PROFILE of Keith Robinson.
Written by Keith after some prompting by Bill Marsh (Jnr).
I was brought up on a farm at Kapuka, 25 km east of Invercargill. We didn’t get electricity until the Monowai Power Station was built in 1936. After much consideration my parents decided to buy a six tube Philips Radioplayer superhet which gave great service. Highlights of the weeks listening was Dad and Dave over 4ZP Invercargill on 680 kcs.
My sister Muriel was an avid fan of Australian soaps such as Linda’s First Love and Dr Paul broadcast from 10-11 am over 4ZB Dunedin on 1040 kcs, so an aerial was erected to bring in the Dunedin stations including 4YA on 780 kcs and 4YO on 1140 kcs.
In 1943, I heard about DXing via the Lamphouse magazine, published by a firm in Wellington, which included a column by one Arthur Cushen of the New Zealand DX Club. I tuned around on the Philips, first on shortwave and discovered a station on 49 metres announcing “ZJV Suva and Shortwave VPD2”. I wrote to Arthur and his reply told me about DXing. In due course VPD2 verified and I was hooked. It was a long wait for verifications. It was wartime and there was a time lag of, I think, six months before mail was forwarded overseas.
DXing medium wave was paradise. There were about 26 stations in NZ. They closed around 10 pm. After 2 am all channels were clear, with the exception of 3AK Melbourne on 1500 kcs, which came on air around 6 pm and closed about 6 am. A lot of outback Aussies signed off at 10 pm their time. ABC stations were all off the air by 2 am NZ time. NZ stations came back on at 6 am, with testing before that, 7 am on Sunday.
I was attending Southland Boys High School (the first in my family to have a secondary education) and made friends with John Miller and Lyndsay Springford who were also interested in radio. John unfortunately lived near the Invercargill water tower. This was without a doubt the worst location I have listened in due to horrendous power noise – worse even than today’s city conditions.
In 1945 I got my first job at the Southland Times newspaper. There was a lot of night work involved. We normally knocked off at 2 am. There was a mantel radio in the sub-editor’s room. I had a listen around one morning and was amazed to hear 250 watt Americans on 1400 kcs, including KRPL Moscow Idaho never heard before or since. More listening on this set produced several more rare loggings, including 9AF, testing from Toorak, Victoria, and later shipped to the islands as one of the stations to entertain troops. We worked six nights a week Saturday nights on the farm I listened right through the night.
When I went to work in Auckland in 1948 it was thought by most DXers that it was not much good for DXing due to excessive static on medium wave. I lived in digs in several locations and found Devonport quite a good spot for medium wave. This was a time of keen DXers fattening their logs on American equipment tests and frequency checks, especially on Monday nights. This was Sunday night in the USA and many 24 hour stations on the “graveyard” channels – 130, 1240, 1340, 1400 and 1450 kcs – observed silent periods, leaving these channels clear for testing stations. On a good night several stations could be heard at once on the one channel. As recording devices were few and far between, writers cramp became a hazard for DXers.
As the war ended, hundreds of new stations were licensed in the USA. Nearly every night, new stations were heard testing, especially on the 1500 – 1600 segment as there were no stations in Australia or NZ broadcasting there. One night I was listening with Merv Branks at his home in Dublin Street when a strange signal was noted on 1570 kcs. The era of XERF had arrived. This station was heard all over the world in it’s heyday, even interfering with weaker yanks on 1580 and 1560 kcs. However, the station later fell on hard times and the power decreased. One of my most prized veries was WHOT Campbell Ohio, a 250 watter heard testing at the same time as XERF was on the air.
I returned to the farm in 1951 and things began looking up DX wise. I had acquired a Hallicrafters S40A, but soon realized that power noise was limiting my reception. I explained my problem to Ray McConnell of McCracken and Walls in Invercargill – the best decision I ever made. He adapted a CQ radio to run on dry batteries and I was in business. My neighbour thought I was mad when they saw me pushing my radio around the farm in a wheelbarrow looking for good spots for reception. In due course I was able to purchase a tent, then a hut and then a caravan in which to listen and I was able to offer hospitality to Southland Branch members and DXers from further north. The old CQ was a faithful friend for many years, but eventually the 45 volt batteries it required went off the market. Several transistor sets were used after this with varying success. I also DXed at the Waituna Lagoon (East of Tiwai) at times. This was a particularly good spot for Europeans on broadcast.
Receivers used over the years; Philips Radioplayer [Circa 1936], Hallicrafters S40A, CQ Vibrator powered receiver converted to dry cells, Pacemaker, MARSH Special, Eddystone 750, Zenith 6-S-27 (ex estate of Merv Branks).