Monday, 15 February 2016

How I got in to radio - muskrat39

Looking back:

As I sit here listening to Radio Australia, I have been reflecting back over a lifetime as a SWL. *I remember the first shortwave broadcast I heard. *It was in '63 and I was 13. *I was at a friends house, and he asked me if I wanted to hear overseas radio stations on his dad's radio. *I said sure, and he brought it out on the porch. *I was the biggest radio I had ever seen. * It had what I later learned was a slide rule dial with all the foreign cities printed on it, and a telescopic antenna that, with the radio on the porch floor, touched the ceiling. *I was unlike any thing I ever seen. *Now, just a little background here. *My father was a disabled veteran in a wheelchair. *He supplemented his pension with a TV and Radio repair business in our home. *So I literally grew up in a TV and radio shop. *I built my first radio, a crystal set, from scratch when I was 9, and a two transistor radio when I was 12, so I was no stranger to radios. *But this radio was different. *The name was familiar, Zenith, but there was another name, began with a t. *I wasn't sure how to pronounce it, trans something. *Anyhow we fired it up and tuned in a few stations. Most were in foreign languages, but there were English stations too, but with heavy accents. *One station was coming all the way from West Germany! *Well, I was hooked! *I had been bitten by the DX bug, and I would never be the same. *I had to have one of these cool radios. *I had previously been satisfied listening to Cousin Brucie at WABC in New York, *and Wolfman Jack in Del Rio on my home-built transistor radio. *But that was nothing. *That trans something or other would pick up stations in Europe, and Africa, and Russia! * I told my dad about the radio. *He got a National Geographic magazine out( he had been a member since the 40's) flipped through pages for a while, and showed me a picture. *There it was, sitting on a sandy beach next to a man and woman *in bathing suits in full color. *My dad asked if the radio looked like the one I had played with. *It was. *He said it was a Zenith Transoceanic. *I asked if I could have one for Christmas. *He said the radio hadn't been made for about ten years, and were very hard to find. *Even if I could find one, it would be too expensive. *He told me it was the most expensive radio made. *Disappointment was all over my face, and he could see it. * By the time Christmas came I was older. *I had turned 14 the month before. *I still listened to my 2 transistor home-built, but I dreamed of someday owning one of the unique radios that could pick up stations all the way across the ocean. *It was Christmas day and I knew pretty well what was under the tree. *No toys, after all I was fourteen! *No there would be a new sweater for school, and a new pair of pajamas, and that bigger box was obviously a new pair of shoes. *No Transoceanic for sure, but then Dad said there woundn't be didn't he? *But wait! *That box with new shoes was a bit heavy for just a pair of shoes. *Probably something packed in there with the shoes. *Dad sometimes did that to fool me since I had gotten pretty good at guessing my presents over the years. *Well I would just have to find out what was hidden with the shoes. *That would be the present I opened first. *I tore off the wrapping paper and opened the box. Inside there wasn't any shoes. *Instead it was a shiny new Elgin(yep, the watch company) radio with 14 transistors and a shortwave band! *My face must have been bright enough to light the entire room! *My own shortwave radio, wow! *I hugged my dad, and grandmother(Mom and Dad were divorced shortly after my brother was born), and thanked them for my wonderful new radio. *Several years later, after Dad had died, my grandmother told me just how special that Elgin really was. * After seeing how excited I had been after playing with the Transoceanic, he had tried to get me one. *He even put an ad in the paper for one. *He even had a guy bring one over for him to look at while I was in school. *But the old Transoceanic hadn't been well cared for. *It had a busted dial and cracked case. *He *didn't think the radio was worth buying. *He even offered to buy my friend's dad's radio, but it wasn't for sale. *Finally, as Christmas was approaching, Dad sent Grandma downtown to the appliance store to see if they had anything. *The salesman showed her the Elgin, and she told Dad about it. *It was expensive, $125, a lot of money in 1963. *But my dad got a loan at the bank and bought the radio. *He said he was afraid I might not like it, but it was all he could find. *He unknown to me, he paid on that radio for the next two years! *I can now imagine his relief when he saw how much I liked the Elgin. *Sure it only had one shortwave band, that covered 1.7 to 6.5 mic., and it only had a two foot whip antenna, but it was a shortwave radio! *Well, I made a log book, and started writing down the stations and times I heard them. * After a few months I had pretty much exhausted the capabilities of that two foot whip. *I was thirsty for more even more distant stations, like Australia, and Japan. *One day, while leafing through an Electronics Illustrated magazine in the school library, *I stumbled on an article for building a BCB loop antenna out of copper wire and wood. *It had an alligator clip to attach it to a portable radio. *Hmmm, if a loop of copper wire wrapped around a foot square frame would boost AM reception, then several loops of wire ought to boost shortwave reception. *Well, it was an idea worth exploring anyway. *I didn't have any wood, *but maybe a box would work. *I found a box in the shop I thought should work. *It was about 18" square, and about 4" deep. *I closed the box and taped it shut. *I took out my trusty Purina knife and cut small slits in each corner of the box about a half inch apart. *I ended up with nine slits on each corner. *Then I took the spool of magnet wire left over from when I built my crystal radio five years before, and started wrapping the wire in the slits around the box. After wrapping the wire around the box about eighteen times, two wraps in each slit, I taped the wire in place leaving about three feet loose. *I borrowed a clip lead from my dad's bench and cut it in half. *I then twisted the bare end to the magnet wire after removing some of the enamel. *I clipped the alligator clip to the antenna of the Elgin. *Would it work? *I tentatively fired up the radio and started tuning across my single shortwave band. *Did it work, boy did it ever! *I had gobs of stations I never had before! *For the next year my Elgin and I had a beautiful relationship together, and I spent many hours listening to Swiss Radio, Radio Moscow, Tirana Albania, Deutsche Welle , Radio Sofia, La Voz De Andes, among others. *But there were changes in my future, some good, some bad.

It was the summer of '65, a year I will never forget. *My *dad was closing the shop. *The month before, I graduated Junior High, and in a couple months I would be starting my freshman year at the High School on the other side of town. *Then it happened! *I was playing ball with the neighborhood kids in the empty field across the alley behind my house. *Suddenly there was sirens, and flashing lights. *They were stopping in front of the house! *I ran home as fast as I could with my brother a short distance behind me. * They were taking Dad out of the house on a stretcher, and my grandmother was crying! *She was incoherent and kept saying Rollin, my baby, my baby. * I told my brother to try and calm down Grandma while I called my Uncle. *Aunt Mary answered the phone and she immediately sensed something was wrong. *I asked if Uncle Nolan was home. *She said yes she would get him. *A few moments later my Uncle was on the phone and I told him they took Dad to the hospital. *He asked what happened but I had no idea. *He said he would be right over. *Thirty minutes later he was there. *Grandma was still a wreck, but my Uncle was able to get her to calm down enough to tell what happened. *She had been in the kitchen and heard a noise in the shop. *She went to the front of the house where the shop was and found my dad on the floor. *He had fallen out of his wheelchair and was unconscious on the floor. *She had managed to call an ambulance before the reality hit her and she totally lost it. *We had no car, so Uncle Nolan took us to the hospital. Dad was in in intensive care and was still unconscious. *The doctor was trying to be vague since my brother and I was standing there, but I was able to deduce they didn't think Dad was going to make it, and even if he did, he would never be the same. *He had had a heart attack. *We stayed at the hospital all night. *My Uncle tried to get us to go to the cafeteria to get something to eat, but we weren't hungry. * At nine o'clock the next morning Dad regained consciousness. *He was weak, but he was going to make it. *The next day they transfered him to the VA hospital on the other side of town. *Another week and he came home, but his paralysis was worse. *He had lost much of the use of his right arm. *His days as a TV repairman was over. *He sold most of his equipment, but he gave me his Jackson tube tester, and his VTVM he built when he took his NRI training after the war. *I still have them to this day. *After the shop closed, money was tight. *My brother and I both started taking contracts to mow lawns. *I had about twenty yards I was taking care of, and my brother had about the same. *All the money we made we gave to Dad to help out. *All through that summer we did yard work. *By the end of the day I was too tired to even think about my beloved Elgin. *I did turn it on sometimes on Sunday, but mostly just to catch the news on the BBC or Swiss Radio. *
** I started High school that fall, and one of the classes I signed up for was Basic Electricity and Electronics. *I already knew a lot of basics, but it was required in order to take Vocational Electronics next year. *Vocational electronics was a three year, three hour a day course that, when completed, was the equivalent of a two year tech school degree.
The electronics course was easy and I made straight A's, more than I can say about some of my other courses. *The lab had an extensive library of catalogs, and Radio Electronics and Popular Electronics magazines the the students could check out over night. *The lab also had a radio. *This one had a lot of knobs on it, a big meter, and a name I never heard of, Hammerlund. *It was a Hammerlund HQ-180. *The school had a 125' long wire on the roof, and it was connected to the Hammerlund. *My electronics class was the last class of the day, and I asked Mr. Davis if I could stay after class for a half hour and listen to the radio. *It was actually for the students in the morning vocational class to use on their breaks, but he said he would show me how to operate the radio. *He told me he would let me stay over a half hour each Fri. To listen to the radio. *I asked my dad if it was OK to stay over at school on Fridays. *He asked why and I told him my teacher was going to show how to operate the Hammerlund. *He said it was OK as long as I could still catch the last bus home. *That Friday I made the next step in my shortwave hobby. *I learned about a very advanced type of shortwave radio called a communications receiver. *The Hammerlund was fantastic! *Stations that faded in and out on the Elgin sounded like they were right in town on the Hammerlund. *There was so many more knobs to turn to bring the stations in. *There was a preselector, IF bandwidth knob and a band spread control. *Stations I could not separate with the Elgin, was a breeze with the Hammerlund. *Understand though, the Hammerlund wasn't a radio, it was a receiver, and boy did it receive! * Now I was looking at the ads in the magazines for communications receivers, and their were lot with more names I never heard of, like Lafayette, Hallicrafters, National, and Knight. *My head was being turned by several pretty new faces, and my Elgin was starting to look anemic. *I started reading Glenn Hauser's DX digest column in Popular Electronics regularly. *I wanted to hear some of the rare stations listed in his column, but my Elgin didn't have those frequencies. *I started looking through the catalogs from school, like the Allied Radio catalog, and the catalog from Lafayette Radio. *one day, as I was listening to the Hammerlund before I went home I was reading a ad in the Allied catalog for a Knight Star Roamer. *Mr. Davis came up behind me and saw what I was looking at. *I had already told him about my Elgin at home, and about the shop my dad used to have. *He asked me if I liked the radio I was looking at. *I told him yes, but it was way more than we could afford. *Even in kit form, the Star Roamer was $40, and a factory built one was over $75! *He said he had an old radio at home he didn't use any more. *He had purchased a newer radio, and if I wanted it, he would bring the old radio in next week. *He said he built it from a kit like the Star Roamer. *He told me I could take it home for a few days and check it out. *Well Monday came, and sure enough, when I got to my electronics class, the radio was there, sitting in front of the Hammerlund. *It said Heathkit on the front and had to be the ugliest radio I ever saw. *It was PINK, for crying out loud, with a red dial on a black background, and aqua blue panel on the right side. *It had chips of paint missing on the top and sides. *To be fair I guess it was supposed to be beige, but it sure looked pink to me. *I was speechless and believe me, that was a rarity in itself! *He asked me if I wanted to take it home. *Well, it did have three shortwave bands plus AM. *And there were seven knobs on the front, plus a rather small "S" meter. *Iater I would discover there was another switch on the back that would prove to be quite useful. *" I g-g-guuess so" I finally managed to stammer. *So he said to take it home til Friday. *If I didn't' like it I could bring it back then, and if I did, we could talk about it then. *Well, I took the ugly thing home and with much trepidation, hooked it up and turned it on. *The very first station I tuned in was Radio Cairo just outside of the 31 meter band. *Shortly after, I logged KOL Israel, and Vatican Radio. *All this on my cardboard loop antenna! *Under the Ant. Trim knob I found the model number of the receiver. *It was a GR-91. *I listened to the Heathkit the rest of the evening, and every night the rest of the week after finishing my homework. *I managed to find several more stations I never heard before, Turkey, Greece, Ghana, and AIR. *If only it wasn't so ugly! *Tomorrow would be Friday, time to decide. *I wanted the radio, but I knew we probably couldn't buy it. *Still I could listen to what Mr. Davis had to say, and as a bonus I would still have the radio over the weekend. *Finally it was time for electronics class. *Mr. Davis looked up at me when I came in. *It was obvious I didn't have the radio, but he said nothing. *After class, he came over, as I was gathering my stuff up to leave. *"How did you like it", he asked? *"It was great" I replied. *He said if I wanted it, I could buy it for $15. *He may as well have said $1500. *I didn't have $15, and I sure wasn't going to ask Dad for it. Then he said I didn't need to pay the money all at once, maybe just $5 a month, and I wouldn't need to make the first payment for a month. *By this time, the wheels in my head, were spinning. *Let's see, I got fifty cents a day for lunch. *If I just bought a frozen chocolate malt for lunch each day, that would give me a quarter a day, or $1.25 a week. *In a month, that was $5. *But I couldn't keep the money at home, because if my brother found it he would take it. *I asked If I could pay $1.25 a week, starting next week. *It was agreed. *We had a deal. *Well first things first. *I was going to have to paint that god-awful ugly pink radio. *I found a can of dark brown spray paint Dad had bought to touch up the cabinet of a portable TV he worked on before the shop closed. *I took the cover off the Heathkit and took it out in the back yard. *I set it on a couple of cement blocks and sprayed it from every angle possible. *I left it in the sun to dry, and after it was finally dry, put it back on the radio. *What an improvement! *Now it even kind of reminded me of that Transoceanic that started the whole thing. *The radio was working great and everything was going smoothly. *It had now been six weeks, and I had paid $7.50 on the radio. I had logged many new countries, Thailand, Hong Kong, Belgium, and more. *Then every thing came crashing down. *Valerie, the girl next door, who was a year behind me in school, had come over to play Monopoly on the porch with my brother and me as she often did. *My dad had come out to watch us play and enjoy the fall day. *Winter was around the corner, but today it was an unseasonably warm 65 degrees. *As we were playing, Valerie suddenly asked why I wasn't eating lunch at school anymore? *Like a panther, Dad was on it. *He wanted to know what she meant. *Realizing she had blundered, she tried to cover for me. *Well he is eating lunch, just not the same as I usually ate. *Too late! *Dad knew something was not right so he kept pumping her. *What did she mean? *What was I eating? *All this time I was sitting in abject misery. *Finally the story was out. *Valerie couldn't get home fast enough. *As for me, I was in deep doo doo. *Dad demanded to know what I was doing with my lunch money. *I told him the whole story. *He said what I had done behind his back was the same as lying. *I felt awful. *He told me to bring the radio downstairs. *I brought the radio down and he set it on the bench. *At this point I was wishing I had never seen the radio. *He asked how much I had paid on it. *I told him. *He asked If I had anything to show the money I had paid on it. *Yes, Mr. Davis gave me a receipt for each payment, showing the payment, total paid, and amount left. *Each receipt was signed by Mr. Davis with his address and phone number under his signature. *He called Mr. Davis, and they talked for about thirty minutes. *Well sort of talked. *Dad mostly said uh huh, I see, no, yes, I will deal with it. *That last statement *sounded ominous. *He hung up and told me to bring down my Elgin and my 2 transistor home-built. *What? *The Elgin was mine! *Not anymore! *I brought down my Elgin and my home-built and now they were sitting on the bench. *Here was the deal. *I was grounded. *For two entire months I was to come straight home. *I would not listen to radio at school, and Mr. Davis would make sure I didn't. *I was to return the radio tomorrow and consider the money I had paid on it as rent for using it. *Furthermore, I would spend everyday in my room with no visitors allowed. *I would not be allowed to have any radio, magazine, or book in my room except my schoolbooks. *I would eat my normal lunch at school and Valerie would let him know if I deviated. If after two months he thought I had learned my lesson I might get my Elgin back, maybe! * Did I understand? *"Yes, sir". * Now go to your room. *Grandma would call me when it was time for supper. *"Yes, sir". *I was miserable. *I didn't think things could get any worse. *I was wrong! *Next day I came downstairs to eat and go to school. *I picked up the radio and started for the door. *Dad told me to put the radio back down. *"Yes, sir". I did as I was told. *He then reached in his shirt pocket and handed me eight dollars. *I was to give the money to Mr. Davis. *I would bring him back the fifty cents and the receipt. *I was confused. * Did this mean I could keep the radio? *Yes, and no. *That was to be the rest of my punishment. *For the next two months, I would have to sit in my room knowing my radios were downstairs. *I would see them every day when leaving for school, and coming home. *I was never so much as to touch them or the radio at school. *I was not to read any magazines or catalogs at school or at home. *If after two months I had full filled my punishment without violating any of the conditions, I would get all my radios back, including the newly painted Heathkit. *It was the hardest two months of my life so far, and a lesson I would never forget.

1969, High School graduation. *The rest of my High School years were mostly uneventful with one major exception. *Last summer my 14 year old brother ran away. *He would not be heard from for the next three years. *We knew he had not been kidnapped because one of my other hobbies is collecting switchblades, and he had stolen my most prized one, a 5 1/2" blade pearl-handled Italian stiletto. *My date for the all-night senior party was Valerie. *She had had a crush on me since I was twelve, but I had never felt that way about her. *However, she was fun to be with, and didn't complain too much when I stepped on her toes when we danced. *Now I was a schoolboy no longer. *I was 18 and would be 19 in November. *My dad had been drawing Social Security on my brother and me, but that ended when we turned 18. *Now I had to find a full time job. *I got a job a month later, and after getting in the union thirty days after that, proceeded to take care of priorities. *I had agreed to pay my dad $35 a month for room and board. *The rest of my $100 a week paycheck was mine to do with what I liked. *First thing on the agenda was a car. *An older friend was being drafted and asked me if I wanted his car. *I bought it for $300. *It was a 1962 red Olds 88 two door coupe hardtop. *It had a 394 engine with a Pontiac 389 tri-power manifold and carbs. *Dual Cherry Bombs, and chrome reverse wheels with baby moons rounded out the package. *A looker and a runner, I could give a Chevelle a run for its money. *Now it was time for a new radio. *Last month I had read a review for a new Transoceanic. *My dad had been partly wrong when he told me the Transoceanic wasn't made anymore. *They had been making them all along, they just wasn't the quality of the old Transoceanics. *But that changed in 1969. *Zenith had introduced a new model, the Royal 7000. *I fairly drooled over the pictures. *I must have one! *There was only one store in town that sold Zenith. *It was the same appliance store that had sold the Elgin. *I went in and told the salesman I wanted a Transoceanic. *He smiled and took me to where one was on display. *But wait! *This radio didn't look like the one in the pictures. *I told him it wasn't what I wanted, and he said it was the only one he had. *I said the one I wanted had more knobs and an adjustable time zone map that flipped up. *We went back to his office and he handed me a pamphlet. *There it was! *He didn't carry it in stock, but could order it. *However, I had to pay it in full before he would order it. *It was $299. *I said I would be back. *Next day after work, I applied for a loan at the company credit union. *The loan was approved, and Fri. I ordered the radio. *I could hardly wait. *2 weeks later it was in, fresh from the factory. *I carefully opened the box and exhaled with a whoosh. *It was even more beautiful than the pictures in the magazine. *Closed, with it's black leatherette case trimmed with chrome, it looked like an expensive overnight bag. *Opened, it was a pure work of art. Fitted in chrome and brushed aluminum, with a color-coded 11 band rotary dial, flip up adjustable time zone map, flip out chart light, and drop down brushed aluminum cover that featured an azimuth dial and frequency charts. *It was the proud successor to a long line of prestigious radios. *Zenith's crowning achievement, it would be the best, as well as last model transoceanic made. *Yes, I know there was one more radio with the Transoceanic badge, but it wasn't a true Transoceanic. *In fact it was an insult to a proud name. *It was nothing but a cheap foreign-made multi-band portable with the Transoceanic name. *But this radio was the creme de la creme of the Transoceanics. *But looks isn't everything, now it was time to find out if the performance matched its looks. *I filled the battery compartment with nine D cells, extended the five foot whip,(yep, it touched the ceiling), and turned it on. *I tuned the radio to my favorite band, 31 meters, and slowly tuned across the dial. *Wow! *It was loaded with stations, but with the wide dial, it was easy to separate them. *All this on just a telescopic whip! *It was everything I expected it to be and more! *Finally I was the proud owner of a Transoceanic! *The next year I added several new stations to my logbook, *and it was with this radio, in 1970, that I logged the rarest station I would ever receive. *It was on a winter's night in 1970. *I was on the 19 meter band to tune to Radio Australia, which was one of my favorite stations, when I stumbled on a faint, barely readable signal just above the noise. *The station was in English and the signal was fairly steady, but weak. *I switched to narrow bandwidth, and increased the volume. *Finally after about twenty minutes I heard a station ID. *What? *I must have not heard right. *I stayed on the station and fifteen minutes later there it was again. *Yes, I had heard correctly. *"You are listening to the Windward Islands Broadcasting Service in Grenada, Windward Islands. *I could hardly believe my ears. *Here was a station I had been trying to catch for years. *It was listed as rare in Glenn Hauser's DX Digest, with a transmitter power of just 5 KW. *I continued to listen to the station until it finally faded out about two hours later. *Next night I tried to tune it again but it just wasn't there. *In fact, I tried many times over the years to find it, but I never heard it again. *Now winter was ending and spring was around the corner. *As much as I loved and enjoyed my Transoceanic, another new face was catching my eye. *This one had waist-length dark brown hair, hazel eyes a man could get lost in forever, and was named Linda. *On December 31, 1971, she became my wife.

The decade of the seventies is a difficult time in my life to write about. *While there are a few pleasant memories, there are also many bad ones. *Shortly before my marriage to Linda, I rented a small three room apartment close to the center of town, and about three blocks from the factory where I was working. *In march of 1971, my dad got a phone call from a hospital in Jacksonville Florida. *They wanted to know if he had a son named Rickey,(his real name). *It seems Rick had been injured in a surfing accident, and they needed permission to perform knee surgery, since Rick was still under 18. *Two months later he was home, with a decided limp he would keep the rest of his life. *He was also very changed. *Always a rebel, and even as young as 12, Rick had been involved with drinking and smoking weed. *Now he was a full-blown druggie. *His drugs of choice included purple microdots, (LSD), crystal meth, (speed), angel dust, (PCP), and even occasional skin popping, as well as alcohol and weed. *I had always known about Rick's grade school extracurricular activities, and I still wonder to this day if I had told then, if he would have later ran away. *But he was my brother, and I wasn't a rat. *Now I no longer knew Rick. *He told how he had lied about his age and joined the carnival that was in town the night he disappeared. *He stayed with the carnival until it ended up in Massachusetts. *He then left and hitch-hiked to Denver where he joined a hippie commune. *After a few months there, he drifted to San Fransisco, and got involved in the hippie movement there. *He was involved in the Berkeley riots in 1969, then drifted finally to Jacksonville, where he joined a group of hippies there. *He stayed home for a couple of years before he got in trouble for drugs, and fled to Texas. *This is where he was last heard from til 1976. *
** * * * * In June of 1971, my wife's 18 year old brother died. *Born a blue baby, the doctors said he just outgrew his heart. *He died on the evening of his 18th birthday. After this, things settled down a bit, and the three of us, me, Linda, and the Transoceanic, lived in marital bliss. *In Feb, 1972, I took a job in the office at the factory. *It was a decision I would bitterly regret. *While I still had the Elgin, I had sold the Heathkit to a neighborhood kid in a rummage sale for $5. 
** * * *On Dec. 5, 1976, while at church on a Sunday night, the church received a phone call, and an deacon motioned to me. *The call was for me. *It was my grandmother. *Dad was gone. *She had *went into the kitchen for a couple of minutes to fix a glass of tea. *When she returned, Dad had suffered his now third heart attack. *This was his last. *Dad was exactly 50 1/2 years old. *With me being the eldest son, the arrangements were up to me. *It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. *I tried to get ahold of Rick. *His last known location was Austin, so I called the Austin police and explained. *I gave them Rick's description and waited. *After two days and no reply, I decided to proceed with the funeral. * Dad was buried with full military honors in the VA cemetery. *One day later, *Rick knocked on my door. *The police had knocked on the door of the apartment house he was living at, while he was not home, causing a bit of uneasiness with his friends. *He called the police station, and got the message. *Then he hitch-hiked back to Indiana. *He was very upset I hadn't waited for him, but I had no clue the police had ever found him, or if he was even still in Texas. *From that time, until about three years ago, we had a very distant relationship, rarely contacting each other. * *A week later, my wife met me at the door when I got off work. *She had been dusting and upon replacing the Elgin back on the shelf, it slipped from her fingers. *I tried to comfort her and told her it was alright. *It wasn't. *The old Elgin had landed on the tuning knob, jamming and bending the gears. *I was forced to give the faithful old radio its last rites. * 
** * * In 1977 the guys at work were urging me to get a CB radio. *The CB craze had exploded with the hit song, Convoy, and the movie, Smokey and the Bandit. *One of the shops in town was run by a ham operator I knew. *I dropped in his shop to browse his radios, when a large, gunmetal gray radio on a shelf caught my eye. *I asked what it was and he told me it was a Hallicrafters SX-100. *I asked if I could see it. *It was very similar to the Hammarlund I had used at school. *About the same size, and with similar operating controls. *It was a knob-fiddler's dream. *I asked how much it was and he told me $175. *Then I made the second worse decision of my life. *My dad had always told me to sleep on an important decision before making it. *But I blurted out spontaneously, "Would you consider a trade?". He asked what I had to trade, and I said I had a Zenith Transoceanic. *He wanted to see it, so I went home, closed it up and drove back to the shop. *Fifteen minutes later I was lugging the monster radio to the car. *It seemed as I looked back one last time at my faithful Transoceanic, I heard a faint voice in my head. *"You'll be sorry", it said. *How prophetic those words would become. *I brought the huge Hallicrafters home and put on the night table where my Transoceanic had been. The big radio filled the night stand with no room left for the light, or clock. *My wife wasn't exactly thrilled with my new acquisition, especially when I started stringing wires around the bedroom. *Somehow, she didn't think it helped the decor. *The Hallicrafters worked well, and with 14 tubes, even doubled nicely as a space heater. *While this was all well and good in March, as the summer months rolled around, it became a bit of a problem, turning the bedroom into a sauna. *I had screwed a shelf to the wall above the bed for the light and clock. *After knocking the light off one night and hitting my wife in the head, things finally came to a boil. *She said either I choose her, or the radio. *Although the radio could probably do a pretty good job frying eggs, I didn't really relish the idea of a steady diet of eggs, so back to the shop I went with the Hallicrafters. *I tried to get my Transoceanic back, even offering an additional $200, but it wasn't for sale. Finally, he offered me a new CB and antenna in trade. *I asked which radio, and he offered the best one in his shop, a new Pearce Simpson Cheetah 23 channel ssb radio. *After tossing in a new Hustler HQ-27, and trunk mount,a deal was struck, and for the first time since Christmas, 1963, I was without a shortwave radio.

Well I now had a nice CB, and was starting to get involved a bit with it. *I was even picking up a little spending money doing mobile installations, and antenna adjustments. *I was already missing shortwave and had been looking at a revolutionary new radio called a Barlow Wadley XCR-30. *It used a here-to-fore unheard of tuning system developed by the British in WW2, called a Wadley Loop. *This was a highly stable and precise system, with tuning accuracy, that up to this time was only found in very expensive military radios. *The XCR-30 had very impressive specs, and I wanted one. Unfortunately, there was none to be found in my neck of the woods, and I was not comfortable with mail order with no return policy. *I knew I wanted a transistorized set, but I wanted one with better tuning accuracy. *With the appliance store now gone, it seemed I would have to make a trip to the Circle City 60 miles away. *Then one day in early November, we got our annual Sears Christmas catalog. *Now I had for a short time considered the Com Trek, but it wasn't what I wanted. *As I was browsing the catalog, I saw a new radio pictured under the Com Trek. *At first I started to pass it up, when something caught my eye. *What was that? *Uses the Wadley Loop system! *It was a Sears branded version of a new radio from a unknown new company, called Yaesu, the FRG-7(Frog 7). *After some research I ordered one. *It arrived toward the end of Nov. *I set it up and began to put it through its paces. *Wow! *It was everything that I had read about it. *Sensitive, tight, and very precise tuning. *With this radio I started logging new, controversial stations known as pirate radio. *I successfully logged Voice of the Voyager, Jolly Roger Radio, WFAT, Radio KAOS, and more. *The pirates were so close together on other radios, that they garbled each other. *But now, they could be separated, even as close as 3khz apart. *I used the Sears/Yaesu for several years. *It was everything I wanted, small footprint, easy to tune, and it didn't get hot. *What could be better? 
* * * **In Nov, 1979 we purchased a house in a nearby town. *Also in 1979 we got a new electronics store on the bypass on the edge of town. *It was called Radio Shack. *Most of their products didn't interest me yet, but in the spring of 1981, I was browsing the store and saw a radio on clearance. It was being discontinued and was 60% off. *Just $155 ! *It looked a lot like the Frog, but with a red digital readout. *Perfect! *Digital, and obviously using the Wadley Loop, what could be better? *I listed the Frog in the paper, and sold it the day the ad appeared. *I hurried to Radio Shack, and managed to get the last radio in the store. *A Realistic DX-300. *Basically a Frog with digital readout. *I set it up and tried it out. *While the sensitivity was on par with the Frog, selectivity was definitely not! * The front end was virtually nonexistent. *We had a local 10KW *AM radio station in town and it was all over the place on this radio. *Even worse powerhouses like WOR, VOA, and HCJB, splattered 10-15khz on both sides of their assigned frequencies. *There was a wide/narrow switch on the radio, but it was nothing more than a two position tone control. *There was one bandwidth for AM, and a slightly narrower one for ssb. *It was the worst radio I ever used, and would eventually turn out to be the second worse radio I ever owned. *Ironically, the worst one would turn out to be another offering from Radio Shack, but that is another story. *I learned how to use this radio by setting the mode to ssb to tune difficult stations. *I did the best I could with the radio, with an, as I now found out, pseudo-digital readout. *I would not be able to get another radio for some time. *
* * * I had been on salary at the factory for twelve years, but in 1982 the economy was in deep recession following the end of the Vietnam War. *Many companies were cutting back costs, and Anaconda was one of them. *There was a major paring of salary personnel and I was included. *In June I was out of work with no prospects. *In six months I was in trouble. I was four payments behind on my house, and they were going to begin foreclosure. *Then one day at the grocery store, I ran into an old friend I graduated with. *We got to talking, and it got around to me being out of work and losing my house. *He then told me he could fix it so I could keep my house. *How? * He said it was simple. *He was now a recruiter for the Army Reserve. *It seems there was/is a federal law that makes it against the law to foreclose on someone on active military duty. *I told him I took an Army physical when I was 19. *I had been classified 1y. *He said being drafted was different than volunteering and I could get in. I took an aptitude test and tested strong in electronics. *No surprise there. *I passed the physical and enlisted. *One month later I was on a plane to Ft. Jackson SC. *After processing, I was assigned to "Hollywood". This was an area of new brick barracks, as opposed to "Tank Hill", an area of WW2 era wood barracks. *I started basic training *at the age of 32. *I passed basic after about six weeks, and proceeded to Ft. Sill OK, to begin AIT. *My MOS was 31V, *radio systems operation and repair. *Next day I started radio school. *Now the basement level of the school was basic electronics and was supposed to take two weeks. *The first class was learning the resistor color code. *Now I learned the color code when I was 11! *We were set up in groups of two. *Each group had a perf board and a box of various resistors. *The instructor was showing how to identify the correct resistors, one at a time, to build the required circuit. *I was bored, and started reading ahead and building the circuit. *I was showing my partner which resistors to pick out. *As I was putting the circuit together, I felt a hand on my shoulder. *It was the other instructor, who mainly made sure everyone stayed awake. *He whispered, "Private King, come with me". He didn't sound like it was going to be pleasant. *He took me to an empty room and gave me a test paper and told me to bring it to him when I was finished. *He then sat down at a desk in the room. *Ten minutes *later I handed him the test. *He looked at my answerers and all were right. *He then took me to another class and whispered to the instructor there. *That instructor took another test out of his drawer, and I returned with the first instructor to the empty classroom. This test was about reading schematics, Ohm's Law, and other basics. *Again I finished the fifty questions in about ten minutes. *This continued for the rest of the day, til I came to the last class. *It was about using test instruments, like VTVMs, and scopes. This test was a piece of cake as well, and I got careless. *I forgot to re zero my VTVM when I changed scales, and missed a couple of questions. *As he was grading the test, I realized my error, and he knew that I knew what I did wrong. *Unfortunately, I was not allowed to test again that day. He sent me back to my barracks and told to report back to him tomorrow. *Next day, I took a new test, passed and was taken upstairs where I began the real radio school. *I had passed a two week course in two days, and if I hadn't of gotten careless would have done it in one. *In three more months I graduated radio school and was now able to repair several military radios, like the PRC 77, ANGRC 106, and the ANVC 242. *My favorite radio was the R-392, a mobile version of the rack-mount R-390a. *My house was not only caught up, but I was a few payments ahead. *I left AIT and went home. *Six months later I had a new job in an auto stamping plant. *Ninety days later I was in the UAW. *This time I would never leave the union. *I had learned a bitter lesson I would never forget.

In 1989, I was browsing the trader classifieds, and saw an ad for an used ICOM R-71a receiver. *This was a highly rated receiver I had been reading about for years. *I called, and the next day I was the new owner. *The radio was well taken care of, and looked new. *It was a major improvement over the DX-300, and in fact was the best radio I had owned up til then. *In March 1989, Linda, said we were getting a special package. *In August, it arrived, but it turned out to be them. *My son and daughter was born August 28. *I was discharged from the Army Reserve in 1988, but in 1990, after getting laid-off, I re-enlisted in the Air Force. *My AFSC was 30454, ground radio repair. *It was here I met my dream radio, the RACAL 6790GM. *This was one sweet radio! *The noise threshold, was near zero, yet sensitivity and selectivity was excellent. *I have never used a better radio. *In 1991, I volunteered for a six-month TDY in Honduras. *The public story was the US military was assisting the Hondurans by building a road from the mountains to LCieba, on the coast. The real reasons however were we we assisting the Honduran Army fight the Nicaraguan-backed Sandista rebels. *Also, Panama was becoming a bit unfriendly, and the US was moving our Central command base to Soto Cano. *We were upgrading the runways to handle C 5's, and B 52's. *There was frequent attacks on US convoys, and base infiltration of Honduran troops by the Sandistas. *I wanted a portable shortwave to take to Honduras. *Radio Shack was running a red tag on the DX-440, so I bought one. *I packed it in my foot locker, and a week later I was in Honduras. *I stepped off a C-130 at Soto Cano, was issued a M16, and 40 rounds. *I was to fire only if fired upon. *I was then assigned a hooch, and settled in. *Next day, I was given charge of HF support operations, for the satellite telecommunications trailer. *The HF station was a Harris transmitter, and the RACAL receiver. *The communications center was a 24/7 operation. *It was setup in eight-hour rotating shifts. *I monitored the station on my 440 when I was off duty. *I set up the schedule so I had duty every Saturday night. *On Saturdays, for four hours, from 2000 hours to midnight, I was in charge of setting up phone patches with MARS ham operators in the States. *Soldiers could call home and talk to their wives and families for a maximum of fifteen minutes. *At midnight, after every one was done, I talked to my family, but never more than the fifteen minutes. *I want to personally thank the MARS hams for their unselfish service. *They made long distance calls at their expense to bring some cheer to the men in uniform. *Their dedication is greatly appreciated. *I did several more TDY assignments between 1992 and 1994. *When President Clinton took office there was a huge military cut back. *My slot was eliminated. *I had three choices, hard-school a new AFSC, transfer, or take an early out. *I said bye, and was discharged. *In 1994 I got back in CB, and became a tech for a friend who ran a CB shop in his home. *In 1995, I got worried about the battery in my ICOM. *I had read an article in Popcom, that said if the battery died, so did the radio. *I know about the nonvolatile memory modules, but they cost almost a hundred dollars. *I saw an ICOM R-70 on EBay for $300. *I bought it and sold my R-71a. *The R-70 is the best kept secret of the ICOM receivers. *It has everything the R-71a has, except direct keyboard entry and memories. *It is the equal of the R-71a in performance, and it doesn't suffer from the volatile memory problem of the R-71a. *It was perfect! *In 1998 I purchased on clearance the absolutely worse radio I ever owned, a DX-394. *This radio was even worse than the 300. *I kept it for only three months before dumping it on Ebay. *In 1999 the plant closed. *I got a new job six months later, but in five years that plant closed as well. *I got a new job sixty miles away. *Working ten hours a day, and driving that far left little time for radio. *Also I was getting involved in satellite TV, and was even a moderator on several sat forums. *I wrote a how-to on using dish pro lnbfs with FTA satellite receivers. *I even had my own forum for a while. *My radios were stored for over ten years. *Then, a few weeks ago I got ahold of a Grundig 450 field radio that was broken. I repaired the radio and started listening to it. *I had forgotten how fun shortwave was. *While on Ebay, looking for a balun, I stumbled onto a Grundig 800 as is. *I researched the 800, and was impressed by the reviews, especially Jay Allen's. *It was his statement that the 800 was the first portable he had found worthy of replacing his Zenith Royal 7000, that did it for me. * Knowing quite well the capabilities of the 7000, I went back to EBay and won the 800. *The 800 arrived, and after a quick check I discovered the BFO was not functioning.* I repaired the radio and started putting it through its paces.* After now having used my 800 for over two weeks, I have concluded that it is almost on par, if not a tad better in some areas, than my R-70, which I dug, along with my 440, out of storage. *The 300 I left there. *I am enjoying my return to my old hobby, and contrary to what I have read have found it basically unchanged. *Oh sure, there are a few stations that were shortwave mainstays, that have gone dark, but most are still there. *Gone is CBC, and Swiss Radio, and Radio Netherlands. * LA Voz de Los Andes is no longer booming in, but Radio Moscow is still there, only now it is the Voice of Russia. *Deutsch Welle still broadcasts in English at about the same time as always, but not with as strong of signal, since the broadcast is beamed to Africa. *BBC can be found the same way. *Radio Habana Cuba is as loud as ever, and I swear, the man and woman announcers sound just like the ones on the station, forty years ago! *Radio Romania still booms in, and Cairo and Turkey are out there as well. *I even heard the old IS from RSA. *I am looking forward to many more years of shortwave listening. I resurrected my long wire in the attic, and dusted off my old 24 hour clock and set it for Zulu time. *My old log book is long gone, but I have started a new one. *Maybe, I will even hear Windward Islands. *And my antenna on my 800 touches the ceiling....

** * * * * * * * * * * * * * *The End

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