Well, it’s funny how you come across things you never would have known about otherwise. While preparing to hit the streets for a tin can fundraiser for Vancouver Rape Relief early this year, I was thumbing through the only available reading material – an issue of Senior Living magazine. And what should I come across but an article on an old-time radio museum, run by a group called SPARC – the Society for the Preservation of Antique Radio in Canada. A massive collection of antique radios, phonographs, and radio-related paraphernalia from the last 100 years, maintained by a group of enthusiasts, many of them of an age to have used the exhibits when they were new!
This sounded like my kind of place.
It took a while, but finally, over the Labour Day weekend, I made my pilgrimage to this temple of vintage technology. And what a wonderful place it was!
The moment I stepped in the door, I was welcomed by John Wicks and Jack Watson, two genial fellows who had been shooting the breeze and waiting to greet visitors. In an instant, we fell into a conversation about the history of radio, with John enthusiastically sharing his knowledge and answering my questions. Soon we checked in with his elder-statesman colleague Jack Watson, who provided a few answers based on his direct recollection!
The museum is amazing – I spent an hour and a half strolling around the place and getting the grand tour, and there was still much more I could have seen. It’s truly sprawling, and has some unique features, like a simulation of a WW1 foxhole stuffed with vintage wartime radio equipment, and a recreation of the radio room of the Carpathia, the ship that rescued passengers from the Titanic, full of nautical radio equipment and Titanic memorabilia. (It was a gift from a movie production company.)
All in all, it was sheer heaven for a fan of all things vintage like me. And it’s well worth a visit if you share an interest in the history of broadcasting and in the charming and quirky equipment that has brought us our entertainment over the last 100 years. It was all high-tech at one time!
The SPARC museum is located on the Riverview Hospital grounds and is open Sundays from 10 to 3. Visit the SPARC Antique Radio Website for more details.