Betty Lou Gerson, 1936


Shown here on the cover of the August 29, 1936 issue of Radio Guide is radio actress Betty Lou Gerson.

Then 22 years old, she had originally taught “creative dramatics” and never given much thought to going on the air until she was asked to fill in on a broadcast for a friend who was ill. She quickly decided she liked the microphone and asked for an audition. Almost immediately, she was offered a position and her popularity skyrocketed. In 1936, she had roles in “A Tale of Today” and “The Foxes of Flatbush.”

She was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1914, and grew up in Florida and Alabama before “coming North” in 1931, a fact which the magazine said “accounted for the wonderful southern drawl you hear when she is not on the air.” Her interests included symphony, opera, cooking, sewing, hiking, and boating.

Most of her career was spent in Radio, and she moved to Los Angeles in the 1940’s, when she appeared in series such as The Whistler and I Love Adventure. In 1950’s, she had a voice role as narrator in Walt Disney’s version of Cinderella, and in 1961 landed what was probably her most famous role, namely the voice of Cruella De Vil in Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmations.

She had some film roles, including Nurse Andersone along side Vincent Price in The Fly.

She also had some television roles in series such as Perry Mason and The Twilight Zone.  She died in 1999 at the age of 84.

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Farnsworth Model AT-50, 1941


Seventy five years ago today, the August 28, 1941, Milwaukee Journal carried this ad from  Gimbels Department Store for this Farnsworth 7-tube set for $28.88.

The set appears to be Farnsworth Model AT-50.  In addition to covering the broadcast band, it had one shortwave band from 6-17 MHz to pull in war news from Europe.  Despite what the ad says, the tuning range is not continuous, and didn’t cover the lower shortwave band or police band.  It was a superhet with one RF stage, and had a tube lineup of 6SK7, 6A8GT, 6SK7, 6SQ7, 6H6, 25L6GT, and 25Z6GT.  It featured pushbutton tuning with six broadcast band presets.

A surviving example of the set can be found at the Radio Attic Archives.

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Tuckerton Radio Tower

Photo courtesy of Donald O. Caselli, Tuckerton Historical Society.

Photo courtesy of Donald O. Caselli, Tuckerton Historical Society.

We previously published a photo from 1914 of what was then the world’s largest radio tower at Tuckerton, New Jersey.  The tower was part of the German Goldschmidt System, and was in contact with the German station near Hanover, with the call signs WCI and WGG.  During World War I, the station was taken over by the Navy, and the employees were interned as prisoners of war.  The station was later sold to RCA, which operated it as WSC until the 1950’s.

I received an interesting e-mail from from Donald O. Caselli, the President of the Tuckerton Historical Society.

Among other details, he noted that the tower originally stood 850, and included a top wooden section that later fell off. He also included the newspaper article reproduced below, as well as the photo above of one of the footings.

You can click on the images below to see full-size images of the article.

1992-07-22-SmrTms Tuckerton Wireless Radio Tower 01

1992-07-22-SmrTms Tuckerton Wireless Radio Tower 02

1992-07-22-SmrTms Tuckerton Wireless Radio Tower 03

1992-07-22-SmrTms Tuckerton Wireless Radio Tower 04


I would like to thank  Donald O. Caselli, President of the Tuckerton Historical Society, for sharing these images.

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What To Do If Lost In The Woods At Night, 1946


Seventy years ago, this day’s issue of Life Magazine, August 26, 1946, showed you exactly what to do if you were lost in the woods at night, courtesy of this advertisement by Eveready.

According to the ad, as long as you had common sense and an Eveready flashlight loaded with Eveready batteries, you would come through. The first piece of advice was that you’re never really lost until you lose your head. Therefore, the best course of action was not to travel at night. Instead, you should use your flashlight to gather boughs and leaves for a bed, and build a fire.

Once you made your primitive camp, the next course of action was to signal SOS with your flashlight–three short, three long, three short. This would guide searchers, especially if you had Eveready batteries, which would send hundreds of such brilliant penetrating light signals.

When morning came, the best bet was to stay put and wait for help to come. But if travel was necessary, you should douse your fire and follow any running water downstream.

In addition to the Eveready flashlight and batteries, the ad reminded that other survival necessities included matches in a waterproof case and a compass. These needs should be with you on every outing.

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Al’s Radio Service, Owatonna, MN, 1941


This ad for Al’s Radio Service of Owatonna, Minnesota, was reproduced in the Mailbag column of the August, 1941, issue of Radio Craft magazine,

along with a letter from the shop’s proprietor, Alfred J. Beauchamp. He reported being a regular reader of the magazine for eight years, during which time he saw many different service shops pictured. However, he reported that he hadn’t seen one that was as modern, up-to-date and complete as his. He asked the magazine to run his ad as a challenge to other servicemen readers. The editor obliged, but also noted that one motivation might have been “as a free ad?–Hi!”

The ad noted that Beauchamp had recently added to his staff a radio engineer and technician of outstanding ability and training. That individual was presumably Myron C. Jones, whose name appears next to Beauchamp’s in the ad. The ad noted that Al’s repaired all makes of radios, and was an authorized service station for Philco, Motorola, and General Motors car radios. While the shop did not sell radios, it was the only shop in the territory completely equipped to satisfy sound equipment needs, and had public address systems for sale or rent, as well as Dorafone office call systems and other inter-office communication systems.

The shop was located at 128 W. Pearl, Owatonna, Minnesota.

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Jean Hudson, op. W3BAK, 1936

1936AugAllWaveRadioEighty years ago, the August 1936 issue of All Wave Radio magazine carried this ad for the “Candler Scientific Sound System,” which would “teach you everything necessary to enable you to obtain your ‘Ham’ License quickly, easily, inexpensively.  Tell us what you need.”

Apparently, The Candler System took particular pride in teaching the code, and the ad points to two champions of some code competition, both products of the Candler System.  One of these champions was 9 year old Jean Hudson, who is pictured with her trophy.

Surprisingly, I’ve been able to find very little about Miss Hudson, but I did find an article in the June 1933 issue of Radio Magazine, which reveals that she was actually eight years old when first licensed.

W3BAKAccording to the 1933 article, she was the daughter of Edgar L. Hudson, W3BAK, of Laurel, Delaware, whom the magazine described as a “veteran Morse operator, an ardent radio amateur and one of the world’s proudest dads.” Jean’s brother Roland, 14, was also licensed as W3AXP. And Jean’s older sister, Dorothy, was also preparing for the license.  According to this site, Dorothy was licensed in 1935 as W3IRR.

The only call sign I found associated with Miss Hudson was W3BAK, her father’s call.  So apparently, while she received an operator’s license, she did not hold her own station license.

Born in California, the family moved to Laurel, Delaware, where Jean first showed an interest in radio. Telegraph keys and related equipment fascinated her, and she soon learned to send and receive code. With some tutoring from her father, she studied transmitters, receivers, and the rules and regulations, and on April 26, 1933, she took the test from the radio examiner at Baltimore. She sat on a thick dictionary to reach the examination table, and passed the code test with no difficulty. Her written examination showed a score of 80%.

Jean copied code on a typewriter, and since she touch typed, she could copy 25 words per minute blindfolded. The QSL card for her first contact, April 28, 1933, is shown below.


Jean Hudson in 1935. Short Wave Craft magazine, August 1935.

Jean Hudson in 1935. Short Wave Craft magazine, August 1935.

The 1938 Call Book lists W3BAK as belonging to Edgar, with no listing for W3IRR.  Edgar continues to be listed as late as 1968.   There is no listing for that call in 1974.  In May 1942, Jean Hudson, under the call W3BAK, wrote an article for QST on the subject of amateur radio at summer

Jean Hudson in 1942. QST, May 1942.

Jean Hudson in 1942. QST, May 1942.

camps, and recounts her experience in setting up a station at a girls’ camp in New Hampshire, which she believed to be the only such station in existence.  That article lists her address as 660 Riverside Drive, New York City.  And in the June 1945 issue, she wrote a longer article, “His Last Strike,” recounting the story of Lt. Joseph Hyland, W2ITR, who was killed in action on January 12, 1945.  That article shows her address as 530 E. 90th St., New York, 28.

I was unable to find any reference to Miss Hudson after 1945, and found no indication that she was ever issued her own station license.  If you have any additional information about this pioneer amateur, I would enjoy hearing it.

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1956 Prices


Here’s a snapshot of consumer prices sixty years ago. This ad for Kroger’s appeared in the Pittsburgh Press, August 23, 1956.

It’s not a perfect method of comparing prices (because silver is also a commodity whose price varies), but the easiest way to compare pre-1964 prices is to remember that a dollar equaled one silver dollar, four silver quarters, or ten silver dimes, each of which weighed one ounce.  So if you think of the prices in terms of ounces of silver, you’ll get an idea of what prices were really like then.  The price of silver today is about $18, so by multiplying these prices by 18, you’ll get an idea of what items cost then.

A pound of ground beef cost 39 cents, but by this comparison, that would equal about $7 a pound.  A pint of mayonnaise was 47 cents, the equivalent of $8.46 in today’s money.  Tuna was two cans for 63 cents, which works out to $5.67 per can in today’s money.


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Anzac News Letter, 1941


This 1941 photo shows servicemen stationed in Canada from Australia and New Zealand gathered around the radio at 9:00 on a Sunday morning to listen to “The Anzac News Letter,” a weekly program provided by the CBC and the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

The Australian and New Zealand airmen shown here were attending wireless chool in Canada. The program originated in Australia and was sent by cable to Ottawa where it was recorded. The program was well received by the Anzacs. One wrote, “personally, I consider it the most interesting session on the radio, and I feel sure that the majority of Australians in this camp hold similar views. In the normal course of events it takes four to five weeks for the home newspapers to reach camp, so you can imagine how much we appreciate receiving news within twenty-four hours of the events taking place.”

The photo appeared in the August 1941 issue of Manitoba Calling, the magazine and program guide of CKY in Winnipeg, which carried the program.

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Adding a Transmitter to the Hallicrafters Sky Buddy, 1941


The Hallicrafters S-19R Sky Buddy receiver came out in 1939. This six-tube receiver tuned the broadcast band up to 44 MHz, and sold for a relatively modest $29.50. The set contained a power transformer. The receiver functioned adequately for hams, in addition to serving as a decent shortwave broadcast receiver.

Lloyd Broderson, W6CLV, of Salinas, California, owned one of these for his station receiver, but decided to add a few improvements, which he documented in an article in the August 1941 issue of Radio News.

His first changes were cosmetic. Apparently dissatisfied with the looks of the black control knobs, he decided to paint them a different color. Similarly, the black screws were replaced with nickel plated screws. Carrying handles were also added. He also replaced the speaker grille with a silver colored version, personalized with his call letters.

His first electrical improvement was the addition of some tip jacks which could allowed the receiver’s power supply to be used for other equipment. These jacks provided a handy source of 6.3 and 220 volts.

With these mundane improvements taken care of, he set about adding a transmitter to the set. He noted that plenty of space was available inside the cabinet, so he added a 40 meter transmitter, employing a 6L6. While his onboard transmitter was for 40, he noted that with different crystal and coil, the same idea could be used on other bands. An end-fed antenna was connected to the transmitter output through a mica condenser.

The transmitter input was limited to about five watts, the limiting factor being the power transformer: “Any attempt to load the 6L6 to more than 25 ma. will result in the transformer becoming excessively warm.” He noted that a larger transformer could be added and the power increased several times. But as many QRP’ers have discovered, the 5 watts proved quite adequate, and the author reported working all U.S. call districts, as well as stations in the possessions.

The final modification was the addition of a code practice oscillator. This was done by keying the BFO with the set tuned to a broadcast station. He noted that “many of the boys now joining the Signal Corps have learned the code by using a similar arrangement.”

The author also reported that the newly minted transmitter-receiver could easily be taken to the field.

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1941 College Dorm Radio


On this date seventy-five years ago, Bates Fabrics, Incorporated, ran this ad in the August 18, 1941, issue of Life Magazine to answer the question that was undoubtedly on everyone’s mind: How were college students decorating their dorm rooms? The company put together a College Board consisting of students from the outstanding universities, and they conducted a survey of over 8000 students.

97% of the respondents believed that an attractive room helped any freshman get off on the right foot. Apparently, 3% believed that a dingy room was the way to go. 86% of the students said that they preferred bedspreads with matching draperies, and a third of them already had them. Fortunately, Bates just happened to sell exactly that: matching bedspreads and draperies, and the Life ad highlighted some of their popular designs.

The Yale men shown above preferred the “Cattle Brands” design, which, according to the ad, proved an overwhelming favorite in men’s colleges. And as you can see, these Yale men also had a radio in their dorm room. The radio sitting on the desk appears to be a Zenith model 5-G-401.

This radio was Zenith’s very first portable, sporting a lineup of 1A7, 1N5, 1H5, and 1A5, in addition to a 117Z6 rectifier. The set retailed for $44.95, and could operate off either AC power, as it probably did in the Yale dorm room, or with batteries.

1941Aug18Life1On the Left Coast, the co-eds shown here preferred a “gay, sun-country pattern on homespun ground” for their bedspread and drapes. They apparently preferred to listen to phonograph records on what appears to be a wind-up non-electronic phonograph.

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