By James D. Cain, K1TN
ARRL Senior Editor
Photos by the author
From QST, August 1994
Bob lives a couple of miles past the exclusive private Pomfret School; Robert F. Kennedy went there. Bob designed his own house and participated in much of its construction (in 1978). It incorporates a number of passive solar techniques as well as other energy-efficiency features that were fairly novel for its day. In the center of the house is a massive brick chimney with a homebrew woodburning furnace and fan-forced air. Cool (er, WARM).
There are old radios everywhere, especially in the living room, on the brick settee around the chimney, and in the sun room, where a botanical garden of plants wrap themselves around consoles and "cathedrals."
An upright piano is topped with four more cathedrals, and a shelf on the stairway holds several of Bob's prizes, including TRF (tuned radios frequency) sets from the 1920s, and horn speakers.
Although I faithfully read the bulletin of the Antique Wireless Association, I am no expert on old radios like these. I recognize the oldest ones--long and low with black panels, three or four knobs on the front, some with lift-lids. I know they are the oldest but don't know if they are the most valuable.
Several console models remind me of the first shortwave set I ever heard, in the attic of a friend's house in the late 1950s. I swear one of Eslinger's is a duplicate. The bands were filled with Soviet jammers in those days, and my friend and I thought they were buzz saws.
"When I was a boy I thought they were airplanes," Bob Eslinger says.
Bob offers to get out some books so I can identify that old console that I cut my shortwave teeth on, but I am sorely afraid. Afraid I might want one.
We get coffee in the kitchen. "Let me show you my squirrel zapper," Bob says.
He picks up what appears to be a control for a garage door opener and points to a home-brew bird feeder out back. "See the metal plate around the bottom? It's electrified. If I see a squirrel helping himself at the feeder I just hit the remote control and zap him. It doesn't hurt the little bugger, but you should see him scramble."
Bob Eslinger is 46. He grew up on Long Island and tells the story of visiting his grandparents in rural Connecticut (not far from Pomfret Center). "The Channel 3 TV picture from Hartford was so snowy we gave up and turned on an ancient console radio," Bob remembers from the distant past. "I've never been the same since."
He eventually got a shortwave receiver--a Hallicrafters S-38C--from his uncle and soon became known as a sort of Young Mr. Fix-It around the neighborhood, scouring it with his wagon for anything to fix up.
In 1966 Bob migrated to Peoria, Illinois, for a pre-engineering program at Bradley University. "I wanted to get away from home." But Bradley was pretty expensive and engineering was the wrong field.
"I wanted to be an inventor, not a drone carrying out someone else's commands," he
The workshop. A 1930s Philco is on the bench.
"Indian troubles" delayed the settling of Pomfret (of which "Pomfret Center" is just a postal address). Captain James Fitch bought 15,100 acres from them in 1686, but it was 25 years before the first settlers came to stay. A saw mill, a grist mill, then roads and bridges followed over the next four decades. A post office was established in 1795.
By the end of the 18th century industry was more evident in Pomfret than it is now, according to town historian Mary Page. Today, the area is countryside with widely scattered houses and little business of any kind.
Around 1800 or so, Pomfret developed a reputation as a summer resort, attracting the well-heeled from Boston, Providence, and Newport.
Pomfret has been home to several well known schools; two of them, the exclusive Pomfret School and the Rectory School, continue to operate and to attract boarding students from around the country.
Gary School Road, home to Antique Radio Restoration and Repair, was named for early settlers to the area who later moved west and were involved in the founding of Gary, Indiana.
The graveyard: upstairs in the outbuilding (getting this photo was definitely hazardous duty!)