The Radio Boys and a Handbook

My father-in-law was kind enough to send me a couple of books when he learned about my ARRL Handbook collection.

The first book was a 1956 ARRL Handbook in reasonably decent condition (for a 65 year old book) owned at one point by a Stephen Ray Bird/KN0LES from Nebraska. Tucked away in the pages of the handbook are several papers with handwritten schematics and notes.

One of the papers is an ARRL pamphlet, a reprint from a 1956 QST article titled “Your Novice Accent And What To Do About It” written by Keith Williams/W6DTY. This presumably was something ARRL sent to new hams.

There was also a meeting reminder postcard for the Otoe Chapter of the Order of DeMolay, which perhaps was being used as a bookmark.

Flipping through the book, I can’t help but wonder what KN0LES was doing with the schematics. Was he sketching out circuits to build? Was he using them to study for upgrading his license (I believe KN0LES would have been a Novice class call sign at the time)? I’m perhaps a little more intrigued by these little bits of paper than I am with the handbook itself.

A quick Google search brings up the obituary of a Stephen Ray Bird who died in 2013 in Arizona, was originally from Nebraska, and was also an amateur radio operator (KS7R). An AE7Q lookup also shows he held the call sign K0LES, which leads me to believe that I am now in possession of an ARRL Handbook he once owned. From his obituary, it seems like he was a nice guy.


The other book is “The Radio Boys’ First Wireless” from 1922. It’s not in the greatest condition, but for an almost 100 year old book that has obviously been read quite a bit, it’s in not too bad shape.

Inside the front cover is some handwriting that indicates the book belonged to someone named Rex Buzzett and that this book was a birthday gift in 1923. On the back cover he appears to have written his name, where he lived (Apalachicola, FL), and a date of October 16, 1925.

A Google search brought up a Rex Buzzett Street in Apalachicola as well as a couple of memorial entries for a Julian Rex Buzzett also from Apalachicola FL. Julian Rex Buzzett served in the US Army and was sadly killed during D-Day at Utah Beach. Considering the uniqueness of the name and where they’re both from, I’m guessing this might be the same Rex Buzzett who owned this book. If so, he would have been 9 years old when he was given this book. I wonder if young Rex Buzzett enjoyed reading this book. Did he own others in the series? Julian Rex Buzzett was a first lieutenant and a combat engineer in the US Army. If they’re the same person, did reading about the Radio Boys’ adventures have an influence on him? What did he do before joining the army?

I hadn’t heard of the Radio Boys series until my father-in-law asked us a few years ago to look out for them at hamfests. So far we haven’t found any, so I haven’t had the chance to read any of them until now. Wikipedia tells me that the author, Allen Chapman, was a pseudonym and that the books were written by ghost writers. Interestingly enough, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series of books (which I have heard of and were some of my favourites growing up) was also published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate that published this Radio Boys series.

This seems like it will be an interesting and fun book to read. The book has seen quite a lot use and I’ll have to be careful reading it. I’m very grateful to my father-in-law for sending this and the Handbook to me.

RFI in the house

Finally had a chance to connect the antenna up to the radio using the coax running through the conduit from the garage side of the house into the shack. Up until now, most of the operating (what little of it there’s been) has been out in the back yard with the radio connected directly to the antenna.

This weekend, I thought I’d give the ARRL November Sweepstakes (Phone) contest a try. After making a 40m contact Sunday morning, I noticed the network had gone down. Discovered the GFCI breaker for the circuit that our service provider’s ONT box is on had tripped. Not entirely positive it was because of me operating on 40m, because I had made a handful of 40m contacts on Saturday without any problems (that we noticed anyway). Seems likely to be an RFI issue though since the network was up just prior to my QSO.

Reset the breaker, got the network back up, and switched over to 20m but then the wife spotted one of her edge lit acrylic signs flickering on and off while I was making another contact and basically turning it into an “On the Air” sign.

Not wanting to risk messing up anything else in the house by overloading them with RF, I wrapped up the ARRL November Sweepstakes contest with 12 contacts in the log and 240 points with most of my contacts from Saturday evening on 40m (40m opens up pretty nicely out to the West coast in the evenings from here).

I’ve had the antenna up a handful of times since we’ve been in the house, but most of my operating has been outside, so any RF-induced problems there might have been in the house have generally gone unnoticed (except maybe for the time the Nest thermostat died). I’m pretty sure the issue is because most of the antenna lays on top of the roof and on the side where most of the wiring is (electrical service entrance, breaker panel, network router, AC unit, etc). Running 100W is probably causing a lot of RF to be coupled into the house wiring.

So it looks like I’ll have to work on changing the antenna situation. Moving the antenna and mast to the fence on the other side of the house would probably get the antenna far enough away to solve most of problem, but then I wouldn’t be able to use the coax running through the conduit without making the coax run a whole lot longer. The mast would also be on the street side of the house making it even more visible when set up. I could also order a ton of ferrite chokes to put on pretty much any current carrying wire in the house (that could get pretty expensive). I guess I could also take my operations portable and head out into the field or a park.

A collection of Handbooks

A collection of ARRL Handbooks
A collection of ARRL Handbooks from 1944, 1950, 1971, 1974, 1979, 1980, 1993, 2005, 2012, 2014

Somewhere along the way, I apparently thought it would be cool to have at least one ARRL Handbook from each decade. Over the past few years, I’ve managed to acquire a few Handbooks toward that goal. Some I found at hamfests, some through the annual ARRL Auction, and some through SK estates.

The most recent additions were the 1980 and 2005 Handbooks. They came from the collection of one of my ham friends, Willie/WB4SOG (SK), who died recently. Willie was a prominent member of the local amateur radio community, and he’ll be missed by many people. I actually met him several years before I became a ham through his wife who volunteered with the same lab retriever rescue that I did. His friend Bruce/KI4YST brought several boxes of books and QST magazines from Willie’s collection to the club meeting for club members to take. I’m glad to be able to give some of his books a new home in my collection.

Handbooks from the 1920s and 1930s would be a nice addition to the collection. I’m sure I could find them if I looked harder. They’ve shown up in the ARRL Auction in the past, and there’s a 1932 Handbook in this year’s edition of the ARRL auction. Bidding on that Handbook sent the price pretty high early on. Probably plenty of old Handbooks on eBay too.

I haven’t read them all yet, but I’ve looked through a few of them and they give a nice look at how amateur radio has evolved over the past century.

The Handbook I’m planning to get for the 2020s will be the 2023 edition, which will be the 100th edition of the ARRL Handbook.

Speaking of the ARRL Auction, it seems like the interest in older handbooks is a lot higher this year and there’s been a lot more bidding on them than in previous years. Past auctions I think also had more Handbooks up for bid if I recall correctly, so maybe that was a factor.

Another Astatic D-104 microphone

An Astatic D-104 microphone was my final, last-minute purchase from the Shelby Hamfest. We were walking to the gate heading out when I spotted a table I hadn’t visited off to the side and decided to wander over to have a look. The D-104 on the table naturally caught my eye, and decided to grab it.

Another Astatic D-104 microphone
Another Astatic D-104 microhone
Another Astatic D-104 microphone
Another Astatic D-104 microphone

This one was missing the bottom cover plate, and the microphone connector was removed. Looked like there might have been some re-wiring done at some point and two of the wires from the cord are unconnected, unlike my other D-104 microphone. The electrical tape on the wires connecting the microphone element suggests that maybe it was replaced at some point as well.

D-104 microphone element
D-104 microphone element

At least there’s no rotting foam in this one. The microphone element housing is also a little different from my other one. This one is basically just a ring with some bits of foam supporting the microphone element while my other D-104 is more case-like.

I’ll have to see what I can do about finding or making a new cover plate for this microphone.

Back to hamfests: Shelby 2021

Made a trip out to our first hamfest in quite a while (last one was back in 2020).

We made the road trip out to the Shelby Hamfest for the first time. It’s one I had been wanting to get to for quite a while now, but it happens the same weekend as Dragon*Con so I never made it until this year.

We drove up Friday afternoon, and Saturday was the only day we spent at Shelby. Got there bright and early as the gates were opening, so we were able to get a decent parking spot. Spent the early morning wandering around the boneyard/flea market checking out the early birds that opened up their tables until the indoor stuff opened up. Checked out the indoor people, then spent the rest of the morning exploring the boneyard.

Lots of people out in the flea market area selling the usual range of really nice gear to miscellaneous stuff. Saw at least 3 or 4 people selling some really nice looking Collins radios, ranging from complete sets to single cabinets. I can see why people like to collect Collins gear. They’re really nice looking units. I got a bit drooly looking at them.

Didn’t really have a big shopping list going to the hamfest, but did end up picking up a few things with the goal of putting mobile VHF radios into the cars in mind. In the boneyard, I found a couple of Fluke multimeters for a pretty good price. Seller didn’t know what condition they were in, but I figured for $10, they would either be decent workbench instruments or fun projects to work on. Also found a D104 mic missing the bottom plate and connector for pretty cheap so I grabbed that too. A few other miscellaneous tool type items rounded out the shopping day at the hamfest. Didn’t see too many Morse code keys, but there was one table that had a selection of older Vibroplex bugs that I was kind of tempted by.

The crowd seemed to be a lot lighter than I expected, even during the middle of the morning and early afternoon. There were a lot of cars in the parking are by the time we left but it didn’t seem that crowded while we were there. I suppose the size of the hamfest helps spread everybody out. Had some fun random encounters with a few other hams that we new, and a nice conversation with Bill Morine/N2COP, ARRL Roanoke Division Vice-Director.

I was too busy wandering around checking things out and trying to decide if I “needed” it or not to get any pictures of the hamfest, but Connie got this early morning-ish photo of the boneyard off in the background.

Early morning at  the Shelby Hamfest boneyard
Early morning at the Shelby Hamfest boneyard