Monthly Archives: November 2017

1942 Coffee Rationing

1942Nov30Life75 years ago, the war had hit the home front, as shown by this article in this day’s issue of Life Magazine, November 30, 1942. It wasn’t tires or gasoline or even sugar. This time, it was serious. German U-Boats were sinking freighters coming from Brazil, and as a result, the United States was about to adopt coffee rationing. Coffee addicts would be limited to one pound of coffee every five weeks, and Life magazine showed them how to cope.

In the illustration above, the magazine notes that boiling is the most efficient method of producing coffee, followed by percolating, followed finally by drip methods. The magazine discussed methods of conservation, the simplest being not filling the cup all the way. It noted that adding a small amount of chicory would stretch the yield about 30% without affecting the taste very much. And while not advised by experts, the magazine even touched on the possibility of “double dipping.”

To prevent hoarding, some retailers were breaking the seal on vacuum packed cans of coffee, insuring that the contents be consumed promptly.


1957 Boys’ Life Telephone Circuit

1957NovBL1Sixty years ago, Maurice Peacock, Jr., of Radnor, PA, got $5 for sending these simple circuits to the “Hobby Hows” editor of Boys’ Life, where they were printed in the November 1957 issue.

The circuit shows how to rig up a telephone system to a friend’s house nearby, using an old radio headphone. One earpiece is used at each end, with batteries wired in series. Peacock explains that the wire needs to be insulated, and suggests that old thread spools can be used as insulators. The basic circuit is shown in figure 1. To save on the cost of wire, a good ground can be used as the return, as shown in figure 2.

I suspect the Boy Scouts of 1957 eventually figured it out, but the diagrams shown here wouldn’t work. A minor change needs to be made.

I suspect that, just like the Boy Scouts of 1957, our readers will quickly spot the problem. When you’ve found it, please comment on our Facebook page.

1967 Blast Furnace For Young Soviets

1967NovSovietI’m not able to make out the text, but this Soviet magazine from November 1967 appears to be right up our alley. It appears to be giving young comrades instructions for building a home blast furnace!

I am able to make out the caption for the item between the vacuum cleaner and the wall outlet, and it’s marked “rheostat.” Presumably, it’s set to blow air into the combustion chamber, and the young Soviet mad scientist can adjust the intensity of the furnace with the rheostat.

The illustration appeared in the November 1957 issue of Юный техник magazine.  A treasure trove of similar magazines, many on the subject of radio, can be found at Журналы СССР.

Contrary to first impression, the logo at the top of the page is Ют, the abbreviation for the name of the magazine. But if it looked like HOT at first glance, we don’t blame you. This contraption will indeed get hot!

We put this item in the “science fair ideas” category. However, we do recommend that before duplicating this project, young scientists should have the article translated to see if it contains any safety warnings. I suspect some might be called for.

1942 Army Signal Corps Recruiting

1942NovPMThis recruiting ad for the U.S. Army Signal Corps appeared in Popular Mechanics 75 years ago this month, November 1942. It noted that this was a radio war, and that the nerve center of the army needed skilled hands.  It suggested a number of opportunities to serve.

Physically fit men ages 18 to 45 were eligible for direct enlistment in the Signal Corps Enlisted Reserve.  Those with experience as a licensed radio operator, a trained repairman, or active telephone or telegraph worker would qualify for active duty at once with pay of up to $138 per month, plus board, shelter, and uniforms.

Those without direct experience but “skilled with tools” would qualify for training and ordered to active duty after completing the course.

Degreed electrical engineers, as well as junior and seniors in EE programs, would be eligible for commission.

Young men over 16 having an ability with tools would be eligible for immediate training, with pay of not less than $1020 per year.  Even those with a minor physical handicap could find a place to serve.

Nipper Goes to War: 1917

1917Nov26PGHWith the nation at war, the Victor Talking Machine Company was doing its patriotic duty by cranking out phonographs and records.  This ad appeared in the Pittsburgh Press a hundred years ago today, November 26, 1917.

Billy Hallicrafters to the Rescue Again

1957NovBLA few months ago, we reported how young Billy Hallicrafters used his Hallicrafters shortwave receiver to save the lives of some men aboard a sinking ship.

Here, we see young Billy at it again, saving the life of a pilot in distress, as reported in the November 1957 issue of Boys’ Life.

Billy was apparently late for school that day, but I’m sure his tardiness was excused.  We enter the story as Billy’s mother reminds him that it’s time to get ready for school.  He prepares to shut down his receiver and get to school, but at the last minute, he hears something truly ominous.

He hears a pilot, apparently in communication with air traffic control, since the pilot is acknowledging a message. But the pilot interrupts the acknowledgment to declare a mayday, which apparently only Billy hears. The pilot had “flamed out 10 miles south of Westport” and was bailing out.

Billy interrupts his school preparations and frantically calls the Civil Air Patrol to report the emergency. Within minutes, a CAP helicopter is dispatched, and spots the parachute. One of the crew comments that it’s a good thing that boy was tuned in, since nobody else heard the Mayday.

The crew quickly gets the unconscious pilot out of the tree where he’s dangling and to the hospital. In the next scene, Billy is visiting the hospital where the downed pilot thanks Billy for saving his life.

Hammarlund Super Pro Console, 1937


The Hammarlund Super-Pro series of receivers represent one of the best performing prewar communications receivers. The line was first introduced in 1936, and when war came, they took the BC-779 nameplate for the military version.

Thousands of the models making up the series rolled off the Hammarlund assembly line over the years, but one of the rarest variations is shown here, and it appears that only about 70 were made.  Inspired, no doubt, by high-end home consoles such as the McMurdo Silver, Hammarlund decided to move the set from the ham shack to the living room.  So they put it in the cabinet shown here, as seen in the August 1937 issue of Radio World.

But it wasn’t just any cabinet that they slapped it into.  As the accompanying article explains, the cabinet was carefully designed for its audio qualities, particularly the bass response.  There’s no doubt that the set was a top performer, and I’m sure it sounded good.  Since it was destined for the living room, a few modifications were made.  For example, even though the set had a BFO for listening to code, the BFO pitch was not adjustable from the front panel.

But it was a flop as far as sales.  As the Radio Boulevard site explains, “it just wouldn’t do for hams – it had no BFO on the front and it was too big. It didn’t have the Scott or McMurdo chrome chassis – how could you impress your friends?”  The site does have a picture of a nicely restored specimen, owned by AA6S.  From the color picture, it does look like a communications receiver thinly disguised as a console.  The front panel is faux walnut, and just looks out of place.  It’s not quite a communications receiver, and it’s not quite a console.

I’d love to have one in my living room.  And as a loyal reader, you would love to have one.  But let’s face it, nobody else would want one!

Elizabeth Rickard, Radio Pioneer

1917NovElecExpShown here, from the November 1917 issue of Electrical Experimenter,
is Miss Elizabeth Rickard, the first woman to graduate as a radio operator from Hunter College, New York City. According to the magazine, she received her first grade commercial license.

The school had a “very enthusiastic wireless class who are blest with every provision for quickly assimilating the intricacies of radio telegraphy.” The Marconi company had presented the college with standard receiving and transmitting equipment, as well as instructors.

Miss Rickard entered the college’s wireless class in April 1917, and in May of that year, she was detailed to the Marconi school for intensive training. She passed her tests in July, with the highest scores of the class of 20 men and 3 women.

1937 Montgomery Ward Ham Station


Eighty years ago, the October  and November issues of Radio News carried a review of the model OR-5 transmitter for the 160 through 10 meter bands put out by an unlikely supplier for ham gear, namely Montgomery Ward & Company.

The reviewer, Everett Walker (whose call was, coincidentally, W2MW, whose 5 meter station we previously featured), posted an overall favorable review of the transmitter: “the small transmitter proved itself an excellent all-band unit on small power. On the higher frequencies it proved a good competitor for the 500 watt transmitter used at W2MW. On the lower-frequency bands it put out a signal that could compete with the normal QRM with more effectiveness than was expected. The transmitter also was tested on 160 meters, not at the writer’s station, but at a nearby station that was equipped with an adequate antenna. Here it put out a good signal and the operator who made the test reported local communication was excellent and more than six “out-of-the-district” stations were worked within a short time.”

He noted that the rig put out 60 watts CW on all bands but 10 meters, where it put out 40 watts.

The rig was geared mostly for the CW man, but the accompanying OR-7 modulator was also available for AM use. In the photo above, the transmitter is at the right, with the modulator in the middle. The accompanying receiver on the left, whose model number is not stated, is also from Montgomery Ward.