“What’s wrong with your car radio?” Nathan Blum, owner of Radio Center on Nichols Avenue, asked his distraught customer.
“It cuts off if I go over a bump or around a corner or up a hill or down a hill and it's too full of static to understand a program," the customer wailed. "It's been doing it ever since the car wreck and the insurance company has already paid that other radio shop to fix it. I've taken it back and taken it back. Now they want me, personally, to pay for a new aerial."
"Wait a minute," Blum said, and he ran back into his shop. Out again in a second, he held a part so small it could be seen only if he laid it in the palm of his hand.
He screwed the small piece onto the bottom of the aerial under the instrument panel and the radio suddenly sprang into life with the loudest, clearest program imaginable.
"Ow," the surprised customer ejaculated. "What do I owe you?"
"Nothing," Blum replied.
"We now take him everything he'll work on--radio, television, record player," the grateful customer reports. "He kept our table radio for three weeks, played it every day, took it down two or three times, never could hear anything wrong or find anything wrong--no charges.
"And believe it or not, when we took it home there wasn't anything wrong any more. No more deafening static!
"The man's fantastic!"
Fantastic seemed to be the word for him when the man's story was dug out for the Tribune.
Son of a Hungarian mother and an Austrian father, each of whom spoke only broken English, Nathan Blum learned to read English before he ever started to school. His 13-year-old sister helped him learn.
His first year in school in Houston he was reading library books--one a day--far in advance of his grade. His charcoal sketches won him an art scholarship and he was well on his way to fame in that field--considered a prodigy, in fact.
But radio changed that. In the homes of some of his pals, he encountered the small crystal radios with earphones which had just come on the market.
Nathan Blum talked his Dad into getting a radio on this deal.
Used Strap On Son
The day after the radio arrived, his father came home to find the set taken apart.
He used a strap vigorously. Before he could comfortably sit down again, Nathan Blum was at the library, trying to get his chin up over the loan desk to ask for a book on radio.
Before the week was out, he had the set back together again.
He was very proud of the correction he had made to enable the second set of earphones to be attached.
Soon he was repairing crystal sets for neighbors.
Took Apart Loud Speaker
In 1930, the electric radios came out with loudspeakers and Nathan began a campaign to get his father to purchase one.
"Finger's had them for $69.95, I remember," he recounts. "And Dad finally ordered one.
"Delivery was to be at 2 p. m. on Monday, so I made it a point to be there when the man brought it and installed and tested it. The tone was wonderful.
"No sooner had the delivery man left than temptation got the better of me. I went behind to see the loudspeaker, which was quite an improvement over earphones. I took it apart to see how it worked. Then I put it together again. After that the tone was terrible.
"Dad came home and tried it out. He couldn't understand why the radio sounded that way and asked whether I had tampered with it.
"I lied to him. The only time I ever lied to my father in my life.
"He called the service man who took it to his shop and brought it back with a bill for $22 and a whole list of parts.
"I knew we had been taken but I was in no position to say anything. So I was more determined than ever to learn radio.
"Shortly after that my father had a paralytic stroke and I had to quit school to support the family--two sisters and a younger brother besides my parents."
To support the family, Nathan Blum ran three paper routes—the Houston Post, Press and Chronicle. He also delivered oil reports for Rinehart Co. to all the large office buildings downtown. In addition, he worked from seven to 11 at night in a drug store.
Took Radio Courses
He signed up for courses in the morning at Taylor Vocational Radio School. He studied radio and in addition took courses in English, math and spelling.
At the age of 18, he set up his own shop, working on the back porch, but there were so many radio shops and competition was so keen, “I was at the point of starvation,” he tells, “so I went to work in the radio department of Lacks auto supply where I worked at radio repair for two years.”
Later he worked for Western Auto doing radio repairs for the five local stores and for 56 associated stores within a radius of 150 miles of Houston.
“All those years I was on my conscience that I had lied to my father,” he recalls, “so when I was 21 years old I walked up to Dad and said, ‘I’m 21 now and you can’t whip me so I want to tell you that I lied to you once. It was the only time I ever did. I lied to you about that first electrical radio set. I did take the loudspeaker apart to see how it worked. It sounded all right before that.’
“Dad just laughed and said it was all right because I’d just beat him to it. He intended to do that very thing himself but just didn’t get around to it before his stroke.
In 1938, Nathan Blum married Dorothy Chasnoff.
“I couldn’t run these businesses without her,” he flatly affirms. “If you write a story be sure to give her credit for that. She even kept my shop running while I was in the service in World War II.
In 1941 the Blums closed the Houston shop and moved to Palacios where he started his own shop. During the war, he occasionally had to go out secretly and work on radar equipment for the army.
Unwittingly Repaired Radar
At that time radar was so secret that he actually never touched a radar unit, or even saw one. He sat in one room and an officer asked him questions for a technical sergeant who was working at repairs.
“Once an officer told me of a certain size part that was burned out in a unit and I suggested another size.”
“Impossible!” the officer asserted. “It won’t work.”
“I suggested an alteration in this particular circuit so that size I had could be used to replace the broken part,” Blum tells. “Ten Minutes later, the technical sergeant relayed the information it was working.
“I didn't’ know until after the war that it was a radar unit I was working on.”
The Blums have three children, all three of whom will eventually have graduated from Bay City High School. Barbara is already a sophomore at the University of Texas. Jerry will graduate from high school this year and Marilyn is in her first year in high school.
Mr. Blum has had a shop here almost as long as in Palacios. He kept the Houston, Bay City and Palacios shops going by spending Thursdays and Fridays in Palacios. He would pick up the work here and take to Palacios or Houston and deliver it on his return trip.
Mrs. Blum operated the Palacios shop while Mr. Blum was in the service.
Installs First TV
Television came in 1948. Blum installed the first one in Palacios in 1948 for D. M. Green of Western Auto.
We also installed the first TV in Bay City—for Denn Brothers Sporting Goods store—in 1948, and a second set at about the same time in Bay City.
“Channel 2 was the only station on the air and the pictures were full of snow,” Mr. Blum remembers. “Friday night was the main night for wrestling and 90 per cent of the time the pictures didn’t come in.
“Mr. Green built a 50-foot tower on top of the Western Auto Store in Palacios with a workable platform and I spent practically all of six months on that tower building antennae to bring in better pictures.
“At that time you couldn’t purchase a decent antenna that would stay together at a height of 50 feet. Rods would blow off of it.
“I finally built an antenna out of rigid conduit and pipe fittings.
“I built a similar one for Milton Greenberg in Bay City in 1949.
His antenna was still in perfect working order when it was replaced with an all-channel antenna in 1955.”
Passes FCC Exam
In 1945 Mr. Blum passed the Federal Communications Commission examination and became a licensed technician for the maintenance and repair of all phases of two-way radio equipment.
Boats coming thorough the flood gates of the Colorado River having radio trouble, often call him for repairs.
Blum installed and maintains all the Matagorda Shell Co. communications equipment on trucks, cars and tugboats and the big locally based transmitter in Matagorda.
Blum installed the sound system in the beautiful new First Presbyterian Church in Palacios.
It was Blum who installed the intercoms at the Matagorda General Hospital, connecting operating rooms, offices, nurses quarters, labs and general paging system.
He has just finished wiring Dr. Shoultz’s new laboratory in the Shoultz Clinic.
Wires Homes, Businesses For Sound
Blum installed and services the intercom at the Tenie Holmes School and more recently the one in the Lou Stewart Studio and the beautiful Bob Trull home, Palacios, where the intercom is used for hi-fi music throughout the house as well as for paging.
“We custom design intercoms for hi-fi music systems in business establishments and churches,” Blum says. “We installed one last year in Milady’s Shop.”
$10 Loan Brings Big Job
Ten years ago Nathan Blum loaned $10 to a friend who was so hard up, he was hopping a freight headed for New York.
Last year Mr. Blum custom designed and installed the intercom for that same man’s $200,000 home in Houston.
The home has gold-plated plumbing in the bathrooms. The intercom also gives remote control of all kinds of electrical appliances, including hi-fi record players, coffee percolator, toaster and radios.
Equipped with a central antenna distribution center, this home had color and black and white TV in every room, including an outlet near the swimming pool.
Talks to Philippines
Blum’s own car is equipped with a two-way radio with 150 mile radius, which he built himself. This enables him to keep in touch with his shop and his industrial communications accounts and to speed service to those who call it.
He can communicate with ships at sea, mobile units on the industrial frequencies, his wife at the shop, and by a flip of the switch, can change to frequencies on the amateur short-wave band.
It is nothing at times to talk from Bay City to the Philippine Islands.
He is a member of the South Texas Emergency Network and also a member of the Phillips Petroleum Emergency Communications set-up.
His car is equipped for emergency communications in case of any disaster.
Daily Tribune, April 27, 1959
On May 19, the families and close relatives of Herman Chasnoff, Daniel Chasnoff and Dorothy Chasnoff Blum celebrated their 70th birthday at the home of Jerry Blum.
Herman's daughter, Estelle Panzer recounts the story of their not quite routine birth: Tillie Chasnoff was a 36-year-old grandmother with her own youngest child still in diapers when she delivered in Indiana in 1919. Her doctor announced to Tillie and John that they were the proud parents of twin boys. Tillie's response was, "That's just wonderful, doctor, but I think there's a little something you missed. There's another bay in here. I'm quite sure of it." The doctor suggested that she get some sleep--that she would feel better in the morning.
Tillie knew what she was talking about. The following morning she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Just two weeks short of her 97th birthday, Tillie Chasnoff died.
"She left us many gifts," said Estelle Panzer, "and to that one
extra special gift she left us--her triplets--may we say 'mazel tov,
good health and long lives to all of you.'"
Nathan Blum, 89, a long-time resident of Bay City, passed away Sunday, September 26, 2004 in Houston, Texas.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 56 years, Dorothy Chasnoff Blum, and by a daughter, Marilyn Schuelke.
He is survived by a daughter, Barbara Morrison of Corpus Christi; son, Jerry Blum of Houston; sister, Goldie Krumholz; brother and sister-in-law, Daniel and Rosalie Chasnoff; five grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.
A graveside service was to be held on Tuesday, September 28 at 11:30 a. m. at the Shearith Israel Cemetery in Wharton, Texas, with Rabbi Brian Strauss officiating.
The family requests that donations be made to Houston Hospice and Palliative Care System, 1905 Holcombe, Houston, Texas 77030.
Services are under the direction of Bay City Funeral Home.
Bay City Tribune, September 29, 2004
Graveside services for Dorothy [Chasnoff] Blum, 75, of Bay City, are scheduled for 11 a. m. Sunday, Jan. 15, 1995, at Shearith Israel Cemetery in Wharton with the Rabbi Ted Sanders officiating. There will be no viewing.
Mrs. Blum was born May 19, 1919, in Ft. Wayne, Ind., to her mother and John Chasnoff and died Jan. 21, 1995, in Matagorda House.
She was a member of the Shearith Israel Congregation, was a Pink Lady at Matagorda General Hospital and was a life member of Hadassah.
Survivors include her husband, Nathan Blum of Bay City; a son, Jerry M. Blum of Houston; two daughters, Barbara Jean Morrison of Corpus Christi and Marily Schulke of Houston; a brother, Daniel Chasnoff of Bay City; seven grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to Hadassah, Wharton Chapter.
Services are under the direction of Dick R. Elkins, Bay City Funeral Home.
Daily Tribune, January 1995
Married February 6, 1938 in Bay City, Texas
Copyright 2009 -
Present by the Denn Family
Oct. 9, 2013
Oct. 9, 2013