Monthly Archives: June 2016

Benny’s Radio Shop, 1941


Seventy-five years ago, entrepreneur and radio student Benny McGehee had this sign up in front of his shop at 411 Arcadia Avenue, Arcadia, Florida. This photo appeared on the cover of the June-July 1941 issue of National Radio News, the magazine put out for students and alumni of the National Radio Institute (NRI), whose ubiquitous ads for home study in radio appeared in magazines for decades.

1941JuneNRI2McGehee, who billed himself as the “chief keeper-upper of your radio,” was one of NRI’s students. Prior to enrolling in the home study course, he had worked as a traveling salesman and was away from home four days a week. The radio shop was still a part-time enterprise, as he was employed in an office as he built up his radio business.

According to McGehee, his sole regret was that he didn’t enroll with NRI ten or twelve years earlier when he started seeing the ads. “I read those advertisements for ten years before I acted. I could have been really independent now, and I am only thirty-four. Yet, I hope to succeed even though I waited a long time to start.”

The magazine complimented McGehee on the quality of his sign, and noted that McGehee had consulted a professional sign painter, and carried the same design over into his letterhead and other printed matter, “giving his advertising distinction and dignity.”

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June 29, 1946


The newspapers 70 years ago gave a glimpse at how the postwar world was going to be different.  This is the Milwaukee Journal of June 29, 1946.  The pictures are taken a Bikini Atoll, where Operation Crossroads
was underway, with the world’s fourth atomic blast scheduled for the next day.

The headline at the top of the page reports Herbert Hoover’s statement that mass starvation in the world had been averted, except in China, where there was still a pressing need.  Just over a year earlier, President Truman had enlisted Hoover to deal with the food situation, and Hoover’s final report was noted here.

In other news, President Truman had signed a bill extending the draft, which had been set to expire in March 1947.

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“America Asks, Germany Answers,” 1941


Seventy-five years ago, while it was clearly gearing up for war, the United States was still neutral, and the Nazis wanted to keep it that way. this date’s issue of Radio Guide, June 28, 1941, carried an interesting look at one of the propaganda programs being broadcast to North America by Berlin stations DJB and DJD on 11.77 and 15.20 MHz. The program was “America Asks, Germany Answers.”

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-0821-502, Joseph Goebbels.jpg

Goebbels. Wikipedia photo.

As early as 1933, Propaganda Minister Paul Josef Goebbels had set up a North American Service of the German Radio, staffed largely by expatriate American “foreign correspondents.” In February 1941, the station requested American listeners to forward reception reports and questions about Germany by means of collect telegrams of up to 25 words. By the end of February, over 10,000 telegrams had been received, despite criticism in the American press and deliberate attempts to clog the German end of the circuit. In March, the “America Asks, Germany Answers” program was on the air to answer these questions.

Among the American reporters was Frederick W. Kaltenbach (1895-1945), who had formerly been an Iowa teacher. In 1935, while teaching in Dubuque, he had started the “Militant Order of Spartan Knights,” a club for boys based on the Hitler Youth. Concerned parents saw to it that his teaching contract was terminated, and he left for Germany. He worked as a freelance writer and translator until landing his radio job in 1940. Many of his broadcasts began with “Greetings to my old friend, Harry in Iowa.” He was indicted for treason in 1943, but was arrested by Soviet troops and died in a detention camp in October 1945.

The “America Asks, Germany Answers” program was read by two announcers, “Democ” and “Nazi.” Democ would pose questions from American listeners, and Nazi would provide the answers.

According to the Radio Guide editor, the cost of these telegrams (about $10,000) amounted to “the cheapest imaginable form of advertising for the station, since the whole proposition was widely publicized in the American press and thousands of listeners who were only dimly aware of even the existence of a German short-wave station found themselves listening to it nightly, at first to see if their cables would be answered over the air, subsequently because, once the habit of listening to a certain program is formed, it is not easily discarded. Thus by a clever artifice the German short-wave station gained thousands of new listeners not only to the comparitively innocent program, “America Asks, Germany Answers,” but to the more deadly blasts from Goebbels’ master propagandists in their nightly bombardments on the democratic way of life.”

The magazine did note that a certain number of questions were sympathetic to the Nazi cause, and “quite likely, the names and addresses of these pro-Nazis were promptly garnered by the secret police, who in turn passed them along to the American Nazi organization for investigation so that eventually the fifth column in this country will receive additional recruits.”

However, as might be expected, most questioners were anything but sympathetic, but Democ and Nazi were still eager to tackle them, often by dismissing them with humor.

For example, one Harry Hoffman of Brooklyn asked in his cable, “how do you like your diet of horse meat and dog meat in Berlin these days?” Nazi answered, “my dear Hoffman, we like our diet just fine. It’s excellent. In fact, it’s good. Since we can no longer get giraffe tails or nightingale tongues, we must now be content with veal cutlets, lamb chops or T-bone steaks.” He then added sarcastically, “I suppose you also believe German tanks are made of paper.”

A more serious reply came in response to the question of one Mr. Fletcher of New York who asked about German plans for expansion in the western hemisphere.” Nazi replied that “Germany has NO plans whatsoever against any part of South, Central, or North America. Our campaign is directed solely against England.”

The only question which provoked some showing of anger was that of one Mr. Lehe of New York who opined that “neither England nor Germany but America will win the war.” To this, Mr. Nazi bitterly replied, “this is England’s war, not yours. It’s absolutely none of your business and America should keep its nose out of the affairs that do not concern it in the least.”


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1941 One-Tube Shortwave “Push-Pull” Receiver

1941JunePSswSeventy-five years ago this month, the June 1941 issue of Popular Science carried the plans for this simple one-tube receiver suitable for long wave, medium wave, or short wave.

The set used a 1E7G dual pentode tube, used as a push-pull detector.  The design called for two plug-in coils for each band.  In fact, as can be seen from the schematic, the entire circuit is basically doubled.



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1941 Bombing of Kassa

1941 Hungarian tank. Wikipedia photo.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Kassa (Košice), then part of Hungary and now part of Slovakia.

On the night of June 26, 1941, unidentified aircraft struck Kassa. The attack became the pretext for Hungary to declare war on the Soviet Union the following day, but it is unknown whether the Soviets were responsible for the bombing.

One possibility is that Soviet bombers mistook the city for city of Prešov (Eperjes), in Slovakia, which was already at war. Another theory was that it was a false flag attack by the Germans to provoke Hungary into the war.

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1941 Prefab “Semi-Bombproof” House

1941JunePMprefabSeventy-five years ago, preparedness for war was on everyone’s mind, as shown by this prefabricated three-room house, which was erected in just 23 minutes. The sections were made of concrete which was cast in forms lying on the ground. After drying, cranes lifted them into place, and welders completed the job by welding the sections together. The house was said to be “semi-bombproof,” meaning that it would “stop all but the heaviest flying fragments.” It was designed as quick construction of housing for defense workers.

The company making these, Thermo-Crete Homes, 10846 Ventura Blvd., Los Angeles, California, also made a small A-frame bomb shelter for use in backyards.

The house appeared in the June, 1941, issue of Popular Mechanics.

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TV Pioneer Eleanor Thomas, W9XBY/W9XAL, Kansas City, 1936

1936JuneModernMechanEighty years ago, this month’s issue of Modern Mechanix, June 1936, featured eighteen-year-old Eleanor Thomas, the assistant engineer of stations W9XBY and W9XAL, Kansas City, Missouri. Billed as a “mathematical genius for a girl,” Miss Thomas reportedly found life on a college campus too prosaic, and instead entered an engineering school, namely the training division of First National Television, Inc.

First National Television was the licensee of the two stations. According to its 1934 QSL card, W9XBY was one of four “high fidelity” stations operating in the United States, just above the top end of the standard broadcast band, which then extended to 1500 kHz, at 1530 kHz. The 1000 watt station operated from the 29th floor of the Power and Light Building, and had its transmitter near 86th and Wornall Road.

W9XBY operated as the voice channel for television station W9XAL, one of the first television stations to operate on the VHF band, licensed to operate on 42-56 MHz. While the station was initially a mechanical television station, it had both electronic and mechanical equipment in 1936. By 1939, it was all electronic.

The article noted that Miss Thomas was the “youngest member of her sex ever to pass the difficult examinations for a first class operator’s license from the Federal Communications Commission.

More information about the station can be found in the July 1991 issue of Popular Communications.

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Aimee Semple McPherson & KFSG

Aimee Semple McPherson.jpg

Aimee Semple McPherson. Wikipedia photo.

I heard an interesting lecture by Reformed theologian and church historian Professor W. Robert Godfrey about the life of Pentecostal evangelist and media celebrity Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944).

Sister Aimee, as she was known, was a flamboyant figure and founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and Angelus Temple in Los Angeles. Inspired in large part by the Salvation Army (indeed, she at one point pondered founding the Salvation Navy), she was a founder of Pentacotalism, and what Godfrey called a “prototypical example of Pentacostalism.”

Touched on in Godfrey’s lecture was the role that McPherson played in the early days of broadcasting.  She was the founder of KFSG, whose call letters stood for “Four Square Gospel.”  It was profiled in the June 1931 issue of Radio Doings, a West Coast program guide.

The article noted that the station had sprung up almost over night from one of the first churches to step into the world of radio. In addition to the church’s main auditorium, seating 5300 people, programs could originate from three studios. Music played an important part. It noted that Esther Fricke, the Temple organist, had broadcast 1528 organ recitals. McPherson was quoted:

Realizing that music is the universal language of all nations and that the soul finds expression in the creation of melody, I am vitally interested in the perpetuity of celestial strains. I have, therefore, devoted much of my time during my recent illness pouring forth from my own soul in drama and song the beautiful old stories of the Bible.  I t is my cherished hope and fondest dream to set eventually all of these  to music.

The humanitarian work done by McPherson was real, and is noted in the Radio Doings article:

In the main entrance of the Temple stands a life boat and into its capacious depths the Angelus Temple members and friends constantly pour packages of groceries, food, clothing and all the numerous articles of which poor families stand in need -from wheel chairs to baby clothes, from bedsteads to cook – stoves. Regardless of creed or color all who are in need are aided.

Professor Godfrey notes in his lecture that McPherson was in many cases the only source of aid to illegal immigrants, who had no recourse to government welfare.

KFSG was initially assigned to 1080 kHz, relatively clear of the other Los Angeles stations, KFI 640 kHz, KHJ 740 kHz, and KNX 890 kHz. However, interference complaints were received, and its likely that KFSG (and probably other stations) weren’t scrupulously tending to their assigned wavelength. After the Department of Commerce contacted McPherson, she reportedly fired off the following telegram to Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover:


Update:  I received an e-mail fro Los Angeles radio Historian Jim Hilliker, whose 2003 article about KFSG is linked below.  In 2011, he wrote an updated article (which my initial Google search about KFSG for some reason did not reveal) in which he makes a very convincing case that this telegram is a myth.

President Hoover first mentioned the telegram in 1945 in a radio speech, where he attributed it only to an unnamed female “evangelist in a certain city.”  The story was repeated in his 1952 memoirs with McPherson named.  Even though Hoover is the Official Favorite Former President of, Hilliker made an exhaustive search looking for any documentation supporting the story.  If regulatory action had been taken against the station, then there would have been a public record, and it would have been published in the Radio Service Bulletin.  But neither the Bulletin nor the station’s license file contain any such reference.  

After reading Hilliker’s updated article, I’m inclined to believe that Hoover’s recollection of this incident is a false memory.

The June 1925 issue of Radio In The Home magazine touched on the wavelength dispute, but added a positive spin:

When KFSG first went on the air, thousands of fans registered emphatic and vigorous protest because some nonselective sets would not enable them to tune out the new station. But that’s all ancient history now. Most of the people wouldn’t tune KFSG out now if they could.

This is a personal narrative of a church that not only brings the people to it by the thousands, but it also goes to the people by the hundreds of thousands in their homes, the rugged fastnesses of the mountain peaks, the whirling sands of the desert, the sluggishly flowing river houseboat, the tramp steamer on the high seas–everywhere, in fact, that the Word of God can go.

Aimee Semple McPherson, evangelist extraordinary, knows human psychology. Or, more properly speaking perhaps, she knows the practical application of everyday psychology. Of course, her programs include masterful benedictions, messages of cheer and inspiration, powerful and penetrating sermons, testimonials delivered with a punch and vigor, and healing services of faith and power.

In May 1926, McPherson disappeared from Venice Beach, California. It was initially thought that she had drowned, but as a memorial service was being prepared, a phone call came in from McPherson, who reported being kidnapped. She was found in Agua Prieta, Mexico, but journalists were skeptical, since her clothes showed no wear after her escape and walk through the desert. However, this was disputed by those in Douglas, Arizona, where she had been taken to convalesce.

The truth of what happened will never be known, but there were reports of her being seen along the California coast in the company of KFSG engineer Kenneth G. Ormiston.

Despite the considerable theological differences, and despite much theological criticism, Godfrey concludes, “she was not a ‘prosperity preacher….’ The focus for most of her ministry was on preaching the truth. What makes me appreciative of Sister–not that I agree with her theology–but what makes me sympathetic on a certain level is that not only was she capable of and did preach the Gospel, but she had a real heart for the poor, and I think religious charlatans don’t usually have much of a heart for the poor.”

More history of the station can be found at this 2003 article by Jim Hilliker.

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Germany Invades Soviet Union, 1941

Today marks the 75th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, which began on June 22, 1941.

German advances, June – August 1941. US Military Academy, via Wikipedia.

Hitler had stated his desire to conquer the Soviets in his 1925 Mein Kampf, but in the years leading up to the invasion, the two countries had signed political and economic pacts. But Hitler had authorized the invasion in December 1940, originally planned to start in May 1941.

The Germans initially enjoyed resounding victories, pressing to the outskirts of Moscow. When they were pushed back by a Soviet counteroffensive, the war turned into a war of attrition for which Germany was unprepared.

Kiev, June 23, 1941. Wikipedia photo.

Operation Barbarossa was the largest military operation in human history, with a total of 75 percent of the entire German military participating.  The four years of fighting resulted in the deaths of more than 26 million people, more than in all other fighting of World War II.  Soviet casualties in the war, both military and civilian, totalled over twenty million, out of a prewar population of about 196 million, meaning that about one Soviet in nine died as a result of the war.




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Martha Tilton, NBC Radio, 1941


Shown here in this day’s issue of Radio Guide from 75 years ago, June 21, 1941, is Martha Tilton, who then appeared from Hollywood in NBC’s “This Is The Show.”

Until 1939, Tilton had been a vocalist with Benny Goodman’s band, and probably her most famous number was “And the Angels Sing,” which can be heard here in this clip from Camel Caravan, which was heard on CBS:

Tilton died in 2006.

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