The Gates Radio Company, 1930-1934 | Story
The 1930s were important development years for the Gates Radio Company. The business was in its new location at 115 N. Fourth and the extra space, spread over three floors including an elevator, allowed them to expand. The company continued to manufacture motion picture equipment, and these sales were responsible for the company’s financial strength during the early years of the Depression. A large order received from Australia in 1931 to equip dozens of theaters with talking picture equipment helped enormously.
The Motio-Tone, which added speech and music to the film strip, creating a talking film, has sold in the United States, Spain, Mexico, South America, India, in Australia, Canada and Alaska. The federal government has awarded contracts to Gates Radio to install film equipment in several federal penitentiaries. Parker Gates traveled to the prisons to install the equipment.
Gates went to Atlanta Penitentiary which housed 8,000 men. There had been a hunger strike and threats of violence at the prison, and the director hoped that the showing of a film would boost morale. The equipment was set up in a 2,000 man auditorium, and the room echoed as the equipment was tested. Gates calculated that once the auditorium was full, the echo would be absorbed. And he was right.
The film was “Is Everybody Happy” and opened with Ted Lewis playing clarinet. When Lewis faced the screen and shouted, “Is everyone happy? a pandemonium erupted and the prisoners whistled, shouted and stamped their feet. Gates was alarmed. The guard smiled and said, “These men have never seen a picture and are overjoyed.
This same equipment was placed in the Family Theater at 17th and Broadway, the Belasco Theater at the corner of Sixth and Hampshire, the Colonial on North Sixth in the Maertz Building, the Quincy Theater adjacent to the Quincy Hotel, and the Star Theater at Hannibal , Mo. The Star is the only cinema still in existence.
One of the consequences of the Depression was that many banks across the United States experienced bank runs and closed. Henry Gates kept his personal money of $800 in the State Savings Loan and Trust Company at 428 Maine. When this bank failed in 1932, Henry lost every penny.
The Gates Radio Company kept its money in the State Bank of Illinois. When a line of depositors had long formed outside the bank, Henry called his friend and fellow Rotarian, Floyd Cashburn, the bank’s chief cashier, who told him to come to the back door and that he would let him in. Parker went with him. .
Henry said, “I want to withdraw the $18,000 that Gates Radio has in their account because if we lose that money, Gates Radio will shut down permanently.” Mr Cashburn replied: ‘If you withdraw your $18,000 this bank will close immediately.’ They argued. Then Cashburn disappeared and came back later and said, “Here’s $1,000 in cash and $5,000 in Catholic school bonds. Leave your $18,000 in the bank, take that money and those bonds, and if that bank fails, cash in the school bonds and you have the $1,000 in cash. Leaving your $18,000 in our bank will keep us open, at least today, and hopefully our bank will weather this crisis.
Henry agreed, the bank remained open, and Henry returned the $1,000 and school bonds three weeks later. The result was that a close relationship was established between Gates Radio and the State Bank of Illinois that continued for years. Parker Gates later said in an interview, “What Mr. Cashburn did was probably illegal. But it saved the bank, and everyone knew it.
Henry, Cora, and Parker also had personal and community interests. In 1932, Henry was elected president of the Quincy Rotary Club. Cora joined a Bible study. Through the efforts of band manager Paul Morrison, Parker learned to play saxophone in high school and began playing with local professional bands on weekends. Around 1929, he joined, then played exclusively, with the Tivoli dance orchestra (“I love him” spelled backwards) for several years.
The Gates family attended Central Baptist Church where Parker met Mildred Lichtenberger. They were married on March 25, 1933 in Carmi.
Parker continued to improve the “remote amplifier” which now sold for $600 and, although large and bulky, was of excellent quality and purchased by radio stations nationwide.
In 1934, the production of cinematographic equipment was discontinued, and the manufacture and supply of broadcasting equipment became the main focus. Gates Radio immediately became a major competitor in the field.
The Gates radio catalog published in early 1934 offered voice input panels, studio and station amplifiers, remote amplifiers, mixers, microphones, trunks and cases, loudspeakers, dimmer units. , turntables, volume meters and rectifiers.
Although the depression years were difficult, the company was financially solvent. Then an unexpected tragedy occurred. Henry Gates died suddenly on September 4, 1934 of an embolism following surgery. “Dad ran the business and took care of all the details, and I had fun inventing, building and installing equipment. Overnight everything changed, and now I had to face the realities management of the company,” Parker said. He had recently been offered the position of station manager at WTAD Radio, “a golden position and a tempting offer”. But to accept the position, he would have to close the job. ‘business.
After evaluation, deliberation and prayer, Parker, Cora and Mildred Gates decided to continue the Gates Radio Company. It was a landmark decision in the company’s history. The Herald-Whig reported: “Parker S. Gates, Jr., has announced that the business will be prosecuted.”
Banking race. History.com. 2022 A&E Television Networks, LLC. All rights reserved.
Bank at Quincy 1932-1933. Interview with Parker Gates. By Janet Gates Conover.
Bradshaw, Bill. First to bring sound to the screen from silent films. Quincy Herald Whig. April 11, 1971. Section C, 1.
Gates, Parker. Brief history of Gates Radio Co., year 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934. Quincy, IL. 1957.
Gates, Parker. Letter, page 2. Date unknown.
Gates Radio & Supply Company Catalog of equipment for broadcast stations and recording studios. Gates Radio Company. 1934.
HC Gates passed away Sunday evening after a full life. Was a businessman and leader of civic affairs. Quincy Herald Whig, 12. September 5, 1934.
McFarland, Randy. Interview with Janet Conover regarding the history of Illinois State Bank and the bank run involving Floyd N. Cashburn, the bank’s chief cashier. February 2022.
Several interviews with Parker Gates. By Janet Gates Conover. Some recorded. 1973 to 1986.
Wilson, Robert. Parker Gates – inventor, businessman, is 75 years old. Quincy Herald Whig. p. 10-A. August 8, 1982.
Janet Gates Conover and her husband, Joe, are Life Members of the Quincy and Adams County Historical Society. This article is based on Gates Radio Company research and records, interviews with her father, Parker Gates, and family oral history and letters.
The Quincy and Adams County Historical Society preserves Governor John Wood’s mansion, the history museum on the plaza, the 1835 log cabin, livery, Lincoln Gallery exhibits and an artifact collection and documents that tell the story of who we are. This award-winning column is written by members of the Society. For more information, visit hsqac.org or email [email protected]