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World Radio Labs Founder Leo Meyerson, W0GFQ (SK)

04/15/2011

Leo Meyerson, W0GFQ, of Omaha, Nebraska, passed away on Wednesday, April 13. He was 100. In 1935, Meyerson, an ARRL Life Member, founded Wholesale Radio Laboratories -- the forerunner to World Radio Labs -- in Council Bluffs, Iowa. For his contributions to Amateur Radio, Meyerson was named the 1997 Ham of the Year at the Dayton Hamvention.

In honor of Meyerson’s 100th birthday, Chapter 154 of the Quarter Century Wireless Association (QCWA) hosted a birthday party for him and ran W0G as a special event station on February 24. QCWA National President Bob Roske, N0UF, requested that hams who would like to join the celebration send Meyerson a QSL card and write “Happy 100th Birthday, Leo on it. Hams have told the ARRL that Meyerson received “hundreds, if not thousands” of birthday QSLs.

Meyerson collaborated with Jim Musgrove, K5BZH, on his autobiography, called In Tune with Leo. “Leo Meyerson is someone who really impressed me,” Musgrove told the ARRL. “He may not have been tall, but he was certainly a giant of a man. Leo’s interest in radio developed in 1920 at the age of 9. It was that year that KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania first went on the air. As more broadcast stations hit the ether, Leo listened for them and logged the ones he heard. In 1924, Leo found a set of plans in a magazine that described how to build a breadboard transmitter. Leo -- already known as ‘That Crazy Meyerson Kid’ -- built one and put it on the air. No, it was not legal. He played the piano and records. That stunt earned Leo the distinction of being the first broadcast station in Council Bluffs. It also caused him to find two visitors at the Meyerson’s front door who wanted to see the transmitter and advised him that he was operating illegally.”

Musgrove recalled that a bit later Leo started removing turns off the plug-in coils on a receiver so he could listen to those higher frequencies that he had read about in magazines: “In 1927, he heard W9CHT, his first encounter with a ham. That experience really captured his attention. In 1928, Leo got his ham license, W9GFQ. In those days, there was no 0 call district.”

Meyerson attended college in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he planned on a career as a musician; he was an accomplished piano and French horn player. “He had teamed with another young man, Leo Skalowski, and they called their act Leo and Leo,” Musgrove explained. “They were on their way to achieving success, but one evening while waiting at the theater, Leo received a call that Skalowski had been killed in an auto accident. This hit Leo hard, and he ended his desire for a music career and quit school.”

Meyerson returned home and began working in his father’s grocery store; in January 1933, he opened his own store. Two months later, he married Helen Wolinsky. She passed away a few years ago. When the lease on his store expired, his father encouraged Meyerson to come back and work for him, but he had been bitten by the electronics bug and decided to go into business selling things that radio amateurs needed.

“Leo spent a lot of hours and hard work to make it play, but WRL became a successful operation,” Musgrove told the ARRL. “During World War II -- when Amateur Radio was shut down -- Leo and a friend Al Shideler, W9IFI, launched Scientific Radio Products to manufacture FT-243 crystals for Uncle Sam. It was a very successful operation and the crystals from that operation still surface at hamfests. After the war, Leo sold his interest to Al so he could focus on WRL again. Al took the operation across the river to Omaha and later to Loveland, Colorado. The last I knew, Al’s son was still running it as Colorado Crystal Corporation.”

WRL Manufacturing, a subsidiary of WRL, soon began offering the Globe line of sturdy, reliable AM/CW transmitters; these rigs used proven circuit designs with comfortable operating margins. All but the smallest beginner’s rigs had full high-level AM modulation, and all but the massive Globe King 500 were available as a kit or wired.

In 1953, the company name was changed to WRL Electronics, and then to Globe Electronics in 1956. In 1959, the company was sold to Textron. Meyerson continued in the retail radio business with World Radio, getting back into manufacturing with Galaxy Electronics in 1962. This company was sold to Hy-Gain in 1970. Meyerson retired in 1977, dividing his time between Omaha and the California desert, and continuing as an active radio amateur until his death.

The Globe emblem first appeared on products made by World Radio Labs with the 1948 model Globe Champion transmitter. The early units produced 150 W input on phone or CW with coverage from 160-10 meters; the rig was a two section unit, complete with power supply. The RF section sold complete with tubes, power supply, panel and one set of coils as a kit for $149, and wired for $159. The speech amplifier and modulator sections were sold separately. This unit was the beginning of a long line of rigs from WRL Globe through the 1950s, including the Globe King, Globe Scout, Globe Chief and the first sideband rig, the Globe SideBander -- a double sideband transmitter.

“Leo provided a lot of help with emergency communications during a 1952 flood in Council Bluffs,” Musgrove told the ARRL. “The Meyerson residence became a meeting place for about 100 people from such places as the Red Cross, Civil Air Patrol and the National Guard, as well as the police and fire departments. WRL loaned ham equipment to set-up some stations. More than 150 hams from 23 states helped assist. The entire Meyerson family was and still is an impressive bunch and is very community-minded.”

In 1964, Meyerson teamed up with his friend Hugh Tinley, K0GHK, to fly down to British Honduras to participate in the ARRL International SSB DX Contest. Musgrove said that Father Phil Pick, HR2FP, made arrangements for them to be housed, bedded and set up in a mountain retreat some 90 miles away from Belize City. Meyerson operated as VP1GFQ.

Funeral services are planned for Sunday, April 17 at 2 PM at the Temple Israel Cemetery Chapel in Omaha.  -- Thanks to the following for information: Jim Musgrove, K5BZH; Joe Eisenberg, K0NEB; Brian Sherrod, W5AMI, and Hugh Stegman, NV6H



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