Tonic for a TV doctor
CELEBRATIONS are in order for Ron Pratt, the radio ham, sailor and TV doctor. Not only is 2006 the 60th anniversary of his arrival in Stevenage, but this year is the 50th anniversary of Stevenage and District Amateur Radio Society, for which he is treasur
CELEBRATIONS are in order for Ron Pratt, the radio ham, sailor and TV doctor.
Not only is 2006 the 60th anniversary of his arrival in Stevenage, but this year is the 50th anniversary of Stevenage and District Amateur Radio Society, for which he is treasurer, and it is 50 years since he started working in the radio and TV engineering trade.
Last year was also the 40th anniversary of his sailing club, North Herts & East Beds and it has also been eight years since he locked up his shop, The TV Doctor, for the last time.
Seventy-three-year-old Ron has had many guises, but the one constant is his presence in Stevenage.
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He arrived in 1946, before the advent of the new town so he has witnessed many developments over the years. Having left school at 14 "as we did in those days, with an interrupted education due to the war", he worked first for Murphy radio and later for a radio dealer in the High Street.
He remembers: "During this time Stevenage was changing from a small village to a large town."
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Having been in the 1st Stevenage Scouts and the 955 Squadron ATC he served his National Service in the RAF in 1951, spending three years improving his education and training on radar.
Ron said: "I was stationed at Saffron Walden from where I cycled home twice or three times a week... oh to be fit again! It's a pity we don't have something like the National Service nowadays where one could learn how to get on with others and self-discipline."
He started his own business in 1962 and it turned into a family affair with wife Mary and his children getting involved. Ron spent 35 years known to many as the TV Doctor in the Old Town, Stevenage, with 25 years living above the shop in the High Street.
As a representative of his fellow traders in Stevenage Chamber of Trade he was able to support shops and residents interests. He said: "One incident that comes to mind is when they tried to impose parking restrictions at the north end of the High Street. We were able to make it two hours rather than one hour parking to everyone's benefit."
In the 80s he started a Victorian evening in the High Street which was very successful but unsustainable after a few years.
The shop business is not for the lazy. "My life revolved around the needs of the shop and my customers which meant that our only day off was on Sunday so one had to make the most of this. In my case I thought sailing was the perfect antidote to the week's stresses and the boat I bought then, a Mirror dinghy, in 1964, is still with me."
The Stevenage sailor's other major interest is amateur radio, having received his licence in 1974.
Ron said: "This is the ideal hobby for people confined to the home, but I enjoy doing it out in the countryside most. Over the years it has enabled me to put something back into the community, supporting outside events for schools, etc.
"As a club we are involved in training anybody, from young to old, to obtain their amateur radio licence and this year we were very pleased to be awarded a lottery grant for equipment for this purpose."
Although he has cause for celebration these last couple of years have also been hard. He said: "As is usual, it seems, I have been just as busy in retirement. However, I had hoped that my wife Mary and I would be able to have many holidays together, something almost impossible with the shop, but it was not to be as Mary passed away at Easter 2005, just before our wedding anniversary and before my granddaughters graduated from university."
However, ever positive, he added: "With the support of my family and friends, life is getting better.