I was drafted in the fall of 1965 and there were several lifetimes of payments left on my recently purchased KWM-2. How would I keep them up? I sadly stepped to the counter at Henry Radio, the heavy gray Collins a live weight under my arm, explained my predicament to Cy Kahn. He glared at me with mock seriousness, turned on a heel with the agility of an ex-hoofer and disappeared with "my" KWM-2.
Moments later, Cy reappeared with my canceled contract. He counted out a pile of bills, my payments, wished me luck and invited me to come and get the radio when I return.
After fifty-five years, The Henry Radio Store in West Los Angeles has closed..
In 1941, Ted Henry (W6UOU) was about to graduate from UCLA with a degree in Political Science. He wanted to be a teacher.
Near UCLA, on Westwood Boulevard, Ted pointed out a storefront with living quarters behind. He told his pal Herb, W6BL, that he was going to open a radio store there. "Never fly," said Herb, "not enough hams in Westwood."
Teds brother, Bob (W0ARA) had opened a radio store in Butler, Missouri in 1927 when Ted was seven years old. Everyone was caught up in the magic of radio at the time.
Brother Walt (W6ZN) became a Navy aviator, stationed at Long Beach, California. Ted came West to college. The country was trying to recover from the depression of 1929 and the practical Henry brothers pooled their resources to get Ted the best possible education. When Walt was assigned to the South Pacific, Ted moved to Westwood and UCLA.
When Ted told Bob he wanted to open "Henry Radio West," Bob was incredulous: "Youre just a kid!" But he agreed to help.
With the assistance of Meredith (W6WNE), his wife-to-be, Ted opened the "Henry Radio Store - West" in September of 1941. Then came December Seventh.
Amateur radio was to be shut down for the duration of the Second World War. Bob told Ted he was closing the Butler Store and heading to Washington, DC. "You ought to close, too," he advised. But Ted had ideas, lots of ideas.
It was to be the first of many inspirations from the mind of a diplomat and international thinker. Ted put his political science education to work. He learned that Alaska was in need of radios. He bought equipment hed sold to his customers and earned a "priority number" that allowed him to sell to the government.
The Henrys maintained personal relationships with manufacturers like Jim Millen at National, Bill Halligan at Hallicrafters, Art Collins at Collins Radio.
"Do you know how to grind crystals?" Halligan asked Ted. When the Henrys were kids, Bob wanted to grind crystals. Their father, a mechanic, refitted some of his equipment, and they polished the quartz blanks on the kitchen table. "Sure I do," Ted replied.
Ted became a major supplier of crystals for the venerable BC-610, workhorse transmitter of World War II. He maintained three manufacturing facilities. (Ted is quick to point out that the process of "recalculation" prevented wartime suppliers from collecting excessive profits.)
After the war, Ted looked to expand from the storefront. He found a vacant area, an entire block along Olympic Boulevard at Sawtelle. The price was irresistible, $26,000. Seems they were about to construct a freeway, the "405" right through that parcel. It didnt take much "mulling over." Ted felt that the "405" could actually benefit the store and constructed it directly alongside the right-of-way.
The new facility was a hams dream: A large storage area filled with all the parts needed for construction or repair, rooms piled high with receivers and transmitters, connected to antennas on a telephone pole sited alongside the building, a "Hi-Fi" department and the COUNTER.
At the counter, the Henry sales force was daunting, intimidating, sometimes irascible and incredibly knowledgeable. "My brother, Art, K6LGF, and I learned all about Ham Radio from Cy Kahn," Al (K6YRA) recalls. "Cy gave us the prototype Gonset bowtie beam. It got us started working DX."
There were many members of the Henry "family" who dispensed "Amateur Net" prices and wisdom over the counter: Cy (W6PXH), Archie Milne (W6GBK), Frank Cuevas (W6AOA)and others.
Ted deftly negotiated with overseas manufacturers to import equipment. His understanding of trade agreements created a growing export business. A new manufacturing facility provided sturdy, low-cost amplifiers to the amateur and commercial community. Walt Henry, retired after a distinguished career in the Navy, took charge of a new store in Anaheim, California.
An avid SSB DX-er, Ted amassed 315 confirmed countries. He and Meredith went on several expeditions, notably to the Solomon Islands, and "around the world" in 1977.
Amateur Radio underwent many changes in the 1980s as computer mania hit, cell phones proliferated and Asian manufacturers dumped large quantities of electronics on the market. Property values soared. Ted decided to build a large multi-purpose facility several blocks West, on Bundy Drive.
Ted and Merediths son, Ted, W6YEY, took charge of the Bundy store. The modern, chrome and glass facility featured a "high-end" audio and video department, the legendary counter and several desks where equipment could be evaluated.
The new mentality places little value on personalized service, knowledge and dependability. It postulates that the customer is seeking the "bottom line" and makes up for tight margins by becoming little more than a credit-card processor with a large advertising budget. The "bottom line" from the radio store couldnt approach the potential lease income of this valuable square footage.
If we dont buy mail order, " well soon be buying our radios at truck stops," says Rich, WU6T.
At 77, Ted Henry is a tall, vibrant, handsome figure. His mind is still full of ideas and his acumen at international diplomacy expedited the rebuilding of Kuwaits communication system. The Henry commercial and amateur lines will continue, but the long counter that reached from a young mans dream to touch the hearts and minds of so many ham radio operators is gone.
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