Remembering Earl Horton

Those of us who have lived in Chester 60 or more years will remember Earl Horton. Earl ran a radio repair shop in his house located across the street from Lisia’s Market.

I went to Earl’s once with my father to have a radio repaired. Entering his shop all you could see were cabinet radios all around the shop. These radios were packed in so tight that there were only narrow paths throughout the shop.

Earl Horton
Earl Horton’s Yosemite uniform. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society.

Around the shop on shelves were dozens of tabletop radios and radio repair equipment, tube testers, and such. Earl was known for taking in radios to repair but was very slow repairing them. The best approach was to stand there in his shop and wait for Earl to repair your radio.

In the late 1920s, there was a small group of men in Springfield and Chester who were pioneers in developing a radio station in Springfield. Earl Horton and Don Monier were involved in this venture.

By 1932 a studio was established in the Woolson Block in Springfield. The transmitter was on Mt. Ararat on Cherry Hill. Earl Horton was instrumental in developing this station. The station’s call letters were WNBX. Today, this station is in Keene as WKNE.

In the 1930s, few automobiles came with a radio. Earl was the man to go to if you wanted a radio installed in your car. Earl had a natural gift with the new technology, radio. I remember Earl being the projectionist at the Park Theater when I was a kid. The Park Theater was located up over the Moon Dog Café.

Some may recall Earl was Chief of the Yosemite Firehouse. A number of years ago George Bittner had for sale on EBay a fireman’s uniform belonging to Earl Horton. I called George telling him we’d like the uniform for our museum. George liked the idea and told me to bid on it. Whatever the final bid was, George would sell it to us for half the final price. Thanks, George.

At the Chester Historical Society we have a nice collection of firefighting items from Yosemite and the Chester Fire Department near the footbridge. We couldn’t let Horton’s uniform get away.

The blue dress uniform is in excellent condition and complete with the visor cap. Over the left pocket is Earl’s fire badge. This badge reads: “Asst Chief, Chester Depot Fire Dept.” Earl was also chief for many years. Assistant chief might date to earlier in Earl’s career or perhaps he later stepped down as chief to make room for new blood.

Ted Spaulding told me that Yosemite had a 1939 International Sea Land firetruck they bought new. It was in the early 1950s that this firetruck was repowered with a larger GMC motor. The 1931 American LaFrance firetruck at Yosemite today was bought used.

 

Earl Horton
Earl Horton’s Assistant Chief badge. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society.

At the historical society we have an interesting and early Yosemite ledger. A few notable entries below:

  “June 26, 1886, The engine (Hunneman Hand Pumper) was taken out for practice in front of Town Hall. Water was thrown over the eagle weathervane on top of Town Hall.”

  “June 5, 1888 Central Hotel (now the Fullerton) and Pierce’s Drug Store were destroyed by fire. No doubt Yosemite fought bravely and saved adjoining buildings.”

  “August 25, 1891 Voted to come out in uniform Thursday August 27, 1891 at 6:00PM in honor of President Harrison who is to stop a few minutes in the Depot.”

  “Sept 27, 1915 4:00AM basement of Town Hall was ablaze from piles of wood, boxes etc. Had a hard fight to save the Hall. Burned up through the Post Office, Town Office, restaurant and also around the stairs, got to upper hall in one place where seat was built in, cellar timbers badly charred, estimated loss $2000.”

These old ledgers offer a rare glimpse of days gone by and are an excellent historical record.

Ted Spaulding’s father, Ed, and Earl’s wife, Ethel, were brother and sister, or Ted’s aunt and uncle. The generosity Ted has shown the Chester Historical Society in gifting Chester artifacts for our collections is greatly appreciated and will be a source of many future articles.

Sources for this article include Ted Spaulding, Bunni Putnam, and Danny Clemons.

  This weeks old saying is from a woman Ted once knew. “My house is being reconciled with a new condition, indecent lighting and a head.” Another time someone had died. She said, “He died of spontaneous combustion.”

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