Monthly Archives: August 2014

Will U. S. Boy Scouts Be Used As Soldiers? A 1914 View

It’s not infrequent that some misguided person believes that Scouting has some sort of military connection, and that Boy Scouts are being trained to be soldiers. Of course, Boy Scouts are being trained to be soldiers. But they’re also being trained to be engineers or doctors or lawyers.

There are a handful of superficial similarities between Boy Scouts and soldiers. Boy Scouts salute, and soldiers salute. Unlike soldiers, Boy Scouts don’t salute one another. All the time I was a Boy Scout, the only thing I ever saluted was the flag.

And just like soldiers, Boy Scouts wear uniforms. Of course, never mind that postal workers, janitors, mechanics, and those of countless other occupations also wear uniforms. In some people’s minds, Boy Scouts look just like young soldiers, even though more of them probably go on to work for the Post Office or other uniformed services.

This misconception is apparently not new. The following editorial, originally from the Tacoma Labor Advocate, appeared in the Tacoma Times a hundred years ago, on August 31, 1914:


The Boy Scout movement has been opposed by members of union labor in almost all countries where it has been organized. Labor has claimed that this was simply being done to augment the army and navy and that in time of industrial strife the boy scouts would be used as soldiers wherever and whenever boys could be used. This has been denied, directly and directly, by many who were and are working for the boy scout movement. Now come dispatches to the effect that the boy scouts of some of the foreign countries are being used as soldiers in the war. Is it not plain that the same course will be taken here in the United States, that these boys will be used as soldiers whenever they can be to the advantage of those who profit by the use of the army or navy? Do not be fooled any longer, Mr. Working Man and Woman. The boy scout is merely one branch of the military forces of the country. They are simply being trained as soldiers by those who profit by the soldiery.

Unlicensed 27 MHz Walkie-Talkie History


Like many aspiring young hams, I got my start in two-way radio with a set of walkie-talkies not unlike this set shown on page 561 of the 1969 Sears Christmas Catalog.

My set was a different brand, but quite similar to this set and millions of others like it. They all consisted of a crystal-controlled transmitter, usually on CB channel 14, along with a superregenerative receiver. The receivers on these sets were so wide that they could hear all 23 channels simultaneously, which meant that I could hear local CB’ers, as well as communicate with these and other toy walkie-talkies. And the superregenerative receiver meant that when a signal was not being received, the radio put out a constant rushing sound, undoubtedly to the great annoyance of millions of parents.

Despite hearing CB’ers, and despite valiant efforts on my part involving various attempts at external antennas, I never managed to make contact with any owner of a “real CB.” The antenna on mine was affixed to the case with a screw at the bottom, and to allow easy connection to an external antenna, I even put a Fahnestock clip on the outside of the case, attached to this screw. I could no longer set the radio down on its base, but it made for easy connection to various external antenna attempts.

There were two reasons for my lack of communication with the elusive “real CB’ers.” First of all, I was probably hearing all 23 channels at once, so even if the other station was quite close, he probably wouldn’t have been tuned to channel 14 to hear me. And even if he happened to be on channel 14, I would have been able to hear his 5 watt signal much further than he would be able to hear my 100 (if I was lucky) milliwatts.

One neighborhood kid claimed that he had made contact with a “real” CB’er with his toy walkie-talkie. I, of course, was extremely jealous of this accomplishment, although I didn’t let on. I had to content myself with contacting the other radio I owned, or those of other kids with whom I was playing, assuming we had enough pocket change to buy the requisite nine-volt batteries (or perhaps “borrow” them from other devices around the house). At this time, most of these radios came crystalled for channel 14, but since most had the wide receiver, it really didn’t matter which channel we were on. The typical range was from one side of the house to the other.

Interestingly, one friend’s walkie-talkie had a crystal for channel 9, which didn’t become the emergency channel until about 1970, as discussed in this February 1970 Popular Electronics article.

On those occasions when I didn’t have anyone to talk to, I sometimes used a rubber band to hold down the push-to-talk button and placed one near the TV. I could then listen in another room. Of course, I put an end to this practice when someone pointed out to me that I was at one point rebroadcasting a baseball game, without the express written consent of the Minnesota Twins, and suggested that doing this might land me in jail.

The era of these 27 MHz toy walkie-talkies came to an end with a change to the FCC rules in 1977, which is explained in detail in the August 1977 issue of Popular Electronics (page 46).

Until that time, these unlicensed radios were allowed on 27 MHz, as long as the input power was less than 100 mW. While many of these radios were equipped with a crystal for channel 14, there was no requirement that the radio opearate on any particular frequency. They were allowed anywhere in the range 26.97 to 27.27 MHz. Under the rules currently in effect (which I believe were the same as adopted in 1977), the limit for an “intentional radiator” of this type is now measured in terms of field strength, and the limit is 10,000 microvolts/meter at 3 meters. 47 C.F.R. §15.227. Since a 100 mW transmitter would exceed this limit by a very considerable amount, this regulation meant the end of toy walkie-talkies on 27 MHz.

Instead, the new 1977 rules called for the move of these toy walkie-talkies to five specific frequencies in the 49 MHz band, 49.830, 49.845, 49.860, 49.875, and 49.890. Under the new rules, the toy 27 MHz walkie-talkies could not be sold after March 1978.

We can see the transition from the Radio Shack catalogs for 1978 and 1979. The 1978 issue showed these toy walkie-talkies for 27 Mhz:

The 1979 issue showed similar models, but for 49 MHz:

One bit of confusion is added by the fact that 100 mW walkie-talkies for 27 MHz remained on the market. For example, if we turn in the 1978 catalog to the “toy” section to the “CB” section, we see a number of CB walkie talkies, some of which are 100 mW.

Under the old rules, these 100 MW units had a dual status. They could be used under Part 15 without a license, since they fully complied with the 100 mW limitation. However, these radios were also “type accepted” under Part 95 of the rules, meaning that they could be legally used by licensed CB’ers.  (These “real” CB walkie-talkies also typically had a superheterodyne receiver, meaning that they didn’t make the annoying “rushing” sound when no signal was present.)  The CB rules at the time allowed CB’ers to communicate only with other CB stations. Therefore, it was technically illegal to communicate between a “real” CB and a toy 27 MHz walkie-talkie. (Unlike the prohibition on retransmitting baseball games, nobody ever told me that my attempts to do so were illegal.  However, I doubt if there were many prosecutions for this particular offense.)  In the case of a cheap toy walkie-talkie, this would have been true even if the toy was being used by a licensed CB’er, since the radio wasn’t type accepted for CB use. But because of their dual status, the three100 mW walkie-talkies shown here could have been legally used to communicate with a toy walkie-talkie (since the radio was under 100 mW) or by a licensed CB’er to communicate with another CB’er (since the radio was type accepted under Part 95).

The 100 mW walkie talkies continued to be sold by Radio Shack and other retailers. In practice, some of these were sold as high-end toy walkie-talkies for kids, since the type-accepted units were generally of much higher quality. But technically, after 1978, the use of the 100 mW 27 MHz radios required a CB license.

In 1983, the FCC ended the requirement for CB licenses, as reported in the April 28, 1983, issue of the New York Times.  (Technically, CB is now “licensed by rule,” meaning basically that a license is required, but if you follow the rules, you are automatically granted a license by 47 C.F.R. §95.404.)

Therefore, it once again became legal (as long as the user obeyed the CB rules) for an unlicensed person to use the 27 MHz radios, whether they were the 100 mW model or one of the more powerful ones.

French WW1 Airship

FrenchBlimpThis photo, from the August 30, 1914 issue of the New York Sun, shows a French airship and British warships guarding shipping in the English channel. The paper also reports that German troops are now only 87 miles from Paris.

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English Children Preparing for Evacuation, 1939

Evac75 years ago, war was once again only days away. This wire service photo appeared in a number of U.S. and Canadian papers in the last days before the start of World War 2. Hitler was making demands for Danzig, and the world knew that war was near.

In this photo, shown here in the 31 August 1939 issue of the Vancouver Sun, English school children are practicing evacuation. Under the plans already in place, the children were to gather at their schools, where they would be escorted to the train stations by their teachers. Other papers should similar pictures of the children of Paris preparing to flee the capital.

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The Chorus Girl’s Radio, 1923

carhoodradioMiss Peggy Stohl is featured on the cover of the 23 June 1923 issue of Radio World.  The magazine reports that the roads are crowded with radio equipped vacationists, some of whom can’t wait until they arrive to listen in. Miss Stohl is in that category, as she listens to the radio while her garage man hurries along with some gas.

When she wasn’t listening to the radio, it appears that Miss Stohl was a chorus girl with the Zigfeld Follies and other shows, as shown by this entry at the Internet Broadway Database.


The Destruction of Louvain, 1914

LouvainUnivThis week a hundred years ago, much of the Belgian city of Louvain (also spelled Leuven) was in flames. In part of what was to become known as the Rape of Belgium,

The University of Louvain, founded in 1426, is depicted here in ruins in the September 19, 1914, issue of the New York Sun.  The action in the first days of the war had focused around the town of Liege, and Louvain lay between it and Brussels. After the Belgian army made a sharp attack, the Germans retreated to Louvain, where they later claimed that they had been fired upon by civilians. The Germans embassy in Washington later proclaimed that the German army had destroyed the city to “punish” it.

Before the war ended, the Germans killed some 5521 Belgian civilians. About 300 of those, including the entire police force, were killed in the destruction of Leuven. The destruction of the university library, shown here, resulted in the loss of about 230,000 volumes.

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Private Albert Tony Sturgleski, Killed in Action, 1918.


Private Albert Tony Sturgleski, Killed in Action, 1918.

On this page, I’ll periodically include some information about some of the forgotten young American men who lost their lives in the First World War. All of them are listed, many with a photograph, in a three-volume set entitled Soldiers of the Great War.

Among them was Private Albert Tony Sturgleski of Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota. His death was noted in the November 21, 1918, issue of the Askov (Minn.) American.

I was unable to locate Private Sturgleski’s grave or next of kin. He is not listed in the databases of the Deparment of Veterans Affairs or the American Battle Monuments Commission.

St. Isidore’s Catholic Cemetery in Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota, is the final resting place of John T. Sturgeleski  (1857-1939) and Mary Sturgeleski (1870-1951). Despite the slightly different spelling of the last name, it seems likely that these were Albert’s relatives, quite likely his parents.

All I know for certain, almost a century later, is that Albert was an American boy, born around the turn of the last century, who answered his country’s call and went to war.  He probably never went to college, never married, never had a trade or profession, and never had children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren.  He was just a young man sent by older men to war started by even older men on another continent.

Radio Foxtrot On The Beach, 1924

wirelessbeachdancersThis image, from the cover of the July 19, 1924 issue of Radio World, shows Martha Breesh and Edna Jameson dancing on the beach at Atlantic City. According to the magazine, the two attractive vacationists are doing a Nymph-like dance on the beach, to the tune of a fox trot coming over the radio. Miss Breesh and Miss Jameson report that health and beauty depend on judicious exercise, and that they rate beach dancing to radio music as the apex of judiciousness.

1879 Flying Machine

1879FlyingMachineThis artist’s conception of a flying machine of the 20th Century, known as an aeronon, was originally published in 1879. It is reprinted in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine in 1908.

1934 Metal Detector

1934MetalDetector80 years ago, this was the latest in metal detectors. This unit, shown in the August 1934 issue of Radio Craft magazine, is similar in concept, but larger in size, to inexpensive metal detectors available today. It consisted of a one-tube oscillator along with a five-tube receiver. When the oscillator’s coil came in proximity to metallic objects, the frequency shifted, and the change in frequency could be determined from the receiver. The oscillator is mounted in one cabinet, with the receiver in the other.

The complete plans were in the magazine, which also reported that the unit could be purchased commercially. It was reported as being sufficiently sensitive to detect a piece of metal 16 inches square at a depth of 15 feet.