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Surfin’: Beyond Bonaire -- It Was Like Magic


By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ can’t get enough of that listening to the radio (AM and shortwave) back when The Beatles were still making music.

Missing the Netherlands Antilles struck a chord with many of you last week. So much so that I collected all your words for this week’s column.

Long-time radio friend, Pete Kemp, KZ1Z, wrote, “Trans World Radio was on 800 kHz, the same frequency as Danbury, Connecticut’s WLAD. In the days prior to sunset sign-offs, TWR was a regular during the mid-winter. Otherwise it was the mighty CKLW, a huge rock station just over the line from Detroit. Even today, CKLW engenders memories of the ’60s.

“During an opening on 6 meters last year, I had a wonderful QSO going with a VE, when we got on the subject of CKLW. Come to find out he was a professional broadcaster in Canada. As we chatted about some history and fun times listening to AM, other stations kept joining in on our discussion. Without realizing it, this group spend nearly two hours smiling and sharing, with near six stations joining in at one time or another, all discussing one legendary station.

“One time I was giving driving directions on the Danbury repeater to a fellow looking for a church in Ridgefield (CT). I learned he was going to be making a presentation to their congregation about Trans World Radio and their radio missionary work. He was an engineer at TWR-800. It was a very interesting QSO.

“Here is my crazy CKLW story: One time CKLW’s ratings book came in and was being evaluated. A blip was noticed when Danbury, Connecticut showed up. Trying to explain this anomaly, it became apparent many Danbury area residents left their AM radios on 800 when WLAD left the air at sundown.”

Lauren Libby, W0LD, International President/CEO of Trans World Radio International wrote, “I read with great interest your comments regarding hearing TWR (Trans World Radio) Bonaire as an SWL. We still broadcast from Bonaire on 800 kHz. The shortwave facility is no longer on Bonaire and is covered from Guam, Swaziland and several other locations on the globe.”

He added, "We used to be at 500,000 W, downgraded to 100,000 W and are in the process of going back to 500,000 W.”

I promised to listen for TWR’s 800 kHz signal this winter.

John Rumbut, W1NET, opined, It’s hard to even explain to folks who are so used to being completely connected to everything on the Earth how it felt to find those stations back then. For a kid, it was like being part of secret club that told you about things in other parts of the world before it was in the paper or on TV.

"I will never forget the first time hearing the BBC back in the ’60s as a 10 year old with my 1945 GE receiver that I had picked up at a junk shop (remember those places?). Here I was in my little bedroom in Massachusetts, listening to someone over in England with the antenna I had strung up from the roof -- my parents had no clue why I was doing this -- to a pine tree. It was like magic.

“That was all because that Easter I had received The ARRL Handbook as a gift from my parents who had no idea what it was about, but had seen radios on the cover and knew I was interested in them. That also led me to the path of being an electrical engineer.”

Robert West, AA4ZT, wrote, “Reading your column this morning was another interesting trip down memory lane for me. I still have a QSL card from TWR Bonaire (flamingo and tower, as I remember) that I got from listening on my Knight Kit Ocean Hopper. Your posts always have good information, but I love the nostalgia.”

Alan Applegate, K0BG, remembered, “Sitting for long hours listening to HCJB and others broadcasting all sorts of stories, even as late as 1985. One particular broadcast sticks in my mind to this day. In late 1979, I took a very long, one-leg trip from Austin back to Denver, where I lived. I had recently installed an Icom IC-701 in my car and it had general coverage receive. HCJB was broadcasting the story of Robinson Crusoe. Driving during the three hours it took to finish the story, seemingly was over in 15 minutes. Wouldn't it be nice if we could do that today?”

I replied that when I was a youngster, there were still a few radio dramas on the air. I remember that they were so interesting, that they distracted me from our long family road trips that would otherwise be very boring.

Chip Margelli, K7JA, commented, “I miss the Canal Zone myself. Sniff.”

To which I wrote, “I’m with you. I think that KZ5 was my first confirmed DXCC entity to be deleted.”

Until next time, keep on surfin’!

Editor’s note: Despite high hopes, Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, was very disappointed in the film Pirate Radio. To contact Stan, send him e-mail or add comments to his blog, which has now been visited by a black bear four times and counting.



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