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Football And Vacuum Tubes

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Good Saturday morning, Uni Watchers. I hope everyone has had a good week!

I’m joined once again today by the great Timothy Brown, of “Football Archaeology,” who has been previously featured on Uni Watch before, with articles Honoring Letter Sweaters and Jackets, How Football’s Zebras Got Their Stripes, and The Art of Football Officials Signals. Tim has also contributed a few additional pieces for Uni Watch. He returns today with another UW exclusive!

I mentioned before I’m a subscriber to Tim’s Substack, and many of the articles he’s penned are right up Uni Watch’s alley. If you don’t subscribe to his daily posts, I recommend his work highly. He’s definitely one of the best follows if your interests lie in the (mostly) early years of football — often focusing on equipment and uniforms.

Here’s Tim with today’s article — which is definitely in the UW wheelhouse. Enjoy!

• • • • •
Football and Vacuum Tubes
by Timothy P. Brown

Over the last year or two, I’ve acquired a variety of composite football schedules from the 1920s and beyond. The brochures typically provide summary information and list the season schedules for all the NFL, NCAA, or a particular conference’s teams for that season. Retailers selling gasoline, auto parts, alcohol, or other products stereotypically purchased by the man of the house gave away the schedules, hoping customers found them handy and would buy more products. The connection between the product and football was often tenuous, though the connection between football and alcohol consumption was tighter than most.

Unlike products only tangentially tied to football, a recently-acquired eight-page foldout brochure promoted a product directly linked to watching football on television: replacement vacuum tubes. Those under a certain age may not be familiar with vacuum tubes, but there was a time when television screens were neither flat nor as large as they are today. They also stopped functioning more often because one of the 15 or so vacuum tubes burned out, just like the incandescent bulbs that once lit your house. The tubes performed a function now handled by transistors, and when one burned out, the TV either stopped working entirely or had substantially hampered sound or display. Thankfully, most adults could fix the problem by replacing the burned-out tube, though the process brought frustrations similar to fixing network or computer glitches today.

Having a TV that worked on demand was more important to college football fans back then because their favorite team appeared on TV only once or twice per season, if they appeared at all. Imagine the horror of turning on your television at kickoff time, intending to watch your favorite team, only to find it not working correctly. That was a true tragedy.

Since televisions of the day could not diagnose themselves, you could not be sure whether the fix required a call to the TV repairman or the simple replacement of a bulb, identified by following the diagnostic steps shown on the inside pages of the brochure. Since specific symptoms were typically associated with the failure of particular bulbs, you could often isolate the problem to one or more bulbs. The next step was to remove the offending bulbs and take them to a nearby hardware or drug store for testing, where you could find the testing machine in the back recesses of the store.

Testing for an offending bulb involved plugging the bulb into the corresponding slot in the machine (see the columns of black slots below), allowing the bulb to warm up, and pressing a button to determine whether the bulb functioned properly. Ideally, one of the bulbs proved dysfunctional, allowing you to purchase a replacement. Then, after returning home and plugging the bulbs back into the set, everything worked properly so that you could enjoy the second half of the game with a nice cold beverage in hand.

• • • • •
Thanks, Timothy! Another really fun piece and thanks for sharing this exclusively with Uni Watch!

I’m *barely* old enough to remember my parents’ first TV — or rather, the TV they owned when I was but a wee lad — and it was a Zenith, and it definitely had tubes. I also have some very faint memories of my pop taking me to the hardware store and fiddling around with a similar machine to the one shown above (it all makes sense now!). While my dad was far from what we now call an early adopter, it wasn’t too long before he splurged for a new Sony Trinitron 19″ color TV that lasted from my childhood long through my college years. But this article definitely brought back memories of some of my earliest TV (and Uni) watching!



Colo(u)rize This Returns (with George Chilvers)!

Long time readers know that for years I’ve run a feature on Uni Watch called “Colorize This!” which features the colorization efforts of Uni Watch readers, most often run as a sub-lede. Lately I haven’t had any submissions for this, although I have done a few ledes with new colorizers being featured.

Today, long time friend and colorizer (colouriser) extraordinaire George Chilvers is back with a few fantastic colorizations. Great to hear from George and pleased he’s made a triumphant return! Click to enlarge both the colorized photo as well as the original that is beneath it!

Here’s George:

• • • •
Hi Phil,

Long time since we’ve been in touch, but I noticed a month or so back you ran a colourisation feature, and just wondered if you’d like to see some of my more recent work.

I had a book of my pictures published last year — I’m not touting for custom by the way as I was paid a flat-rate commission for it, so whether we sell more or less makes no difference to me now. The book is called “Old Liverpool FC in Colour” and is available on Amazon if anyone is interested.

I thought I’d send you some pictures, as I said, and decided to have a bit of a “uni” related theme.

As your readers may well know in soccer teams have registered colours that they play in at home, but if colours clash then the away team change. What you call ‘color on color’ is quite acceptable.

However until the 1970s or so in the FA Cup things were different — if there was a colour clash both teams changed and here is a small collection of my colourisations to illustrate it.

We have the 1909 Final at Crystal Palace between Manchester United and Bristol City. Both teams normally wore red, so Man U changed to white with a red V, and Bristol to blue. The picture shows Sandy Turnbull scoring the only goal of the game for a 1-0 victory for United.

In the 1925 semi-final Cardiff (normally blue) played Huddersfield (normally blue and white stripes) and Cardiff changed to a rather nice white with a blue V, while Huddersfield wore red.

Two pictures follow from the 1933 FA Cup Final. Everton and Manchester City both wore (and still wear) blue (of differing tones but still blue) so Everton changed to white, and Man City to red. The first picture shows the two captains, Sam Cowan of City and Dixie Dean leading their teams out onto the pitch at Wembley.

The other picture is significant because it was the first time players had been numbered in the final, with Everton wearing 1-11 and City 12-22. In this picture City meet the Duke of York, later King George VI.

In 1950 Arsenal played Liverpool, and again as both wore red they had to change: Arsenal to gold and Liverpool to white. Of interest is that Liverpool had planned to wear their normal change socks of red and white hoops, but the FA dictated they had to completely change the kit (they wore red and white socks as home kit) so at the last minute the kitman had to source some blue and white socks.

Of course there were always strange exceptions and one such occurrence was in 1914 when Burnley (in claret shirts) played Liverpool (in red) and both teams kept their normal colours.

The 1950 FA Cup Final was the 69th final of the FA Cup. It took place on 29 April 1950 at Wembley Stadium and was contested between Arsenal and Liverpool.
Arsenal won the match 2-0 to win the FA Cup for the third time, with both goals scored by Reg Lewis.
(Picture) Arsenal skipper Joe Mercer (right) blocks a shot from Liverpool’s Kevin Baron.
29th April 1950

Best wishes

Thanks George! Great stuff as always. PLEASE let him know if you enjoyed this so he graces us with more of these beauts in the future!




Threads of our Game…

Got an e-mail earlier this week from the great Craig Brown, who runs the fantastic Threads Of Our Game website. If you’re not familiar with it, the primary focus is on pre-1900 baseball uniforms and related ephemera.

He wrote:

The Cuban Giants stood here, exactly here, in 1886.

Hello baseball historians,

Those who have studied black baseball know that the story is missing chapters — box scores are lost, player histories have holes, and existing photographs offer more questions than answers.

Therefore, it’s somewhat unique that we can pinpoint the exact location where the Cuban Giants were photographed in 1886.

See that exact spot here.

Enjoy, and thank you for your time.

Craig Brown

Thanks, Craig! Great work (as always) on this!

See all posts on the Threads feed here.



Guess the Game from the Scoreboard

Guess The Game…

…From The Scoreboard

Today’s scoreboard comes from Chris Hickey.

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.



Guess the Game from the Uniform

Based on the suggestion of long-time reader/contributor Jimmy Corcoran, we’ve introduced a new “game” on Uni Watch, which is similar to the popular “Guess the Game from the Scoreboard” (GTGFTS), only this one asked readers to identify the game based on the uniforms worn by teams.

Like GTGFTS, readers will be asked to guess the date, location and final score of the game from the clues provided in the photo. Sometimes the game should be somewhat easy to ascertain, while in other instances, it might be quite difficult. There will usually be a visual clue (something odd or unique to one or both of the uniforms) that will make a positive identification of one and only one game possible. Other times, there may be something significant about the game in question, like the last time a particular uniform was ever worn (one of Jimmy’s original suggestions). It’s up to YOU to figure out the game and date.

Today’s GTGFTU comes from Chris Hickey (a double shot today!).

Good luck and please post your guess/answer in the comments below.



And finally...

… that’s going to do it for the early morning article. Big thanks to Tim AND George for their wonderful contributions today.

The Boston Bruins are expected to unveil three new uniforms today. According to the team, “These new uniforms include both home and away sweaters, as well as an alternate intended to be worn against Original Six opponents and on special occasions.” I should have full coverage of that later today. If any major uni-news breaks today, I’ll have that either today or tomorrow.

I’m also pleased to announce two new additions to the SMUW crew — Zachary Wooldridge, who will be tracking the SEC, and Noah Safari, who will track the B1G. If there are any graphic designers out there who would like to track the Big XII (the only remaning Power 5 conference for which I have no uni tracker), please give me a shout (Phil.Hecken@gmail). Thanks!



Comments (15)

    I remember those tube testers and always liked messing around with them as a youth. As far as the NFL schedule goes, why did Buffalo play San Diego on a Saturday in late October? Seems like an oddly placed game day when back then it didn’t occur until college football was over. Had to be some reason to have it regularly scheduled like that.

    Date-14 Feb 1992
    Location -Albertville, France
    Event – Women’s 1,000 meter speed skating final, 1992 Winter Olympics. Bonnie Blair (USA) wins gold medal.

    You got it, Mike!
    Blair is one of the best/overlooked female athletes ever.
    Her 1000m long-track win – by fractions of a second – made her (at the time) the most decorated U.S. woman in Winter Olympics history.

    Whoever set up the copy for that NFL schedule had some tired eyes by the end of it.

    Last game reads: “Sand Diego”.

    Very interesting stuff. As a guitar-gear nerd who’s built an amp or two over the years, I was hoping that the tube-talk would be about guitar amps, but TV tubes are cool too!

    I did want to point out one thing. While they’re called tubes in the States and valves in the UK, I’ve never heard them called bulbs in any context, despite the obvious analogy.

    Reminds me of George and the Frogger on Seinfeld. Not entirely incorrect terminology, just odd.


    I don’t remember my dad having TV tube problems, but I remember well the 1971 season… one of my favorites!

    It was the last year teams could number the yard lines every five yards (Buffalo, Yankee Stadium), and the last year you could decorate the yard numbers (Oakland with the shield, San Diego with diamonds). The following season the NFL had a No Fun League moment and ordered a standardized field design.

    I did see some tube testing machines somewhere. Thought they looked cool and I still do. Thanks, Timothy,for taking me down Memory Lane!

    And thanks, George, for the great colorizations!

    GTGFTU: I don’t know. I do know that the Cubs Never. Looked. Better.

    I grew up in the Fifties with CRT televisions in glorious B&W. I too can’t recall any family or friends having to replace tubes. If you did need a repair, almost certainly you called a TV repairman. There was no You Tube “how to videos” to guide you through a DIY diagnosis and repair. The TV picture tube and associated HV capacitors are particularly dangerous, so most owners would never attempt to mess around with the electronics.

    As I remember most of problems with televisions back in the day were related to the anntena and what was called the “ fine tuner.”

    “GTGFTU: I don’t know. I do know that the Cubs Never. Looked. Better.”

    Love those road pins(and I’m sure there at least one other overseas UWer who does too)…but they should not have ever been worn at Wrigley, as they were for this game.
    Cmon-give it a guess, Jimmer.

    My Dad used to make money on the side in the neighborhood fixing people’s old vacuum tube TV’s. I remember going to the pharmacy with him where they had a tube supply rack and a tester. And he’d dutifully test all the tubes from someone’s TV and replace those that needed replacing.

    I remember the tube testing machines in pharmacies, too. In fact, I only remember them in pharmacies. I wonder – did pharmacies have a small replacement tube section? Or did people have to find a more specialized store once they determined the tube was kaput?

    That’s ballgame, Ed!
    Cubbies didn’t get to fly the W that day, but this is a nice picture anyway.
    The Cards in pullover grays is a look I like much more than the powders.

    Love the TV tubes article, I only remember tubes from old radios I used to have. As a Dutchman I remember Christine Aaftink and Bonnie Blair but I never cared much for speed skating. Say skates and I think hockey. Those Orlando Magic style white on blue pinstripes on the Cubs look great.

    Two thoughts:

    1-The contrast between the “no user serviceable parts inside” era we live in now where you violate your warranty by opening the case… where you can’t even change out the battery on your laptop or smartphone or the headlights on your car anymore, and the “test your vacuum tubes” era represented in this story is remarkable. What happened to that do-it-yourself ethos?!

    2-I noticed that ’71 NFL schedule used the cities instead of team names except for 2-team-having NY. Amused because it seems the only time the media outlets use a city name now is when they’re referring to players/records/stats involving pre-Commanders Washington (a la SB17: Washington 27, Dolphins 17).

    How the times have changed…

Comments are closed.