Tag Archives: Radio Nostalgia

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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Bob Colegrove on “The Joys and Challenges of Tuning Analog Radios”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bob Colegrove, who recently shared this excellent article and has kindly allowed me to share it here in the the Post. Bob prefaced it by saying, “Being a retired technical writer, I started the attached article some time ago for my own amusement, but it quickly got out of hand.

“Got out of hand” in a very good way, Bob!

An excerpt from Bob’s article.

I love how this piece takes us through receiver history and explains, in detail, the mechanics and innovations. It’s also a very accessible piece that both the beginner and seasoned radio enthusiast can appreciate.

But don’t take my word for it, download it and enjoy!

Click here to download The Joys and Challenges of Tuning Analog Radios as a PDF.

Thank you again, Bob. This is a most enjoyable and informative read! This was obviously a labor of love. Thanks for sharing it with our radio community!

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Don recommends Radio Boulevard for a deep dive into radio history!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don (W7SSB), who writes:

Hi Thomas,

One of my friends has probably the best museum in the history of radio !

https://www.radioblvd.com/

Your readers can spend days looking at all the information from the early days to present ! Plenty of pictures!

Don W7SSB

Thank you for the tip, Don! What a deep treasure trove of radio nostalgia!

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Guest Post: Remembering the great “Radio Moving Day” of 1941

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill, who shares the following guest post and addendum to his most recent post on BBC Re-Tune messages:


Radio Moving Day

by Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD)

After listening to the BBC “Re-Tune” broadcasts, it reminded me of when the United States had its own “Re-Tune” day on March 29, 1941.  It was referred to as “Moving Day”.

At 3:00 am, 802 of the 890 radio stations moved frequency.  Following are a couple of articles about this day:

http://www.jimramsburg.com/the-march-of-change-audio.html

https://www.radioworld.com/columns-and-views/in-1941-stations-confronted-39moving-day39

And a previous SWLing Post article:

https://swling.com/blog/2021/04/am-radio-history-80th-anniversary-of-the-havana-treaty/

Like the BBC, there were also broadcasts helping listeners to get ready:

Audio Clip 1

Audio Clip 2

Audio Clip 3

Audio Clip 4

 

I love how it was used as an opportunity to get the radio listener to call on the radio technician to re-program the radio push buttons.  And of course while the technician is there, have him do a full alignment and maybe replace a tube.

The March 1941 issue of Radio and Television Retailing (Pages 16-17) had the article “Radio’s Opportunity for Contact”.

Link:  https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-Radio-Retailing/40s/Radio-Retailing-1941-03.pdf

While the entire article is an interesting read, the first few paragraphs sums up the opportumities:

THE OPPORTUNITY for contact with consumers using pushbutton-tuned radios., afforded by dramatic March 29 broadcast station frequency shifts, represents an absolutely unique invitation to move more major merchandise, with the promotional expense at least partially covered by service and accessory sales.

Imagine what slick automobile salesmen could do if roads were suddenly altered in such a manner that 10,000,000 cars required some adjustment to operate properly, what refrigerator salesmen might accomplish if a change in current necessitated motor manipulation, how laundry equipment salesmen would positively gloat over the glut of prospects if that many people with old machines actually asked them to call.

Calls make sales, as the records of many home specialty retailers conclusively prove, and the beauty of this particular opportunity to make them lies in the three-fold fact that cold-canvassing is completely unnecessary, that the motivating power of any campaign built around it is obviously not just trumped-up by the trade and that only dealers selling or servicing radios can capitalize in all departments of their business.

So valuable from a major merchandising sales angle is the opportunity to call upon consumers afforded by the necessity for changing pushbutton settings that we suspect many radio retailers will hesitate to charge for this adjustment.

This may be particularly true where consumers so contacted are obviously prospects for new merchandise and will undoubtedly occur in some instances where customers are still being carried on time-payment accounts.

The Feb 1941 issue of Radio Service-Dealer (Page 8) also stressed the opportunities.

Link: https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-Radio-Service-Dealer/40s/Radio-Service-Dealer-1941-02.pdf

From Page 8:

Reallocation of Broadcast Frequencies M arch 29th Opens Big Job For Service men Resetting Nation’s Push-Buttons

YOUR JOB

There are approximately 10 million push-button receivers in operation in this country. It will be your job to re-set the buttons for the new frequencies in the shortest possible time and with the least amount of confusion. It will also be your job and your opportunity to inspect these receivers for faulty operation. No such opportunity is likely to present itself again, so make the best of it.


And on page 7 of the Mar 1941 issue of Radio Service-Dealer has the article FREQUENCY REALLOCATION SERVICING PROBLEMS

Link: https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-Radio-Service-Dealer/40s/Radio-Service-Dealer-1941-03.pdf

The first Problem discussed is the IF Frequency:

1A—If a station with a strong signal intensity happens to be operating on double the frequency of the intermediate frequency of a receiver, there is liable to be a heterodyne whistle. The frequency of 455 kc has been used as the standard intermediate frequency on receivers manufactured in the United States.  One main reason for selecting this frequency was that the broadcast frequency of 910 kc was assigned to Canada and, therefore, the possibility of a heterodyne note being produced on a receiver in the United States was at a minimum. Under the terms of the reallocation several American stations will be moved to 910 kc thus producing a problem in the cities where these stations are to be located. If a heterodyne note is heard due to this cause the remedy is to shift the intermediate frequency to one side or another.


Thank you, Bill, for shedding more light on Radio Moving Day and, especially, providing us with the broadcaster and technician’s point of view.

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Circa 1959 Spectra-Radio Spectacles

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi, who writes:

While perusing through a 1959 Lafayette Radio sales flyer, this hybrid radio/sunglasses radio was spotted (see image above). Put a huge smile on my face–a three-transistor, germanium diode model hihi. Runs on a Mercury battery which were common years back.

That is fantastic, Mario! Love it.

I can tell you that I think Spectra-Radio seem a lot cooler than Google Glasses! Thank you for sharing!

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John’s 1965 RCI Shortwave Club certificate triggers serious shortwave nostalgia!

View of the western cluster of curtain antennas from the roof of RCI Sackville’s transmissions building. (Photo: The SWLing Post) –Click to enlarge

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John (G3VUO), who shares the following:

Hi Tomas,

Seeing [the] article about RCI prompted me to remember the halcyon days of SW Listening.

I still have my RCI Shortwave Club certificate issued in 1965 when I was only 14 years old!

In those days you had to monitor their broadcasts regularly and send listening reports on (if I remember correctly) green airmail reception forms every month.

Hope the attached may give other readers some memories.

73

John G3VUO

Wow! Thank you for sharing this, John. Those were, indeed, the halcyon days of shortwave radio listening!

Post readers: Please comment if you’ve also received a certificate from RCI!

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