- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - When Gary Pearson was a kid growing up in Montana, he would attach electrical wire to radio antennas, plug them in and sword fight with his brother.

“Every time we touched antennas, a big arc would come,” he said. “The lights would dim in the house … We are lucky we didn’t burn the place down.”

Pearson also had a habit of taking clocks apart.

“I never knew how to put them back together until I got older,” he said.

Pearson is still a tinkerer, and he’s managed to make a living at it most of his life. The 62-year-old owns Alaska Television Service a business that has been operating in Fairbanks since before statehood. Pearson is the fourth owner.

For an $80 house call, Pearson will travel anywhere in the borough to evaluate a broken television and give the owner advice on whether it’s worth repairing. Most televisions can be repaired for about a third of the cost of replacing them, Pearson said.

“I try to make my customers happy,” he said. “I want people to be able to afford to fix their TVs.”

He became a TV repairman after a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy working on electronic warfare, reported the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (https://bit.ly/2lnlJSm).

He worked on televisions in Montana and then moved to Whitehorse, Yukon, where he got a job at an engine repair shop. Pearson said people would throw their TVs in the dump because there was no one to fix them. He convinced the owner of the engine repair shop to start an electronics division. Pearson ran the division but had to quit after he was unable to renew his Canadian work visa.

He moved to Juneau and got a job at a TV repair shop, but Juneau didn’t suit him.

“I got tired of the rain,” he said. “The weather got to me after a while.”

Pearson moved to Palmer and opened his own store, King TV Sales and Service. That was during the days of construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

“Everybody had money,” he said. “They were buying TVs and getting them fixed.”

Then environmental disaster struck. An oil tanker, the Exxon Valdez, struck a reef, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound. Pearson decided to join the cleanup effort.

“I thought it was just going to be like a one-week or two-week thing,” he said. “I ended up working there for about three or four months.”

He cleaned oil from rocks on the shoreline and later worked as a courier, delivering mail to others working on the cleanup effort.

Pearson returned to Palmer and resumed repairing televisions, but his marriage had soured and he decided to leave Palmer. He flipped a coin. Heads meant he would go to Anchorage. Tails was Fairbanks.

“I was glad the coin came down tails,” he said.

In Fairbanks, Pearson got a job at Alaska Television Repair, which was owned by Bill Suiter. When Suiter died in 2012, Pearson bought the business from the estate.

The repair shop is on University Avenue near Fred Meyer West in a shared space with an upholstery and refinishing business.

It’s a small space with a computer work station, shelves full of boxes of television parts and a table where Pearson works on televisions.

One of the most common problems televisions suffer from is abuse from children, Pearson said.

“Children throw things at TV’s,” he said.

Another common problem is people shorting out their television because of static electricity.

Pearson recommends that people don’t touch their televisions and use their remote control in the wintertime to avoid problems with static electricity. He also recommends plugging televisions into a power strip to avoid surges.

A common problem with LED TVs is that the little bulbs inside them burn out.

Pearson has kept up with the changing technology over the years by taking training classes.

“It wasn’t that long ago that I was just pulling vacuum tubes out of TVs,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine that I actually did that before.”

He said the new technology is far and above better than the televisions of the 1900s.

“Every way you can measure it, they are much better,” he said. “They take less power. They are more reliable.”

On the other hand, Pearson prefers the television programming of the last century. One of his favorite shows is “Bonanza.”

“I am not into reality shows at all,” he said. “I’m an old guy. There is very little on TV that interests me.”


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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