Mid-Shore Culture: History on Display at Chestertown Electric

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Want to buy an old telephone – one with a real dial? How about one of the “candlestick” models we’ve all seen in old movies? Check out David Hoatson’s Chestertown Electric, at 324 Cannon Street. It’s just the place you’ve been looking for.

Hoatson opened his shop last October. For now, he’s open Friday evenings, 5 to 7 p,.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Or if you’re in the market for something special and can’t get by during regular hours, call him at 410-778-0313. He’ll also answer the door bell if he’s home – he might be working in the large workshop/storage area in back or just upstairs. He lives in the apartment above the store.  He plans to expand the store’s hours in the near future.

Among the vintage items on display are ceiling and table fans,

Small electric fans – all restored and operational.

some as old as 1919 – all in perfect working condition. The old ones were more solidly made than newer models, with metal parts built to last, Hoatson said when the Spy visited his shop April 29. He began collecting old fans, lamps, and other antique electronics just about five years ago.

He’s done any necessary maintenance and restoration on the fan motors himself, supplied new blades where needed, and touched up the trim to make them look practically new.  For some of them, all he had to do was clean them up, plug them in, and they ran. The best electrical appliances were made before the Great Depression, he said.  Back then moving parts – gears, ball bearings – were made of good quality metal, not plastic like many of today’s appliances. Dayton, Ohio was once the electric fan capital of the world.

Hoatson is happy to talk about his collection – he has a story about almost all of them. Showing a stockpile of fan motors in his back room – which doubles as a storeroom and a workshop – he said, “I think some of these were stolen.” He told of a man in the 1930s who would check into hotels, take down the ceiling fans and lower them out the window to load them in his car. Hoatson came by them honestly, though – he found most of them at an antique fan dealer’s convention.

His collection of old phones – all of them in working order – includes some with 11 holes in the dial – the ten numbers plus a dedicated one to dial the operator directly, Many were made by Western Electric, but he also has some from Northern Electric – the Canadian branch of the company. Some of them need adapters to connect to modern outlets, but they all work perfectly.

There plenty more in the store – pre-1905 electric lights with carbon filaments, a hand-pumped vacuum cleaner from 1919, an Emerson brass desk fan from 1911 – and Hoatson can tell you the history of all of them. It’s like visiting a museum – with the added benefit that if you really like something, you can take it home.

Currently he is in the process of buying the building next door to his store.  He plans to move the family’s high-end audio store from Baltimore to Chestertown in the near future.  His son will manage the new store.

A native of Baltimore County, Hoatson attended Georgia Tech before returning to his home turf, where he worked as an electrical engineer for AAI Corporation, an aerospace and defense contractor in Hunt Valley. Among his projects was designing a special planetarium for the military – used to train antiaircraft crews. It’s in use in countries from Italy to Australia, as well as by the U.S. military.

Dave finds the old fans, phones, and electronic parts in many places – on e-bay, through an antique fan society, in second-hand stores,  at flea markets, etc.  Oddly enough, he says he hasn’t bought anything at Crumpton’s auction yet.  That may change, though.

 

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