MRHS Newsletter No. 47

Dedicated to True Believers Worldwide

18 August 2014

Newsletter back issues HERE                                        MRHS Web site HERE

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> Report from the Department of The Exchequer 

> Meet, Greet and EAT!

> Night of Nights Report

> Mini Night of Nights - MF Madness in October!

> The Homes of (K)PH

> An Idyl of KPH

> Project Ivory Soap - Top Secret Aircraft Repair Ships of WWII


> Report from the Department of the Exchequer

Once again we must take a moment before we dive into the substance of Newsletter 47 to thank all those who have contributed to The Cause.  We know you've heard it all before, how we fund the project largely from our own pockets and how much we appreciate the donations of True Believers that allow us to take on the expensive projects like antenna repair and restoration that are beyond our personal means.  But there's more to it than that.  Every donation, large or small, lets us know that there are others for whom our work is as important as it is to us.  They understand that all the restoration, repair and preservation work we do is only the platform upon which our real goals rests.  And that overarching goal is to assure that the skills, traditions and culture our heroes, the men and women who came before us, are preserved. 

If you feel that goal is worthy of your support please take a moment to click on the yellow button to join us in keeping the flame of maritime Morse communications alive.

VY 73,



Make a Donation



 > Meet, Greet and EAT! 

What could be better?  Meet with your fellow True Believers for a benefit banquet at the historic Marconi receive station.

On Friday 19 September there will be a centennial banquet at the Marconi Conference Center in Marshall, CA.


The banquet and presentation will be held in the renovated powerhouse at the original Marconi receiving station site on the scenic east shore of Tomales Bay. Mingle for drinks on the terrace overlooking the bay and then enjoy a banquet in the historic atmosphere to celebrate the first trans-Pacific wireless transmission across the Pacific to Hawaii in September of 1914.  This event is a re-creation of the original banquet held in celebration of commencement of trans-Pacific wireless service.

Follow in the footsteps of these dignitaries at the 1914 banquet celebrating the commencement of trans-Pacific wireless communications 

 A photo of the event will be made by famous photographer Art Rogers using a vintage large format camera.  Attire can be anything from creative black tie to informal.  But remember, the group photo will live down through the ages like the one above so you may want to spiff it up a bit. 


The event is a fund raiser for the Maritime Radio Historical Society. Tickets are $100 for full admittance to the banquet and the presentation.  The benefit supports ongoing efforts by the MRHS in partnership with the National Park Service to preserve and restore the historic equipment and operations at the radio sites and make them available for public tours and education. President of the Maritime Radio Historical Society, Richard Dillman will be the featured speaker.  Richard's presentation will include many never before seen historic photographs.


Click below to purchase tickets for this event.  There are only 45 places available at the banquet so get your ticket order in early.


Eventbrite - Marconi Centennial Banquet




 > Night of Nights 2014 Report  


Well, it was the usual shambles.  At the receive site anyway.  It seems that no matter how long we allow for preparation it always comes down to a last minute frenzy as 0001Z approaches.  This year we had a special thrill then the Boehme paper tape reader for the wheel shorted our with a rather startling ZORT!, knocking out the lights and several receivers at Position 1.  However we soldiered on and the opening message went out on time which was the main thing.


On the plus side we want to report that a maximum crowd was in attendance at the receive site - literally out the door.  We think it was the biggest crowd we've had yet.  Next year it's velvet ropes and a doorman.  Just kidding.


In addition to on the air operations tall tales were told and radio gossip was swapped.  In other words we had a grand time.


The photos below were provided by Mr. Larry Laitinen, a True Believer if there ever was one.  Thanks, Larry! 


Chief Op Richard Dillman setting up Position 1 to send the Night of Nights opening message.  This was before the startling ZORT! of the short circuit just to his right caused him to stitch a few new button holes in the operating chair. 



Roy Henrichs of the Operations Department doles out the K6KPH contacts  from Position 6 



  Friar Stephen King of the Operations Department gestures hypnotically toward visitors in the SITOR room at the receive site 



  Transmitter Supervisor Steve Hawes explains the keying system used to control the transmitters in the control room at the Bolinas transmit site  



  The 1942 Press Wireless PW15 transmitter was the authoritative voice of station KFS on 12Mc 


Next to radios the thing radiomen like best seems to be chocolate.  So each year we have a pleasantly gooey chocolate cake which is cut at the transmit site just before the benediction is sent at midnight and we all head for home, tired but happy

In summation, it was a blast.  We know that some stations calling K6KPH could not make contact before closing time.  For this we apologize.  All the QSLs and reception reports have been sent to Paul Shinn for action so if you're waiting for yours it should be on its way soon.  Meanwhile, why not make your plans to join us for the next Night of Nights?

> Mini Night of Nights - MF Madness in October!

It's tough for many folks to copy the MF signals of KSM during our normal daytime (Pacific time) operations.  We've often thought about a mini Night of Nights during the winter that would continue into the evening hours and emphasize MF operations.

Well, get your MF receivers working and grease up your Beverage antennas because we've finally decided to proceed with the event!

We'll be working in cooperation with Dr. Fritz Raab who's the coordinator for the ARRL 500kc experiment.  He's organizing a concurrent event during which the experimental stations that have been authorized for MF operation will also be on the air.

This event marks the 106th anniversary of the Berlin Treaty that created the international distress frequency at 500kc. US experimental stations, Canadian amateur stations and commercial coast stations like KSM will be on the air.

KSM will keep 500kc and its working frequency 426kc active with special messages, weather and traffic lists.

KSM's mighty 5kW transmitter A7 will be declaring its weight on 500kc and 426kc

For US experimental stations, this will be a CW event.  The main activities will include the transmission of beacons with special anniversary messages. Other stations will simulate maritime communication by making contact on a designated calling frequency, then shift to a working frequency to complete the QSO. Silent periods will be observed.  The frequency bands are 465 to 480 kHz and 495 to 510 kHz. Different licensees have different frequency authorizations. 

The dates for the experimental event are weekend of October 31 - November 2.  More information may be found at

KSM will be on the air as usual on Saturday 1 November (Pacific time) but will extend its operating hours beyond its usual closing time to give listeners the best chance of copying our MF signal during hours of darkness.  KSM HF operations will also continue into the evening.

> The Homes of (K)PH

As faithful readers of these pages will recall, KPH began life in 1905 as a United Wireless station in San Francisco in the Palace Hotel, with the obvious call PH.  We had a little problem in San Francisco in 1906 which began the station's odyssey from place to place before moving to Marin County north of San Francisco in 1920 and finally to the RCA point to point receive site at Point Reyes in 1946.

Some never before published photos of PH as it existed on Green Street in San Francisco post-earthquake have fallen into our hands.  We thought we'd introduce those pictures in a photo retrospective of homes of our favorite coast station through the years.

The Palace Hotel on Market Street as it appeared before the 1906 earthquake.  It thrills us to think that the masts seen in this photo might have supported the antenna of PH.

The PH operating position atop the Palace Hotel from the February 1917 edition of Pacific Radio News.  The story we hear is that the ops stood by for days... weeks... even months before working a ship because almost no Pacific coast ships were equipped with wireless!

Historic postcard showing PH Green Street in 1908, one of two station photos that have recently come to light. We hear that with the crashing rotary gap and the signal coming in on the bed
 springs of neighboring dwellings, PH was not considered a particularly good neighbor!
Here it is, a never before published photo of the PH shack and mast on Green Street, Russian Hill, San Francisco.  Of course now we want to see what was inside the shack.  But maybe that photo will eventually surface.  Meanwhile we want to thank Bart Lee, Esq. of the CHRS and especially Rachel Isbell Branch, curator of the Arthur A. Isbell Archives. (It's his 1908 photo and his handwriting at the top). Rachel is his grand niece.  It will be remembered that Arthur A. Isbell became general superintendent of the Radio Corporation of America, stationed at San Francisco.

Station management realized it was time to leave San Francisco before the neighbors brought out the pitchforks and torches so they picked this wonderful site at Hillcrest above Daly City, south of San Francisco.  It was in this lonely, windswept shack on the midnight watch that the Idyl of KPH took place (see next article).  Notice the Pacific Ocean and Lake Merced in the background.

We're nothing if not obsessive about things relating to KPH so MRHS operatives Mike Johnson and Richard Dillman decided to find the location of KPH Hillcrest.  Their first attempt revealed a gated community at the very top of the hill.  But not ones to give up, they found along the north slope of the hill the sacred ground on which the station once stood.  The cement pilings for the shack and the mast were still there.  And the Pacific Ocean and Lake Merced were in the background, just as in the original photo

Here's the interior of KPH Hillcrest where the Idyl of KPH took place.  The "coffin" (see below) was in an adjacent room.  The single op had a Marconi 106 receiver with outboard vacuum tube audio amp to the right plus all the usual motor controls and lightning switches that were common in rotary gap stations.  What might be considered uncommon was the .44 revolver in its holster nailed to the leg of the operating desk.  Captain Richard Johnstone, who was an operator at Hillcrest, says the gun was for "our little black & white friends", the skunks.  We think the last thing you want to do to an invading skunk is blast it with a .44 but we won't argue with Johnstone.

By 1920 KPH had made its move to Marin County, landing at the point to point receive site at Marshall.  Here are the ops, probably dressed up for the occasion, sitting in the world's most uncomfortable chairs, wearing the world's most uncomfortable headphones (Western Electric Model 509).  One op monitored 500kc in the IF band (Intermediate Frequency, what we now call MF) while the other monitored the LF band 124kc calling frequency.  Both had marvelous IP501A receivers and of course Underwood mills.

After WWII KPH moved into the short wave point to point receive station at Point Reyes where it remains today, with transmitters at Bolinas.  Here's one position of the two position installation.  Note the RCA CR-91 receivers and the Radiomarine LF/MF receiver to the left.  The paper tape loop for the wheel may be seen to the left.  The operating room later moved to the rear of the building when the former battery room was made available.

> An Idyl of KPH

Decades ago your editor read a tale of KPH in an obscure and antique journal of radio.  It made a deep impression since it concerned standing the night watch at KPH Hillcrest and the fantasies that can come to the mind of a young operator, on his own at that lonely outpost during that magic time of night when spirits and daemons or radio are likely to move among us.  But years of searching did not recover that vintage prose - until now.

The wonderful folks of American Radio History have made every issue of Wireless Age available on line.  The collection spans 1913 to 1925. 

Fair warning.  If you are half the True Believer we think you are, you are likely to become completely absorbed in this collection, refusing to emerge from your radio den for food or drink for days at a stretch.  Don't say we didn't tell you.  We'll supply the dangerous link to this collection below.  But first, join is for An Idyl of KPH.

Right.  Just as we figured.  You want more.  Well, who wouldn't?  So... just click HERE for all the issues.

> Project Ivory Soap - Top Secret Aircraft Repair Ships of WWII

Several years ago OM Don Driver did us the honor of sending information and photos about his service on a converted Liberty ship USS BRIGADIER GENERAL ALFRED J LYON (formerly USS NATHANIEL SCUDDER).  This ship was part of a fleet of top secret aircraft repair ships.  Approved by Army Air Corps Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, the Project Ivory Soap fleet consisted of 24 ships and 5,000 men.  The project was kept secret for 50 years but now Don tells us a little of his contribution to Allied victory:

Don Driver's high speed Morse operator certificate

I am enclosing se
veral pictures of the installations that were aboard the converted Liberty ship I served on for 13 months in the South Pacific during WWII.  I was in the Air Force and classified as a high speed Morse operator.  There were six units, called ARUF, in the Pacific and we maintained a net among the six stations on board the ARUF ships.  We worked on the military low bands for our net. 

Air Force radio room aboard ship 

I was also asked to serve in the ship's radio room where we monitored 500kc.  We were on what I believe was called the BAMS net - British and American Merchant Ships.  We copied their traffic but did very little transmitting on 500kc.

The ship's radio room was equipped with the standard Liberty ship Radiomarine 3U radio console and what appears to be earlier generation Radiomarine gear to the right 

The pictures depict both the Air Force radio setup and the ship's radio room.  I hope this will provide you with some info of interest to you and the readers of your Newsletter.

High power HF transmitter and additional gear, part of the Air Force radio equipment 

We thank Don for his service to our country and for sharing a small part of his wartime experience with us.




> MRHS Merchandise


Support the MRHS and look cool at the same time. Such a deal!  We've got hats, mugs, T shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers, all with variations of the MRHS logo.  Get a hat and mug for yourself and a put yourself in solid with the XYL by getting her a MRHS hoodie.


Plus you'll want to be looking sharp when you visit us on Night of Nights.  No better way to do that than to be rocking some MRHS swag. 


Click on the images to go to the True Believers Store







 Just click on the images above to go to the MRHS True Believers store and browse our offerings.  Thanks!




We very much look forward to hearing you on the air or seeing you in person on Night of Nights.  Until then we wish you the best of luck and fair winds & following seas.