The Linear Canvas
This journal is about the wrongs and rights of the world, as I see them.

The Linear Canvas

There goes a quarters worth of rubber: My time with Hobart Francis

October 24th, 2009 . by Alexander Fisher

My dad had been interested in electronics and always tried to repair our televisions when he could. He had some miscellaneous hand tools and some test instruments including a vacuum tube tester. That was just enough exposure to make me think I wanted to be trained in electronics as well.

In the mid-1970’s, my school in London, Ohio had become involved in a joint vocational school (JVS) with a number of other local school systems. Each JVS program would last the final two years of high school and you would receive a certificate as well as a diploma at graduation. The stated purpose of this was probably to help train young people for the jobs of the future. I think the actual purpose, at least at first, was to get the deadwood out of the local school principal’s office and into the JVS principal’s office, at least for some students.

Hobart Francis in May 1981

I was somewhere in between. I was a bit of a trouble maker and terribly unreliable. But I did have some history of getting decent grades with little effort, when I wanted to. That was quite unlike most of the other semi-permanent participants of the after school detention program that I belonged to.

Our local JVS was recruiting us as soon as the money became available and the school was being built. I remember the question I asked the recruiter was, would I have to cut my hair if I went there? I had been sent home many times the last two to three years by the principal because of my hair length. Luckily there was no rule, so I would be able to grow my hair as long as I wanted.

About the same time, I was becoming interested in making a career as an FM rock radio disk jockey. I loved music. I read every rock magazine I could get my hands on. I wanted to be a rock star first, but a radio disk jockey if that didn’t work out. A friend of mine and I both had thought that the electronics program at the JVS was the way to make that happen. He realized after one year that it wasn’t the path at all. He went back to regular high school in his senior year and became a relatively famous radio personality. I stayed in electronics at JVS and I became a cable guy. I’m still working on the rock star thing.

As the summer drew to a close I still had no idea that I would find a job in electronics before I actually learned anything about it.


I had known Mrs. Francis (Mabel) for awhile. She had at one time also owned the State Restaurant. I had spent plenty of my lunch money there over the years. (See my post “Running From Rocks“) I would never say that she had been rude to me or actually even nice to me. She just gave you that look. She knew you were there, but she just wasn’t that excited about it.

I had also been buying 45 rpm records at her radio/TV sales and repair business, Francis Radio and TV. It was just up the street from the restaurant and she co-owned it with her husband, Hobart.

Mabel Francis

When I was in grade school, I only received a small allowance from my parents each week. I couldn’t afford record albums, but music singles on 45’s were within my budget.  Buying records at Francis’ was more expensive than most of the other stores in London. You had to really want something badly to have to buy it there. In addition, Mrs. Francis would follow you around the store like she thought you were going to steal something.

Once I went to the door of their store, just after 5 o’clock with my sisters and it was unlocked. We went in and immediately noticed the lights were out. I called out, but no one was there. I don’t remember us taking anything. We just walked out. I told Hobart about it once and he looked at me like he was a little stunned to hear that. It was as if I knew something that he also knew about. He said he had some unreliable person working for him then. That was right around the time Mrs. Francis left the State Restaurant and began working in the TV shop with him full time.

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Renaissance Center Rooftop Fun

September 28th, 2009 . by Alexander Fisher

This a video of me on the roof of the Renaissance Center tower. It is the tallest building in Detroit, Michigan. It’s a wonder I wasn’t killed that day.

Click here to see the video if the above video player does not work

Robots Will Kill Your Gramdma

August 29th, 2009 . by Alexander Fisher

This is a very funny Saturday Night Live sketch. It’s a tongue-in-check reference to the lies that the GOP, Fox News, and the health insurance cabal have been telling in the main stream media about Health Care reform.

(Hulu is about the worst video provider out there. Click Play below. Maybe it’ll work.)

You Can  Also Click Here For The Video

Obama’s Surrender to the Health Care Lobby

August 17th, 2009 . by Alexander Fisher

I guess I should have known that the threats to withhold campaign contributions, and whatever other methods the corporate insurance elite have been using to get the current administration back in line would work eventually. Now there’s talk that President Obama will announce his surrender to them on the health care issues that I think would have the biggest impact, Single Payer and/or the Public Option. I sent an e-mail to the White House this morning and this is what I wrote:

President Obama,

I am a life long Democrat. I supported you through most of your campaign. I have never voted for a non-Democrat for president.

Now that you have decided (?) to surrender to the medical cartel, first on single payer and now on a public health care option, my only thought is that how “they” have won and “you (alone)” have failed. Do you think Fox News will ever let you live this down? Fox and their paymasters have beaten you and they know it. I, for one, am ashamed. I am ashamed that lies and money have finally gotten to you. Maybe I am the one that failed in believing that you were capable or willing to change anything.

This was your Waterloo and you did not win. You just managed to have an orderly surrender.

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My Dad At War

March 2nd, 2009 . by Alexander Fisher

My father worked many different jobs in his life. He fought in a war and traveled all over the world and our country. All of this before I ever knew him. I talked to him many times about his life but in retrospect, I should have asked more about his experiences. Gerald D. Fisher

He would talk about his adventures in World War Two when the subject was brought up.  Many kids had fathers that had been in Korea or had missed both conflicts. His was a generation that sacrificed enormously for us all. Truly the greatest generation of our time. I was always very proud of his service to our country in World War Two.

My dad would tell me stories about the war but more often than not I was asking the questions. Many were inspired by the TV shows in the late sixties and early seventies that glorified American soldiers in Europe and Asia in the 1940’s. My dad’s all time favorite war themed TV program was called Bah Bah Blacksheep. It was based on a real WW2 fighter pilot, Pappy Boyington, in the South Pacific conflict. He would watch Combat!, which was about the American infantry in Europe , but being an Army Air Corps veteran, he preferred TV shows about fighter’s and bombers. There was a program on in the 1960’s about bombers called Twelve O’clock High that he liked. But he always complained that the featured B-17 bombers on the show, got all the publicity, but that B-24’s did all of the work.

America had been attacked and the U.S. government did a terrific job getting recruits for the war. My father was a little older at 28, than most recruits when he joined in the Army in 1942. He was trained in several parts of the country at being a soldier, repairing airplanes, and shooting large caliber machine guns. Because of that Army experience, when employed at a prison during the riots that followed the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, he was given a position on a large machine gun pointed at the prison door and told to kill anyone that came through it.

My dad was a right wing gunner on a B-24D Liberator and rose to the rank of Technical Sergeant in the Army Air Corps, which later became the Air Force. He was a tall man, so service in any of the confining turret spaces was right out. That was probably lucky for him. He was trained as an airplane mechanic. I know he had some mechanical experience from his jobs previous to joining the Army. I am not sure what help it was being a mechanic once you were on a bombing mission. He mentioned that the pilot allowed him to fly the B-24, but wouldn’t let him land it.

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Running From Rocks

February 23rd, 2009 . by Alexander Fisher

Mr. Boogey Man
As I was growing up in London, Ohio, my family lived in several neighborhoods. In 1969, when I was in the fifth grade, I moved to North Oak Street. Nothing was unusual about this neighborhood at all, for London. Most of the houses were two story single-family homes, plus a few duplexes. One street over from North Oak Street was a street called North Madison Road. The houses were very similar to the ones on my street. Most of them probably had been built around 1900.

About two blocks south of my house on North Madison Road, lived an old man named Ted Roberts. Mr. Roberts was a black man, about seventy-five years old. He always wore an old dark green coat and a wide brimmed dark hat. They were probably very stylish in the 1930’s, but were very old and dirty by the 1970’s. He had been a barber in London for many years and had been retired for quite a while. He had family close by, but he lived alone. People that knew him would mostly say kind things about him. Several people I knew had said their fathers had taken them over to his house and he cut their hair. My dad knew him, but luckily, my dad took me to the local prison to get my haircuts, where it was safe. Lucky me.

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Optometrist Office Fun

February 16th, 2009 . by Alexander Fisher

I called and made an eye appointment today, late in the day.  I had been putting it off for a while. I had been going to a different eye doctor but I was less than impressed with their service. I looked up optometrists on my insurance providers web site and found one just a couple of miles down the street from my house. I called to make an appointment. The person on the phone said they had just had a cancellation and I could come in, in less than an hour. I asked my supervisor if I could leave early from work and he said yes. So I headed towards the optometrist office.

Not only was I surprised I got in so quickly, I was treated very well by all of the staff when I got there, except for the optometrist. He was an older man. Before I even met him, I had pegged him as an extrovert. He was talking to a woman about her child’s glasses, and being a bit overly dramatic. I just thought he had an odd manner about him, and he was certainly an overconfident type of guy.

After the testing that I received from the office staff, I waited for a short while and then was led back into an examination room. When the optometrist came in, he immediately asked me if my contacts were forty-four years old (?). I said no they were a few years old, but not forty-four. Twice when he was trying to explain to me the difference in my eyes because of my age, he got my age wrong. I tried to communicate with him, as best I could, but he wasn’t hearing anything I was saying. He would just say something that I never felt connected to what I was saying. During the examination he seemed confused and became very condescending after I said anything. I really can’t remember what it was he said that finally got to me, but in essence he was talking over me as I tried to explain my history and didn’t seem to believe me that I have never had bi-focal glasses or contacts. At the moment that I’d had enough, I went silent for about 2-3 seconds, then I asked him, “Do you want my business or not?”.

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The TV

November 17th, 2008 . by Alexander Fisher

I have almost always been in a business related to TV since I was sixteen. I started working for Hobart Francis at Francis Radio and TV, an RCA dealer in London, Ohio then. I worked for him on and off for about eight years. Later I got into cable television. I have pretty much been a cable guy in one form or another ever since. I worked as a microwave television broadcast engineer for a number of years.

tv2I’ve always been interested in video hardware. I still enjoy hooking up video systems. The complexity of systems I have built ranges all the way to QAM digital. I am an expert at analog television and distribution networks. Currently I help construct modern bi-directional coaxial networks, but I would have to say most of what I know was originally inspired by one thing.
The TV.

I had a Zenith baseband video/audio system in the 1980’s that was built out of individual components, like a home stereo system. It was all standard audio component size too. I believe that is the niche Zenith was trying to fill with it. They wanted to replace mid-grade audio systems and begin to integrate audio components with video gear. Not a bad idea. Maybe a little too ahead of its time.

It was a line of  TV’s that Zenith made for a short period called VHT, for Video High Tech. It had a baseband  cable ready tuner, a baseband video/stereo audio /RF switching unit, and a separate 19" RGB monitor. The retail price of the Zenith components alone were about $1200, and that was about 1984.

It also had it’s own stereo amp and speakers. It had many standard audio amp features, but was only about 25 watts per channel. I used my higher powered stereo for the TV usually. Later I bought a surround decoder and used the Zenith amp with it. I probably had close to $3000 in the whole system in the end.

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The Old Burger Chef in London: The BC Lounge Burns Down

November 15th, 2008 . by Alexander Fisher

Burger Chef, the last one

Just recently I found out the old Burger Chef in London, Ohio had burned down. They said that the fire was suspicious, but I have never heard what they ever found out about it. More recently it had been a Rax restaurant. Thirty-five years ago it was in the busiest part of town, but that activity mostly shifted about two miles to the north-east twenty years ago now.

I remember when they built the Burger Chef in the early 1970’s. It was the first real fast food restaurant and had the first drive-thru window in town. My sister got a job there and I was treated to one of the first meals served at the restaurant during a family night event they held the night before the grand opening. There were about twenty to thirty people, all standing at the counter ordering free food. You would have thought civilization had finally just come to London after all these years looking at everyone’s faces.

The previous popular teenage cruising loop had been from the Dixie Drive In to the Red Baron restaurant. That was probably about three miles and five traffic lights long. Almost immediately the Burger Chef became the main part of the new loop for the local cruisers. You would get a mix of local hot rods, hot rod wannabe’s and teenagers in their dad’s four door sedans driving through the parking lot. Cars and people would be everywhere, especially on a summer weekend night. On those evenings, the parking lot would be full. There would be people just milling about and on bicycles. Kraco 8-tracks players with Bass 48 wedge speakers battled Craig Powerplay car stereos with Jensen Triaxials for audio dominance. There were houses across the street and most of the time the residents would sit on the porch to watch the procession of cars and people.

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Mr. Gonly?

November 14th, 2008 . by Alexander Fisher

When I was born, my father insisted that I be named after his father, Alex (pronounced ell’-ick) Fisher, instead of him. Of course his real name was Alexander. When my father Gerald was born, his father had also insisted that he not be named after him. In both cases, my father and I were given the initial of their father as a middle name. Somehow later my father’s middle name was changed from just "A" to Denver, though not ever legally as far as know. I however, am still Alexander G Fisher.

When I turned sixteen, of course the first thing I did was take the test at the BMV to get my learners permit. I didn’t have a car and was just planning on buying one, driving my dad’s car, or something. Having my learners permit was something I had looked forward to for a long time.

I had seen the drivers license examiner many times. They had the testing in the American Legion hall for years. The hall was just a block from my school, so I had seen him outside having license applicants parallel park on several occasions. The examiner was an officious looking man who wore a blue police type uniform everyday. I had heard from others he was hard to deal with, but what I experienced that day was something I was totally unprepared for.

When I entered the hall I had to wait in line to get the test. During that time, I noticed the examiner was being mean to everyone. It just seemed like it didn’t matter to him whether you were white or black, rich or poor. He was an equal opportunity cranky jerk. He handed me my test without any incident. Then I went to a desk nearby and I completed the test. I had studied for the last two years, so I was certain that I had passed.

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