Thursday, May 23, 2019

Green Stamps & The 5 Tube Radio

Anyone remember what the S&H represented?
Today's post is a lot off-subject. I was thinking the other day there is a whole generation of kids that do not know about Green Stamps. Green Stamps were one of the first retail loyalty programs.

After my grandparents sold their general store my grandmother shopped at the local A&P "Supermarket" and just loved getting Green Stamps. I remember getting all gooey green sticking them into the 24 page Saver Books. She hoarded the stamp books, studied her "Idea Book" and could not wait to visit the Redemption Store.

At this time in my early teen years, I was all into electronics and loved assembling Heatkits. At 7 I built a crystal radio. My most ambitious effort was a 5 tube AM radio. One of the items I needed was a soldering gun and my grandmother did sacrifice a book or two for my project. I did get the radio to work and was so proud.   

One of the most interesting parts of this story is that I still have the soldering gun; not the radio. The soldering gun still works and the exact same item from 1963 is still available for sale today. Weller D550 Dual Heat Soldering Gun. The familiar chick-chick of the trigger and the smell of the rosin melting brings back a lot of memories.   

The story does get a little more interesting for all of the geek readers out there. Feel free to bail now if you want a lingerie or high heel chronicle. 

Using my trusty soldering gun, I dissembled the radio and in my high school drafting class drew (with ink) the radio's schematic, poster size. I then attached the components (tubes, resistors, capacitors, coils) front side next to the schematic symbol and wired everything from the back. Yes! It worked, again! And I won first prize in a state high school technical competition.

I am sure this was a big plus on getting into engineering school. During my interview with the Dean of the VCU Engineering School, it was discussed. One thing I do know for sure; it was not my SAT (College Board) scores that got me accepted. 

So thanks go to my grandmother for sharing her beloved Green Stamps. A geek career was born. 

Tommy 1965 -  A junior in high school with my working radio schematic 


Geek challenge: Anyone out there that remember the 5 vacuum tubes used in this radio? One was always burning out because they were wired in series.  


  1. Same Weller 100/140 watts soldering gun, bought with SSS blue stamps from A&P and still have it and works!
    50C5, the first one or 2 digits indicated the filament voltage, and I believe it was use as a rectifier!

    Same memory, same crazy story!


  2. Just finished reading Femulate and Stana, also a ex ham radio operator with a technician license and ex member of TAPR, built their TNC-1, and I think I may still have it around.
    I will give it away if someone wants it, I need to check the garage, just for the postage charges!


  3. Well, no, I guess I don't. I think there was a 50L? as the rectifier, and a 35??? as the output tube. Three 12??? tubes make the filament string 121 volts, and I feel like the rectifier was the usual dud.
    Thanks for the memories!!!

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  5. Great story, Rhonda. With that background, I'm surprised you didn't get your ham license!

  6. Yes, I do. I took Electronic Technician training at trade school my senior year of high school because I had exhausted the course offerings in my rural high school. That was 1972. I also took calculus and college physics that year at our local university. In technician training, the final exam the first semester was to draw the schematic and then find the parts from lab bins to build the five tube radio from memory. The five tubes that my radio had were 12BE6 converter, 12BA6 IF amp, 12AT6 detector and first audio amp, 50C5 audio power amp, and 35W4 rectifier. My brother swiped the radio after I went into the Army right after graduation. He was long gone by the time I returned from my Army years. I never saw the radio again. But I still remember the schematic and its tubes. The radio was good for listening to talk and news, etc., but it was lousy with music because audio frequency response from those amps and the cheap speaker was horrible. I eventually became an electrical engineer. I still design and build electronics and power circuitry.

    1. Abby - you win the award on the tube challenge... The 50C5 would be the first you would check when nothing would come on. It was at the end of the string and received the worst of the turn-on voltage surge.

  7. I remember the Weller gun! That Weller put out some serious heat. It did well for tube electronics but I had too clumsy a hand to work the big Weller with transistors. I now have a surface mount station to do my soldering.

  8. That was a wonderful trip down memory lane talking about going to the A & P and coming home to paste in the books. Thanks for the memories

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