Elmer G. Osterhoudt
and
The Modern Radio Laboratories Catalog 

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MORE COILS

 
 
 
Small loading coils. No. 28 on the left, No. 29 on the right.
 

 
 
MRL Telefunken Coil.
 
Elmer related how in 1924 a radio wholesaler named C. D. Tanner came into Elmer's store and sold ELMER a radio.  Elmer bought it because it was very selective. No sooner was Tanner out of sight then the bottom of the radio was off and the circuit checked. It was a Telefunken circuit. Detail Print #58 shows the MRL No. 4 Telefunken crystal set.
 
 
 
Another work of art, and nicely preserved. How long did this take to make? It cost two dollars in 1986, which is the same price for which he sold the much simpler QRM coil shown on Page 1.

$2 in 1986 is $4.50 in 2018. Elmer would have to make and sell six of these AN HOUR at $4.50 each to make an "average income" in 2018. That's 240 coils a week! It's no wonder he never stopped working.
 

EPILOGUE

 
Mabel's and Elmer's handwriting.
Prices kept changing. 50 was owed on the left, then $2.01 on the top-right. At the bottom right there is a credit.
 

Mabel Osterhoudt died of an enlarged heart on July 27, 1983. She is buried in Westminster Cemetery near Garden Grove, California under a blue granite marker with an MRL emblem on it. Her heart condition may explain all the one story houses they lived in.

In January 1984, Elmer was at a senior citizen's dance where he met a woman named Lois. Elmer and Lois were soon together and Lois took over some of Mabel's role at MRL.

How much energy can one guy possibly have? Five months after his wife died, at 84 years old and still working at MRL, he was at a DANCE. And he hooks up!

On December 30, 1986 Elmer wrote that he had had shingles on his left arm since December 12, so his health may have been beginning to fail. I ordered a cord for a headset, and in typical MRL fashion, Elmer wrote back that the cords now cost twice as much, so he makes his own. "Will last forever - we hope." He charged $3.75. Thirty-two  years later the cord still looks new. (It hasn't been used much.)

 
MRL-made headset cord, assembled by Elmer in December of 1986.
 

 
Tragedy struck on June 1, 1987. Elmer G. Osterhoudt died of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
He had maintained Modern Radio Laboratories for 55 years.
 

 
Below is a list of addresses for MRL. It is not complete.
Notice the years 1953 to 1965 overlap with 1954 to 1956. Perhaps he had two properties.
I'll try to refine this as time goes on.
 
YEAR ADDRESS SOURCE
1932 23rd Avenue, Oakland, CA "How to Make Coils" Handbook HB-6
1936-38 151 Liberty, San Francisco, CA Popular Mechanics, Radio World, Radio Craft
1938-39 7700-T E. 14th, Oakland, CA Popular Mechanics
1940-43 1406 77 Ave, Oakland, CA (Same as above) 1940 California census, Radio News
1944 363-C Hampton, Hayward, CA Popular Mechanics, Radio Craft
1947-48 Eye-C San Carlos, CA Popular Mechanics
1948-49 Eye-H San Carlos, CA Radio News
1950 578-H San Carlos, CA Radio News
1953-65 1131-L Valota Road, Redwood, CA RADIO magazine, Popular Mechanics, Popular Electronics
1954-56 328-L Fuller, Redwood City, CA RADIO magazine, Popular Mechanics
1966 993-L, Redwood City, CA RADIO magazine
1966-70 12041 Sheridan Lane, Garden Grove, CA RADIO magazine
1970-71 2612-L Butano Drive, Sacramento, CA RADIO magazine
1971-72 745-L Cordone, Reno, NV RADIO magazine, MRL Catalog
1972-74 10322 Ballard Drive, Garden Grove, CA Elementary Electronics
1978 - 87 P.O. Box 1477, Garden Grove, CA The Horn Speaker magazine, MRL Catalog
     
 
In 1924 Elmer's first radio store, The Manchester Radio Electric Shop, was located at 1909 East Nadeau Street in Los Angeles, California. He began the business with a $640 loan from his father, who was a carpenter. Elmer's father built the shop and Elmer worked there with his brother. A motel now occupies the site.
 

 
In February of 1986, the advertisement above was placed by MIDCO in the "Wanted" section of a magazine named "The Horn Speaker."
 
Elmer placed an add in the same issue of the magazine.
 
In the September 1987 issue this message was printed in the "Wanted" section. It says that MIDCO was founded through Elmer's encouragement and you can write to Mel Osterhoudt for more details. I wrote to Mel. Unfortunately it was 31 years later. The unopened letter was returned with "NOT AT THIS ADDRESS" written on it.

(Note: an email from Paul Nelson informed me that his friend, Mel Osterhoudt, died in the early 1990s.)
 
These MIDCO ads appeared in Hands On Electronics from July 1986 till December 1988.
 

The August 1987 issue of Monitoring Times, page 19, states the Osterhoudt family was considering selling MRL to a qualified individual. In the early 1990s MRL reappeared under the direction of Paul Nelson. All trademarks and copyrights now belong to him.
 
This advertisement appeared in "The Horn Speaker" in 1998.
The MRL website appeared soon afterward.
 
From an article in "Radio Age" by Dick Mackiewicz: "Elmer was involved in a severe automobile accident in 1986 and never recovered. Paul visited Elmer during his convalescence and expressed interest in carrying on Elmer's business. Elmer and his family liked Paul a great deal, and when Elmer passed away in 1987, Paul bought Elmer's business and moved it to it's present location in Minnesota."
 

Now if we could only figure out who that other Elmer kid was, the one who showed up at the Osterhoudt place in 1915 (Page 1) and helped get the radio working and this whole thing started, hoopie-hellie, that would really be something.
 

 


Almost all of the personal information presented here about Elmer G. Osterhoudt came from Elmer Osterhoudt himself...
... except this: Ready?


Wait for it...


                                                               His middle name was Guy!
 

Additional information for anyone who wants to do a genealogy search:
 
Elmer G. Osterhoudt - Born  October 6, 1899. Died June 1, 1987
Mabel Elizabeth Smith - Born August 26, 1900. Died July 27, 1983
             
  Elmer's siblings: Born - Died  
       
  Cyril Wilbert 1901 - 1952  
  Wilda Francis 1915 - 1973  
  Charles F. 1916 - 2005  
  Nora E. 1918 - 1922  
  Dorothy Evelyn 1921 - 2013  
  Ada May 1923 - 1925  
  Melvin Arthur 1925 - 1992  

 
Information from the 1940 Census
Note: Click on the link above, select ED 61-256 and go to page 27. Does not work in Firefox.
 
Address 1406 77th Avenue, San Francisco, California
Value of home or rental property $9000*
Home Owned or Rented Owned
Name of each person in residence as of April 1,1940 Osterhoudt Elmer G.    Head of Household
Osterhoudt Mabel E.   Wife
Place of Birth Elmer - Oregon
Mabel - Missouri
Age Elmer - 40
Mabel - 39
Highest Grade of School Completed Elmer - H4, Code 30 (12th grade)
Mabel - H4, Code 30 (12th grade)
Industry Elmer - Radio Store
Mabel - Railroad**
Occupation Elmer - Proprietor
Mabel - Clerk
Class of worker Elmer - OA (Working on Own Account)
Mabel - PW (Salary worker in Private Work)
Number of hours worked per week Elmer - 54
Mabel - 40
Number of Weeks Worked Elmer - 52
Mabel - 52
Amount of Money, Wages or Salary Received Elmer - $0
Mabel - $2100***
Income From Sources Other Than Money, Wages or Salary Elmer - Yes
Mabel - No
 
* When the Osterhoudts purchased this location in 1938, the average cost of a house in California was $3,527. They
   must have owned the whole building. (See picture on the bottom of page 4.)

**
There is nothing written by Elmer that references Mabel ever working for a railroad.

*** Only one other person on the census page made this much money; he was a chemist in a paint factory.
 

I would like to extend a sincere "thank you" to Don Knotts of Hillsboro, Oregon for sending me the unassembled kits, coils and documents that were passed down to him by his father. 

Thanks also to tack, Peter Bertini, Number 6, mrx, wazz, Bugman, and radiohenry of the Antique Radio Forum.
 
Another thanks to Gary B. Schneider who somehow, some way, still has MRL coils available on his website.
 
Oh yeah, thanks to Scott of "Scotts Crystal Radios," who doesn't know I stole his picture of the MRL No. 2
Crystal Set. He's where you get your headphones for your crystal radios. His website is here.

Thank you also to our Australian friend Graeme Zimmer, who provided the list of MRL publications shown on Page 6 and the photos of the MRL Carborundum crystal.

Thanks also to AmericanRadioHistory.com.

Thanks to Paul Nelson for keeping MRL alive into the 21st Century.
 

 
 

 
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June 14, 2018