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CROSLEY’S BACK FROM RADIO PAST IN A MAJOR WAY

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Crosley.

It's a name that fills anyone over 40 with nostalgia.Crosley means a brown Bakelite table radio from which Mrs. Aldrich calls "Henry! Henry Aldrich!" in that strident voice. And Henry, the ultimate wimp, answers meekly "Coming Mother."

And Crosley means Bing Crosby crooning "When the blue of the night meets the gold of the day, someone waits for me" on the Kraft Music Hall.

Crosley is Let's Pretend, The Great Gildersleeve, Meet Corliss Archer, the Whistler, Gangbusters, Sam Spade (Howard Duff, not Bogart, was Sam Spade), and Brett Morrison asking in that malevolent voice, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men . . . the Shadow knows."

The first time I saw one of those replicas of the old Crosleys in a local department store a few months ago I was afraid to turn it on. Tom Barberi talking to me from a Crosley? Impossible. Head Breakfast Clubber Don McNeil, sure; even Arthur Godfrey. But not Barberi.

Well, so much for nostalgia. Crosley is back, and in a big way. Salt Lake firm SR Distributing Co. will begin receiving its first shipments of Crosley electronics in August, and Crosley color TVs, stereos, VCRs and camcorders will begin showing up on the shelves of Utah's independent electronics dealers in September.

Crosley has been back in the major home appliance business since 1976, but this will be its first venture into electronics since 1956 when it was merged into Philco and the name disappeared from the market.

"The return of a full line of Crosley electronics to the market will make Crosley the only full line of white goods (major appliances) and brown goods (electronics) in the U.S.A.," C.E. "Buddy" Dixson Sr. told the Deseret News in an interview. Dixson is president of the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based The Crosley Corp., which is owned by 45 independent distributors across the country with 55 distribution points serving 7,500 dealers.

Dixson said Crosley restricts sale of its products to independent dealers, such as SR Distributing, "who can best give the American public service and satisfaction on Crosley products." He projects the dealer base will capture $80 million to $100 million in sales during its first year on the market, "another first in the electronics industry."

The Crosley name is associated with a lot of "firsts." Powel Crosley, the "Henry Ford of Radio," was the first to make a radio that the "masses" could afford. His radio station WLW in Cincinnati was the most powerful (500,000 watts) ever built, and his Crosley automobile, which is said to have gotten 50 miles per gallon of gasoline, was the first fuel efficient car.

He is credited with introducing the first FAX (facsimile) machine in 1940 _ anticipating the current "faxmania" by 50 years _ and he was an early pioneer in television. He began broadcasting TV signals in 1940 to create a market for his television receivers that were first test marketed in the '30s.

The evolution of Crosley is a study of merger mania in this country. Powel Crosley sold his company in 1956 to giant conglomerate Avco, which owned Bendix, the major player in the automatic laundry washer business. Crosley (who died in 1976) then concentrated his efforts on the Crosley automobile.

Avco operated Crosley/Bendix for several years and then decided to return to its main business of manufacturing airplane engines, among other things. They sold Bendix to Philco and closed down the Crosley plant and Crosley left the market. Crosley /Bendix distributors then became Philco distributors.

In 1963, Ford Motor Co. bought Philco and changed name to Philco /Ford and operated the company for 13 years. Then, like its forebears, Ford decided in 1976 maybe it had better get back to doing what it did best _ building cars _ and it sold Philco Electronics to GTE, closing down Philco Appliances.

Then Philco distributors, as a group, formed The Crosley Corp. and purchased from Avco all Crosley rights. In '76 this group brought major appliances back into the market under the Crosley name. (The appliances are made by various manufacturers who then _ as they do with dozens of other brand name distributors _ sell them to Crosley.

Incidentally, those replicas of the old Crosley table radios? Those are made by the Thomas Corp. under a licensing agreement from Crosley.

It's probably a good thing old Powel got out when he did. It's doubtful he'd understand "modern" American business.