Columnist / Historian
On Tuesday, Nov. 16, the Perry Township / Southport Historical Society held its bi-monthly meeting and program. The guest speaker was Joe Ake Jr., who talked about his dad’s ownership of the Recommended TV business that was founded by his father, Joe Ake.
Ironically, the son remembered that his father told him when he was nine years old that “one day you will hang your TV on the wall.”
The Ake family lived in the very first house west of Madison Avenue on Thompson Road. Joe Ake and his wife Katheryn raised a large family of nine children that included eight daughters and a son. Seven of the daughters recalled many memories in a video that Joe Jr. made and was shown at the meeting.
Ake worked for an insurance company for several years. He became interested in televisions when they first came out in the 1940’s. He learned about working on televisions and started out helping neighbors and local families when they were needing repairs.
In 1949, Recommended TV was started. It was located in part of their home on Thompson Road. Over the years, the business grew and took over more of the family home.
With nine children in the home, daughter Julie Butler recalled, “I remember being in a family that had continuous activity. There was always something going on somewhere with or without the TV business.”
A couple of the sisters explained that it seemed a bit strange when they had to answer their home telephone by saying, “Recommended TV”. Later there was a normal business telephone with its own number.
During the early days of television, many of the TVs were very large and bulky. When the TV stopped working, a repairman needed to be called. The early days of Recommended TV required Ake to make many house calls to repair customers televisions. Daughter Carol Evans recalled that her dad would bring home the used burnt-out TV tubes.
“My favorite activity was putting the tubes that he brought back on the shelves,” she said. “There were hundreds and hundreds (of tubes).”
Each of his daughters accompanied him on house calls which they enjoyed most of the time, although they sat on many couches in many homes watching their dad make repairs to TV sets. Many times they enjoyed french fries that their dad would pick up for them.
The business grew over the years. This required taking over more of the space in the house. In the early 1960’s there was quite a bit of expansion connected with their business as Madison Avenue was converted into a four-lane street.
The reception and showroom areas were expanded. At some point, Recommended TV also sold appliances. During the presentation at the historical society meeting, he also explained they displayed and sold furniture for a while.
Their service and tech areas also grew over the years. The daughters remember their dad having a large carrying case filled with parts and tubes to repair TVs. It looked like a large case that a doctor would carry. They had several repair trucks that were driven to the customer’s house to get their televisions back in running order. Most of that changed with the digital era.
Recommended TV grew to a few other locations. They opened one in Nora Plaza in 1971. There were a couple of other locations as well but the main operation was always at Thompson and Madison. Part of the growth was attributed to a popular jingle on radio commercials on WIFE.
I remember one of the girls telling us that their father sometimes drove some of the employees up to the Teepee and purchased their lunch. His daughters revealed stories on the video of how kind their father was to his employees.
When I was growing up, we lived on Madison Avenue. Our house was just a block north of Thompson Road. Our family and the Ake family were friends and neighbors for many years.
My mother belonged to a ladies’ club. When color TVs became popular, mom would hear some of her friends talking about purchasing a new set. Mom would direct her friends to Recommended TV and Mr. Joe Ake.
One day, I came home to discover a new color TV in our living room. Ake had made mom a special deal because of all the customers she had directed his way.
The Recommended TV building eventually was torn down. The site is now the location of the Turkey Run gasoline station and food mart.
The presentation brought back memories of a viable Southside business that was founded locally and was locally owned. It is a reminder that even today, we need to support family-orientated and locally-owned businesses on the Southside.
Attendance was good at the historical society meeting and attendees were highly interested in the history of a local business. The video that Ake’s son presented at the historical society meeting may be viewed online at: https://youtube.com/ watch?v=7H6iVplyTCg&feature=s hare
(Thank you to Editor Al Stilley for contributing to this story).