The flick of a switch first opened up the world of radio for me. I was sick with a bad cold and bored, so moved a little lever on the bedside radio and found myself hearing music and people talking from the other side of the world. Wow! There was the original ‘Happy Station’ from Hilversum, here was WNYW New York, HCJB from Quito, Radio Australia, and so much more.
I soon rigged up an aerial and balanced the radio on the window ledge at the front of the house. I tidied up the yard listening to the Top 10 from Radio Beirut before Lebanon was torn apart. I joined all the DX clubs at Radio Bucharest, Radio Habana Cuba, Radio Warsaw and even got mail from Radio Tirana. I was sure the local intelligence service must have me in a file marked ‘subversive’ but the post office kept delivering my photo calendars of Che Guevera from Havana, program schedules from Radio Moscow, letters from my East German penpals found via Radio Berlin International, and my favorite ‘Hello Friends’ magazine from Deutsche Welle in Cologne.
KFRE 940 was first MW catch
One momentus evening I was listening to 2ZA Palmerston North on 940 AM, but it wasn’t there very often. Another station with an American accented announcer was giving agribusiness news for the San Joaquin Valley, and identified as ‘KFRE from the TW Patterson Building in Fresno’. My first DX on mediumwave. When a large envelope of goodies arrived from KFRE, I was hooked on MW DX and the little lever on the radio got stuck there.
Now I rigged up a different aerial, and in the long twilight hours of summer, worked in the back yard listening to country music from ‘The Friendly Giant’, KWKH Shreveport, LA. Like a local. Used to rattle the windows on the neighbors house. Or KXEL Waterloo IA, who were always hawking country music records for COD. Or KORL from Honolulu, or any number of stations which made the yard suddenly part of a much bigger world than just North Beach, in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Remember The World Tomorrow?
I didn’t even have a list of radio stations. I used The Listener for New Zealand stations and listings of local programs. I found copies of The World Tomorrow magazine from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA (remember Garner Ted Armstrong ?) and it listed frequencies in Australia, USA, Canada and Philippines which broadcast this show. I used the magazine as a guide. I wrote to Arthur Cushen asking him for addresses of so many Hawaiian stations I was hearing that he sent a photocopy of the WRTH pages and suggested I buy a copy from him.
I then joined the NZRDXL Canterbury Branch in 1970. The MW dial was hot in those days. We competed heavily for the Best of the Month competition. You needed at least a 125 pointer to get anywhere near the best, which meant a 50kWer from NY or Boston to even get in the running. The joy of getting a 5kWer from Alaska and over 150 points!
The 1971 Convention at Leithfield Beach near Christchurch blew my mind. Every channel except 3YA 3YC and 3ZB had Spanish on it. In some cases, they tumbled over one another. You couldn’t hope to log many, just listen in amazement. This was the place, old hands told me, that in the early 1960’s you drove to, parked by the lagoon, and listened to 250 watters from Puerto Rico. No way. They pulled out the QSL albums to prove it. I was a believer.
Early Days with the NZDXT
The Canterbury Branch was responsible for the NZDXT. This meant hand collating the cyclostyled pages, stapling and folding them, wrapping them and pasting the address labels on. Then, it meant a cruise into downtown Christchurch in Lance Johnston’s Holden, a couple of wheelies around Cathedral Square, deposit the magazine at the CPO, then across to the city’s only hamburger bar in a gloomy corner of the Square. Bikies, drunks, and DXers shared greasy burgers dripping in cheese and tomato sauce.
My DX journey took me across the world, both along the MW dial, and literally as I discovered the joys of wanderlust with a radio in my carry-on bag. A stint as NZDXT editor with Mike Pollard, publisher, where we bashed out the first copy on electric typewriters at the BNZ Head Office late into the night. Fighting to keep RNZI on air meant turning up at the RNZ Newsroom at midnight to give an interview, and hosting a Radio Pacific talkback show for two hours to stir people up. I even fronted up to the RNZ Board with a plan to take over the station, without a brass razoo of course, to keep it on air.
Still stirring after all these years
I still try and stir things up a little in Talkback the NZDXT column. Radio as a hobby has given me wonderful memories, long friendships, great experiences, and loads of fun. It continues to do so today, even if I’m not actively DXing. Even whilst writing this, I’m listening to Jazz Radio from Berlin. I admit, via the internet, but, it’s part of my radio world. When the time and place is right, I hope to add to my Pacific QSL collection. Wherever, I may live in the world, I’ll always enjoy local radio, and world radio, and making wonderful friends.
Radio Heritage Collection
Today, my interest has moved to the Radio Heritage Collection project. The main focus here is on the Pacific. Saving the stories of Pacific radio through words, pictures and sounds for later generations to discover and explore. Old QSLs, station propaganda, articles in magazines, memories of station staff, engineering tales, original artwork of logos and car stickers and banners and pennants, rare recordings, and much more, all give a fascinating tour of the radio dial around the Pacific.
It’s a bigger project than just one person, and offers many ways for anyone with any interest in radio to become involved. I’ve never been a technical person, so find fascination in many aspects of radio. To me, there’s still something almost magical about pulling music out of the air, and how a radio does this is still beyond my comprehension.
Making DX and radio recreation relevant in the future
Looking to the past is part of a larger vision to rebuild radio and DX as a recreation. When 95% of today’s buyers of shortwave radios have little or no interest in hobby clubs, it seems there’s a real challenge for DX clubs. Taking just a narrow base of DX alone is a recipe for disaster for any radio club.
There are many aspects to radio, so a broad approach captures more interest in a busy world where media is everywhere and time for recreation is under heavy pressure. The web project is designed to be a comfortable place to visit for people interested in heritage, culture, politics, engineering, music, geography, electronics, art, and any other aspect of life touched by radio.
The site should also welcome today’s radio people, interested in new formats, ratings, cutting edge technologies, webcasting, and more. Whether for business, study or recreation, websites, webzines and magazines are emerging out of the heritage radio and DX clubs, and will find their own audience in the future.