We failed to buy this hi-fi. Was that a terrible mistake?

The hi-fi we failed to buy

This restored 1970s Electrohome hi-fi, complete with totally unnecessary wooden cabinet, was practically the first thing I clapped eyes on during my latest excursion to an antique warehouse. We didn’t by it. Should we have?

Remember how yesterday I directed you (thanks to having been steered that way myself by reader Bob McKeown) to a Facebook group about growing up in Peterborough, Ont., in the 1970s (and, less importantly in my view, the 1980s)? Well, if you’ve forgotten, or didn’t see that post, it’s here. And if you check it out, or remember from when you did, you’ll know that one of the cool photos I found on the Facebook feed was of a vintage hi-fi set. You know – the kind with the tinny electronic apparatus built into a great big (and utterly unnecessary, as we learned in the later 1970s when we freed ourselves from such units) wooden cabinet that housed the large but tinny speakers. Every household had one, once upon a time.

Including, of course, the Manse! I wrote here (with a trace of nostalgia) about the Sedgwick family’s midcentury stereo, which as it happens was purchased from Pigden Electronics of downtown Madoc.

Well. Just think what Raymond and I came across for sale not long ago! Yes, you guessed it: it’s the hi-fi unit that you see in the photo at the top of this post. It was practically the first thing I found on our latest foray (we tend to get there at least once a year) to the wonderful Stratford Antique Warehouse in Stratford, Ont. My jaw dropped, not only with happy recognition but also at the price: a mere $150 for the unit in full working condition!

Hi-fi interior

Does that bring back memories or what?

Still: did we need it? Of course not. Would it be incredibly awkward, maybe impossible, to get home in our little Toyota? Indeed. We decided to take a pass. We left the store.

And went for lunch. And got talking about it. And then got talking some more. With the result that after lunch, we headed back to the Stratford Antique Warehouse.

Hi-fi label

A Deilcraft cabinet for the Electrohome stereo – I am 99.9% certain that that’s the same make as the hi-fi my family had at the Manse back in my childhood. Gulp.

You know, we got as far as measuring the hi-fi, and calculating ways to get it into, or on top of, the car. Raymond was even in the process of sorting through his impressive collection of bungee cords. But in the end, something stopped us.

It wasn’t the transportation problem. It wasn’t the price. (Lord knows $150 seems pretty reasonable for a piece like that.) It was the fact that something seemed a little bit off with the metal cylinder over which you place the hole in the record. Remember how those cylinders were maybe four or five inches high, and you could stack a whole pile of record on them, and they’d drop and play one at a time? That was how you did party music in those days – the 1960s/’70s equivalent of the iPod playlist. Man, I hadn’t thought of that in years and years!

But now that I had, I wanted the ability to re-create that vintage entertainment setup in my own home (which would be the Manse). And on this hi-fi, the cylinder was just a little thing that barely poked up above the turntable. No loading up of multiple records on that baby.

And that’s all it took. We came to our senses, and once again left the store without the hifi.

Am I sorry?

Yeah, a little bit. But I did take the card of the chap who was selling it… So stay tuned.

6 thoughts on “We failed to buy this hi-fi. Was that a terrible mistake?

  1. Katherine, we WON one of those babies at the annual Firemen’s Street Dance in Ridgeway, Ontario, when I was about 11. My parents, who claimed they never won anything, ever, were just beside themselves about this windfall. By the next year, when I was completely smitten with Herman’s Hermits and played ‘Mrs Brown, you’ve got a lovely daughter’ over and over and over again (along with I’m ‘enery the 8th, I am!), I’m sure my dad must have wished he’d never set eyes on the $%*&$(* thing.

    • What a great story, Brenda! And now here’s the $64,000 question: Where is that hi-fi now? And if not chez vous, do you wish you still had it, to play your Herman’s Hermits records on it once again? Come on, be truthful…

  2. Hi Katherine, if you’re going to be in the Stratford area again, of course, drop in at the antiques shop and see the stereo again. Maybe the dealer will give a thorough demo, and you can check out that spindle issue then. And if something is wrong with it, there are likely online services that have the spindle in stock.

    Weren’t they something to behold in the day, though? Any time I saw one, I thought they were so terrific. My grandparents had a similar one, only it was an RCA stereo Hi-Fi with TV, like the one here:

    1964 Ad, RCA Victor Color Television Hi-Fi Stereo Console

    And do you remember at Pigden’s, they had an Electrohome stereo chair? It had high sides and the speakers were built in those upper parts, as shown here:

    I’m pretty sure Pigden’s also had the round stereo in the photo, as well as a spaceship-looking acrylic stereo system that I liked very much.

    Please keep us posted. I think I can pretty much tell that you’ll soon be enjoying that stereo system in the Manse!

    • Oh Sash, you know me so well! I love the photo of your grandparents’ stereo, especially the fact that the inimitable Sammy Davis Jr. is one of the stars being used to sell it in the ad. Now as for the stereo chair at Pigden’s, I have two things to say: One, is there anything about midcentury Madoc that you don’t remember? You are amazing! And two: I think maybe I remember that chair, but it’s a memory just a little too distant and faded for me to be able to conjure up a picture of my own. And so I thank you for that second picture you sent along. As for the spaceship-looking acrylic system: I totally remember that! And I coveted it too. I’ve seen those things a couple of times in antique places, and have been sorely tempted…

      • Well, I thought that was Sammy Davis, Jr. in the ad, but I wasn’t sure. And isn’t that Dionne Warwick with him?

        Oh, that stereo chair looked so futuristic. I remember it well. Pigden’s had it near the window, near the north wall of the store. And did you notice the groovy dress and rings on the mod model in the ad?

        I recall seeing the spaceship smoked acrylic stereo system in a vintage shop in Kensington Market a few years ago. It was scuffed up and it probably didn’t work too well, and they were charging far too much for it. But there was it, a time warp from 1967.

        Now, when do you think you’ll be going to Stratford to get your deluxe Hi-Fi? Who cares about tinny speakers? Lesley Gore will sound just fine!

      • Oh yes – groovy dress etc. totally taken note of by yours truly. Awesome ad! But now that you mention it (and now that I’ve zoomed in on the other ad) I’m not sure that is Sammy David Jr. (or Dionne Warwick) – maybe lookalikes for advertising purposes. But as for the future: Raymond and I are back in Stratford in late August to see Antony and Cleopatra; perhaps that hi-fi will make its way back to the Manse with us then!

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