The Little Car

Jerry Kauffman

 
 
 


  


Jerome "Jerry" Kauffman was born in Hartford, CT in 1913 to Sara Kauffman (née Olch) and Max Kauffman, immigrant Russian violinist and son of one-time personal physician to the royal Romanov family.  Jerry and his sister enjoyed many childhood years in Providence, RI before their father's job brought the family to Reading, Pennsylvania, where Jerry would later make his home and leave his mark on the world.

Graduating from high school in 1931, Jerry began work as a field service technician for Fairmore Music in Reading, performing maintenance and repair work on customers' rented jukeboxes.  It was while working at this job that he gained his extensive knowledge of electronic circuits, and after marrying in 1934 and being blessed with a son the following year, he used these skills to open a side business repairing radios at home for supplemental income.

Jerry soon realized that his radio repair work was bringing in more money than his full-time job on the road.  With his family to think of, he quit his job, and he and his wife, Miriam, started up their own full-time repair business.  Through hard work and dedication, their business grew steadily. And since he now spent far less time on the road, Jerry was able to devote a considerable portion of his free time to working on the Little Car.  

With the advent of television over the coming years, Jerry was in prime position to offer repair services for the notoriously problematic early television sets.  This marked a new era for not only his business, but also his family with the birth of his daughter.  Now with a constant flow of repair work, Jerry also had two antenna installation crews working from dawn to dusk, day after day as the TV craze spread throughout the city.  

This was when Jerry really knew that he had made it.  His fortuitous decision a decade before could not have been more perfectly timed, and now here he was with a band of dedicated employees, moving his shop to ever larger and better locations.  The scope of his business was also growing, eventually including the sales of radios, televisions, and other household appliances and parts, in addition to repairs.  The best part of this success, for Jerry, was that he was finally able to move his family of four out of the city in 1950 and into a large split-level home in the suburbs.

Throughout four decades, Jerry's fleet of TV & appliance "ambulances" could be seen making house calls and deliveries throughout the greater Reading / Berks County area.  But by the late 70s, large national retailers were proving too much competition for the sales end of the business, and with the advent of less expensive, more reliable solid-state circuitry came a sharp downturn in the volume of repairs.  So in 1978, Jerry made the difficult decision to go into semi-retirement as he closed in on 65.

Closing his shop and moving his scaled-back repair operation into his home, Jerry gradually got out of the business altogether and spent the next 20 years enjoying his retirement with his wife, family, and friends.  During this time, he took the Little Car out of storage where it had sat for more than 20 years after it no longer met the new requirements for road safety.  He began quite an extensive refurbishment project, the goal being to some day get his baby registered, inspected, and street-legal again.

In 1999, Jerry's efforts paid off, and the Little Car was back on the road.  Sadly, though, his wife passed away later that year, not long before what would have been their 65th wedding anniversary.  But it was during this time of grief and the years that followed that the Little Car became of particular importance to Jerry, as he spent the greater part of many a day tinkering with it to pass the time and to remind himself of happier days.

Jerry began using the Little Car again for running errands and drove it in a number of local parades, using the intuitive data that he'd gather on every trip to plan his next enhancement or modification.  Now back in the public eye, a renewed interest in Jerry's hand-crafted machine was sparked.  And though, just a few short years later, he would no longer be driving, Jerry continued to proudly display his creation every chance he got and patiently tell its story to all who wanted to hear it.

In March 2008, just shy of his 95th birthday, Jerry Kauffman succumbed to the rigors of age -- a devoted family man, accomplished business man, car enthusiast, ham radio hobbyist, nature lover, thinker, traveler, and all-around fix-it guy.  Although over his long lifetime he saw the passing of his sister, nephew, wife, and son, as well as many of his friends, neighbors, colleagues, and business associates, he left behind his two grandsons, daughter, granddaughter, two great-grandchildren, and no less a member of the family... his Little Car.

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