In 1931 Leonard continued his efforts to advance his understanding in radio and took a job with Supreme Instrument in Greenwood, Mississippi. Leonard worked for a production engineer learning the components and processes to build radio test equipment.
Between this and his next job, which would take him out of Arkansas once again, he moved back to his hometown of Little Rock to help out at his father's company while searching for a job in radio. This was where he met and married Harriet Hirte, in 1933. Harriet, occasionally teased by her southern peers for her northern roots, had moved to Arkansas from Minnesota as a young adult to live with her sister, Louise Orne.
The Move to Cincinnati
From the 1920s to the 1950s, Cincinnati, Ohio was the radio mecca of the world. Leonard applied at several Cincinnati radio stations and manufacturers. Harriet and Leonard's new marriage was tested when a telegram arrived one Friday afternoon in 1934, calling Leonard to report for part-time work in Cincinnati, Ohio, the following Monday. During the Depression, good jobs were hard to come by, so Leonard jumped on a train the next morning and arrived in Cincinnati on Sunday.
With his new bride still behind in Arkansas, he found lodging in a small second story apartment and began working for Crosley Radio Corporation the next day. In 1935 when he first moved to the Queen City, Leonard wrote to Harriet:
"Cincinnati I believe is an older town than St. Louis, although not quite as dirty and extremely hilly. I believe you will like it here."
The sudden opportunity left Harriet to continue working in Little Rock until Leonard was sure the job in Cincinnati was permanent. During that time, she worked as a secretary in an insurance office for a woman she greatly respected and admired. Leonard wrote letters to his wife describing the difficulty of the transition, saying he felt disadvantaged in a field of college-educated men:
"The only trouble is there are so many other fellows who know so much more than I do that it makes me feel mighty dumb. I am just learning what the lack of an engineering education really means. It's hard to deliver the goods without it."
In an effort to catch up with his peers, Leonard studied late into the night every day after work, reading radio handbooks and engineering manuals Harriet sent him.
Though he was not traditionally educated like his peers, Leonard was hired on full time in September of 1935 to focus on a new project to develop a beat frequency oscillator. With the on-the-job experience he gained, combined with his motivation to learn, he continued to move up in the corporation. By the time he left Crosley seven years later, he was in a management position supervising 37 engineers in the Test Construction department.
Powel Crosley, head of the corporation, valued the success of his company deeply. His office—built above the rest of the headquarters—was referred to by many as his tower, and he was known to call employees there to discuss ideas. The team he often called on for these late-night brainstorming sessions was an engineering group that, due to his own self-teaching, Leonard had been included in. Interestingly, several members of this group went on to create strong Cincinnati-based corporations. In addition to Leonard, the group also included Ted Tedford who went on to create Tedford Crystal Laboratory, Arnet Foster who created Foster Transformer Company, and Louie Toerner who created American Sound and Electronics, Inc.
Though none but Clippard remain family-owned, all remain in business to this day. It seems perhaps Crosley was more of an early business incubator than radio corporation. Regardless, Powel Crosley certainly hired extremely talented, driven men that he could collaborate with, thereby surrounding Leonard with men from whom he could learn and network with.
Over the course of Leonard's first year with Crosley, Harriet moved to Cincinnati. In 1936, the couple had their first child together, Patricia Louise. Shortly later, Leonard's first wife Dorothy passed away and their six-year-old son Buck came to live with Leonard and Harriet. With a growing family at home, Leonard continued to learn and develop his skills at Crosley.
At that time, quality radios were priced close to $200, making Crosley's $39 bullet-shaped radio a gateway product that allowed more people to gain access to this new technology. Leonard became deeply involved in the creation of commercial radio stations like WSAI and WLW, which were created as a means to expand the sales of Crosley's affordable radio brand.
During the 1937 flood, Powel Crosley volunteered Leonard to be involved in a medical mission along the river because of his experience with shipboard radios. Leonard spent two weeks operating the ship radio for a group of public health nurses administering Tetanus and Typhoid shots to flood victims up and down the Ohio River.
As Leonard worked for Crosley, he kept dreaming of starting his own company. Shown here is the earliest reference to the name Clippard Instrument Labs—it was a side project for a local school, designing and installing a PA system. The final page of this document noted "100% tested." Still touted today, it is a testimony to the ingrained culture of quality Leonard began so long ago.
Part of creating radio stations included the building of powerful transmitters to broadcast the radio signals over wide areas. A 500,000-watt transmitter built in Mason, Ohio radiated so much energy that it interfered with the primitive open electrical wiring in many of the homes and barns in the area. In these days, household power was run with open wiring, which picked up the radio transmitter signals. This particular transmitter's signals were so strong that they caused the lights in a number of homes to stay on as long as the signal was on. Unable to shut their lights off at night, many residents complained. Crosley paid to rewire every affected house so the radio signals no longer controlled the light switches.