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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.