Tag Archives: Radio Nostalgia

Radio Nostalgia: Bob’s first radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bob Colegrove, who shares the following guest post:


My Very First Radio

By Bob Colegrove

Sears and Roebuck Co., Silvertone, Catalog No. 8003, Model No. 132.818-1

I don’t remember much from 1949.  I was seven years old and still in the first grade.  I do remember being gifted a radio by my mom and dad on my birthday.  It was a Sears and Roebuck Co., Silvertone, Catalog No. 8003, Model No. 132.818-1.  I don’t really remember asking for it.  I’m sure mom and dad did not have a clue as to how consumed I would become with radio over my lifetime.  In truth, this was not the radio that got me totally absorbed, rather that function would be filled in 1958 by the Howard Radio Co. Model 308 combination MW/SW radio-phonograph console which had been relegated to the basement in favor of the TV set.

In 1949 television was on the cusp of success, and AM radio was still the one-way Internet of its time.  I recall my mother listening to countless soap operas during the afternoon.  The Howard was still in the living room and we listened to all the popular programs at night.  Anyway, the Silvertone was mine.  It took up residence in my room and I could independently explore the wonder of five local stations broadcasting in Indianapolis at that time.  There were no parental guidance settings on the Silvertone, nor was there any need.

The Silvertone was not a world-class radio with all the sensitivity, bells and whistles I would later desire.  Below WXLW, 950 kc it was deaf.  It was, in fact, one tube short of an “All American Five.”  However, one of its four tubes was dual function, if you counted the detector.  It was what was called an “ac-dc” radio.  This meant it could be powered by either 110 Vac or Vdc.  Granted, there were a couple communities in the US which were still serviced by dc power at this late date, but that fact certainly did not warrant advertising.  The whole thing always seemed to me no more than a marketing ploy on the part of manufacturers to cover for the lack of an expensive isolation transformer in the circuit.  Given the fact that electrical standards of the time did not provide for polarized outlets and power cords, these things could be quite hot, and it’s amazing so many tinkers, myself included, are around to talk about it.

One Tube Short of an “All American Five”  

The dial was very crude, and the tiny tuning knob swept all 107 available channels in a 180-degree twist of the variable condenser.  My mom, always handy with a paint brush, took to marking favorite stations  with a dab of nail polish.  1430 kc was WIRE and 1070 kc was WIBC.  Perhaps she got the idea from Bill Halligan who used little red dots on the controls to indicate the setting that would likely produce some noise.

The printed media were sizeable and substantive in the 1940s.  The Indianapolis Star’s morning edition for Friday, April 13, 1945 was particularly mournful as the U.S. woke up to the news that the president had died the day before.  I was later given to understand that many stations broke from the normal schedule for a few days to play somber music.  Notwithstanding, the first section still bore the quintessential hourly radio program schedule from 6 am to midnight for each of the four local stations.  We always kept clippings of station logs for each day of the week.

My interest in baseball grew over the next couple years, and the Silvertone played an important role in my keeping up with the local AAA team.  The static on a summer night was atrocious.  Further, in those days, the broadcasters were not compelled to fill the air with chatter between pitches.  There were no recitations of mindless statistics and no color commentators to describe the nuances of sliders and curve balls.  Consequently, between pitches there were often long pauses of nothing but dead air.  If you happened to tune in during a pause you had little idea where WISH, 1310 kc was on a hopelessly crude dial.

Most minor league broadcasters did not travel with the team.  When the team went on the road, they used an old Model 15 clickety-clack Teletype machine in the studio.  A local guy at the distant ballpark would observe a pitch or play, and quickly type a cryptic message on his Teletype.  On the radio you would first hear the receiving Teletype spring to life in the studio as the message came in.  The announcer would quickly interpret it, and then embellish the play with some excitement as best he could.

Teletype Model 15
Copyright Museums Victoria (Licensed as Attribution 4.0 International
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

During those times, it was not too uncommon for the Teletype to suddenly go down during the game.  What to do?  An announcer was suddenly left to his own creativity to fill in airtime.  Possible solutions were to describe the lengthy process of extricating a stray animal from the field, or a sudden cloudburst and consequential rain delay.  An intrepid announcer went on as nothing happened, making up the play-by-play over the interval.  Invariably, when the Teletype came back up, he found himself not quite in sync with the game and possibly a few runs behind.  At that point the challenge was to patch in the necessary play and go on to complete the game to the satisfaction of an otherwise unsuspecting audience.

Well, after 73 years, I’ve seen my share of radios.  In the meantime, the Internet has made it possible to DX the entire world at any time on a fifty-dollar Kindle – excellent fidelity, no interference, no noise, no fading.  But, after all these years, I still cherish those static-filled ballgames and teletype machines heard on the Silvertone a long time ago.

Quietly Waiting for the Next Pitch

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Radio Waves: A Second Golden Age, RFE Popular in Russia, Station Helps Ukrainian Refugees, Symbol of Normalcy, Saving Wax Cylinders, and Antarctic Post Office Opportunity

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


Is radio in a second golden age? Here’s what the first looked like. (MSN / Washington Post)

On. Oct. 30, 1938, America was rocked by shocking news: Aliens had been spotted crash-landing outside Grover’s Mill, N.J. Additional sightings were soon made across the Northeast, including reports of Martians unleashing poisonous gas on Manhattan and burning onlookers alive with ray guns. Periodically, the breathless news reports would be reduced to static.

Listeners reacted in real time; many of them flooded the streets wearing gas masks and wet towels over their faces. Stores were raided, bridges and expressways were inundated with traffic, and pregnant women reportedly went into early labor.

Of course, the alien invasion never actually happened. The news bulletins were part of a live Halloween program a young producer and a cast of talented actors were presenting over the radio. The producer was 23-year-old Orson Welles, and the name of the episode was “War of the Worlds.” The H.G. Wells-adapted story had been produced for radio as part of Welles’s regular Sunday night broadcast, “The Mercury Theater on the Air” — a program that had hitherto been largely ignored, as it was up against a wildly popular variety show starring comedians Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

Only this Sunday was different, as millions of Americans who had tuned in to listen to Bergen and McCarthy changed their dials when the duo introduced a guest opera singer. “No one was in the mood for opera that night, and much of the country stumbled onto Welles’s broadcast by mistake, not knowing the news bulletins they heard were part of a radio drama,” explained Carl Amari, a syndicated radio host and the founder of Radio Spirits, a large distributor of classic radio programs. [Continue reading…]

The Kremlin tries to stifle Radio Free Europe — and its audience surges (Washington Post)

As the U.S.-funded broadcaster is forced to shut most of its Russian operations, its Web traffic indicates that Russian people are eagerly consuming its stories

Radio Free Europe, the U.S.-funded operation that got its start by piping American-flavored news through the Iron Curtain in 1950, could see big trouble brewing for its Russian operation in recent years.

The Kremlin kept putting the screws to its Russian-language broadcasts, throwing up ever more regulatory hurdles. But it was in late 2020 that the hammer really came down. The “media regulator” demanded that every broadcast, digital story and video carry an intrusive disclaimer at the top stating that what followed was the product of a foreign agent.

“Basically, it was like telling our audience to go away,” said Jamie Fly, the CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as the organization has been known since a 1976 merger.

That labeling would interfere with the private nonprofit’s mission at a core level. So, Fly told me, “we refused to comply.” [Continue reading…note that this content might be behind a paywall for some readers.]

New radio station helps Ukrainian refugees adapt in Prague (AP)

PRAGUE (AP) — This is Radio Ukraine calling.

A new Prague-based internet radio station has started to broadcast news, information and music tailored to the day-to-day concerns of some 300,000 Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in the Czech Republic since Russia launched its military assault against Ukraine.

In a studio at the heart of the Czech capital, radio veterans work together with absolute beginners to provide the refugees with what they need to know to settle as smoothly as possible in a new country. Continue reading

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Video: “The Glory Days of Shortwave Radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Adi, who writes:

Hi Thomas, this video just popped for me on YouTube. I searched the SWLing Post and didn’t find it, it’s not new so maybe you missed it.

Thank you, Adi. I’m almost positive I’ve posted this one before–but if I have it’s been so long it should be re-posted! A wonderful nostalgia trip! Thanks for sharing.

Click here to view on YouTube.

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Radio Waves: Cassette’s Role in Creation of Internet, AU2JCB Special Event, Joel Hallas (W1ZR) SK, and Shortwave Chatter

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Datta (VU2DSI), Kim Elliott, Ron, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


How the Cassette Tape Helped Create the Internet (WNYC Studios)

In 1983, Simon Goodwin had a strange thought. Would it be possible to broadcast computer software over the radio? If so, could listeners record it off the air and onto a cassette tape? This experiment, and dozens of others in the early 80s, created a series of cassette fueled, analog internets. Our friend Simon Adler at Radiolab reports.

This is a segment from our November 26th, 2021 program, How Cassette Tapes Changed the World. [Read and listen to this piece at WNYC Studios…]

AU2JCB operation 19 NOV to 14 DEC 2021 (Datta, VU2DSI)

AU2JCB is a special event callsign to commemorate the birth date (30 NOV) & to pay homage & tell about the great INDIAN scientist Aacharya JAGADISH CHANDRA BOSE who is recognized as the “Father of Wireless Communication” by the scientific community of our world.
VU2DSI- Datta Deogaonkar will operate with this AU2JCB special event call sign. Continue reading

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Radio Waves: Radio 77, RRI Personality of the Year, Radio Repair in Iraq, and Bernard’s Collection of 500+ Radios

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


The DJ Who Broadcast to One Listener for 40 Years (Narratively)

The Deke Duncan show on Radio 77 had it all — the latest hits, bouncy jingles, and a DJ who was born to be on the airwaves. In the 1970s it ran around the clock, several days a week, playing to the smallest audience in the world: Deke’s only listener was his wife. Radio 77 was based in a shed in Duncan’s backyard in a small English town, and everything on the show was a figment of his imagination. “My ultimate ambition would be to broadcast my radio station to the rest of Stevenage,” he told the BBC’s Nationwide TV show, when they visited his shed in 1974.

In a new podcast episode from Snap Judgement and Narratively, Duncan, now 75, reveals how he made up the news, the weather, and even the commercials — and kept Radio 77 alive for over forty years. It was Britain’s ‘pirate’ radio stations that inspired him, he said, recalling the rock’n’roll ships that broadcast illegally from international waters in the 1960s. But the young DJ’s dreams had been dashed when the BBC turned down his job application.

“They said, ‘I suggest you go away and get yourself a real job,’” Duncan recalled. (Check out an original Radio 77 show, recorded in 1974.) [Continue reading…]

RRI Personality of the Year (Radio Romania International)

Dear friends, RRI continues its traditional polling of listeners on short wave, the Internet and social media, with a new challenge, in a further complicated context generated by the Covid-19 pandemic. We would like to ask you which person you think left their imprint on the world in a positive way in 2021.

We are preparing to designate, based on your options, “The Personality of the Year 2021 on RRI”. Will this person be a public person, an opinion leader or a regular person with a special story? The decision is yours. We would also want to ask you why you picked that particular person. Continue reading

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Sam found where genealogy and radio meet

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Sam Alcom (KB3DFJ), who shares the following guest post:


Genealogy and radio meet

by Sam Alcom (KB3DFJ)

Who knew two of my hobbies – genealogy and radio – would joyfully collide in such an unexpected way?

My grandfather died in the 1950s when I was just a few months old, so I didn’t know him, let alone have some misty recollection of him. Seemingly, our only connection was the DNA bloodline though my father.

But as I dove into my family’s history, one web search led me to William H. Alcorn and 3ADJ. What the heck was 3ADJ? I dug deeper and found Amateur Radio Stations of the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce, Radio Division from June 30, 1924. Both of us were hams!

He was licensed as amateur radio station 3ADJ in Port Norris, N.J. with authorization to operate up to 50 watts.

I found him and his 3ADJ callsign again listed in 1925 in the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation, Radio Service publication. The “3” in his sign threw me for a brief loop, but I learned that in the early days of radio Southern New Jersey was part of the third call district along with Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, certain counties of Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

The worldradiohistory.com website, a goldmine for anyone delving into all aspects of broadcasting’s past, led me to more publications where I spied my grandfather in the late fall 1925 edition of Radio Listeners’ Guide and Call Book and the 1926 edition of Citizens’ Radio Call Book and Complete Radio Cyclopedia.

The last radio trace I find was in the June 30, 1927, edition of the Amateur Callbook.

It was around this time that the U.S.  began using “W” to start callsigns and I wondered if my grandfather continued with his radio hobby under the new designation. I looked up W2ADJ and found William Czak of West Brighton, N.Y., owning that sign. Likewise, W3ADJ belonged to the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. Both were from 1929.

I dug a little deeper to learn if he possibly had been an amateur prior to 1924, but I saw 3ADJ licensed to Horace Derby of Norfolk, VA., 1920 through 1923.

His amateur radio interest appears to have started sometime after 1921 and a stint in U.S. Navy as a Seaman Second Class and then seems to have waned – at least license-wise – as marriage and the first of my aunts, uncles and my dad were being born.  I wonder if my dad had known about his dad’s radio hobby. In all the years I’ve been a licensed ham and bono fide radio nerd, he never mentioned it.

Of course, learning on this radio connection to my grandfather raised a host of other questions. Did he enjoy CW as much as I do? What kind of contacts was he making with 50 watts? Would he have admired the WAS and DXCC award certificates hanging on my wall? Would my hefty binder of shortwave QSL cards impressed him?

So, I’ll keep poking, looking for more radio connections. Who knows, maybe, somewhere, there’s a 3ADJ QSL signed by my grandfather.

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Bill Rogers and the “Lost Radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Rogers, for the following guest post:


“Lost Radio”

by Bill Rogers

When I was ten years old I lost my first wristwatch and my first radio. I think I have been trying to get them back ever since.

It was all part of a rather catastrophic family vacation trip around the Canadian side of Lake Huron, Port Huron across to Sarnia and then up around the shores of Georgian Bay all the way to Sault Sainte Marie and points north.

We had planned to go on around the north shore of Lake Superior too. We drove north to Wawa and saw the Goose statue. Then we headed north from there.

This was a long, long time ago, so I may misremember. But as I recall it, the Goose memorialized the completion of the Trans Canada Highway, and once past it you were really getting into the back end of beyond.

Not far past the Goose we came to what looked like a tollbooth, which surprised us. We hadn’t been aware there were any tolls along the Trans Canada. Dad pulled up and stopped.

“Hello,” the uniformed officer inside said. “Where ya going?”

“On around Superior.”

“Good. When do you expect to get to Thunder Bay?”

Dad was curious. “Why do you need to know?”

“Oh, for your own safety. So we know to send out a search if you don’t make it.”

Dad looked around and back at all of us. “I think we should head back instead.”

It was a wise choice. It had been a fun trip but it had a few challenges, so to speak.

We were five people in a white 1965 Dodge Coronet 440 pulling an old travel trailer we’d borrowed from one of my cousins. The Dodge was a comfortable car- it had an add-on air conditioning unit that occupied a good chunk of the space under the dashboard, and a radio (AM only of course) that worked well, and these were great luxuries at the time.

Dad had bought it used from his School District after it had served for a good while as a driver’s education car. First call on surplus vehicles was one of the benefits of working for the school district, but I don’t think being hammered by all those would-be new drivers had done the Dodge any good.

We’d borrowed the trailer. It was a heavy thing. The Dodge strained to pull it even though the car had a big V-8 engine. The trailer wasn’t big either. I remember wood paneling and too-small windows that kind of opened to let the inside heat and outside heat mingle when you stopped for the night and tried to sleep. Dad grumbled that the trailer weighed twice as much as a newer one would have.

Having borrowed a trailer to use one time only, Dad hadn’t gone big bucks on the trailer hitch. It simply clamped to the back bumper. Somewhere near Sudbury the bumper started to rip off.

That was another reason we wimped out and didn’t go on around Superior. We were behind schedule. The loose bumper had made us lose several travel days.

We’d limped into the nearest campground on Friday and stayed there while Dad wandered around to locate someone to weld the bumper back on. On Monday he did. “Guy said ‘This isn’t strong enough to pull anything heavy, I’d better weld on a couple bars fastening it direct to the frame.’ I told him that was a good idea.”

Along the way we’d seen much beautiful countryside and lots of rock cuts for the highway. Rock cuts impressed me since I was from southern Michigan where actual surface geology is unknown.

We bought a pretty basket of fruit at a farmer’s market and were 30 miles down the road before we found that everything below the top layer was green or rotten.

I had my transistor radio and was listening to it in the back seat. This was my first radio. It was a prized Christmas gift and made my sister jealous. “I was two years older than him before I got a radio,” she sniffed. She kept track of things like that.

My radio was branded “Sportsman.” That meant it came from the local hardware store where they also sold Sportsman brand outdoor gear and Sportsman brand rifles and shotguns.

I have no idea who actually made it. I can’t remember what it looked like. I do remember it had a Genuine Leather case and an earphone for private listening.

It didn’t work well in the back seat of the car, but I could get something if I held the radio up near the window. I listened to the different Canadian radio stations and noticed for the first time that Ontario English sounds just slightly different from my own, in a way that I can’t really describe. The difference is tiny but it is there. In Ontario they do not say “out and about in a boat” as “oot and aboot in a boot” as we on this side of the Lake say they do, but there is the tiniest twist to the end of the vowels in that direction. I can’t do it and I’ve made myself crazy trying.

At one point I picked up a Morse Code transmission at the lower end of the band, obviously a non directional beacon at the upper end of the longwave navigation frequencies. I played it for everyone in the car. They were not impressed. This is the first time that I learned most people aren’t as intrigued by odd radio signals as I am.

But I kept amusing myself with the radio. I borrowed our Province of Ontario official road map. As many road maps did, at the time, it had a listing of some of the more powerful radio stations, by city. That gave me signals to try for. I tried for the nearer ones and even received some of them.

The campground where we were laid up to have the car welded together was in an Ontario Provincial Park. The place was crowded because of some Boy Scouts gathering, but they found a place for us.

We went to the beach and did not feed the seagulls, since we were trying to be polite and proper and a sign said not to. But the gulls impressed me. Somebody must have been feeding them; there was a regular cloud of them.

We came back to find our trailer door pried open and a number of small valuables gone. Among them were my dad’s transistor radio and mine; Dad’s was his constant companion and must have been one of the first. Dad’s cheap wrist watch and my child size, hand-wound Timex watch were gone too.

The most expensive item missing was Dad’s “Palomar” binoculars. (In case you don’t know, the Mount Palomar Observatory contains what was the largest telescope in the world for many years. It is still there, although with creeping streetlights making sky glare all across Southern California I doubt it is able to do as much research as it once did.) Transistor radios were still fairly costly back then, but binoculars cost a fortune.

We reported the theft to the park rangers who didn’t care. Eventually one of them brought the binoculars back. “You left them on a picnic table on the far side of the park, near the Boy Scouts groups,” he said. Which was quite a trick, in that we hadn’t gone to that side of the park. Also he never explained why we would have smeared soap over all the lenses.

But the soap cleaned off easily and caused no permanent harm. My sister still has that set of binoculars. The watches and radios and whatever other small items we lost which (coincidentally, no doubt) could have fit unnoticed in a Boy Scout’s pockets or pack were never seen again, at least by us.

Anyway, after the car was welded back together we continued on our way. We got as far as Wawa. From there we headed back south, crossed the International Bridge and the Mackinaw Bridge, and went home.

The transmission on the Dodge never was quite right after hauling that heavy trailer so far. That contributed to that car’s early demise. (Of course it was the cheaper of the optional automatic transmissions, the two speed model instead of the three speed. The two speed automatic transmissions were always pretty crappy anyway.)

Today my home is crowded with more radios and watches than I know what to do with. Here at my writing desk I have three of each within sight, and there are plenty more here and there around the place.

I think I may have them all because I am trying in vain to get back that Sportsman AM transistor radio and that child-size Timex watch, the first radio and watch I ever had, the ones never saw again and never will. The sorrow of their loss might explain why I have collected so may others. It doesn’t explain the fountain pens, though.

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