Uncle George, my dad’s brother (shown above with my mother in 1980), always fascinated me when I was a child. He had a sprawling electronics lab at his home in Swarthmore, an exotic and complex wonderland… though I think we only visited once from Kentucky and I desperately wanted to stay. His Christmas presents were seriously cool, like packs of components, a high-impedance relay, selenium solar cell, transistors… you know, good stuff. I can get stupid shirts anytime.
Decades down the road, long after he was gone, I learned more about him… finding snippets in my dad’s home movies of a playful fellow, a Quaker conscientious objector in WW2, a recognized expert in sound systems. Two obits turned up in the Deep Archives, and I decided to immortalize them in this timeline.
One of my father’s 8mm films from 1942 shows George clowning around at one of the Civilian Public Service camps, stroking his scraggly beard growth, just being a normal relaxed guy. (Growing up when I did, this is almost startling after being used to static posed B&W photos.)
George died in 1981 at age 69, and here are the obituaries found in old family papers.
George A. Roberts
Jan 21, 1981
George A. Roberts, 69, a communications engineer who designed radio, emergency and sound systems in use throughout the country, died of cancer Friday at his home in Swarthmore.
Mr. Roberts was graduated from Swarthmore and Earlham Colleges. He then spent 42 years in the communications field, 36 of them as an employee of the Raymond Rosen Co. He retired in 1976.
During his years with Rosen, his work included sound systems for political conventions at Convention Hall, background music systems for railroads and subways, design and application of remote control river-level measuring equipment and sound systems for Glencairn, the Pitcairn family castle in Bryn Athyn, and for the Bryn Athyn Cathedral.
Mr. Roberts also produced combined master antenna, fire alarm, sound and clock equipment for schools: remote control equipment for runway landing lights at the Greater Wilmington Airport, and sound systems for a number of race tracks, including Atlantic City and the former Garden State Park.
During part of his career, he trained specialists for RCA.
As a birthright Quaker, he was a conscientious objector during World War II. As such, he was assigned to work at Harvard University’s Psycho-Acoustic Labs, producing testing equipment for speech and hearing.
He was a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the Audio Engineering Society, the Franklin Institute and the Swarthmore Friends Meeting.
Surviving are his wife, Marguerite Adams Roberts; three daughters, Jean Seymour Bagg, Carole A. Seymour and Barbara S. Archer; four grandchildren, a brother and a Sister.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Friends Meeting on Whittier Place.
George A. Roberts
Delaware County Daily Times
Jan 20, 1981
George Anderson Roberts, a sound specialist, died Friday at his home in Swarthmore. He was 69.
Mr. Roberts was educated in Swarthmore schools and Earlham College in Indiana.
In 1941, he joined the Raymond Rosen Agency in Philadelphia, where he was in the communications department — sound reinforcement. During World War II, Mr. Roberts had detached service at Harvard University’s Psycho-Acoustics Lab for three years, producing specialized test equipment for speech and hearing.
He re-joined Raymond Rosen in 1946. Some of Mr. Roberts major projects included refurbishment of Philadelphia Convention Hall sound system for the 1948 political conventions, designing entertainment and music sound systems for the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York subways, designed and installed audio equipment of the eastern extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, remote control for Susquehanna River Flood Forecasting System, engineering sound for the Philadelphia Inquirer annual Music Festival in JFK Stadium and the sound systems of Garden State and Atlantic City race tracks.
Mr. Roberts later collaborated with RCA on the stereo system for Philadelphia Convention Hall and for the New York Metropolitan Opera. He also worked on the sytems for schools, language labs and airport landing lights in Wilmington, Del.
In 1971, he took over the technical training for RCA-TV. .
He was a member of IEEE, the Franklin Institute and a life member of the Audio Engineering Society. A birthright Quaker, Mr. Roberts was a member of the Swarthmore monthly meeting of the Society of Friends.
Surviving are his wife, the former Marguerite Adams; three step-daughters, Jane Seymour Bagg of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Carol A. Seymour of Swarthmore and Barbara Seymour Archer of Washington Courthouse, Ohio; a brother, Edward Roberts of Louisville, Ky.; a sister, Lydia McCracken of Baton Rouge, La. and four step grandchildren.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Swarthmore Friends Meeting.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Swarthmore Monthly Meeting Refugee Fund.