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There’s a communications museum in Forest Lake Hills.
It’s not an official museum, or even a public one, and the garage barely contains the vast collection of artifacts. Except for the occasional visit from Boy Scouts, not many people see it these days.
George “Buddy” Golding Sr. has assembled a shrine to communications technology, which he displayed at the Va. State Fair from 1991-99.
He has functioning crank telephones. A vacuum tube amplifier is connected to a Western Electric turntable, and they both still work. So does a telegraph machine.
An original movie projector hangs on the wall, as well as a later model that combines the sound and film for better synchronization.
He even has Mickey Mouse novelty phones, and some Snoopy ones, too.
“This is my own private museum,” Golding said.
“[The State Fair] really got me into putting this stuff together, and they gave me a building that I could keep my stuff in it, but then when the racetrack took over, I had to get out. I just shoved it in here,” he said.
Now retired, Golding was a longtime Western Electric employee in Richmond. He is his family’s third generation to work in the communications industry.
His grandfather, John Max Golding, held the patent for a type of doorbell, an “electrical signal apparatus.”
His father, Robert Max Golding, built tube radios by hand in the 1920s, and Buddy Golding still has some of them, as well as a linen cloth that displays the blueprints.
“The history of communications is what I believe in,” Golding said. “Wars don’t bring on nothing but wars and friction between countries and people, too. Communications is the answer.”
He added: “Today, we have computers [through which] people are communicating all over the world, and all of our scientific progress is speeded up.”
Golding is well versed in the history of communications, and he’s in the process of writing down anecdotes from his experiences.
He remembers when telephone companies realized that young women would make better operators than young men.
“When Bell telephone company was started, they hired these young boys to be operators. … These were young boys trifling around, and they didn’t really pay much attention. Telephone companies said, ‘Let’s try some women out at the switchboard,’” he recalled.
“They found out women were more efficient, and then they had a chief operator. … The chief operator was a very important person. You didn’t cross her,” Golding continued.
He added: “I worked in the switchboards … If you didn’t behave yourself or you started talking to a girl or flirting with an operator or something, you were in big trouble.”
Golding said Ashland played an important role in the World War II communications system.
A coaxial cable ran underground through Ashland, connecting Washington, D.C. with Richmond and parts south.
“Ashland says this is the center of the universe—well, that coaxial cable was critical for all the communication,” he said. “Ashland was the link of the communications system all during World War II and even after World War II.”
Though his museum holds plenty of old-fashioned telephones—and even a switchboard—Golding said communications encompasses more than just phones.
Photography is another passion of his. He still has the first camera he ever owned, which he acquired in 1938.
He served as a Navy photographer during World War II, and he was stationed at a prisoner-of-war camp in California.
“I shot more Germans in World War II than anybody, but I never killed any of them. I shot them with my camera,” Golding said.
His first job was as a paperboy in Richmond. He has preserved several WWII-era Richmond Times-Dispatch and News Leader papers, which remain in his collection.
Golding would like to see a proper communications museum established.
A museum devoted to a historical event or period only spans from beginning to end, but a communications museum would be different, he said.
“A communications museum does not have an end. It’s past, present, and future,” he explained.
Golding certainly has the materials to get one going.
“I could sell it piece by piece, but I’m not money-oriented, never have been money-oriented,” he said.
Golding is a member of Telephone Pioneers of America, a community service group. He is also a Hanover Master Gardener through the Va. Extension Office.