"It was one of those unseasonably warm days that March often borrows from May and then pays back with a chilly day of its own during the latter month. Jerry Bishop was a victim of this nice weather. Instead of lolling comfortably on the leather-covered couch in his basement laboratory while his nimble mind toyed with some fascinating electronic problem, he found himself ......" Remember the Carl and Jerry stories from Popular Electronics in the 50s and 60s?
How about this one? "Outside, it was a stormy March morning. The howling wind, laced with driving snowflakes, shook and rattled the heavy Radio and TV Service sign over the door of Mac's Service Shop. Inside, things were a little stormy, too, at least with Barney, the red-headed Number Two man of the service establishment. He stood a couple feet away from the bench and ......." I knew you'd remember Mac's Service Shop, a continual series that ran first in "Radio & Television News" followed by its replacement "Electronics World" and then finishing in the early 1970s in issues of "Popular Electronics."
My brother and his family had come to my parents' home and after Sunday dinner, he introduced me to the writings of John T. Frye by giving me the March 1955 issue of Popular Electronics. Although I don't have that very same magazine that I read that day in 1957, I do have the replacement issue in my collection that reminds me of that time 46 years ago. The first quote above came from that issue of Popular Electronics.
I have re-read every issue I have numerous times. In the same way that we appreciate things of yesterday more now than when they occurred, I have read the different episodes of Carl and Jerry just like it was when I was 11 years old. I never cease to enjoy the different plots as they unfold even though I can almost recite many of them word-for-word.
My collection of all of Mr. Frye's writings is far from complete, and it may be some time before I have them all. I find it to be a work in progress, and I'm enjoying every moment that I spend with Carl and Jerry and Mac and Barney. One of the problems I have at this point, is knowing for sure when he started writing in Radio and TV Magazine and when the very last issue of Popular Electronics came out that featured Mac's Service Shop
As previously mentioned, the Carl and Jerry series was not the only series he wrote. In Radio and TV Magazine and later Electronics World, Frye wrote from a service view point in Mac's Service Shop. The characters involved were Mac, along with his helper, Barney and Matilda (sometimes identified as Miss Perkins), the office girl. The topic chosen for each month gave the reader the feeling that you were right there in the back shop of the radio and television store working on an intricate problem. Not only did you feel you were there, but you received a step-by-step tutoring of the actual problem along with the remedy.
Take the May 1956 issue of Radio and TV News for an example. Mac and Barney are discussing the questionable work being done on a radio that is in for an insurance claim due to being hit by lightning. The pros and cons as to replacing a whole unit or repairing the unit with the needed parts is part of the story. Then Mac continues to explain his premise on doing the best possible work with the dollars and cents consideration to both the customer and the insurance company. With the integrated boards we have today, the decision of unit or parts repairing or replacement of unit Frye had his characters making would certainly be different in 2004. However, the integrity of truthful work never becomes obsolete and Frye's writing is as relevant today as it was in 1956. To me, that relevance makes or breaks a story. If it was only true then, well, nice story. If it's true today just like the period from which it was written, then I can learn a valuable lesson. Mark down one very good reason why John T. Frye's work is so worthy.
He did not limit himself to magazine serial stories, however. He was the author of several books as well. One, which I have, is Basic Radio Course published by Hugo Gernsback in 1951. The first printing of this book was July 1951 followed by a second printing in September 1952. Later, it was revised and enlarged into the New Basic Radio Course in 1977.
He also wrote Radio Receiver Servicing. I don't have this book yet, but I sure hope to at some point. I've seen them on eBay and Bookfinder.com from dealers worldwide, including England and Switzerland. The readership base for his writings was and is widespread.