By Jack Searle , first printed in the October 1995 DX Times.
It is 60 years since I first tuned to what could considered genuine DX. For reasons that I can’t imagine my late father had been given or sold a battery operated radio which was obviously almost identical with the Neutrodyne receiver described by Bob Gilbert with its three large dials that controlled the three single gang tuning capacitors and the two wire wound rheostats that he mentioned. However it was of another make, SONORA boasting on the maker’s name plate ‘Clear as a Bell”.
At 15 years of age and never having had a hand on a radio this was of great interest and I spent much time hunting the band which of course was confined to Mediumwave. One evening about dusk I came across a strange signal and was really amazed when it IDed as “KNX Hollywood”. Now at that tender age and completely inexperienced I’d never heard of DXing and as a result no action was taken in the way of a report.
Soon after that I saw an advertisement in the‘magazine ‘N.Z. Radio Record‘ inviting readers to contact the office of the New Zealand DX Radio Assn. and as a result I was soon member number RA 1648. I think the subscription was 2/8, in today’s money about 25 cents.
My interest in radio led to my spending most of a weeks pay to buy a kitset from the ‘Electric Lamphouse’ in Wellington and constructing the well known “HIKER’S ONE”, a single valve regenerative receiver based on a 49 valve, later a second stage was added. another 49. One day while playing around with it I inadvertently dropped the A+ lead across the positive terminal of the B battery which put 9 volts on the 1.5 volt filaments, a very expensive slip up.
This little receiver gave many hours of enjoyment and it was on it while in bed very late at night that I heard the news from London via the National Radio that war had been declared against Germany. That was to change my life and it was some 5 1/2 years before any really serious DXing could be contemplated. However I had by that time been DXing on the family radio, a 1938 EKCO model AW 88 All-wave though not all bands as we know them today were covered. I had accumulated about 300 QSL’s many from North America on mediumwave down to 250 Watts of power. I still have that EKCO and it is still in good going order.
Being 19 years of age at the start of the war I soon found myself in uniform and apart from the odd listen on an aircraft radio DXing was not an option until I found myself an N.C.O. with a room of my own and was able to invest in a used Columbus that I used with the wire wove of my bed as an antenna. This gave surprisingly good results though I haven‘t tried it lately. Later while serving overseas I lived with a bunch of radio mechanics and had the deluxe conditions of usually having a radio of some sort in our tent. These were one of the various
radios that were used in our PV1 aircraft.
Returning home at the start of 1945 I again found an interest in radio and continued on until 1950 when I gave it all away in disgust at the situation that made decent radios impossible to get or for me to afford. From 1947 I had been using a domestic type Philco that had served me well and in fact I still have it in good order.
In a clean break from the hobby I gave all my QSLs away to a stamp collector, regrettably these included many stations and countries that have since passed into history.
Twenty years passed before the bug bit again and I started from scratch to find a few of the people who were active in my earlier days still in the hobby. In the meantime a new organisation had emerged, the New Zealand Radio DX League and it was this that I joined. Arthur Cushen, Cleve Costello who is still in Radio or the hobby elsewhere, Ernie Niven, Frank Wilson and one who used to contribute anonymously under the name of “Stella” which presumably was the make of radio he used for they were well known in those days.
DXing has been the most interesting of the hobbies I have been involved in and brought many happy friendships and even more frustrations but I wouldn’t have missed it for worlds.
Jack Searle – Obituary
On Sunday the 18th of October, the NZ Radio DX League lost one of its long-
time stalwarts, Jack Searle of Haumoana. Jack began listening in 1935 aged 16 when he heard KNX Los Angeles on a now antique Sonora battery set. He began DXing in earnest in 1938 when Jack’s father bought a 6 valve ECKO AW98 receiver.
War service in the Pacific with the RNZAF interrupted his DXing and it was not until 1970 that Jack again took up the hobby. Jack was a mechanic and his last job before retiring was with the AA as a technical advisor. Jack was a regular contributor to the DX Times, and for a number of years edited the SW Mailbag section. Jack was always ready to raise contentious issues leading to some interesting debate. He also loved attending DXpeditions and League Conventions when ever possible.
Three members represented the NZ Radio DX League at Jack’s funeral. For those of us fortunate in knowing Jack , it’s a personal loss as much as a loss to NZ DXing. His name will be missed from the DX Times.