On Friday, September 2, 2022, I had just enough time in my schedule to visit the Shelby Hamfest for a couple of hours.
The Shelby Hamfest–referred to, locally, as “The Grand-Daddy of them All”–has long been regarded as one of the largest outdoor hamfests in the southeast US.
Shelby Photo Gallery
Weather was ideal for the hamfest: clear skies, sunshine and very dry. It was quite hot, though! Attendance was much lower than I’ve ever seen at the Shelby Hamfest in the past, but then again this was also my first Friday attending; typically I visit on Saturday which is historically the busiest day.
Back in April of this year (2022), I accidentally discovered The Radio Boys series of books, many of which are available for free if you have an Amazon Kindle.
These books, I believe, are intended for young adults, and, in my mind, they very much resemble The Hardy Boys series of books: a group of high school friends have adventures and discover the wonders of radio together. Think “The Hardy Boys go all-in for radio,” and you have the right idea.
If you are looking for sophisticated plots, deep character development, and a lyrical turn of phrase, you will be disappointed. But if you a looking for a light-hearted adventure with deep enthusiasm for radio, I think you will be pleased.
But what makes these books really cool is that they were written and copyrighted 100 years ago, in the early 1920s. Yes, some of the language and attitudes are somewhat antiquated, but what is fascinating is the window they offer on radio a century ago.
My knowledge of radio history is very limited, but it is my understanding that radio was just beginning to be popular in American culture in the early 1920s, The Radio Boys books reflect this. The first book, The Radio Boys’ First Wireless Or Winning the Ferberton Prize, gives fairly detailed instructions for making your own radio receiver with materials you could get (in the early 1920s) from the local hardware store.
At various points in the books, The Radio Boys extol the virtues of radio: people could hear concerts in the comfort of their own homes or listen to baseball games; if there were radios in cars, travelers could keep track of weather reports; it was a novelty when a minister broadcast the church service; college professors could broadcast their lectures, and so forth. I find the books offer a charming perspective on what we take for granted today.
And, if you have an Amazon Kindle, many of The Radio Boys books are available at no cost.
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.
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.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Irish, who writes:
Good afternoon Mr. Witherspoon,
Just wanted to follow up on a contact for fixing several shortwave radios from the primarily the 70s and 80s, preferably someone located in the DC Metropolitan area, Virginia or North Carolina. These would include the Zenith R-7000-2 and General Electric World Monitor P4990A. Is this something that you could post on your blog? If possible, please let me know either way.
Great question, Mark! It’s difficult to find radio repair technicians these days.
I have a couple of suggestions, but perhaps the SWLing Post community can comment with even more options!
You might check with Vlado at HamRadio.repair. He has worked on some vintage solid state radios in the past–he’s located near Asheville, North Carolina.
Wow, I really liked Mike’s walk down memory lane. I saw several of my own dream receivers:
S-38E. Indeed, this little monster did add some danger to your life. AKA “The Widow Maker,” I gave one to my cousin’s husband so he could listen to what the commies on Radio Moscow were saying. He later told me that the receiver had given him a shock. I now have TWO S-38Es in my shack (two more than I really need). I have installed isolation transformers in both of them, so they have lost the one element (danger!) that made them attractive.
HA-600A. I got this one for Christmas in 1972. The A model is MUCH better than the plain vanilla HA-600. I recently got another HA-600A and found serious deficiencies in the Product Detector. Has anyone else noticed these problems? BACKGROUND INFO AND A PLEA FOR MORE INFO HERE: https://soldersmoke.blogspot.com/search?q=HA-600A+Product+Detector
HQ-100. Got one in the Dominican Republic. Fixed it up, repairing damages caused by radio life in the tropics. Disabled the goofy audio amplifier circuitry. I now wonder if this receiver might benefit from the insertion of a 455 kc ceramic filter.
NC190. Wow “Cosmic Blue” Perhaps this was an early influence that led to “Juliano Blue?”
HQ-180. “18 tubes and almost as many knobs!” FB!
HRO-500. Love the dial.
Transoceanic. Never had one, but built a BFO for the Transoceanic that W8NSA took with him to SE Asia during the war.
R-390A. I don’t have a crane for the workbench.
Thanks Mike — that was a lot of fun.
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