On Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit the birthplace of the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover in West Branch, Iowa. His birthplace is administered by the National Park Service, and the site is also the home of the Presidential Library and Museum, administered by the National Archives. The late President and First Lady are buried at the site, although I didn’t walk to the grave site in the chilly weather.
As Secretary of Commerce under President Coolidge, Hoover had a major positive impact upon the growth of radio, which I’ll discuss in future posts. The picture shows him listening to what certainly appears to be a one tube radio. His son, Herbert Hoover, Jr., was a licensed ham, and one of the exhibits contains a nice picture of the younger Hoover’s station. Herbert Hoover, Jr., went on to become president of the ARRL in the 1960’s. Herbert Hoover III was also a ham, and only recently became a silent key.
I suspect that the late President would be pleased to know that his birthplace and final resting place is the home of a nice radio beacon on 435 meters. As you approach the site at exit 254 on Interstate 80, there’s a sign announcing that information is available at 690 on the AM dial. This is a “travelers information station” which plays a continuous loop promoting the site. According to the FCC database, the station is licensed to the City of West Branch, and transmits with 10 watts. It appears to be maintained by Graybill Communications.
Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to know what I did on the way back to Des Moines. I tuned the radio to 690 to see how well the little station was doing. I was able to copy it more or less solid for about 25 miles. When I got further away, there was occasionally some co-channel interference, but I was able to positively ID it as far as mile marker 215, a full 39 miles away. I think the former Commerce Secretary would be pleased at how well the 10 watts are getting out from his final resting place.
And the next time you’re driving east on Interstate 80 through the Hawkeye state, be sure to tune your radio to 690 when you get to milepost 215. And if you’re westbound, I suspect you should tune in at around mile 293. You’ll slowly start to hear a voice come out of the static. And when you get to mile 254, it’s worth a stop to learn about the man without whom this kind of experiment probably wouldn’t have been possible.
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