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Pa. teens restore vintage radios

February 27, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Two Pennsylvania teenagers are in tune with a hobby that would have their grandparents humming along.

For the past year, James Patullo, 15, of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., and Mike Weddle, 17, of Waynesboro, have been collecting and restoring radios dating back to the 1920s.

Between the two of them, they've collected nearly 120 radios from auctions, antique shops, flea markets and through donations.

Their most prized possession is a dark wood, floor model 1929 Atwater Kent radio that still hums to life at the flip of a switch.

"It's not a popular brand but they were made very well," Weddle said. "You could say it's the Rolls Royce of radios."

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There is a certain order to the bedroom in Weddle's home that is filled with radios, antique clocks and other collectibles.

Patullo and Weddle know each piece intimately, from its make, model and date to what it's worth and how much time they've put into it.

"We didn't know there were so many different kinds," Patullo said as he paged through a thick collector's guide.

The two get nervous when a lot of people are in the room and cringe if one of their prized possessions is bumped even slightly. They never stack one radio on top of another.

Friends since childhood, Patullo and Weddle have long had a penchant for collecting. Patullo was into baseball cards and coins. Weddle learned an appreciation for antiques at an early age from his grandfather.

When they uncovered an old radio in the back of Beck and Benedict's Hardware store in Waynesboro, it was love at first sight.

"I remember thinking, man, I love how that looks," Weddle said.

The two are regulars at Kenny's Auction in Chambersburg, Pa.

They save their allowances and make money by doing odd jobs to pay for their hobby.

They've received radios in all kinds of condition, mostly banged up, dusty and broken after years of neglect in a garage or attic.

Once in the possession of Patullo and Weddle, the radios go through a transformation.

The two dismantle the units, clean the interior and exterior, repair cracks or other disfigurements, put in new speaker cloth if needed and replace the glass circuit tubes from a ready supply stacked in the closet.

Most radios in their collection work.

"It's exciting to watch these guys," said Larry Patullo, James' father. "They get it all cleaned up and then they get ready to plug it in to see if it comes to life. That's the thrill of their pursuit."

The teenagers are partial to radios that have tubes, those dating from the 1920s up to the early 1960s.

Patullo and Weddle have no immediate plans to sell the radios. They dream of one day fixing up an old building and turning it into a museum to display their handiwork.

"The value doesn't matter," Weddle said. "We don't like them any more because of what they're worth."

"When we started to collect them we didn't know their worth," Patullo said. "We just liked the looks of them."

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