As far as I can remember, the radio was always on top of grandfather's oak cabinet down stairs in the basement.
The basement in our house in Chappaqua, N.Y. was a lonely, quiet place of boxed up memories of the past. A place of boxed up stuff, this and thats, decorations, furniture pieces, what-knots that somehow did not make it upstairs to the living room. Things that found a place in our house in Elmhurst, N.Y.C. now slumbered in silent solitude within 4 concrete walls.
I had gone up and down the wooden steps that lead to the basement many times during my childhood there in Chappaqua. At the bottom of the steps to the left stood about 5 metal shelves where my parents stacked all kinds of canned goods, right next to those shelves were the washer, dryer and sink where mom would do the wash.
A fuse box which held the old type circular screw on-and-off fuses found its place against the concrete wall next to the sink. Quite a few times I remember my dad changing a fuse or two which had given up their ghosts.
Across from the washer and dryer were the oil burner and hot water heater. In-between those two down-stairs residents stood grandma's two-wheeled shopping basket, no longer in use any more. It just stood there as a reminder of the many trips she must have taken back and forth from the local food markets in New York City so many years ago.
On the other side of the basement there were boxes and boxes of things like old Good House-keeping magazines, Field and Stream mags, piano sheet music which belonged to my mom, eskimo garb, and grandma and grandpa's “1906” trunk. This was the trunk that they used when they came to America from the “Old Country. I say “1906” because stuck to the bottom of the trunk was a piece of newspaper with that date under the headline.
The basement was divided in half by a center concrete wall. On the other side of it dad had built me a “train table” where his Lionel trains lay, lined up on the train track. I used to turn on the power and run them for a while, putting “smoke pills” in the chimney of the locomotive and watch the engine bellow out puffs of white smoke. These trains were one of those “hand-me-downs” that fathers sometimes give to their sons. I saw some more trains in other boxes that somehow, never left their cardboard housing. Those were the ones dad bought back in the 1930s.
At the other end of the basement was the wall that divided our house from the great out-doors.
Right next to the back-yard door was my wooden toy-chest with out-grown toys, some broken, some still in good shape. Once out-side there was a steep hill that ended at an oak tree and my swing set. This was especially good during winter when there was icy snow. I would “belly-flop” and slide down the hill on my belly until I stopped at the swing-set.
On the other side of the back-yard door was grandpa's oak cabinet with 4 pull-out drawers. The bottom two would open vertically, the top tow would open horizontally. The bottom two had
a piece of cardboard wedged between so as to keep them close, since the key was lost long ago. I don't recall much of the contents of that oak cabinet, only that the bottom part had a shoe box with some silver-ware with the monogram “P” and the date “November, 1914 engraved on the knives, forks, and spoons. This was the date of grandma and grandpa's wedding.
In the top-left drawer was a folded up ship's flag with the stars and stripes and an anchor amidst the stars. This belonged to the Texaco Tanker “Ohio” when grandpa was captain back in the 1930s. Guess he took it as a keep-sake.
On the top of the cabinet sat, “The Radio”. It was unlike our small yellow plastic kitchen counter radio, which had a clock-face and a swivel dial which was permanently set to WFAS-1230 AM. The radio in the basement came in two parts. There were two black, metal boxes, one on top of the other. The larger one was full on knobs and switches with three half-moon like windows with lines and numbers on their faces. Below the windows were two large dials with the markings; “main tuning” and “band-spread”. On the main tuning dial was the letter “h” and the letters and numbers; SX-25.
The other knobs and switches had other letters on them like; BFO, AF Gain, RF Gain. The speaker lay inside of the smaller black box on top of the radio. The back was hollow with just some folded-up wires hanging out. The radio just sat there with the three half-moon like yellow eyes staring lifelessly at the iron food shelf which stood across the room.
I imagine that in the years past, these dials must have lit up many times with the speaker vibrating with music from the Benny Goodman band, the Andrew Sisters, the Amos and Andy show, news from different announcers. I can imagine the famous speech made by president Roosevelt coming through the speaker of that radio so many years ago; “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, is a day that will live in infamy.......” . My dad told me about that day, it was the day he was recalled into the army for extended service.
Now it was still, a quiet sentinel of the past, now a home for spiders and dust. I had passed by that radio many times on my way out the basement door to the back yard. I often wondered what it would sound like with the switch turned to “on”. I tried it once, but the radio still remained silent, dead to the world, a quiet ghost of past melodies, songs, and news broadcasts.
Then came the day when I found myself looking at the radio, when my dad came down stairs. He came behind me and put his hands on my shoulders and said;
“That's a Hallicrafters SX-25 Communications receiver, a short wave radio. It can pick up radio stations from all over the world. I bought it way back in 1937.”
He continued to tell me how he used to tune in stations from different parts of the world. He especially listened to “HAMS” (amateur radio operators). He told me how once he heard a “HAM” transmitting from “Little America” (The South Pole).
“I hope I can do that too some day dad, hear stations from other parts of the world.” I told him. I was really interested in this now. I can't really recall, but this was around 1966 when we had that short conversation.
“Maybe some day Jimmy” he responded with a smile, “Maybe some day.”
Moving day came early in June, 1966. School had let out, I was a 6th grade graduate, ready to go into Jr. High. The Santini brothers'moving van came and packed up all of our stuff, all the odds and ends, furniture, etc, including dad's radio. All went into new boxes, they went on the truck, and we said our final “goodbye” to Chappaqua, N.Y.
We moved to Yorktown Heights, N.Y. I was enrolled in Yorktown Jr. High School, and I sat back to enjoy the rest of the summer. Our new house in Yorktown Heights didn't exactly have a basement, it had what one could call a “downstairs den”. All our stuff was off-loaded and grandpa's oak cabinet ended up next to the house-entrance door in the back of our two-car garage. Beside the cabinet was his “1906 trunk”, but there was no sign of the radio.
I figure that it must have been still packed in one of the many boxes lined up along side the walls of our garage. For a while, I gave no more thought of the radio, out of sight, out of mind.
The months passed. The 1966-67 school year started. I entered into the awesome world of 7th grade. December turned into January, 1967, then February 9th rolled around, my birthday. Mom and dad greeted me with their “Happy birthday Jimmy” with a chocolate cake, my favorite. I also received that year a “Craig reel to reel tape recorder”. 'Now what in the world would I do with this I asked myself?' Would I record myself just to hear myself talk? No, not likely. But mom and dad had another surprise awaiting me.
“Come down stairs, I have something to show you.” my dad said, as we both went down-stairs to the den. He pointed to a medium size book shelf under a window. It was divided into an upper and lower shelf, and there was something on those shelves. I went to get a closer look.
“Happy Birthday Jimmy” my dad said to me smiling, “It's yours now.”
And there it was, the Hallicrafters SX-25. It had re-appeared. It had found a new resting place, from on top of grandpa's oak cabinet to a book shelf. My dad had cut a hole in the back of the book shelf to slip the power cord through to plug into the wall socket.
“I gave it to Mr. Tebbit to fix, now it works fine.”
dad commented that Mr. Tebbit was a friend from work. He was an “Old radio fix-it guy” He took the Hallicrafters, opened up the top and cleaned out the cobwebs, changed a few tubes, and brought it back to life. Dad showed me how to work the dials, what they were used for. He told me about the “main tuning” and “band-spread” dials. The “BFO” switch was a “Beat Frequency Oscillator” control that was used to “un-garble” all the “garbled” conversations of the HAM radio operators.
Dad told me about the RF Gain and AF Gain switches (Radio-Frequency Gain) (Audio-Frequency Gain), and of course the knob that changed the frequencies. It had Medium Wave (AM) and short wave frequencies.
Dad showed me the multi-strand copper wire that was screwed on to the back of the radio and ran up the curtain and was tied off on the curtain rod. This was for reception, later on, he hung a 50 foot long copper wire in front of our house which was tied off between two ceramic insulators.
I turned the radio on, and the half-moon dials came to life.
Different sounds came forth from the speaker; bleeps, blahs, different and strange sounds. Dad explained the different sounds and their meanings; morse code, carrier waves, radio teletype, time-frequency stations. We stopped to listen to the first station. It was radio Station WWV from Fort Collins, Colorado, it announced the time every minute giving the minutes GMT, (Greenwich Mean Time)
Soon after that, I found CHU-Canada, from Toronto, another Time-frequency station, announcing the time by minutes in both English and in French. Now, the short wave radio listening bug had really hit me. I picked up the first international radio station, HCJB from Quito, Ecuador; a Missionary radio station transmitting an English language broadcast. Later on, I picked up more stations; Radio Havana, Cuba, the BBC World Service, Radio Moscow, Radio Peking (China). The Voice of Free China, from Taiwan, Radio Cairo (Egypt), Radio Nacional de España, (Spain) Radio RSA (The Voice of South Africa from Johannesburg)
As the months and years went by, I heard more stations. Dad showed me how to write down the information from broadcasts to send away for QSL cards, (post cards that verified reception from those stations). The first one I received was from radio RSA, from South Africa. I felt like someone important now, getting mail from over-seas. Dad moved the radio upstairs to my bed room one year.
In 1970, when I turned 16, I got my first summer job working as a gardener at a community college. All the workers called me; “Young Jim” since I was the youngest. With the money I saved I bought a short wave radio of my own, a “Hammerlund Communications Receiver” . It was somewhat like the Hallicrafters, but a newer model. The two radios sat side by side on my dresser drawer, right next to my bed.
As the years went by, I had collected many QSL cards, then I tried to see how many “out-of-state” AM stations I could pick up. Night time was the best. The farthest I heard was KFI in Los Angeles, CA. I also heard a lot of AM stations from Cuba and Canada. I put all my QSL cards in an album, even the AM stations sent out QSL cards, some wrote back with personal “thank you for listening” letters. This was indeed an exciting hobby, I had learned a lot about the geography of the world and about other countries.
High School graduation day came in June, 1972. The Army recruiter had visited me a few months before graduation. I signed up, so by the end of June, I would embark on a new adventure with Uncle Sam. This adventure would last eleven years, a soldier's adventure.
July 1st came, I had a small bag ready with some clean underwear and toilet articles . It was seven AM in the morning. Dad would take me to the bus stop. I left my bedroom for the last time, took a final look at my radios, closed the door and was off to Fort Dix, N.J. for basic training.
Many radios stations have come and gone in the past years. Some die out due to lack of listeners' support, and some keep on going strong. There is one station that is still going strong, a station that got started about 3500 years ago. This station, unliked by some, yet loved by many, is radio “Voice of God”.
It started with quill and ink, by a rejected prince from Egypt, who became a shepherd of millions of human sheep. He Wrote down what God told him to write, then passed on the scripts to others who would write down more stuff from God, and would pass on those scripts to others, and so on. The station scripts became printed in book form, then when the air waves were subdued by man, the Voice of God was heard by both radio and TV, and now by the internet. Today we can both “read” and “listen” to the broadcasts. There are 66 programs. YHVH-Adonai-Elohim is the station owner-president-manager.
The 66 programs are broadcasted day and night, 24-7. There is the Genesis program, the Exodus program. The station announcers are long since gone, yet their voices are still heard. There are news programs, history programs, programs of songs, poetry, and wisdom which are on radio Psalms and Proverbs.
The station manager started this station thinking of mankind who he loves. Years of preparation went into the programs. His voice has been echoed into all 66 programs, and all talk about YESHUA, the Son, God become flesh and blood. There is, however, QRM (interference) and a lot of static at times. It comes from radio Satan, it wants to jam the Voice of God, but it is up to each and every listener to tune it out. We have to use our bandspread carefully, tune out all distractions, fine tune our built in antennae, or our faith walk will be hindered.
So keep tuned to the “Voice of God” it is essential to our spiritual growth and it will lead you to the knowledge and acceptance of Yeshua (Jesus Christ) as your Savior and LORD.
AUTHOR'S FINAL THOUGHTS:
You probably wonder what ever happened to my short wave radios, well, here's the “rest of the story:”
4 weeks into basic training, dad wrote me that he had “sold the Hallicrafters” (Oh, Ok, nice going dad, guess it really wasn't mine after all, but wasn't it a birthday gift?) never saw a penny of the money.
When I was at Fort Carson, Colorado, dad told me that he would send me the Hammerlund. He boxed it up, put it on a greyhound bus, and...it never got to me. He collected the insurance money, I never saw a penny of that either. (Nice going dad, put it on a bus? Hey, Parcel Post is still working, aren't they? That's OK, I forgive you dad) The QSL cards made it though.
I had other short wave radios through the years. A radio shack “Star Roamer” SWL receiver, sold it to a pawn shop. A Zenith transoceanic,, which was stolen in Mexico, QSL cards? Disappeared inside some box in Mexico, never saw them again.
I do have one today, a GRUNDIG digital, about six inches by four inches. I just take it to the beach and listen to KSBJ-FM, no more short wave. I mean, just look for a Short wave radio station on the net now, it will come in loud and clear on “streaming” No more challenge, the hobby has kind of “died out”.
So the hobby has gone into oblivion, vanished, replaced by the internet. Want to listen to an international radio station? Just go to “Tune-in.com” and they're all there, all 4 continents worth
No more need for short wave radios and copper antennae wires.
I harbor NO RESENTMENT against dad. He passed away years ago. He was a good father who taught me many things. I miss him, he will be loved and I cherish his memory. Radios are just material things, they can be here today and gone tomorrow. God's Word is for ever, let's tune into that transmission. The “Voice of God” always has a good message, it will point you to Yeshua.
Rabbi Ben Avraham.