Monthly Archives: March 2015

1915 Radio Truck


A hundred years ago, the public works department of Baltimore had equipped this truck with a wireless receiver, capable of receiving messages while the car was being driven at high speed through streets flanked with high buildings. The set was capable of receiving messages within a 10 mile radius, allowing crews to be dispatched quickly to any emergency situation. Among other equipment, the truck contained a pump capable of pumping 12,000 gallons per hour. It is shown here in the March, 1915, issue of Popular Mechanics.

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1915 Victrolas


A hundred years ago, Victrola ran this ad showing the features of its top-of-the-line model of phonograph. The ad appeared in the March, 1915, issue of Popular Mechanics.  Prices ranged from $15 to $250.

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The Record-A-Tape: 1971


As far as I can tell, this is an idea that never made it. Other than this ad which appeared in Billboard on February 27, 1971, and on other dates, I’ve been unable to find any reference to the Record-A-Tape. The machine was loaded with up to 50 different albums. When a customer wanted to purchase one on 8-track, the machine would crank it out a copy in 3-1/2 minutes. The distributor would take care of royalties, the retailer didn’t have to worry about inventory, and the customer would never find anything out of stock.

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Walgreen’s Aetna Midget Radio, 1940


Someone looking for an inexpensive radio 75 years ago could head to Walgreen’s, where this 4-tube model could be had for $7.95. It’s shown here in the Milwaukee Journal for March 28, 1940, where it’s billed as the “ideal ‘extra’ radio for your home.”

This set had the Aetna brand name, which was Walgreen’s house brand for radios. The actual manufacturing was done by various radio manufacturers, most of which were in the Chicago area. This radio would probably remain in service for the duration of World War 2. After the U.S. entered the war the next year, the War Production Board ended the production of civilian radio receivers, as of April 22, 1942. With no replacements available, the owners of sets, even as humble as this one, had incentive to keep them in operating condition.

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Pvt. Steffen Thune, 1888-1918


During the centennial of World War 1, this page periodically remembers American servicemen who gave their lives in that war.

Steffen Thune of Zumbrota, Minnesota, was born on February 21, 1888, the son of Syver and Sissel Thune (Tune) and had seven brothers and sisters.

He served in the United States Army as a private in the 343rd Infantry, 86th Division. The unit was activated in 1917 in Illinois, and went overseas in August 1918.  It never saw combat, and returned to the United States in November of that year.  Private Thune died of disease on October 4, 1918, as listed in the Official U.S. Bulletin of December 6, 1918. His next of kin is listed there as his father Syver, with an address of R.F.D. 4, Box 14, Zumbrota, Minnesota.

He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery where his headstone incorrect gives his last name as “Thumb.”  After nearly a century, the error has never been corrected.  (This Washington Post article discusses the prevalence of similar errors at Arlington National Cemetery.)

The photo here is from Soldiers of the Great War, Volume 2, Page 111.

Beating the Prescription Drug Racket: $6.60 vs. $120.00 Screenshot Showing Low and High Prices Screenshot Showing Low and High Prices

Since January 1, my family no longer has health insurance. Instead of having traditional insurance, we decided to join Samaritan Ministries, a Christian health sharing ministry. I explained how Samaritan works in an earlier post.  I’m periodically blogging about our experiences which, so far, have been overwhelmingly positive.

Now that we no longer have insurance, we have to do some things differently. One of the things we do differently is purchasing prescriptions. When we had insurance, we took the prescription to the friendly neighborhood pharmacist along with our health insurance card. The pharmacist scanned the card, gave us a little bag containing the pills, and we happily paid a flat rate of $20 or so to cover our “co-pay.” Sometimes, the co-pay would be less than $20, because our insurer worked out a better deal on our behalf.

Occasionally, we would ask the pharmacist how much the prescription would have cost if we didn’t have insurance. We were invariably quoted a much higher price, and we were thus reassured that our insurance was really paying off.

Now that we don’t have insurance, we have to do things differently. We can’t just walk into the store and expect to get out the door for $20. But it turns out that we now pay much less, now that we’re unburdened by insurance, as long as we don’t play the game in the form dictated by the insurance companies.

When we had our first prescription to fill after joining, we called Samaritan Ministries for guidance. Our friendly local pharmacist had quoted us a price of about $40 for a one month supply, and we were hoping we could reduce this a bit. Since we no longer had insurance, we assumed that we would have to pay more than our previous $20, but we hoped we could stay close to that figure. It turns out we were wrong–we actually wound up paying much less.

Samaritan sent us a list of websites which we could use to shop around. The first one on the list was, which is actually a price comparison website. It confirmed the cash price we had been quoted. This particular prescription had a cash price of $41 at CVS or $43 at Walgreens. If a patient walked into KMart, the cash price would have been $60. Target, on the other hand, charges $22 for the exact same prescription. So far, the site confirmed what I had suspected: There would be savings if we shopped around, and we probably wouldn’t have to pay much more than the $20 we would have paid with insurance.

But this wasn’t the end of the story. We could get the exact same prescription at the same pharmacies for a much lower price simply by printing a coupon. The biggest savings would be at KMart. Simply by printing an online coupon, KMart would knock its price down a staggering amount, from $60 to $8.55. Other pharmacies had similar savings. By printing a coupon, Walmart would fill the prescription for only $6.64. At Target, the price would be $10.97 by printing the online coupon. In other words, normal price competition (calling pharmacies and asking for their cash prices) resulted in almost as low a price as we had with insurance. And by printing the online coupons, we were much better off than we were with insurance. If we had needed the prescription right away, we would have printed the Walmart coupon, and wound up paying $6.64–about a third of what we would have paid with insurance.

But even that isn’t the end of the story! We didn’t need the prescription immediately, and we were able to wait a few days. Therefore, we were able to take advantage of an even better deal:, a mail order pharmacy in Kentucky, had the exact same prescription for only $3.60, which included free shipping.

We placed the order online, and we were instructed to have the doctor fax the prescription to The doctor did so, and the pills arrived a few days later. We ordered a 60 day supply, and the total price was $6.60. If we had insurance, this would have been about $40, and we would have been made to feel lucky about paying that amount, since the “normal” price would have been $86. And if we had been uninsured and didn’t bother shopping around, we would have just paid the $86.  (And the hapless cash customer who walked into KMart would have paid $120!)

And if we really wanted to save even more money, we could also purchase this product from a Mexican pharmacy.  The Mexican price for the same product appears to be about 25 pesos, which works out to $1.67.  Since the price at is already so low, it’s probably not worth the added bother to save another $5.  But in some cases, it might be worthwhile to take advantage of this option, which would reduce the price to practically nothing.

(We also checked Canadian pharmacies.  In this particular case, we would have saved over the normal retail price by ordering online from Canada, but the price was considerably lower than the Canadian pharmacies we checked.)

The prevalence of the Health Insurance Industrial Complex has largely eliminated price competition.  When we had insurance, we didn’t bother shopping for price, since we mistakenly assumed that our insurance company had already done that for us, by offering the “low” price of only $20 for a co-pay.  Many people don’t realize how huge the price differences are.  Even if you have health insurance, you will probably save money by not using your insurance card and instead shopping around as we did.

We paid $6.60, but we could have grudgingly paid $86 for the exact same prescription. And if we had insurance, we would have paid $40.  The fact that we are now using Samaritan rather than traditional health insurance has made us smarter consumers.

If you want to learn more about Samaritan Ministries, please read my earlier post explaining how they work.  As I explained in my other post, Samaritan does offer us a referral bonus.  Therefore, if you decide to join, please include my name, Richard Clem, as the person who referred you.

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Loss of the Submarine USS F-4, 1915.

The first submarine deaths of the U.S. Navy predated U.S. involvement in the First World War by about two years. The USS F-4, originally named the Skate, was lost in the waters off Honolulu 100 years ago today, March 25, 1915, with the loss of all 21 men aboard.

An investigating board concluded that corrosion of the lead battery tank had allowed sea water to seep into the battery compartment. Other theories involved a faulty valve or problems with air lines supplying the ballast tank. Whatever the cause, the sub was lost on a routine training mission a hundred years ago today.

The ship was recovered a few months later. Only four of the dead could be identified. The other 17 were buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The following men gave their lives in the service of their country a hundred years ago today.  Links go to an individual memorial page at

George Thomas Ashcroft
Clark George Buck
Earnest Clement Cauvin
Harley Colwell
Walter Frank Covington
George Luther Deeth
Alfred Louis Ede
Frederick Gillman
Aliston Hills Grindle
Frank Nephi Herzog
Edwin Sylvester Hill
Francis Marion Hughson
Albert Florian Jenni
Archie Hovis Lunger
Ivan Lenore Mahan
Horace Linken Moore
William Severin Nelson
Timothy Albert Parker
Frank Charles Pierard
Charles Harris Wells
Henry A. Withers



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75 Years of HCJB Shortwave

HCJB grounds.  Wikipedia photo. by Mschaa - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons

HCJB grounds. Wikipedia photo. by Mschaa – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.

In the early 1940’s, the physics department of the University of Chicago was undoubtedly an exciting place. In late 1942, the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reaction took place under the stands of the football stadium under the direction of Columbia Unviersity Professor Enrico Fermi.

On Easter Sunday 1940, the atomic pile had not yet been built, but the University was clearly about to be at the center of some of the greatest science of our time.  But one graduate student was about to hear a different call, and it came over the shortwave radio.

On Easter Sunday, 1940, a new radio station had just come on the air and was conducting its inaugural broadcast with a new 10 KW shortwave transmitter.  The station wasn’t entirely new, but it had just installed the new transmitter, and it now had a strong signal to North America.  That station was HCJB, the Voice of the Andes, in Quito, Ecuador.

The station had been founded in 1931 by American missionary Clarence W. Jones.  Jones had worked under Chicago evangelist Paul Rader, who had been one of the first radio evangelists, having a weekly program called “WJBT” (Where Jesus Blesses Thousands), which was carried by WBBM in Chicago.  Jones had been impressed by the radio’s ability to spread the Gospel, and felt called to establish a radio ministry in Latin America.  In 1928, he traveled to Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Cuba, seeking a location for the station, but was unable to receive government permits in any of those countries.

Later, Christian and Missionary Alliance missionaries to Ecuador encouraged him to start the radio station there.  In 1930, Jones obtained the approval of the Ecuadorian government to begin a station,

HCJB came on the air on Christmas Day, 1931.  The initial 30-minute broadcast in English and Spanish was from a fairly respectable 200 watt transmitter.  But that transmitter was sitting on a table in Jones’ living room, with a simple wire antenna strung between two poles.  And there were only six receivers in the country at the time.

Notwithstanding its small start, the station continued to grow.  And by 1940, it was able to install the substantial 10 KW shortwave transmitter that would provide good coverage in both South and North America.  By 1941, broadcasts were expanded to include Russian, Swedish and Quichua.  Other languages soon followed.

The inauguration of the new shortwave transmitter was noted in North America.  The shortwave bands reflected the fact that Europe was now at war, and the message of peace transmitted from Ecuador was a breath of fresh air.  The shortwave editor of Radio Guide magazine made these observations in the April 20, 1940, issue:

            “The Voice of the Andes”

To those listeners tired of the eternal babble of Europe’s shortwave voices of hate and war: Turn your dials to HCJB (12.48), “The Voice of the Andes,” at Quito, Ecuador. Here, at an elevation of 10,000 feet, encircled by eleven snow-capped peaks of the mighty Andes, nestles the oldest city of the New World, one of the ancient capitals of the Incas steeped in fifteen hundred years of traditions; a city whose many white churches shelter staggering treasures in gold and precious stones; a city with winding cobbled streets, overhanging balconies, ancient archways, sunlit plazas and countless white-stone houses perched crazily on steep hillsides, their red-tile roofs, with green moss cropping out here and there in the cracks, forming vivid splotches of color against the snowy mantle of the guardian peaks.

Such a historic and picturesque setting seems indeed a fitting site for a missionary radio station whose messages are those of peace and good-will. This new 10,000-watt modern short-wave transmitter–the most powerful in South America and the only broadcast station to employ a fully rotatable antenna–stands as a tribute to the sacrificing labors of one many–Clarence Jones, a gospel missionary from Chicago, whose lifework is to minister to and teach the Andean Indians. Because of the rugged contours of Ecuador, making transportation exceedingly difficult, Reverend Jones recognized long ago the vital value of radio in carrying on his work and subsequently installed several small short-wave stations at Quito, including the former 1,000-watt transmitter of HCJB and a mobile broadcasting station which carries this active pastor’s voice to the most remote jungle and mountain tribes. The new station–a labor of love paid for by voluntary subscriptions from his loyal friends–was built by an American amateur, Clarence Moore, who is well known to hundreds of amateur friends under his call, HC1JB. The new “Voice of the Andes” was officially inaugurated on Sunday, March 24.

On the dial, HCJB (12.46) comes in above the 25-meter band and approximately half-way between the 12 and 13 megacycles figures in frequency. You will have no trouble in hearing HCJB, since its unique location and rotatable aerial make it possible for it to project strong signals into North America.

HCJB is on the air for several hours daily with Spanish programs for the benefit of listeners in the Latin Americas, but English listeners will be primarily interested in “Ecuadorian Echoes,” on from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., and the “Friendship Hour,” broadcast nightly except Mondays from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. EST. These all-English programs are directed specifically to North America. “Ecuadorean Echoes,” one of the most interesting programs on the air, breathes the very soul of Latin America. During this period the native music, the literature and the very lives and habits of these romantic peoples come to life and parade before the microphone. “The Friendship Hour” is a strictly good-will program consisting of classical music, old-time hymns, simple gosple messages, the reading of letters from listeners and personal messages to friends everywhere.

Among the listeners to that first program on Easter Sunday 75 years ago was University of Chicago graduate student Clayton Howard. He had received his undergraduate degree in physics the previous year from nearby Wheaton College.  He had been born in China to missionary parents who returned to the United States when Clayton was 9, in order for Clayton’s father, Charles Howard, to organize the biology department at Wheaton.

By this time, Clayton was a licensed amateur radio operator.  In the 1938 call book, he is listed as holding call sign W9KJZ.  For whatever reason, he happened to be tuning above the 25 meter band that night and heard the new station.  He later recounted that he was aware of a missionary station in South America, but knew little about it before chancing upon its broadcast that night.  He was intrigued enough to seek out Reuben Larson, one of the missionaries to Ecuador who had a decade earlier encouraged Jones to start the station.

HCJB technical staff in 1945.  Head engineer Clayton Howard is in the center.   (Image by by SkagitRiverQueen, Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.)

HCJB technical staff in 1945. Head engineer Clayton Howard is in the center. (Image by by SkagitRiverQueen, Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.)

The name Clayton Howard is familiar to many hams and shortwave listeners.  1941 saw Howard be commissioned by his church as a missionary and accept a call to serve on the technical staff of HCJB.  Howard went on to become the station’s chief engineer, and is best known as being the on-air host of the “DX Partyline” program, which he produced and hosted for 22 years.  This program was very popular with SWL’s, as it included station reports and other listening tips.  The program always concluded with Howard offering a short segment entitled, “Tips for Real Living,” in which he shared with listeners a brief Gospel devotional message.

Clayton Howard and wife Helen hosting DX Party Line, 1970's.  Photo courtesy HCJB, used with permission.

Clayton Howard and wife Helen hosting DX Party Line, 1970’s. HCJB photo.

The Soviets didn’t normally provide recognition to Christian missionaries, but in Howard’s case, they made an exception.  When Howard retired in 1984 and made his last DX Partyline broadcast, Radio Moscow announced that “the living legend of the Andes has retired.”

If you grew up as I did listening to a shortwave radio in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the name Clayton Howard is certainly a familiar one.  And chances are, you heard one of those tips for real living.  If you did, it was probably because on Easter Sunday, 1940, a 12.48 megacycle radio signal traveled from the Andes to a receiver in Chicago.

As a result of that Radio Signal, Clayton Howard probably never met Enrico Fermi.  He probably had nothing to do with the construction of the atomic pile under the football stadium.  If he had, perhaps Howard would be remembered today as a nuclear physicist.  But God called him elsewhere, and it appears that He made that call on 12.48 megacycles.


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Crosley Radio, 1925


Ninety years ago, here was what was available in radio. This ad from the Crosley Radio Corporation appeared in Popular Science, March 1925.

Crosley Radio was founded in 1921 by Ohio industrialist Powel Crosley, Jr. To encourage sales, he began broadcasting with a 20 watt transmitter from his home. In 1922, the company began operating WLW radio, originally with a 50 watt transmitter, which was increased to 50,000 watts over the next six years. Crosley realized that with a more powerful transmitter, he could sell cheaper radios, and the station operated for a time in the 1930’s with 500,000 watts.

The least expensive model in this ad was the Crosley 50, with a list price of $14.50. Not mentioned in the ad was the fact that this price didn’t include the tube and headphone, which would bring the price up to $22.25. The top of the line was the Trirdyn Special for $60, which would drive a loudspeaker (not included, of course) with even distant stations. It featured a solid mahogany cabinet.

Crosley Radio and WLW were sold in 1945 to AVCO, which used the brand name until 1956. The name was eventually purchased and is still in use by another company bearing the name Crosley Radio, which capitalizes on the vintage name.

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US-Japan Radiotelephone Circuit, 1935

JapanOperatorSix years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, radiotelephone service was inaugurated between the United States and Japan. Shown here is Chiduko Kashiwagi, the Japanese telephone operator at the Tokyo end of the circuit. The radio link was between the transmitting stations at Dixon, California, and the receiving station at Komuro, Japan. The signals going the other way went from Nazaki, Japan, to Pt. Reyes, California. The control points were located at San Francisco and Tokyo, from which points the signals were linked to the respective national telephone networks.

JapanRXTo ensure secrecy, the signals were scrambled. The Komuro receiving station is depicted here. The U.S. transmitting station at Pt. Reyes had a signal of about 20,000 watts.



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