Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

IconProjects, musings about guitar builds, guitar repairs, vintage tube amplifiers, old radios, travel, home renovation, and other stuff.

The Baynesville of Our Existence

Today we get caught up in the past. Or is that The Past?

In his not-so-far-ranging travels, Yr Fthfl Blggr (that would be me) found himself in the burg of Towson, Maryland, County Seat (do they still say that about County Seats?) of Baltimore County. In his youth, Yr Fthfl Blggr spent quite a few hours here. Remember Record and Tape Traders on York Road? Geez, long long LONG gone.

Reminds me of the John Lennon interview in 1964 on the BBC about A Hard Day's night:

Interviewer: "Now, in my younger days, they used to have actors in films. And the actors would all say their best bits were left on the cutting room floor. Did you find that?"

John: "No, it's all changed now."

And so it is with Towson. But it still has lots of 50s-60s 'stuff' and feel about it. For example, the Natty Boh sign in a bar. Two-fiddy? Cheez!

And my travels in the area made the light bulb go off in my head - in which I said to myself "Self! Choo are Not Too Far from Baynesville Electronics! Surely you must need some junk there!"

And so it was that I found myself heading east on East Joppa Road, toward the throwback that is, was, and always shall be Baynesville Electronics.

If this isn't the 1950s look, I don't know what is. If you look closely at the sign on the top of the store, even in my 300-pixel-wide image, it's clear the "Computer - " part was added later...much later...than the rest of the sign.

And lookit in the background of the main street sign. That's the "Bel-Loc Diner." Corner of East Joppa and Loch Raven Boulevard. That place has been there as long as I can remember. Not to date myself too closely, but it has been there at least 40 years.


Some things never change.

Baynesville (which is actually a place, it turns out...I always thought of it as Towson...) Electronics is pretty amazing if you think about it. There was a time in this country when people actually worked on their own electronics, even built them from scratch. That's what this place is all about. I'm amazed it's still in business.

Inside it's packed with rows and rows and rows of electronic stuff. Resistors, capacitors, potentiometers, tools, antennas, fuses, batteries, cleaners, cheap speakers...the list goes on.

As an aside, I've found their prices to be toward the high end - a capacitor that is a buck fiddy from Mouser is probably $3.50 here...but there is the convenience factor that plays into this.

Plus the nostalgia factor.

There are only two other electronics stores like this - aimed toward the consumer - in the Baltimore-Washington area I know of that have survived. One actually closed about 2 years ago - Electronics Plus, in Beltsville. The other is also in Beltsville - Mark Electronics. But their stuff is not should I put this? Not so semi-junky, so cheapy, so...1960s feeling.

Not that the stuff they sell in Baynesville is cheap. Most of it is good quality. It's the whole atmosphere I'm trying to convey - the florescent lighting, the endless metal shelves...the whole experience.

I work on old radios for a colleague. He goes to these estate sales and finds old electronic junk and I get to 'em. He mentioned to me a couple of years ago that he was "up at Baynesville Electronics..." I was surprised anyone knows about it!

There were a number of folks in the store when I was there - buying small odds and ends. And there were 5 or 6 staff people (!) and they asked if I needed help. These are the kinds of businesses that have been run into the ground in today's world.

And there are a bunch of reasons for it. First off, people don't do "hands on" so much as they used to. I grew up in the tail end of that generation. I love tube stuff, and I'm old enough to remember some of it still being made. With the introduction of transistors and circuit boards, and robotic manufacturing, consumer electronics became less and less serviceable by users. That's probably a part of point two, which is the average person knows far less about mechanics and electronics than in the past. Next time you're at a stop light, ask the driver of the Honda (Toyota, whatever Far East Wagon is there...) next to you the difference between an alternator or a generator, or even if their electrical system is AC or get my point.

Third factor is the internet - the surviving large electronics places (e.g. Mouser and others) can sell by mail order at lower prices than the locals.

Sad actually.

And this is why Radio Shack is suffering too. They were part of the electronics heyday, with Lafayette and others. Every town had their own locals too. But now the parts Radio Shack sells are mostly trash...and they don't know what to do with their business model. Nobody buys parts, and they're trying to sell cheap TV and cell phones. Sooner or later they'll go belly-up too.

But let's not be sad, let's look at the cool stuff here, yes? Bwhahahahahahaha.

For example, all dem cool radios. I see two cathedrals - a Philco 90 (I think) and a Philco 20 (both early 1930s). And who is that dude on the shelf? Charlie McCarthy! Look behind him and you'll see an Atwater-Kent breadboard (1920s) with it's tubes - those 01A tubes are worth big bucks themselves.

And a couple of TRF sets and a horn speaker. Very cool, all in good original shape...and all choice items. None of that "antique" trash you see in those chain restaurants.

Here's what I came to snag. Some heat shrink tubing. I go through this stuff like crazy when I'm working on old radios and amps so I like to stock up when I'm in the area. I always wonder what you'd use the big tubing for - wiring looms? I have no idea.

Here's a test: go into your nearest Radio Shack and tell 'em you need shrink tubing. Go ahead. Try it.


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