Learning Uruguay

Every day brings ????

Uruguayans can fix anything

Posted by urufish on May 17, 2007

Before cheap Chinese imports became so plentiful, it was a Uruguayan tradition to fix, not buy anew.  I will never forget the day they were building a new addition to our house in Piriapolis.  I saw a guy with what looked like a gold prospectors sifting pan scooping up dirt beside the house.  I asked what he was doing.  He was looking for nails, bent nails.  When he had enough, he’d unbend them.  They never threw anything away and if they broke it, they’d fix it.   Thel last few years, I see cases where it’s simpler or cheaper replace it with something made in China, but tonight my faith in the Uruguayan concept of ‘fix not buy’ was renewed. 

Many years ago, my wife and I went to a home show to buy a hot tub.  While looking for one, we saw a Wurlitzer reproduction that looked just like the original.  The budget could handle one or the other, but not both.  After a short debate, we opted for the Wurlitzer, complete with 100 old 45’s.  Everything went great for several years until a few years ago when it’s health started failing.  First, some lights burned out.  Sounds simple but these lights require houdini to replace them.  Then one of the motors that turn the lights died.  Then the other one started squeaking.  The month before we were to load our container, the sound stopped. 

We called around and around and finally, one very old looking guy showed up and managed to replace some of the bulbs.  He said he wouldnt sell us a motor for the light turner thing because all the ‘crap’ today is cheap Chinese stuff that wont last a year.  He said he’d look one and that’s the last we saw of him.  Oh yah, he couldn’t fix the sound because it required a real Wurlitzer repair guy.  He was just a hacker.  So we emailed the importer in Vancouver.  No reply.  So we went after a few companies in the US.  No one wanted to touch it. 

We were getting nowhere fast and the deadline for shipping was coming up fast.  My wife said let’s put our faith in Uruguay.  Someone there has to fix these things.  She remembers seeing them in a few bars so they must have someone in the country who fixes them. 

When we got it here, we asked around.  Seems that all the Rockola’s nowadays use CD’s… not 45’s.  The guts in this machine are TUBES…  Ahhh.. there must be someone here who still remembers tubes.  I suggested we go to the list of ham operators in Montevideo….   If we can find a guy over 60, for sure he can fix it.  Well, we didn’t have to.  A couple of weeks ago, one of our new airconditioners went on strike.  After about 12 hours of troubleshooting, it was fixed.  My wife asked one of the guys if they knew anyone who fixed Rockola’s here.  He said no, but he’d ask the chief tech.  Turns out the chief tech didn’t know anything at all about Rockola’s but he was intrigued with it anyway.  So he came to the house and took the whole thing apart and back to the shop.  Tonight, they brought it all back and after about 15 minutes, we heard ‘Do the Twist’… all 130w of the big mono speaker.  The floor shook and we were almost in tears.  Chubby Checker can do that to you so far away from home. 

So now they’re putting the final touches on it.  Putting in the new motor and fixing all the lights that burned out.  One of their suggestions for down the road is to add a 220v supply to it and whenever anything goes in 110v, that there isn’t a replacement part here for, they’ll rig up a 220v replacement and drive it from the 2nd plug.  Gotta luv Uruguayan ingenuity. 

So now everything’s fixed and Chubby had his debut in our house in Uruguay.  But there’s one problem.  The phonograph assembly is from the old days.  It runs on fixed frequency.  The 60hz from North America.  So Chubby’s voice is a bit huskier than it should be.  But no problem.  Our guys say they can rig up something to put on the motor to speed it up.   One week.  Let’s see how that goes.  We’re optimistic. 


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