What happened next would set in motion a federal investigation with a twist worthy of a classic radio drama.
Goldin exposed what authorities have called “one of the most egregious instances of theft” from the National Archives, where the government preserves billions of historic documents, photographs and recordings. On Thursday, that investigation is scheduled to culminate in the sentencing in Greenbelt’s federal court of a longtime Archives official who has admitted to stealing nearly 1,000 recordings, many of them rare.
In the courtroom will be Goldin, a respected “radio historian” — don’t dare call him a “collector” — who may have been the only person capable of spotting the theft. He lives in a two-story Connecticut house that feels like a shrine to radio: His office is a studio that allows him to preserve and enhance classic records, and the walls are lined with framed albums of vintage radio broadcasts and other bits of nostalgia, including NBC’s chimes and an “On Air” sign. A colorful radio is displayed on nearly every horizontal surface. Among them are a set that doubles as a humidor and another, called a “Mae West,” that has a design feature “you could put a brassiere on,” Goldin said with a laugh.
“There are some people who give us tips who are just passive. He wasn’t like that,” said the Archives’ inspector general, Paul Brachfeld, whose office investigated the theft and plans to honor Goldin for his help after the sentencing. “He was a sentinel.”
The trip to the courtroom for Goldin, who speaks in clipped New York City sentences that often end with a punch line, began the moment he became fixated on collecting old radio shows. The date was Oct. 20, 1955, his 13th birthday, and his mother had just given him a set that included a tape recorder. Soon he was recording classical music and radio dramas in his parents’ Bronx apartment.
By the time he graduated from Stuyvesant High School and New York University, he knew he was destined for a career in his favorite medium. Soon, he was working as a disc jockey and radio engineer at small stations, including one in Sitka, Alaska, where he introduced programs in Tlingit, the language of the area’s native population. As a radio engineer, he edited recordings, spliced tape and calibrated audio machines. “I’m not bragging when I say that I was the best tape editor in the business,” Goldin said.