Search billions of records on


Chapter 11
The Good Years
Part 3

My husband's first transmitter was for 10 meters (which he used most often then), 15 meters and 6 meters. The transmitter would operate on 75 meters also, but we had no antenna for 75 meters. To be an operator you had to learn Morse code and be able to service your own rig. Morse code was transmitted on a pulse modulated carrier wave known as CW in radio talk. After World War II we relayed many messages between parents and boys overseas. Some parents came to the house and could talk direct to their sons. 

Sometimes we would the call the families by phone (even in other cities) and they could hear their sons talk. Then I would relay to Erwin what the families said so that he could tell the boys. Many hams had phone patches so that they could talk direct Our phone was in the hall but had a cord long enough to reach to the room where we had the radio. He also worked with the Red Cross in disasters such as tornadoes and would relay messages to people from the disaster areas to their relatives over the country . 

Sometimes when disasters hit, the telephone lines are down and amateur radio will be the only way of communicating. Some hams with transmitters go into the area after the disaster and relay the messages back to a station already set up to receive. Erwin used his rig at home for receiving these messages. Erwin was active in amateur radio and had an advanced license to operate the rig from 1946 until his death in 1977. Although I couldn't turn on the rig (I would have had to have a license to do this), I could talk with our amateur friends and go to the conventions. 

The licensed operator has to be present when the rig is being used and give his call every 10 minutes. Erwin's call letters were W5MGK. On the air the ham is called by his first name or his initials. Erwin was called E. A. Both of us enjoyed this hobby. The last radio rig Erwin had was a transceiver using the same cabinet for receiving and transmitting. When you talked into the mike, the receiver went off and the transmitter came on; when you stopped talking, the transmitter went off and the receiver came on. Earlier rigs required the operator to do this manually. 

When a transmitter was turned on, the operator had to give his call saying from whom he was taking it and giving his own call. He could talk 10 minutes, then give his call and the call of the next person in line if it was sort of a round table and several were talking, but every 10 minutes, while he was on I the air, he had to identify his call and with whom he was talking. Also they had separate transmitters and receivers and were bulky, but in the later years the transceiver was much smaller since both receiver and transmitter were in the same cabinet and used the same power supply. 

Instead of each person talking 10 minutes and passing it on to the next in turn, the group talked as if in one room, breaking in with any remarks each had At the end of 10 minutes each gave just his call letters thus identifying all in the group and the conversation continued. One Sunday the boys were not home and Erwin and I decided to try 75 meters. This antenna has to be cut a longer length than the ones we had, so we strung wire above the picture molding board in the living room and dining room (temporarily of course). 

My sister-in-law and her children came by. When they left, Marjorie asked her mother why I always had clothes lines all over the house. As the wires were above the picture molding, I don't know how she thought I could hang clothes on it. Usually we left the wires up for just a few hours when we were on 75 meters. During the sixties Erwin worked basically on 75 meters. On 75 meters we could make close-by contacts in neighboring states. 

A group of these hams, who were retirees, met every afternoon on the air on a set frequency so that each knew where to set his transmitter and receiver. The hams referred to these daily get-togethers as their "happy hour." A lot of these afternoon sessions were about current events, history , new inventions, technical radio advances, and sometimes just the latest in humorous stories which were permissible on the air. Occasionally I even had the opportunity to put in my two cents worth. 

In the early days after the war, Erwin used 10 meters mainly. On this frequency he could contact Europe and the Pacific. In the early morning we would hear and talk with European countries. At noon, both the coasts of America could be worked. A little later in the day we could talk with Hawaii and by evening we heard Guam and Australia. This frequency was best for sending and receiving messages to and from our boys in the service. For this we had what is called a beam antenna. This beam had a tubular reflector element at the rear , a dipole antenna in the center, and a shorter tubular director element at the front Our beam was designed to operate on the 10 and 15 meter bands. For any given frequency the elements need to be cut to specific lengths. 

This type of antenna is highly directional. It transmits and receives best off the front and the signals off the back are substantially rejected. Also off the ends the signals are almost nil. This antenna could be rotated in any given direction by instruments in the remote ham room. A flat map (radio map) with the Tulsa in the center, printed on Plexiglas, had a needle which indicated which way the beam was pointing. One morning Erwin received Sumatra which was very unusual. He turned the beam completely around and could receive the signal equally from either direction. 

Thus we must be halfway or near enough halfway around the earth from each other to do this. He also talked with the Sumatra ham. The hams often held conventions called ham fests. We attended ham fests at both Eureka Springs in Arkansas and Lake Texoma in southern Oklahoma. Most of the time the hotel and cabin accommodations were completely taken by the ham operators. Some came in their private planes from as far away as the west coast. 

These fests usually started on Thursday and lasted through Monday. Transmitter hunts, various exhibits, outdoor picnics, banquets, and other entertainments were planned by the committee and the hotel. These conventions were attended by the families. For the women and children excursions of interesting places were held while the hams (there were some women hams so I can't say men) were having their business meetings and projects such as the transmitter hunts. 

The hunt for the transmitter required the remaining hams in cars so equipped to receive and transmit driving off in different directions and comparing the strength of the signal in order to find the car that was transmitting. This exercise was done to train them in finding bootleg transmitting. One night we were eating supper and our phone rang. One of the hams asked Erwin whether he had his rig on which he didn't Someone was transmitting using W5MGK, Erwin's call. The result of this was that several cars went to find where the transmitting was coming from. 

What they found was a young boy transmitting who had not passed the exams and naturally did not have a license. Of course the procedure is confiscate the rig, which they did. The confiscated rig would then be held by the ham club until the owner obtained his license. Jack Allen and his wife Edie lived at Ginger Blue near Noel, Missouri. He was a ham radio operator and a retired captain from the Los Angeles police force. He always brought a transmitter and receiver with him to the ham fests and a long wire cut for 75 meters for his antenna. 

I used to get a kick watching him string up the antenna. He brought a beanie flip, tied a rock onto a string that was fastened to the antenna, and then would find a tall tree nearby and shoot this rock with the beanie flip over the highest limb. Thus he could fasten that end to another tree and his antenna was up. Jack was a large well-built man with a very pleasing personality. His wife was well liked too. Hams driving in for the meeting always enjoyed contacting him and having him tell them how to get there, the condition of things, or whatever. 

Both Jack and Edie and Erwin and I brought cheeses, beef sticks, summer sausage, crackers, cookies, pop, etc. We usually rented a cabin together at these conventions--one big enough for us to have a good sized group in. There were about 200 people in the group on 75 meters. Our place was sort of the meeting place when there were no activities we were supposed to attend Hams were always tinkering around building things. In our day, the hams built their own hi-fi's, electric organs, and even engines. 

Al from Muskogee built an engine and brought it to a ham fest It wasn't exactly a railroad engine, but when Al started it up it sounded like a train, whistle and all. He had mounted it on a frame. The boiler was about the size of an old milk can. This contraption drew much attention from everyone. Most hams are conscious of the tone quality of their receiver and transmitter and many build their own hi-fi's and stereos. The qualities they strive for are full tone live recording tones. Full dimensional range with the lows and highs received on the hi-fi or stereo. 

These live full tones are hard to obtain. The pitch can be obtained, but the rounded full tone of a note is not so easy and many recorders and radios cut the high notes and low notes out--or off--and are not heard. The sounds heard are not full frequency or all the qualities of the note are not heard. This is how early records were heard. The recorders were not made to pick up all the frequencies so of course you could hear only what was recorded and no equipment could put in what was not already on the record. 

In selecting our records in the later years, we watched or listened to hear how the tones came out as old recorded copies and new records were sold at the same time. Listening to records from the horn type phonograph play and following the improvements made in the quality of recording and playing has been very interesting. 

Improvement in quality dating from the old Red Seals which we had in the twenties, considered the best (Caruso recorded on these), to today's records is unbelievable. When the first changeover of recording began, records were recorded off the old classics, but since the original records did not have the qualities or full tone quality, it could not be recorded on the new records. 

This was one of the things we watched for, to be sure they weren't reprints of the old records. If you ever get a chance to hear the old records, you can hear how flat (not tone flat, but quality flat) and tinny they are. In the late forties we met the Leslie Shom's. Katy, Les's wife, had bought Les a short wave receiver for Christmas. In tuning the band he heard my husband talking with other hams. Since he didn't live too far from us, Les came by to see the rig. It interested him and he started studying the Morse code and electrical technique of building and taking care of this equipment. 

This knowledge one has to have to get an amateur license. Within a short time Les passed the exam and had his own rig. Les never took part in the Ham Club activities, but he enjoyed his transmitter and receiver. We became friends and went many places together visiting in each other's homes for meals and late sessions of listening to hi-fi. Both couples liked classical, musicals, and modem music--if not too far out. 

Erwin and Katy were more ardent in their reading; Les and I played the piano. I have always read a lot and the comments on literature by both Katy and Erwin were both educational and interesting to me. We had many entertaining times spending New Year's Eves together. We also took turns preparing gourmet dinners in our homes. We liked trying out new recipes. I believe all four of us gained by this friendship. 

Reproduced by 
Kathie Harrison
Ancestral Whispers
Copyright 2012 
All rights reserved.