RADIOS, RADIO COMMUNICATIONS, INCLUDING ROYAL CANADIAN SIGNALS

This section is about my lifelong interest in radio and communications.  I don’t know how young I was, but radio fascinated me at a very early age.  I just couldn’t comprehend how a voice could come out of a radio speaker.  Like most families, radio was a big thing in ours.  I remember going to bed and my parents listening to programs such as Fibber McGee & Molly and Share The Wealth, which I didn’t understand, but I knew it must have meant something to them.  I became interested in turning the dial to see what was on.  In Halifax, the only local radio stations were CHNS, CBH and later CJCH.  It was fun trying to receive distant stations like CKEN in Kentville, CFAB in Windsor, CKBW in Bridgewater, CJFX in Antigonish, CJCB in Sydney, CHSJ in St. John, etc. 

My (late) older brother Jack had some influence on me as I remember him telling me about a radio I could listen to and nobody else could hear it, and, it didn’t need electricity.  It was a crystal set which he set up using my bed spring as an antenna.  WOW, this was really something.  Many nights I fell asleep with the earphone in my ear.  Crystal sets are still made for hobbyists. 

My very first “real” radio was a Northern Electric Baby Champ identical to the one pictured below which my dad bought for me.  For nostalgia, today I have an identical model in a brown case. I'd like to thank Mr. Norm Walz for allowing me to use the following picture from his great website on Baby Champ radios – www.babychamp.ca

 

Hearing about short wave stations from my brother Jack, I cannot remember the year, but it was probably circa1947/48 and I got an old Stewart Warner multi-band radio.  Radio became really exciting for me.  I really became interested in short wave radio stations such as Radio Moscow, Radio Luxemburg, Holland, Bulgaria, Australia, Ecuador etc.  I learned that if you sent a reception report to this stations, they would send some nifty mail to you, and even announce your name over the air on their “Short Wave Listeners’ (SWL) mailbag” program. 

An interesting side story about national security here!!!!  Here I was only 10 or 11 and sending out reception reports to every short wave station I could hear, and a number of them were propaganda stations of Communist countries at the time.  That meant nothing to me, I just wanted to collect all the acknowledgements and QSL (acknowledgement) cards.  One day, the RCMP came knocking on our door, and scared the daylights out of my parents as they wanted to know all about this person communicating with Communist countries.  They also visited neighbours (unknown to us) to inquire more about me.  Nothing became of it!!!

Brother Jack was in the engraving and printing business and had his own SWL reception card printed.  When I wanted one, he just used his changing his address to mine.  My card shown below is the 2nd printing as the original had the 313 South St. address on it.  For those that do not know it, VE is Canada designation, “1” is the Maritime provinces, “2” is Quebec, “3” is Ontario etc.   I like the cartoon which says, “We need another card to shut out the draught, how about yours”? 

 

Jack had a friends, Ken & Russ Morrison, who lived on Creighton St. in Halifax.  Russ was an avid radio fan, also a radio ham VE1AAA.  My brother obtained a Wireless Set No. 19, the WWII standard radio for the military.  I was so keen that I learned about ham radio including Morse code and was allowed to operate the 19 set as VE1AAA first with supervision, then later on my own.  It was set up in Jack’s house on Frederick Ave. in Halifax, and later was given to me.  A picture of a standard 19 set is below. 

 

 

This was the start of my serious interest in communications equipment.  I became familiar with the Hallicrafters brand of receivers, they had nifty units at reasonable prices for the little guy.  Somebody Jack knew had this nice used Hallicrafters Model S-20 receiver for sale, which somehow I got.  I felt like a real professional with this unit.  See picture below.

 

These large and heavy receivers became known as “boat anchors” because of their size and weight.  Maintenance was a problem if you didn’t know somebody who could (and would) repair them.  I sold the S-20 and later got a smaller Hallicrafters receiver, a Model S-38c pictured below:

 

Subsequently, I sold the S-38c and in the last few years I bought another Hallicrafters, which is really nothing more than a glorified radio, a Model S-118, pictured below.

I have also a radio scanner, a throw over from the time when you could listen to the police, fire department etc.  Today, communications are very sophisticated for security reasons.  However, I still monitor our local fire department, the local air traffic, the ships in the St. Lawrence Seaway Welland Canal (runs through St. Catharines) and other such non-exciting frequencies as the St. Catharines Transit. 

Always interested in radios, I had a collection of miscellaneous tube and transistor radios most of which I’ve sold several years ago.  The main radio I have left is the Deforest-Crosley chair side radio which is somewhat unique in that the dials are upside down to face the person sitting in the chair.  The speaker is facing away from the chair.  Other radios I have are “plain Janes”, such as the RCA, the Marconi and the Telechron by GE all pictured below.  The latter is 25 cycle, and I’ve disconnected the electric clock because it would heat up on 60 cycles.  Being a Hallicrafters fan, I had a 4 tube AM radio which I bought for $5 back in the early 50’s from a furniture store in downtown Halifax.  I sold it recently to a Hallicrafters collector.  One interesting model I have is a combination auto and portable radio, shown among the radios below.  It’s a Davis Radio Corporation LeChaparon model.  It has a connector on the back which connects to it’s mate when slid into the dash opening.  Or, it can be taken out and has a carrying handle and telescopic antenna.  Here are some pictures:

 

In 1958, a good friend the (late) Bob Sadler who was also a fan of radio equipment was joining the Militia (or reserve army as we knew it then).  He didn’t need to convince me to join up with the Halifax based East Coast Signal Regiment of the Royal Canadian Signals (RCSigs).  I was enthusiastic from the beginning.  The standard radio was still the Wireless Set 19 with which I was very familiar.  So, I had an advantage over others coming into the regiment.  After learning some military basics, such as the jargon used for radio security, I was given the chance to teach how to operate the 19 set.  Over my 12 years in the militia, teaching radio operation was what I did and loved it.  Of course, the old 19 set was replaced by the C42 set.  Miniaturization in electronic equipment brought in back pack radios, such as the CPRC 26 and 510 (five-ten) sets.  The art of teaching changed with technology, as the radio sets were becoming more and more of a “switch on, select a channel, and talk” type of operation.  However, the use of VHF and UHF radio bands as opposed to the old 19 set low frequency range, required operators to learn that the old way was no longer of use.  With the 19 set and other military radios of the time, tall buildings or hills didn’t block the signal.  Basically, the new rule of thumb was “line of sight”, that is, if there was any major tall building or obstruction between the sender and receiver, the signal may not go around the obstruction. 

 

Before the newer sets came in use, I learned to use larger base and vehicle mounted equipment as the ANGR 26, the 52 set and probably others I have forgotten.  My skill in radio operation was always recognized by those in command.  I was always paired up with the commanding officer (CO) on major exercises to ensure he could communicate with all.  I always felt good about that.  Here is a pictue of the Angr26 radio set:

 

When I moved to Montreal in 1960 to work for Canadian Marconi CFCF TV Channel 12, I transferred to the 11th Signal Regiment at the old Hillside Armoury in Westmount.  (The 11th Signal Regiment later became the 15th Independent Signal Squadron).  I continued with teaching radio operation and enjoying it.  The unit had a ham radio shack under the license held by Capt. Croft Taylor.  The call letters were VE2AMT (aka “Always Making Trouble” as we called it).  Sgt Kuipers and myself used to operate it somewhat frequently.  All my early knowledge of amateur radio was applied.  A picture of the QSL card is below:

 

Along with the traditional duties of a signals person, I used my accounting skills when I became treasurer of the Sergeants Mess for several years.  I was responsible for the acquisition and payment for stock (beer and saleable items) and for the banking and dispensing of all monies in accordance with National Defence  policy and procedures.  A funny story comes to mind at this point.  My two sons were born during this period.  I discovered that I could buy the jars of baby food at wholesale prices by having them delivered to the Mess and paying cash for them.  However, I had to buy them by the case.  One of my colleagues at work, Bill Young also had two children the same age, so I would purchase cases of the various baby foods, and Bill and I would be in the parking lot, “half a case for you, the other half for me”.  The supplier never questioned why the Sergeants’ Mess was purchasing baby food, maybe because it was a cash purchase by me.

In 1968, my day job began to take more of my time I was unable to commit myself to the military and decided it was best to depart and was finished on 16 January 1969 with the rank of Staff Sergeant. 

I’ve worked with some of the nicest folks while in RCSigs.  Longtime friends such as John Speirs, Doug Chappell, and Joyce Crete are folks with whom I still keep in touch.  Another late and great buddy was Stan Vineberg. 

Subsequently, my employer moved me to St. Catharines, ON from Montreal and things settled down again.  I decided to re-join the Militia.  The only option here was the Lincoln & Welland Regiment, an infantry regiment.  All through my militia career, radio operating was my prime interest over weapons, marching, etc.  However, an infantry regiment uses communications and I was interested in this facet.  I wasn’t in very long when my employment with Montreal Engineering went down the tubes and I began working in the Toronto area.  To ease the travel to and from St. Catharines, I took temporary accommodations in Toronto staying there during the week and coming home on weekends. This was not suitable for my  Militia participation and again I had to resign.  I was discharged (honourably) on 22 April 1983 and received my Canadian Forces decoration medal for my overall service for 12 years. 

 

A camera was sort of “excess baggage” while carrying out communication duties so I don’t have many pics, but here are a few general pictures.

   

 



 

Davis Radio Corp.

Marconi.

Telechron.

RCA.

Hallicrafters S118.

Baby Champ.