Yes, as I mentioned, Jim built, or as he would say, wound his own crystal radio.
Today you can look up on the Internet to find out how to build a crystal radio and find something like this: Chapter 4: Radio — Building a simple crystal radio set. But Jim had to really want to know how to do something and look it up in the library or read about it in a magazine (if and when they had an article about it). Anyway, Jim found out how to make one and set about making it. We are talking about a 6 or 8 year old boy.
After he built the crystal radio, he would have it near his ear in a little pocket on the bed so he could hear the skip roll in, and he would often be able to hear Jean Shepherd from New York (Jim was in Massillon, Ohio) as he laid there in his bed not really tired yet enjoying all the wonderful stories Jean Shepherd would tell his audience. This crystal radio gave him so much joy.
He also fixed an old console TV in the playroom as a child, and he would watch Outer Limits late at night (because the picture tube was so old and pale that it was the only time it was visible enough to watch it). But to me that was half the fun for Jim, he was doing something cool with something he fixed on his own, and it was also something he wasn’t really supposed to do so he had to keep the volume down low too. 😉 The playroom was actually a little sunroom off the boys’ bedroom which they called the playroom. Jim also had a dark room in his walk in closet but that’s a story for another day.
NOTE: From an email 1/11/2015 from Jim’s cousin Frank:
We could indeed get radio reception from New York and the east coast at night from the Massillon-Canton area. I remember listening to WBZ Boston on late summer nights back in the days when the Doors’ Light My Fire and that whole era of songs were still being introduced on the air. How exciting it must have been for young Jim to catch New York on his crystal set!