About 40 years ago, Bob (a high-school buddy) and I started a surplus electronics business. We were hoping to make a little extra money and feed our Amateur Radio habit. We started with a purchase of 18,000 pounds of stuff. Most of it was junk — like the many cartons of rubber bladders we never found a use for — but there were some treasures. We traveled to hamfests on the weekends, peddling our wares to other hams around the midwest. After a couple of years, I got busy with my education and a full-time job in broadcast TV, and sold my interest to my friend. He continued and has done very well — Surplus Sales of Nebraska is now located in a 250,000 square foot building and enjoying international sales. Maybe I should have stuck with it . . .
More recently, we were visiting his shop in Omaha, and I mentioned having more time to dabble in electronics and amateur radio. Maybe we could find a way for Marilyn and I to help with the business. A couple of weeks later, he emailed with an opportunity. He was negotiating the purchase of a west-coast surplus electronics business and might need some help documenting and managing the moving process. He included a video, and I was intrigued. It certainly looked like a lot of great parts and equipment. Marilyn was game, and before long we were on our way to Glendale, California.
Two days later, we were pulling up to the early 30’s Spanish colonial bungalow that would be our home for the next week. There were some challenges with the rental, but overall we enjoyed the stay. Marilyn had always wanted to experience an LA neighborhood like this, and the house fit her fantasy.
Bob is the hardest working person I have ever known, and he, along with his wife, Danna, daughter, Madison, an employee, Jennifer and her son, George were off to the warehouse by 5:45 am the next morning. We joined them a little later, and I was astonished by the size of the purchase. Bob estimated about 10-12 container loads (53-foot shipping containers) and about 10 days to two weeks of effort. Although we hadn’t planned to help with the packing and shipping, it was clear that they really needed help. We dove in.
We spent the first day, Tuesday, packing up semiconductors. Although only a small fraction of the overall volume of stuff, they represent a lot of value and were haphazardly stored in a small office. It took us about two days to pack it all (mixed with helping as needed in the larger warehouse). It was also a chance for me to get some idea of what might make interesting projects.
Bob, Danna, Jennifer and George all worked loading pallets. Each of the first three days, a semi-trailer with a 53-foot container would arrive early afternoon — ready for 26 pallets. I had never worked in a warehouse like this before, and it’s a real challenge to get a load that size ready each day. We weren’t sorting or labeling anything as we worked, just filling each pallet as fast as possible. More challenging, Bob had scheduled two trucks for Friday. It was 90 degrees by mid-afternoon each day, and bottle after bottle of iced water really helped.
Marilyn and I hadn’t signed on for the 6 am to 6pm schedule everyone else followed, so we stopped around 4:30 and headed back to the house. A quick shower to remove old electronics funk and we were in the pool. With a frosty beer in hand and a cool swim, I could see the appeal of an LA lifestyle.
By Friday, we were catching up on the pallet count, and there would be no trucks on Saturday or Sunday. The job was going faster than estimated and with two weekend days to pack, plenty would be ready for the Monday trucks. Marilyn and I would have to leave soon, but it looked like the job would finish in 8 days. We decided to stay one more day and leave on Sunday.
With no truck coming, and a backlog of packed pallets, everyone was feeling some relief on Saturday. As part of the purchase, Bob had acquired some old ham gear, and I playfully suggested that a boat-anchor or two could find a home in Texas. Next thing I knew, he had a classic shortwave receiver on a two-wheeler and wanted me to open our car. As we went by, he pointed to another classic receiver and offered it as well. You don’t have to ask me twice!
In all, eight trucks were loaded by the following Tuesday night, with an average of 26, 1,700-pound pallets in each. A pallet and other odds-and-ends went into Bob’s trailer, and the job was done. All of it headed for the warehouse in Omaha.
As we drove east on I-10 Sunday morning, I had a chance to reflect on the unexpected experience of the last few days. A lot of very hard work, but also a chance to spend time with an old friend and his family while scratching my itch for old electronic goodies. A stay in a classic house located in a beautiful LA neighborhood, and new projects with the prospect of more to follow. Not a bad way to spend a week!