The Holy Grail among many Atwater Kent (AK) collectors is the Atwater Kent model 5. No serious AK collector would pass up the chance to own one of these rare radios, assuming they could afford one! I'd like to tell you how a new found friend on the other end of the country helped me in owning one and the extraordinary history behind it.
This Atwater Kent model 5 was a floor model in a radio shop owned by Bern Berlin in Santa Cruz, California back in the early 20's. It somehow found its way to the back room of a radio shop in Watsonville, California where the previous owner of the radio, Melvin Prater of Salinas, California found it and bought it from the store owner in the late 1960’s. Sometime in the early to mid-seventies, Mr. Prater met Ralph O. Williams who was making an appearance on a college campus. Ralph O. Williams was considered by many to be the foremost expert of his time on Atwater Kent Radios and had the largest collection of Atwater Kent radios in the country. Mr. Prater took the opportunity to ask Ralph Williams if he would restore his AK5 and Mr. Williams agreed and took it with him. Later, Mr. Williams returned the radio to Mr. Prater in fully restored condition and also gave him a copy of a book he had written on AK radios.
I met Ray Pierce on the Antique Radio Forum, another AK fan. He had a model 12 breadboard in great condition he wanted to sell and I was looking for one, so the deal was made. Sometime later Ray sent me a message informing him that his friend Melvin Prater wanted to sell his AK5 and of course, not having one at the time, I was very interested. When Melvin told me the story behind the radio, I jumped at the chance to own it and the deal was made. Mr. Prater, who was 90 years old, had the radio for fifty years when I bought it from him in December of 2018.
When I received the radio it was still working. Realizing how rare this radio is, I ordered a case custom made to protect it.
I will never forget Ray's help in acquiring the radio and will forever be grateful to Ray and to Melvin.
From time to time I hook it up to my ARBE and listen to it play. I like to think Ralph, Melvin and Atwater would have wanted it that way.
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