Radio Scouting, 1940

A sampling of the author's QSL's.

A sampling of the author’s QSL’s.

Seventy-five years ago this month, the November 1940 issue of Boys’ Life carried a one-page plug for Amateur Radio entitled “DX Hams Do Get Around.” The author, Larry Le Kashman, W2IOP, starts by explaining how hams can “hold a conversation annihilating time and space by the touch of a switch,” and goes on to explain the licensing requirements. After a rundown of things like call signs and Q-signals, he moves to some of the exciting things that happen on Ham Radio, undoubtedly of interest to young scouts who wanted to Be Prepared. He tells a couple of tales (lacking in many details) such as that of a ham in California who was working a station in New Zealand until the latter suddenly left the air. The worried Californian managed to make contact with another station in the same town who investigated. The first New Zealander had been overcome by gas, and the quick actions of the California ham saved his life. Another unnamed station somewhere in the Midwest “was held up by thugs while his phone transmitter was on the air. The station he was talking to make a long distance telephone call and the distressed ham was rescued in short order by the police.”

Le Kashman included a few more corroborating details when talking about what hams did during hurricanes and floods. (However, many of the corroborating details for a flood “last winter” sounded suspiciously similar to what had actually happened in 1936.)  But the exact details were less important than the compelling story the article told:

Perhaps you were wondering what was happening in the cold Eastern states when flood waters started rising last winter. Had you turned on a short wave receiver you might have heard the first sharp signal pierce through the night with a frantic appeal–“QRR QRR,” the land SOS shattered the ominous stillness of the black night. Amateur activity ceased in an instant–from coast to coast ears were strained listening to the troubled frantic calls for help. With no wires, no roads, no power, the stricken cities were relying upon battery operated amateur stations. News services, starving for stories called on the radio amateurs.

Endless hours passed as the drama unfolded. At 2 A.M. the first flood missages came through. At 3:05 W8WBH, operating from the Pittsburgh area,  wired frantically for aid. All wires were down. Snatches of messages came through the interference, only to end in a tragic blurred whine, as power failed. Cold, gray dawn broke on operators racing against time. State after state went under the rushing, conquiring, relentless deluge, and their only link with the outside world was the isolated hams. An ominiously curtailed message from New Cannan read, “WATER 3 FEET STILL RISING.” At 10 A.M. a plane missing between Springfield and Albany was reported safe.

The author concludes that this “is the kind of stuff that makes amateur radio!”  And it turns out that the author knew a thing or two about amateur radio.   Born in 1921, Larry LeKashman was only about 19 when he penned this article, but he was already a prominent amateur. Until his death in 1978, he had held calls W2IOP, W8IOP, W9IOP, and W2AB. His career included serving as an editor of CQ magazine, and employment by RCA, Lafayette, and Bogen Electronics. In the 1950’s, he was the vice president of sales at Electro Voice, a position he held until his death.

The year before the Boys’ Life article, 1939, he had taken the top place in the ARRL CW Sweepstakes,  a feat he repeated in 1948, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1959, 1960, and 1963.  The connection with Boys’ Life isn’t suprising, since the National Eagle Scout Association database reveals that he became an Eagle Scout on September 11, 1934, in Troop 1, Oakland, Maine.

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