Category Archives: Law

WOW Omaha Turns 18, 1941

WOW1941Radio station KXSP, Omaha, first came on the air in 1923. The station is probably best known for the WOW call letters that it bore from 1926 to 1999, representing its owner, Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society. When it first came on the air, those call letters were not available, since they were assigned to the steamer Henry J. Bibble. Instead, the station signed on as WOAW. When that ship was scrapped in 1926, the station took over those call letters.

When the station reached the age of majority eighteen years later, it held a birthday party, and invited six young Omaha women who were born the same day. The six are shown here, and they are, from left to right, Blanche Zaloudek, Roslyn Levy, Jacqueline Giles, Helen Rummelhart, Elaine Kinzli and De Lorse McCarty. They appeared in the May, 1941, issue of the station’s program guide, Radio News Tower.

Seven years later, the young woman on the left had married, and was known as Blanche Howard. Her uncle, J.F. Zaloudek, died in Kansas without a will, and Blanche was one of the heirs. She inherited a portion of some property in Wilson, Kansas. Shortly thereafter, Blanche, along with one of the other heirs, was back in court. It turned out that her uncle had a judgment against his brother, another one of the heirs. She went to court to seek to enforce this judgment, and the case ultimately went to the Kansas Supreme Court. In its opinion in the case, Zaloudek v. Zaloudek, 171 Kan. 72, 229 P.2d 727 (1951), that court held that Blanche and the other heir didn’t have standing to revive the judgment against the brother.

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NPOTA: North Country Scenic Trail, Jay Cooke State Park, MN

JayCookeToday, I did a National Parks On the Air (NPOTA) activation of the North Country National Scenic Trail, a hiking trail that extends from eastern New York to North Dakota.  My operating location was in Jay Cooke State Park, Minnesota, about 25 miles south of Duluth.  My operating location is shown here.  The radio itself, my  Yaesu FT-817, is barely visible propped up by the bright blue canvas bag, in front of the dark blue bag.  The 12 volt battery is on top of the bright red bag, and my lunch is inside the dark red bag.  The cable going up to my antenna is visible, but the antenna, a 20 meter dipole tied to trees with string, while in the frame, is not visible.

During NPOTA, amateur radio operators set up portable stations at National Park units and make contact with other amateurs at home.  The event has been very popular, and there have been hundreds of thousands of contacts made from the parks.  Since the event includes all units of the National Park Service, the North Country Trail qualifies as a “National Park,” allowing me to operate from one of the Minnesota state parks crossed by the trail.

During today’s activation, I managed only four contacts, the furthest being Mississippi.  According to the Reverse Beacon Network, my signal was getting out.  Unfortunately, many chasers don’t bother looking for stations.  They wait until they’re spotted on the internet, and then work them.  So making that first contact can be a challenge.  Since I was only there for a brief stop over lunch, I didn’t bother persisting to make six more contacts.  But I’ll be operating from this spot again on June 5 as part of the Light Up The Trail event being done in conjunction with NPOTA.  During that event, stations will be set up at various locations along the North Country Trail.  I decided to do a trial run today, since I’m in Duluth to present a Continuing Legal Education program on Friday morning, and then serving as a delegate to the Minnesota Republican State Convention on Friday and Saturday.

The swing bridge at Jay Cooke State Park was washed away.

2012 flooding of bridge. USGS photo.

Swinging Bridge prior to 2012 flood. Wikipedia photo.

Jay Cooke State Park was originally created in 1915 by a donation of land from the St. Louis Power Company. It remained undeveloped until the 1930’s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps built many of the park’s structures, including the iconic Swinging Bridge over the St. Louis River. The bridge was destroyed by flooding in 2012 but subsequently rebuilt according to the original plans. As you can see from the picture at the top of the page, my operating location was near the bridge and near the River Inn visitor center in the picture shown below, also constructed by the CCC.  The North Country Trail passes over the Swinging Bridge, putting my operating location well within the 50 yards from the trail required by the NPOTA rules.

River Inn Jay Cooke.JPG

River Inn Visitor Center, Jay Cooke State Park. Wikipedia photo.

This stretch of the St. Louis River consists of a long rapids impossible to traverse by canoe. Therefore, both Native Americans and Europeans portaged around the rapids, and this portage remained in use until the 1870’s.

Starting in the 17th century, the portage was used heavily by fur traders, since it formed part of the route from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River basin.  The voyageurs had to traverse the 6.5 mile portage through the area, carrying two or three packs weighing about 90 pounds each.  It took three to five days to cross the portage, and the voyageurs doing so would be covered with mud and insect bites.  My activation today was not quite so strenuous.  It required me to carry my complete station, including battery, radio, and antennas, weighing a total of about 10 pounds, a total of about 100 yards from the parking lot to the picnic area.  And even though I got mostly skunked, I bet the voyageurs who traversed the area a few centuries ago would never dream that it would someday be possible to toss a wire into a tree and talk halfway across the continent with a piece of equipment that would have made only a small dent in their 90 pound packs.

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13th Amendment Ratified, 1865


Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, forever ending slavery in the United States.  On December 6, the reconstruction Georgia legislature ratified the amendment, marking the 27th, meaning that two thirds of the states had done so.  On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William H. Seward proclaimed that the amendment had been adopted.

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1941 ASCAP Boycott


Seventy-five years ago, American broadcasters were gearing up for some big changes in 1941. The engineers were busy ordering crystals and getting ready to retune their transmitters on March 29, 1941, to the new frequencies mandated by NARBA.

But the program director had even bigger things to worry about, because of the ASCAP Boycott, which was to start on January 1, 1941, and would last until October 29, 1941.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was formed in 1914 to enforce the 1897 copyright law. In the days of live performances, this had been easy, since the royalties were just based on a percentage of the box office sales. But the phonograph, and later radio, complicated things considerably. But after almost a decade of haggling, a tenuous truce was in place between ASCAP and the broadcasters. The stations grudgingly agreed to pay 5% of advertising revenue in exchange for a blanket license to perform all ASCAP music. But the truce didn’t last long, and in 1940, worried that radio performances were cutting in to phonograph sales, ASCAP announced that it was going to triple the broadcast fee. The broadcasters decided that enough was enough, and at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention, the broadcasters decided that they would boycott ASCAP. Therefore, as of January 1, 1941, most of the stations’ existing music libraries could not be used. This included both recorded music and the sheet music used in the still common live performances by orchestras and studio pianists and organists.

Virtually every part of a station’s programming was affected. Even most program theme songs were controlled by ASCAP and had to be changed. Jack Benny had to stop playing his signature “Love in Bloom” on the violin, and Burns and Allen had to stop using their theme “Love Nest,” written by ASCAP co-founder George M. Cohan.


Jeanie in 1854, before her hair turned gray. Wikipedia image.

The stations had two alternatives, and had to act fast. First, they could make use of public domain material. This is why the Lone Ranger rode to the tune of the public domain William Tell Overture, and the Green Hornet flew to the music of The Flight of the Bumblebee. One notable beneficiary on stations’ play list was “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” penned by Stephen Foster in 1854. Time magazine quipped that the song had received so much airplay that Jeanie’s hair turned gray.

Stations also turned to foreign music such as “Perfidia.” And since ASCAP had generally believed that “hillbilly” and African-American music were beneath their dignity, these genres quickly found a home on the American airwaves.

In order to get radio airtime, performers had to make the same choices. It’s no coincidence that Glenn Miller’s orchestra made 1941 hits with “American Patrol” and “Song of the Volga Boatmen,” both in the public domain.

For new music, broadcasters turned to the fledgling Broadcast Music International (BMI), a rival licensing agency founded by the broadcast industry in 1939. BMI recruited composers whose ASCAP contracts were about to expire as well as new composers, and made these available to broadcasters on more favorable terms.

A substantial portion of the December 15, 1940, issue of Broadcasting magazine was devoted to helping broadcasters gear up for the boycott.  For example, the ad at the top of this page Standard Radio touted, during the “music emergency,” its music library of 2046 non-ASCAP taxfree selections including performances by artists such as Duke Ellington and Ray Herbeck, with the promise of 100 new releases per month.

An editorial in the same issued called it a war, not unlike the war raging in Europe:  “Zero hour approaches in the war over music.  War is hell in any language, and there are hellish days ahead for the adversaries in the conflict precipitated by a hitherto arrogant, brass-knuckled ASCAP that now must know it overplayed its hand.  The rank and file broadcaster is not thinking about an ASCAP deal.  Like the Italians, ASCAP attacked with untenable demands.  And like the Greeks, the broadcasters are on the march.”

And in this war, the broadcasters knew that ASCAP would be ruthless.  Every broadcaster knew that the ASCAP lawyers would retaliate heavily for even the most innocent minor violation.  The broadcasters had to ensure that not one note of an ASCAP-licensed competition could go out over the airwaves.

The magazine carried the advice sent out by CBS to its affiliates about the steps that needed to be taken to avoid even an accidental infringement of any ASCAP music. It stressed that the program producer or director had to personally inspect “all music on the conductor’s stand against his certified music sheet. No other music may be broadcast.” It stressed that it was particularly important to be careful with remote broadcasts. And for protection in case of later accusations, it was especially critical to keep a meticulous log of all music broadcast.

And dead air was better than an ASCAP lawsuit, so “the program producer must have the right to pull the plug on the slightest deviation from a certified music schedule.”

Ad libs and improvisations were not to be allowed. “If it isn’t on paper and certified, it is not be be broadcast.” And stations couldn’t forget that last-minute substitutions of talent might be required. “All staff artists, organists, and pianists, who might be required to fill in, must clear a sufficient number of work sheets to meet such needs.” Organists on dramatic shows would need to immediately submit a folio of cue music sufficient for their needs and be reminded that no other music could be played unless it had been cleared.

Even at non-musical remotes, the stations would have to be careful. If a station knew that music might be played in the background at a baseball game or political rally, it was not to be picked up. Since most band music was controlled by ASCAP, “the chances are we will have to forego those portions of a special event during which the band is playing, unless you can build and work from a soundproof booth.”

All recordings would have to be checked, and the ASCAP material be put away for the duration of the emergency. If a record had an ASCAP song on one side and a non-ASCAP song on the other, then tape would need be placed over the infringing side to keep it from being accidentally played. Even the emergency records kept at the transmitter site would need to be checked. A failure of the studio to transmitter link could not be allowed to serve as a reason for the ASCAP lawyers to swoop in.

1940MarksThe magazine also contained some good news.  There were already 3400 records licensed by BMI would could be safely played.  The magazine also announced the signing of a contract between BMI and the Edward B. Marks Music Corp., shown here, transferring that publisher’s catalog of over 15,000 songs to BMI.  This freed up such compositions as “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” and “Ta Ra Ra Boom Der Ay” for broadcast.  Benny Goodman’s theme song, “Let’s Dance” was among those included in the Marks deal.


Read More at Amazon

The following songs in this post are available at Amazon where you can listen to a free sample or download the MP3:


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St. John’s School Fire, Oct. 28, 1915

One hundred years ago today, twenty-one girls between the ages of 7 and 17 were killed in a fire at St. John’s School in Peabody, Massachusetts. Under the school’s established fire procedure, most students were to leave the building through a rear exit. But because the route was blocked by thick smoke, most instead tried to exit through the front door, where they became blocked in the vestibule. A major contributing factor was the fact that the front doors opened inward. The crowded vestibule was soon engulfed in flames, and the entire building was soon fully engulfed.

Most students were able to escape through first-floor windows, or even by jumping from higher windows. The school’s teachers, nuns of the Sisters of Notre Dame, acted heroically, by dropping many of the students to improvised life nets made of coats and blankets.

One lesson learned from this fire was that the exit doors of public buildings need to open out to avoid bottlenecks in case of fire. In the wake of the fire, Peabody became the first city to impose this requirement.

Every school with which I have been involved takes fire safety very seriously, and it is natural to ask the question of how successful these efforts have been. In other words, how often do we see a headline like the one at the top of this page?

The answer is that school fire safety has been extraordinarily successful. In the past half century, zero American schoolchildren have been killed by fires. There have, of course, been fires. But in over fifty years, there has not been a single fire fatality. Not a single one. And when we stop to think of why this is true, we can learn some lessons that will help prevent other tragedies.

The important thing to remember is that we cannot point to a single magic bullet that has prevented school fires. There is no one thing that we did to prevent them. We did a lot of things. And when we did them, we didn’t waste time worrying that we shouldn’t do them because that one thing wouldn’t prevent all fire fatalities.  Nobody would call us paranoid for taking all of those precautions against something that hasn’t happened in 50 years.  And nobody would argue that we shouldn’t take fire precautions because they might scare the children.

In the St. John’s fire, the critical lesson learned was that doors to public buildings should open out. But no sane person would stop there and conclude that by changing the doors on the school that we could prevent fire deaths. We fixed one safety hazard, but continued identifying other hazards. Here are some of the other things we have done for school fire safety over the years:

  • We use fire-resistant building materials.
  • Students and staff have routine fire drills.
  • Firefighters are familiar with the layout of the schools in their area.
  • Exits are well marked and the exit signs have backup power.
  • Adequate fire hydrants are in place near schools.
  • The locations of fire stations take into account proximity to schools.
  • Fire extinguishers and fire alarms are required.
  • Most schools are equipped with sprinklers.

There are probably others that I’ve forgotten. But you get the idea. We haven’t had any fire fatalities because we have multiple redundant layers of protection. And nobody says that doing all of these things makes us paranoid. We’ve had zero fatalities because we do them.

During the same half century of extraordinary success in school fire safety, there have been more than 300 deaths from school shootings.  Security expert Lt. Col. Dave Grossman makes the compelling case
that we have to stop being in denial about school violence. Invariably, in the wake of a school shooting, the inclination is to come up with a single solution that will prevent the next one. But we need to take the same approach that we do to fire safety: What we really need are multiple redundant layers of protection. Some of the possibilities suggested by Grossman include:

  • Have an (armed) police officer in the school.
  • Have a single point of entry to the building and classrooms.
  • Have regular drills
  • Allow police officers to carry weapons off duty. Grossman points out that nobody considers it paranoid for an off-duty firefighter to have a fire extinguisher in the trunk of the car when dropping his or her kids off at school. And it would be no more paranoid for a parent who was a police officer to be prepared.
  • Equip all patrol officers with rifles and smoke grenades.
  • Be prepared to use fire hoses to deal with active shooters.
  • Finally, Grossman points out that “armed citizens can help.”

Will any one of these steps prevent every possible school shooting scenario? No. Having a police officer in the school is not the one magic bullet that will prevent every school shooting. Having the responding officer equipped with a rifle in his or her trunk is not the one magic bullet that will prevent every school shooting. And having a handful of random citizens armed is not the one magic bullet that will prevent every school shooting.

But having sprinklers is not the one magic bullet that will prevent every fire death. Having fire drills is not the one magic bullet that will prevent every fire death. Having doors that open out is not the one magic bullet that will prevent every fire death. But we did all of those things anyway, because if we do all or most of these things, then it is very likely that these multiple redundant precautions together will prevent most fire deaths. The last half century of American history proves that this is true.

A hundred years ago, when 21 girls were killed in a school fire, we learned one lesson, but we also kept on learning our lessons. Lessons were learned from the fire at Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago on December 1, 1958 when 95 were killed. The net result is that we have learned these lessons, and we continue to have multiple redundant layers of security to prevent them. And because those measures have proven so successful, we keep at it.  Nobody says that we’re paranoid.  Nobody tells us to stop because we’ll scare the children.  We simply do what we need to do because it works.

According to, these are the names of the girls killed in the fire a hundred years ago today:

  • Agnes Ahearn
  • Mabel Theresa Beauchamp
  • Helen Theresa Bresnahan
  • Florence Burke
  • Nellie Elizabeth Carty-Burns
  • Patroni Chebator
  • Elizabeth Comeau
  • Catherine M. Compiano
  • Ann Daleski
  • Florence Doherty
  • Mary Ida Essaimbre
  • Mildred Fay
  • Marion Hayes
  • Annie Jones
  • Helen Keefe
  • Annie L. Kenney
  • Mary Elizabeth McCarthy
  • Mary Meade
  • Elizabeth Nolan
  • Annie E. O’Brien
  • Catherine M. O’Connell

At that same site, you can view the statue erected in 2005 in memory of the girls who were killed. It depicts two of them in the embrace of their Saviour.

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See Us at Freedom2015, Nov. 6-7, Des Moines

When we’re not busy posting pictures of old radios, one of our more serious concerns is the state of religious liberty in America.  Therefore, we will be attending Freedom2015, a religious liberty conference in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday November 6 and Saturday November 7.  The conference has a number of nationally recognized speakers scheduled, including presidential candidate Ted Cruz.  If you’re attending, please look for me.  I’ll probably be wearing my bright yellow shirt.

One of the conference sponsors is Samaritan Ministries, about which I’ve written in other posts.  If you plan on attending, please let me know so that I can say hello!

Ahmed’s Clock

Irving, TX, Police Dept. photo, via NY Daily News.

Irving, TX, Police Dept. photo, via NY Daily News.

Ahmed Mohammed is a bright 14-year-old student in Irving Texas.  He made the digital clock shown above in a pencil case, and this week brought it to school.  He showed it to one teacher who was impressed.  He then put it away in his backpack, but it started beeping during another class.

The other teacher apparently believed that bright kids shouldn’t bring unusual looking things to school.  The principal was called, and then the police were called.  Ahmed was arrested for having what someone believed to be a “hoax bomb.”

Nobody thought it was a real bomb.  Ahmed didn’t think it was a hoax bomb.  It was a clock, and it presumably told time.  He told the police that it was a clock.  He didn’t elaborate any further, because there was nothing to elaborate about.  He could have said that it told time, but presumably the cops in Irving, Texas, already knew that clocks told time.  But because he didn’t elaborate further, he was arrested.

Last month, I posted on this site the digital clock shown below in a 1975 picture.


As you can see, this clock is just like Ahmed’s, just a lot bigger.  As you can see, there are students in the background, and they don’t appear to be freaking out because there’s a big homemade clock in the room.  The teacher wasn’t alarmed.  The principal wasn’t alarmed.  The police weren’t alarmed.  They realized that it was a homemade clock, built from plans in a magazine.  And even though it presumably had a much greater explosive potential than Ahmed’s clock, nobody was concerned.

In 1975, there was nothing wrong with a kid making something unusual and bringing it to school.  Today, a kid might get arrested for doing the same thing.  And it’s a damn shame.

Stop it, people.  Use a little bit of common sense for a change.

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800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta

Magna Carta (Wikipedia image).

Magna Carta (Wikipedia image).

No free man will be taken or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled in any way ruined, nor shall we go or send against him, save by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.

–Magna Carta, Chapter 39.

Today marks the 800th Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, June 15, 1215. In the photo below, the great charter is delivered to the United States in 1939 for safekeeping during the War.


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Secret Transmitter at the Hauptmann Trial?

LindberghCourtroomOn February 13, 1935, the jury in the Lindbergh kidnapping case returned its verdict, finding Bruno Richard Hauptmann guilty, and recommending the death penalty.

The case was the “crime of the century,” and the reporters present at the trial were eager to scoop their colleauges. The courtroom was locked when the jury returned, but the Associated Press figured out a way to get the news out of the courtroom. Their reporter carried a small transmitter in his briefcase, and upon hearing the verdict, he was to send a prearranged code with the news. A nearby AP telegrapher would be listening, and immediately telegraph the news to AP headquarters.

The code for guilty, but with a recommendation for mercy, meaning life in prison, was four dots. That night, the AP scooped the competition, and radio listeners around the country heard the news that Hauptmann would get life in prison. But unfortunately for the listening public (and for Hauptmann), the verdict was actually guilty of first degree murder, meaning the electric chair. The AP issued a correction a few minutes later.

The little mixup was caused by someone else having the same idea. The New York Daily News also came up with the idea of smuggling a transmitter into the locked courtroom, and the Daily News’ signal of four dots meant merely that the jury had entered the courtroom.

This story was recounted 80 years ago this month in the June 1935 issue of Shortwave Craft magazine. The article is probably written by publisher Hugo Gernsback, and as with most of what he wrote, it contains a good bit of self-promotion. He included the photo of a briefcase shortwave receiver that had been featured in the magazine three years earlier, in the June 1932 issue.


Undaunted by the fact that what he had published had been a receiver, he notes that “with a slight change in the connections, this receiver is easily converted into a transmitter for code signals, such as those used at the Hauptmann trial.”

I haven’t found any corroboration of this incident. Gernsback’s support of his theory comes from his assertion that the reporters in question didn’t deny it when he asked about it. It seems a bit far-fetched, since it depends on both the AP and the Daily News happening to use the same frequency for their clandestine transmitters. Since the transmission would necessarily be so short, it would be imperative for the listener to be tuned to the exact frequency prior to the signal. It seems that the chances of both papers using the same frequency just by chance are pretty slim.

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Moses “Moe” Annenberg

RadioGuideMastheadOne source that we frequently take advantage of is Radio Guide Magazine, which was published from 1931 to 1943. In addition to program listings, it contained features regarding radio, including what was happening on the shortwave bands. The published, as can be seen from this clip from the masthead of a 1937 issue, was one Moses “Moe” Annenberg, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer as well as dozens of other publications.

He is shown here leaving the courtroom of federal Judge James Herbert Wilkersonn after pleading guilty to tax evasion. He had been indicted for evading over $3 million in taxes from 1932-36, and pleaded guilty to the count covering 1936, in which he ws charged with evading $1.2 million in taxes. It was the largest tax evasion case to date. Annenberg was sentenced to three years, and he died in prison in 1942.

He was the father of Walter Annenberg, who took over the reins of Radio Guide, and later founded TV Guide.

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