Skip to main content

Thrilling Find: Vintage radio and remembrance

In this tale of a Nostalgic Treasure, Neil Gallensky shares how collecting vintage radio communication devices opened a door to a unique connection with his father.

By Neil Gallensky

Feelings of nostalgia often come from deeply personal experiences. Moments where people, places, and events of bygone times come together in unexpected and amazing ways. I’d like to share such a personal nostalgic experience.

Scouting Radios at Ham Radio Swaps

Neil Gallensky's dad with a wireless radio

Storyteller Neil Gallensky's father. He poses with the radio Neil acquired. A radio that reminded him of a photo from his dad's military service.

As a collector of old radios, I frequently scour flea markets, antique shops and other venues. Always looking for additions to my collection. Recently at a ham radio swap meet, I spotted something sitting on a table that fascinated me: a boxy and primitive looking military walkie talkie. It was an early model, from the World War II time frame. Given that wireless personal communication was a “leading edge” technology over 70 years ago, I decided to purchase. In turn, I'd learn more about this unusual artifact.

There’s another reason behind my interest in this old radio. My father is a veteran of World War II, having served as a radio operator in the Army Air Corps in the South Pacific. His wartime tour carried him to many pivotal locations including the islands of Saipan and Iwo Jima. Now over 90 years old, my dad retains vivid memories of his time in the military. He was fortunate not to have served on the front lines. Yet, he still experienced some terrifying moments as a young man. This includes being bombed by enemy aircraft under a full moon.

Wartime Photo Inspires

When I was growing up, my dad never went out of his way to talk about wartime events. Yet, he was

Neil Gallensky's dad early years with hand-held radio

Neil Gallensky's dad during his military service holding a hand-held radio.

always happy to show me his uniform, his medals and his personal photos from the war. One of the photos that I recall first seeing as a child was of my dad in uniform carrying an early military walkie talkie.

I hadn’t seen the photo of my father with the radio in years, however I had a strong feeling that the radio in the faded black and white photo was the same model as my recent acquisition from the ham radio swap meet. I promised myself that I’d bring along my radio on an upcoming visit to my parents’ home in Wyoming to confirm my suspicion.

When I arrived at my parents’ home, I asked my dad to see his wartime photo album. He was a bit surprised by my query, and located the album for me. Leafing through the photos of aircraft, ships and young soldiers with high expectations, I found the photo of my father using the big and bulky walkie talkie. I quickly confirmed that my recently acquired radio was the same model as the one my dad had used over 70 years earlier. How amazing!

Radio Prompts Reflection

It did not require much arm-twisting to convince my dad to pose in his backyard for a new photo with my vintage walkie talkie. I asked him to look serious and tough, as if he were on a mission during the war. As you can see in my photo, he more than fulfilled my expectations.

Finding this historic treasure was a thrill for me, as it connected with my fascination for artifacts of technology, my interest in our nation’s history, and a direct linkage to my family’s heritage. And for a split second I’m pretty sure I saw a twinkle in my father’s eye from an adventure that he had experienced more than 70 years ago.