K5LAD - 50+ Years of Ham Radio Memories

Volume XVI

Many truck lines were filled with Big Dummies

By Jim Pickett – K5LAD

I owned and operated a ham radio sales and service store in Broken Arrow, Okla. from 1970 to 1981. It was great fun, as well as a lot of work, to operate a store dedicated to my primary hobby. Derrick Electronics was a popular spot in which hams and non-hams alike could hang out, swap stories, share QSL cards and, occasionally, to buy something. We earned the nickname, "The Candy Store" and there are many folks who still remember their many pleasant hours spent with us.

One of the popular commercial lines we sold was the Dentron Company, a company that made some really nice amplifiers and some manual antenna tuners that were built like battleships, as well as several other ham-related products. Many of these products are still in service today, more than 30 years later, and providing excellent service. I still use several of these pieces including an MLA-2500 (legal limit) amplifier, a GLA-1000 (1200 watt) amplifier, 2 – MT-3000A (3KW) antenna tuners, a Super Tuner (1200 watt) tuner and a Big Dummy dummy load.

The Big Dummy was very popular and was a good competitor to the Heathkit Cantenna, which had been sold as a kit for many years. Both of these dummy loads provided a heavy non-inductive 50-ohm resistor that was suspended in a 1-gallon paint can type receptacle filled with transformer oil and a coax socket on the top lid. Whereas the Cantenna was sold and shipped dry and required the buyer/user to find a source of transformer oil, the Big Dummy was shipped complete and ready to use with the transformer oil already installed. In a pinch, for the Cantenna, you could buy mineral oil in quantity from a livery supply store where it was sold as a horse laxative. Also, the Big Dummy came out just about the time when it was reported that the older transformer oils, used for many years by the power companies, contained PCBs which were said to cause cancer. The power companies were scrambling to replace the older PCB transformer oil with oil that contained no PCBs. Dentron advertised the Big Dummy as complete with transformer oil, which was totally safe, as it contained no PCBs.

When I ordered a new shipment of Big Dummy products, they came in a large shipping box that held a dozen individually boxed Big Dummy loads, complete with the oil. Not only each individual box contained the product’s logo but also the large shipping box holding the dozen-boxed units, had the Big Dummy logo on the outside. The logo, shown here on the cover of the operating manual, looked like this:

Big_Dummy.gif (39029 bytes)

I sold lots of these dummy loads in my years at Derrick Electronics. Perhaps some readers of this article still have one they purchased back then and are still using it. I know I am and it has served me well.

I don’t know the total number of these dummy loads that I sold but I do know that only the original big box of 12 units came with a complete shipping box. From that point on, every time I received a large box of the product, the Big Dummy logo, which had been printed on the outer panel of the box, had been cut around by probably a pocket knife, and the box showed a big circle of the inside of the cardboard making up the box. You could only see the naked rippled inner piece of the cardboard inside where the outer skin (and its message) had been removed.

I am firmly convinced that there were many truck lines between the factory in Ohio and my store in Broken Arrow, OK, which sported a forklift driver with a printed circle of cardboard, which said, "Big Dummy." I suspect you could find them taped to the forklift tractor and some to the back of the tractor driver. I do know that I helped to provide a LOT of these "signs."

As a last caution, if you happen to have one of the original Heath Cantenna units that is still filled with PCB-loaded transformer oil OR horse-destined mineral oil, I have an important message for you,…………"Don’t drink the contents of that load, dummy!"


Jim - K5LAD  written March 22, 2009

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