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Letter: Growing Up Gates

The son of Nibs Jochem recalls growing up "in a household that smelled of soldering smoke”

John D. Jochem, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist.

Hello, I just wanted to express my thanks for the nice piece you published by Brian Galante on the history of Gates Radio, based in Quincy, Ill. (“GatesAir’s 100 Years of History in Pictures”). That article was a sequel to your photo essay compiled by John Schneider, published a decade ago, “Remembering the Gates Radio Company,” which marked the sale of Harris Corp.’s Broadcast Division. My dad was Norbert (Nibs) Jochem. He was a member of the management team at Gates for many years. He is pictured in a couple of the photos in these articles.

Other Gates execs pictured were frequent guests at the house and their names are all familiar to me. I grew up in a household that smelled of soldering smoke, surrounded by all varieties of audio equipment. It seemed he was always tinkering with something: rebuilding a radio, assembling a Heathkit project, etc.

The pictures of the various office locations of Gates Radio in Quincy are great too. There’s one of 123 Hampshire Street that really brings back memories. I used to tag along with my dad when he went back to work in the evening or over a weekend and I roamed all through that building when I was in grade school and middle school.

The photo shows an entry door with cars parked nearby and I remember that one of those parking spots had a sign showing that the space was reserved for Norbert Jochem. That was a point of pride for me as a kid!

The author recalls that his father, Nibs Jochem, had his own parking space at 123 Hampshire St. Photo courtesy Janet Gates Conover.

When I was in eighth grade I dazzled everyone with a Tesla coil that produced impressive arcs of electricity and smelled up the room with ozone — we (mostly my dad) built it at the 123 Hampshire Street facility, seemingly with materials he scrounged up from the production areas.

I also remember going with my father to the antenna farms on either side of the Mississippi River and it seemed I was always hearing about the VOA project. I recall that we were treated to a VIP tour of VOA facilities when we visited Washington D.C.

The author’s father is at left in the front row in a photo of the Gates management team inspecting a new M5530 preamplifier in December, 1957, the month Harris Intertype Corp. acquired Gates Radio. Front: Norbert L. Jochem, director of engineering; Parker S. Gates, president; L. I. McEwen, executive vice president; Larry J. Cervone, sales manager. Back: Howard A. Young, plant manager; A.S. Petzoldt, comptroller/secretary; Roger M. Veach, director of personnel & public relations; Ray Jochem, credit manager; John Bowers, director of purchasing. (Photo courtesy Janet Gates Conover)

My dad traveled quite a bit for the company. This was in the 1960s, before business travel was common, and he had a habit of bringing home a swizzle stick from every flight he’d been on while traveling for Gates. I’ve now got quite the swizzle stick collection. I guess he liked his gin and tonics while flying.

I’ve got a box of Gates memorabilia — company newsletters, a scrapbook given to my dad upon his retirement, etc. Seeing your article will prompt me to dig out the box and reminisce. Thanks so much for the stories.

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