Shelf At Work Takes Me Back In Time

by Kevin Burton

   A piece of my past was hiding in plain sight in my work space about two feet above my right shoulder.

   I’m still getting used to the surroundings at my part-time clerical job at a local church.  The place is a maze! Thankfully, my job duties don’t take me around the whole building. So I am gaining some familiarity. It’s getting to where I hardly get lost any more.

    So I’m going about my business, glancing around the room where I work and it suddenly hit me: Hey that’s a radio shelf.

   That’s a what? Let me explain.

   The first thing I did was google “radio shelf.” It is apparently not a thing in wider society. It was a thing for us growing up at the Ohio State School for the Blind.  

   We lived in cottages. The rooms housed two to four students. Each student had a chair, a bed and a locker. The locker had shelves and drawers and wooden rods on which to hang towels.

  On the side of each locker was a shelf with no sides that stuck out like a right or left ear depending on which side of the room you were on.  It was supported by two metal shelf supports.

   So far I have not discovered the derivation of this, but somewhere along the line at OSSB, those shelves became known as radio shelves. Obviously somebody though that would be a good place for a student to keep his or her radio. 

   Most radios would fit on the shelf, but it perhaps wasn’t the best place to keep a radio because there were no sides to the shelf and there was a risk of knocking the radio off.  Probably better to keep that precious radio somewhere inside the locker.

    My classmates and I used those radio shelves for various purposes – a place to keep a Perkins braille writer, a place to keep your pop, or maybe just the project of the moment.

   But whatever we used it for it was always called the radio shelf.

   There is a shelf at work that reminds me of a radio shelf.  It is approximately 16 inches wide by 12 inches. The ones at school were slightly smaller than that if I am remembering correctly.

    The shelf at work is attached to the brick wall about 20 inches above my desk.

   My mind grasped what I was seeing in two steps. First, I thought wait a minute, that looks like something familiar. Then it hit me, radio shelf!

   I hadn’t thought about my old radio shelf in years. It was kind of jarring to have something from one world show up in my new world.  

   Ever have that feeling?

   It reminds me of the time I was watching the World Series and something seemed strange. My mind jumped on it in those two steps.

   It had to be either 1995 or 1997 because Orel Hershiser was the starting pitcher for Cleveland.  The stadium loud speakers were playing the song “All About You” by contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Twila Paris.

   Christian music isn’t often played in that kind of a setting and it took my mind a little bit to catch up. 

   Come to find out the starting pitcher gets to choose what music plays from the PA. Hershiser, a bon-again Christian, picked All About You, with the operative phrase, “No matter what I face today, you’re all I need.”

   I thought it was great that Hershiser did that. There after I played the song sometimes before my beep baseball games.  

  The radio shelf at work actually holds an answering machine. And the instructions for how to use/fix it.  It looks to me as if the shelf was added after the desk was situated there.

   I imagine somebody knocked the answering machine off the edge of the desk one too many times and had a shelf built for it. But I don’t know that.

   Actually Facebook provides a little of that weird world-blending feeling because your work friends are listed with your childhood friends and they might interact on a post.   

   I’ve got some friends who have heard of a radio shelf, some who have heard of Radio Shack and probably some who have heard of neither.

   Anyway, with my radio shelf at work there is a portal to Memory Lane that makes me smile.

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