K5LAD - 50+ Years of Ham Radio Memories

Volume XXIX

The Pickle Jar

Search keywords:  Kenny Rogers, Derrick Electronics, pickle

As strange as this tale may sound, it is absolutely true.  Like you sometimes hear others say, “You just can’t make up stuff like that.” 

I’ve often mentioned that I owned a ham radio store during the 1970s.  Quite a few readers were my customers and will remember the days of their Saturday visits to Derrick Electronics in Broken Arrow, often referred to as “The Candy Store.”   It was a chance to visit with their friends, drink coffee and eat donuts, brag about special contacts made on the air, and only occasionally, to buy something.  Many buyers and we sellers have some really good memories of those days, now long gone. 

It’s fun and interesting to look back on some of the things that happened during that decade but one of the most interesting was a day, during the week, that an out of town ham came into the store carrying a large gallon glass jar with a lid tightly screwed on.  It had a wide label surrounding the jug showing its previous use had been to hold lots of pickles but it was obvious that the jar was now absolutely stuffed full of currency.  Bills of various denominations and some coins rattling around in the bottom but mostly there were numerous bills and the jar was filled to the brim.

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The man carrying the jar had a familiar face as I had seen him in the store several times previously.  I also saw on that face a mixture of glee, excitement, and exhaustion.  I knew he lived some distance away from us but didn’t recall exactly where. 

He set the pickle jar up on the counter and began to tell me about his all night poker game and the fact that he had really done well.  From the looks of the jar’s contents, that seemed rather obvious.  I asked him if he knew how much was in the jar and he didn’t have a clue but told me he wanted to spend all of it on some new ham equipment.  Obviously, I wanted to help him make his dreams come true.   

If you wonder why he couldn’t tell me how much he had in the jar, you only need to imagine a picture of Kenny Rogers singing, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,  know when to walk away………… know when to run.  You don’t count your money……………. a sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’…………… when the dealin’s done.”  My customer had taken this advice well and now, the dealin’ was done and it was time for the countin’. 

He began to grab fistfuls of bills from the jar and spread them out on the counter to see just how much was there but I cautioned him that this was probably not the best idea as others would be coming into the store and that might not be the best scene possible for him.  I offered him the back room to use as a more secluded area for the count since it was, at the very least, out of sight.  The back room was plenty large with a large wooden rack holding yet-to-be-sold Rohn 25 tower sections and accessory pieces, a big rack of coax and wire, the bench for repairing radios, stacks of boxes of equipment and radio parts, and the restroom.  A door separated the back room from the show room that was the “gathering spot” for customers so I’d hoped that he could count his treasure in peace and with at least some minor degree of security. 

Some time later I opened the door and looked in, only to see him sitting in the middle of the floor with stacks of bills all around him.  He looked a bit like the picture of Scrooge McDuck from my younger, comic book days.  He did look, however, very happy…………. still very tired-looking but very happy. 

When the final total was in, it was something on the order of more than $1300.  The actual amount has been lost to the ages (and my Alzheimer’s) but that was pretty close.  With the stacks of bills still spread out on the floor in the back room, he came out and started his shopping spree.  The only item I remember him getting was a brand new Kenwood TS-520 transceiver but he got quite a few other goodies to come as close as he could to the total value of the paper spread on the back room floor.  Seems like he also bought a Ten-Tec keyer too. 

Once he had all the desired items piled on the counter, and I’d written up the paperwork and figured the totals, he went back and harvested the stacks to pay me.  Many, if not most, of the bills were small denomination bills so it made quite a stack for my cash register.  I often wondered, when I made my nightly bank deposit, what they must have thought with the strange pile of so many small bills from my store when usually the deposit was either checks or larger denominations. 

I tried to remember the name and call of this “Pickle Jar Procurer” but they just didn’t come to me.   Even if I could remember I wouldn’t want to put that information out to the world even now, but the story itself has stayed with me for now well over 30 years. 

TV viewers who watch the show on the History Channel called “Pawn Stars” have heard Rick say, “………….. and you never know what is gonna’ walk in that front door.”    That’s sometimes true of ham radio stores too.

 Written October 26, 2010 - published TARC Newsletter November 2, 2010

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