and tabletop radios, models from the 1930s to the 1970s.
"I always loved music and history, and I guess this just combines them both," said Hall, 43, who grew up listening to tape players rather than radios.
Hall has paid no more than $50 for any one radio and has inherited several "free, for the taking." But he then works scores of hours stripping the woodwork and refinishing it to like-new condition in his basement shop during off hours from his job as a plasterer.
There are old radios everywhere in the three-story Grandview Avenue house Dean shares with his wife, Lisa. Some are furniture, some are decor, some are for listening to, but all work. If their delicate glass vacuum tubes fail, a friend finds replacements for him through Internet connections.
"The heavy wood amplifies the sound, making it much deeper and louder," said Hall, who is partial to radio talk shows and old-time radio programs, although he owns at least 50 vinyl records as well.
Hall's favorite radio, one that required a full month of refinishing work, is a low, wide 1950 Zenith console radio made of oak with pine trim. He also owns several dozen plastic tabletop radios and smaller transistor radios in carrying cases.
Lisa Hall likes "most of" her husband's radios, although she admits they do take up a lot of room. She enjoys listening to records on the big console units.
"I remember how much I missed that crackle of records playing on a phonograph," she said.
Hall is not finished collecting old radios, but he said that they are getting harder and harder to find locally.
"I think I've bought up most of them around here," he said, grinning and nodding to his radio-filled dining room table.