Elmer G. Osterhoudt
The Modern Radio Laboratories Catalog 

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Mabel Elizabeth Smith (Osterhoudt). Passport photo from March 7, 1923.
She was 5' 1" tall and had brown eyes and brown hair.
Mabel Osterhoudt died of an enlarged heart on July 27, 1983. She and Elmer are buried together in Westminster Cemetery (now named Westminster Memorial Park) near Garden Grove, California. Their headstone is of blue granite, with an MRL emblem on it. Her heart condition may explain why all the houses they lived in had no upper level.

In January 1984, Elmer was at a senior citizen's dance in Anaheim, California where he met a woman named Lois. Elmer and Lois were soon together and Lois took over some of Mabel's role at MRL, assembling kits, parts, literature, etc.

How much energy can one guy possibly have? Five months after his wife died, at 84 years old and still working at MRL, he was at a DANCE. And he hooks up!

By April of 1985 Elmer had been living with Lois for over a year, but still brought flowers to Mabel's grave every Thursday. The cemetery would collect them on Wednesdays, so Elmer replaced them on Thursdays.

On December 30, 1986 Elmer wrote that he had had shingles on his left arm since December 12, so his health may have been beginning to fail.

On June 7, 1987, Elmer Osterhoudt died of injuries suffered in an automobile accident.
He had maintained Modern Radio Laboratories for 55 years.

Below is a list of addresses for MRL.
Note that entries in different colors show the SAME address.
(The number/letter combinations are post office boxes.)
1924-1928 Los Angeles, CA MRL Catalog
1928-1932 Oakland, CA MRL Catalog
-- Modern Radio Laboratories begins in 1932 --
1932-33 1508 23rd Avenue, Oakland, CA "How to Make Coils" Handbook HB-6, Short Wave Craft
1934-38 151 Liberty Street, San Francisco, CA * Popular Mechanics, Radio World, Radio Craft, Radio News
1938-39 7700-T E. 14th, Oakland, CA Popular Mechanics, Radio Craft
1940-43 1406 77 Ave, Oakland, CA (Same as above) 1940 California census, Radio News
1944 363-A and 363-C Hampton, Hayward, CA Popular Mechanics, Radio Craft, Radio News
1945 PO Box I, 114 Dale Ave, San Carlos, CA Elmer's draft card from WWII
1946 BOX I-B San Carlos, CA Radio News
1947-48 Eye-C San Carlos, CA Popular Mechanics
1948-49 Eye-H San Carlos, CA Radio News
1948-50 578-B San Carlos, CA Radio News, Radio Craft
1949 578-T San Carlos, CA Popular Science
1950 578-H San Carlos, CA Radio News
1951 411-H Capitol Hill, Reno, Nevada Radio News
1952-53 1131-B Valota Road, Redwood, CA ** Radio Electronics, Jim McNutt WA6OTP
1954 328-C Fuller, Redwood City, CA ** Popular Mechanics
1954-56 328-B and 328-L Fuller, Redwood City, CA RADIO magazine, Popular Mechanics, Radio Electronics
1957-58 328 Fuller St, Redwood City, CA Popular Mechanics, Redwood City directory
1958-65 1131-L Valota Road, Redwood, CA RADIO magazine, Popular Mechanics, Popular Electronics
1966 993-L, Redwood City, CA RADIO magazine
1966-70 12041 Sheridan Lane, Garden Grove, CA RADIO magazine
1970-71 2612-L Butano Drive, Sacramento, CA RADIO magazine
1971-72 745-L Cordone Ave. Reno, NV 89502 RADIO magazine, MRL Catalog
1972-74 10322 Ballard Drive, Garden Grove, CA *** Elementary Electronics, MRL Catalog
1975-87 P.O. Box 1477, Garden Grove, CA *** The Horn Speaker magazine, MRL Catalog, MRL letterhead
* This was the address of Mabel's parents, Alma and George Smith, in the 1920s.

In RB&H #36 (printed in 1953) Elmer related that they moved from Valota Road to a nine unit apartment house, which they built. He said it was "three blocks north of Broadway, in Redwood City, and close to all chain stores, etc." After 67 years it's hard to verify this address. There is a building on Fuller Street that could definitely hold nine apartments, but the address is the cross street, 600 Allerton Street. Up the block is a large house, but the address of this is 530 Warren Street. Three blocks south is "Broadway," just like Elmer wrote. Public records for San Mateo County don't list an address for 328 Fuller Street. See for yourself here:  MAP

*** These are the same address. After 73 years Elmer finally settled down.

In February of 1986, the advertisement above was placed by Elmer in the "Wanted" section of a magazine named "The Horn Speaker."
In the September 1987 issue, this message was printed in the "Wanted" section. It states that you can write to Mel Osterhoudt for more details. Melvin was Elmer's youngest brother, and would have been 62 years old at the time.

This ad is very misleading. According to Paul Nelson, Dr. Berford. A. Turke, the owner of MIDCO, placed this ad! There was no "encouragement" from Elmer, and Mel Osterhoudt had nothing to do with MIDCO.

I wrote to Mel in 2018. Twice. Unfortunately it was 31 years later, but I hoped there would be a family member still living there. The unopened letters were returned with "NOT AT THIS ADDRESS" written on them. I then wrote to Paul Nelson, who informed me that his friend, Mel Osterhoudt, died in the early 1990s. LINK
These MIDCO ads appeared in Hands On Electronics from July 1986 till December 1988.
It has been reported that Dr. Turke, sometimes sounded quite unhinged over the phone. The MIDCO venture lasted till the year 2000, when Dr. Turke became ill. At that time, he placed an add in "Antique Radio Classified" for someone to bring a truck and haul away 50 years of MIDCO radio equipment and crystal radio supplies, free of charge. He died on November 25, 2002.

The August 1987 issue of Monitoring Times, page 19, states the Osterhoudt family was considering selling MRL to a qualified individual. In the early 1990s MRL reappeared under the direction of Paul Nelson. All trademarks now belong to him.

From an article in "Radio Age" by Dick Mackiewicz: "Elmer was involved in a severe automobile accident in 1986 and never recovered. Paul visited Elmer during his convalescence and expressed interest in carrying on Elmer's business. Elmer and his family liked Paul a great deal, and when Elmer passed away in 1987, Paul bought Elmer's business and moved it to it's present location in Minnesota." The article can be found here.

When Paul Nelson acquired MRL the only thing left was Elmer's printer and two crystal set kits. There were no coils or anything else handmade by Elmer. Where did it all go? 31 years later, dozens of brand new MRL coils made by Elmer were found on a website that sold antique radio parts. How did they end up there?

This advertisement appeared in "The Horn Speaker" in 1998.
The MRL website appeared soon afterward.

Now if we could only figure out who that other Elmer kid was, the one who showed up at the Osterhoudt place in 1915 (Page 1) and helped get the radio working and this whole thing started, hoopie-hellie, that would really be something.

The first radio Elmer made didn't work, yet he spent a lifetime in radio and helped thousands of others in the "small set" field. Some of these also went on to make radio a life-long career. Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Elmer Osterhoudt.

  Westminster Memorial Park                Photo by Chuck Schubert
Remembrance Garden 56A, Lot 483, Sp. 4
Click for full size


Much of the personal information presented here about Elmer G. Osterhoudt came from Elmer G. Osterhoudt himself, including the fact that his name is pronounced "OH-sterhowdt"...

... except this: His middle name was Guy!

Additional information for anyone who wants to do a genealogy search:
Elmer G. Osterhoudt - Born  October 6, 1899. Died June 7, 1987
Mabel Elizabeth Smith - Born August 26, 1900. Died July 27, 1983
  Elmer's siblings: Born - Died  
  Cyril Wilbert 1901 - 1952  
  Wilda Francis 1915 - 1973  
  Charles F. 1916 - 2005  
  Nora E. 1918 - 1922  
  Dorothy Evelyn 1921 - 2013  
  Ada May 1923 - 1925  
  Melvin Arthur 1925 - 1992  

Wilbert Arthur Osterhoudt (Elmer's father) born March 3, 1870. Died Dec 3, 1930
Minnie Jane Comer Osterhoudt (Elmer's Mother) Born Jan 1, 1876. Died Sept 29, 1903
Elmer's parents were married on Feb 22, 1899. Elmer was born 7.5 months later.
Charles Higby Osterhoudt (Elmer's grandfather) Born Aug 28, 1829. Died April 8, 1903
Elizabeth Woodruff Osterhoudt (Elmer's grandmother) Born June 10, 1832. Died June 1, 1896
Charles and Betsy had 11 children.

Information from the US Census
The 1900 Census from the Scotts Mills Precinct of Marion County, Oregon, shows that Elmer's father William was 30 years old. He was a carpenter. William lived with his father, whose name was Charles, in Charles' house. Charles was 70 years old. Also in the house were two of William's brothers, Henry and John. They were both farmers. William was "unemployed" 8 months of the year, so he may have also been farming. In the residence lived a daughter-in-law named Minnie J. Osterhoudt who was 24, and Elmer Osterhoudt, who was 7 months old.

The birthplace of Minnie was Kansas. The birthplace of Elmer's mother was also Kansas. From this we may assume Minnie was Elmer's mother. William and Minnie Osterhoudt and baby Elmer all lived in Elmer's grandfather's house with Elmer's grandfather and uncles.

(Scotts Mills is about 50 miles south of Portland, on the edge of Marion County. US Military records from 1942 show that Elmer was born in Butte Creek, Oregon. Butte Creek is actually a creek that runs through Scotts Mills.

In 1900, Scotts Mills consisted mainly of two mills that were built on the creek in 1847, two churches, a blacksmith, a post office, two general stores, and about 150 inhabitants. Charles, being 70 years old in 1900, seems to have been one of the first settlers. According to "The Centennial History Of Oregon, 1811 - 1912, Volume 2" Charles and his brother Elias came from Illinois and settled in Marion in the 1860s.)
The 1910 Census shows William Osterhoudt still living in Oregon, but in the North Eugene Precinct of Lane County. Elmer is ten years old, born in Oregon. There is no mention of Minnie, just William and his son Elmer. William is a merchant in the lumber trade. William's parent were born in New York. (William's legal name was Wilbert.)

(Eugene County is about 90 miles South of Portland and about 70 miles south-west of Scotts Mills. Today, it is a much larger town than Scotts Mills.)
The 1920 Census has Elmer Osterhoudt, now 20, living in Fresno, CA. He is head of household and a radio operator at a power company. It states his mother was born in Oregon. Almost all the names on the census page are males who also work at a power company. They are laborers, foremen, machinists, a wagon maker, a teamster, blacksmiths, clerks, an oiler, and a store keeper. Apparently, Elmer lived in housing provided by the company. (Elmer wrote that he worked for the Southern California Edison Company in 1920.)
A separate 1920 entry shows William and his wife Alice Osterhoudt living in Los Angeles. William is 49 and Alice is 31. Alice (whose maiden name was Alice E. Shields) was from Washington state. Their children are Elmer, age 20, and Cyril, age 18, then Wilda, age 4 years, 11 months, Charles, age 3 years, 7 months, and Nora, age 1 year, 4 months. Also living in the house was Elmer's uncle John, age 45.

Note: The 1922-23 Watts-Compton city directory lists their address as 8011 Crocket Blvd.
The 1930 Census shows Elmer, now 30, living with his wife Mabel in Oakland, Alameda, CA. It states Elmer is a proprietor in the radio business, Mabel is a clerk at a railroad and Mabel's mother was born in Sweden. It also shows that Elmer's mother was born in Oregon.

1942 Draft cards for Charles, Cyril, Melvin and Elmer show they all lived in Los Angeles. Charles, Cyril and Melvin lived with their parent at 8019 Crockett Blvd. Elmer and Mabel lived at 1406 77th Ave in Oakland.

Note: City directories show the Osterhoudt family moved from 8011 Crockett Blvd to 8019 Crockett Blvd around 1926. In 1936 Cyril moved across the street to 8006 Crockett Blvd but apparently moved back to 8019 a few years later.

What happened to Minnie Osterhoudt? Why did Elmer twice state his mother was born in Oregon when Minnie was born in Kansas? Perhaps Elmer didn't know much about Minnie, he was only four years old when she died. Elmer was born in Oregon and may have thought his mother was born there, too.

Cemetery records show that Minnie Jane Comer Osterhoudt died on September 28, 1903, aged 27 years and eight months. She was born in Lake City, Kansas. She is buried in Miller Cemetery in Silverton, Marion County, Oregon, near Scotts Mills. Minnie died in Washington State, where William's (new) wife Alice was from.

Charles Osterhoudt, Elmer's grandfather, is also buried in Miller Cemetery. He died the same year as Minnie, but earlier that April. He was 73. They both died in Yakima, Washington. What happened to them in Yakima, and why were they brought back to Oregon?

Elmer's father, Wilbert Osterhoudt, died in 1930, aged 60, leaving Alice with six children under the age if 15. After Wilbert died, she married a man named James Newman. James died in 1964, aged 71. Alice lived till 1981 and was 92 years old. Wilbert and Alice are both buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Wilbert and Minnie Osterhoudt, Elmer's parents. (Click for full size.)
Photo thanks to Melissa Alberda and Lois Ray. Melissa is distantly related to Elmer.

Information from the 1940 Census
Note: Click on the link above, select ED 61-256 and go to page 27. Does not work in Firefox.
Or, just click here.
Address 1406 77th Avenue, San Francisco, California
Value of home or rental property $9000*
Home Owned or Rented Owned
Name of each person in residence as of April 1,1940 Osterhoudt Elmer G.    Head of Household
Osterhoudt Mabel E.   Wife
Place of Birth Elmer - Oregon
Mabel - Missouri
Age Elmer - 40
Mabel - 39
Highest Grade of School Completed Elmer - H4, Code 30 (12th grade)
Mabel - H4, Code 30 (12th grade)
Industry Elmer - Radio Store
Mabel - Railroad**
Occupation Elmer - Proprietor
Mabel - Clerk
Class of worker Elmer - OA (Working on Own Account)
Mabel - PW (Salary worker in Private Work)
Number of hours worked per week Elmer - 54
Mabel - 40
Number of Weeks Worked Elmer - 52
Mabel - 52
Amount of Money, Wages or Salary Received Elmer - $0
Mabel - $2100***
Income From Sources Other Than Money, Wages or Salary Elmer - Yes
Mabel - No
* When the Osterhoudts purchased this location in 1938, the average cost of a house in California was $3,527. They
   must have owned the whole building. (See picture on the bottom of page 4.) No one else on the census page has a
   house valued at this much.

There is nothing written by Elmer that references Mabel working anywhere except MRL. She apparently was
     a clerk at Southern Pacific Railroad.

*** Only one other person on the census page made this much money; he was a chemist in a paint factory.

MRL Mystery: Did Elmer go to Compton High School?

The 1923 Compton High School year book, page 107, lists "Elmer Ousterhoudt" as a 1918 alumni. His address is "El Segundo, CAL" The school is about five miles from where he lived in 1918. Is the name in the yearbook misspelled?

Elmer never wrote that he lived in El Segundo, but the "El Segundo" was the name of the ship he served on in 1921.

The 1918 Compton High School yearbook is not yet available online to solve the mystery.

June 14, 2018