Famous Key Returning to KPH
When we first began our project to restore KPH pretty much the first thing we did was pore over all the black and white photos of the station that are in the archives of the Point Reyes National Seashore. One in particular is memorable. It shows KPH op Les Berger (LR) at his operating position, Collins and RCA receivers at the ready, plying his trade with his personal Vibroplex.
Les is keying with his right hand and writing with his left hand - a skill most professional ops tried to teach themselves. You wanted to be able to take notes without interrupting your contact with the ship. The funny thing is that this caused the PRNS to print the photo reversed, thinking that Les must be writing with his right hand!
The other notable thing in the photo is the weight on Les' key. It's a cable clamp! upon seeing the photo Chief Op RD immediately scrounged a cable clamp for his bug exclaiming, "If it's good enough for Les it's good enough for me!"
|Les plying his Vibroplex at KPH. |
Luckily, Les' key passed into the caring hands of Ron D'Eau Claire. With wonderful generosity, Ron has offered the key to the MRHS for preservation. Ron writes:
HOW I ENDED UP WITH LR'S KEY:
LR had club feet which made him ineligible for the military in WWII, so he went to sea as an R.O. in the Merchant Marine. After the war he came ashore and became a teacher in southern California. He lived in Upland, California, east of Los Angeles.
In 1953, I was a sophomore in Redlands High School, about 30 miles east of Upland. Having gotten my Ham license a year before and eagerly learning all I could about radio, I naturally signed up for the "Radio Shop" class the school offered as an elective course. LR was the teacher. That was the beginning of a friendship that lasted 34 years. In addition to holding a first class radiotelegraph license, LR was also a Ham, K6ETY.
The following year LR moved on to another school and I lost track of him for a time.
But while I was his Radio Shop student he nurtured in me the interest with radio as a career. Thanks to his encouragement I worked with a buddy who was two years older than I and who went into Broadcast Engineering studies at a junior college the following year. I "shadowed" his studies and by the time he finished the two-year college program and I graduated High School in 1956 we both had earned our First Class Radio Telephone licenses with ship radar endorsements. On that basis Lockheed Aircraft hired me as a Radio and Repair Technician at their aircraft service facility in nearby Ontario, California starting the Monday after I graduated from High School. And there I bumped into L.R. again who had chucked up teaching and was working as a Radio/Radar tech himself.
In time I added a Second Class Radio Telegraph license since aircraft still used CW capabilities in those days so having it brought more interesting and higher paying work assignments.
Eventually, with the "revolving door " employment practices of the aerospace industry in those days, L.R. and I parted ways again.
Several years later - 1962 - I got a call from Les saying that Lockheed was looking for technical writers. I checked and was immediately hired, so once again Les and I found ourselves working together at Lockheed Missiles and Space in Sunnyvale CA. When that job ended a year later I decided to stay in the San Francisco area and went to work as an engineering writer for Sylvania's Reconnaissance Systems Laboratories in Mountain View and there, and shortly afterward, Les joined me working as a writer there.
After a while he said he had enough of office life and went back to sea. He must have purchased this key about that time. The serial number indicates that it was manufactured in the very early 1960's.
I still regret that I didn't follow him because I also chafed sitting behind a desk in an office all day.
But, after a number of years at sea, LR came ashore and went to work for KPH. By now he married (for the first time in his life) his childhood girlfriend Lou, who had become a widow years before, and was living in Point Reyes Station. He brought me out to see KPH in full operation, which I have never forgotten.
By then I had quit sitting at a desk and was a technician for Mackay Communications in Berkeley repairing electronics on ships visiting the San Francisco bay, making use of the telegraph license to service radio consoles. Les and I were frequently in touch during those years and I had the pleasure of working KPH on occasion from vessels running along the coast on sea trials. I think I had more fun than he did since I got to literally enter a new country every time I walked up a gangplank to a ship. I have fond memories of officers and crews from all over the world that I worked with, in addition to USN personnel on ships like the Hospital Ship USNS Mercy whose civilian radio equipment I took care of. Les and I spoke by telephone from time to time and I'd visit him on rare occasions when I was free and not on call for Mackay.
And then I got word that LR had passed on quite suddenly while dressing one morning - a few days before Christmas 1987. When he didn't answer her call, Lou discovered him sitting with one sock on and one sock still in his hand.
Lou passed his key onto me.
|LR's key - with cable clamp weight. |
Although I've used a bug since the 50's I found LR's very difficult to use. The pendulum would not slow the dits down below about 30 wpm! Then I saw the picture on the KPH web site with the cable-clamp weight. That was an "aha" moment for me. So the clamp on the key is not the same one LR used, but it's the same size and it works great. It's a heavy feel, but not really unpleasant.
I have not used the key much. Shortly after I got my Ham license in 1952 I acquired an E.F. Johnson version of the famous Les Logan Speed-X bug and it is still my favorite key today. LR's key has languished in the box except when I felt guilty about not giving such a nice instrument a workout from time to time.
I thought it would be a perfect tribute to an old friend to see it back where LR spent so many enjoyable hours at work, if you have a home for it. KPH was the one job that I never heard him grumble about. Indeed, I envied how happy he was with his home and work there. I was still working on ships when commercial CW came to an end or I would probably have been knocking on the door of KPH looking for a seat and a place to plug in my key.
|LR's bug with the Dymo label showing his sine. |
I'd love to come visit KPH again and bring the key to you, but I have no idea when I can make the trek from the central Oregon coast near Newport to the Bay Area again. So I'll be happy to package and ship it down to you if you want it
The only original thing it did not have with it when I got it was the lead with the special connector that attached to a straight key.
Merry Christmas and thank you for your work on preserving the RadioTelegraph heritage.
Ron D'Eau Claire - AC7AC, ex AC6Y, W6QAS
We mentioned Ron's wonderful offer to Jack Martini, last station manager of KPH. Jack writes:
Thanks for passing this on RD.
It brought back many fond memories of my relationship with Les. He and I had many long conversations about his feet deformity and how his parents would not treat him any differently than his siblings. One incident especially moved me when LR told me about a family hiking outing.
He was the tail end Charlie on a narrow path in the mountains. They came upon a washed out area in the path which had a 3 foot break in the path and required everyone to jump to the other side in order to continue. When LR's time came to jump, he hesitated at the edge, afraid to fall a 10 foot drop if he failed. His parents encouraged him from the other side of the path, but LR said they would would not help me across it. They said if the other kids could make it, so could he, and they went on their way. Les stood there for a few minutes, and then made the try. He was successful as he was for the rest of his life's endeavors. He never forgot that jump on the path and its meaning.
There were many other personal conversations I had with LR that helped shape my life for the better by listening to his philosophies and adapting them to my learning processes.
Like RF (Dick Flint), LR was a dear friend and colleague who helped a young punk Marine Corp telegrapher become a better man and professional.
Wishing you and all of the MRHS members a merry Xmas and HNY.
We know we don't have to explain to the True Believers who are our readers how much the donation of this key means to us. It will be well cared for and fully documented so in the future folks will know its true importance.
QTC - Messages to the MRHS
We occasionally post email communications from True Believers. Here are some recent ones we'd like to share.
Hello I am N2KPS Ted here in Hazlet NJ. My friend N3PDT Doug was on SKCC web chat and I thought I was telling him about this fantastic mega station I came across doing some cw research. So he tels me yeah they are on right now, I say no way.
Heard you on 80m faint but I knew 40m is the magic band for me and my equipment. The station as it was is on QRZ, but is in the process of relocation in the house. The Yaesu 767GX is on the coffee table for the holidays, one hundred watts power and an end fed vertical up about 35ft. So no kilowatt available this time.
The odds of this contact occurring like it did is incredible. I was not hooked to the antenna because of a massive storm and wind just before I hooked up, then the storm came back with a vengeance and I was afraid my antenna would snap in half again or the thunder and lightning might get me and the rig.
Despite this sudden change, I was not going to let this contact go, I really felt like an operator who had to get the signal through under extreme conditions. A very realistic experience considering the prestige of contacting a historic site and the privilege of working a first class cw operator. My cw skills are still under development, I wish I had better copy that I do, but I am satisfied with what I got down considering the rough band conditions.
I want to personally thank you Mike for staying with me and providing the excellent fist and speed to accommodate my little station here in NJ. I can't wait to tell everybody at my club about the site out there and plan to encourage some I know including myself to see if we can help support the site.
I don't even want to think of the possibility that the facilities could end up off the air and another valuable piece of American heritage and history forgotten and destroyed. I will be thinking of ways more operators and the general public can come to know of the site. We as ham operators can not grasp the full magnitude of what it was like to be a real cw operator in a professional sense and what it was like to work in a super station.
Many thanks and my Best 73
Thanks to you Ted. We look forward to more contacts with N2KPS in 2013.
May the holiday season bring you joy and happiness. You know you are all my
heroes. As a young boy I would sit in my room at night with an old Hallicrafters
receiver tuned to 500kc and copy c.w..
There was always something special then about listening to ships and imagining what the radio rooms were like, wondering what the position of the ship was on the high seas. I can still see the glow of radio valves,shining through the cabinet of the receiver and lighting the wall in my room.
I am 64 now and have been a ham since I was 13 years old. I will get an xmas card off to Denice Stoops in MI and wish her well. I really enjoyed the photo of all you guys at the table with the pastries. You are the finest men in the world of radio and there are damn few left. God bless you all and thank you for bringing much joy to an old ham.
Every once in a while one of these new young radio kids will ask me, "Mr. Gross is it hard to learn morse code"? I will say come over here in front of this Yaseu FT950 and sit down. Lets put the roofing filter at 6khz,the mode c.w., lets try to find a c.w. station around 7.050 .00 mhz and see if I can help you copy morse code. By golly I start to feel like an "elmer" again leading someone in to the fraternity of radio operators.
It's letters like these from Ted and Greg that let us know that our project means a lot to a lot of people besides us. Thanks to you all for all your comments, suggestions and support in 2012.
Okay, we realize this might require a little in the way of explanation. Here's the story:
Early in our project folks were also working on the restoration of historic WWII ships, including the original radio consoles, usually Radiomarine units. SS JEREMIAH O'BRIEN/KXCH, home ported in San Francisco, was one of these. When they first brought their main transmitter up on 500kc needless to say we heard it loud and clear. But as they tuned it up it made the sounds characteristic of transmitters of that vintage, something along the line of YYYeeeOOOwwww! One of us said, "Hell, that sounds like someone is stepping on a cat!" So forever after our log entries, when we hear a station tuning up on 500kc state: "CAT STEPPING OBSERVED".
Well, the metaphoric cat was once again squeezed on Saturday 29 December. After that we heard KXCH calling KSM. Of course we answered. But we got no reply from the ship. This went on for most of the day. It was only later that we found out that the op aboard the ship was listening to us on 4Mc, not 500kc! True, we have said that when answering a ship we wil key all channels so all listeners can hear at least one side of the contact. But the weather was going out on HF at the time KXCH called so Mike elected to answer on 500kc only.
Next time we hope to have a full exchange with KXCH on MF. And of course the full story will be posted here.
K6KPH was on the air for Straight Key Night and KSM was on the air as well. On the amateur side we worked a total of 42 stations. KSM worked SS RED OAK VICTORY/KYVM (MRHS Transmitter Supervisor Steve Hawes at the key) on 500kc and 426kc and copied this radiogram:
WISHING YOU ALL THE BEST IN THE NEW YEAR AND THANK YOU FOR KEEPING MARITIME HISTORY ALIVE
The operators at KSM/K6KPH included Larry Laitinen, True Believer First Grade, who traveled in his camper from Eugene, OR to be with us, Mike Payne who tended mainly to KSM duties but managed a few K6KPH contacts as well, and Richard Dillman.
My New Years Eve was made tonight by a great CW QSO with Dick at K6KPH. Yes, the ham station at KPH is up and working CW on 40m at this very minute, on 7050. Was a great contact with you guys, great fists tonight! Thanks again!!