MRHS Newsletter No. 53

Dedicated to True Believers Worldwide
3 December 2015

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> Warren Reese SK

> Mini Night of Nights Report

> Distinguished MRHS Visitor

> New KSM Customer - M/V Pomplun Circumstance/WDI4501

> Frank Geisel's Report No. 5 for September/October 1946

> Warren Reese SK

Before we get to anything else in this issue of the Newsletter it is our very sad duty to record the passing of our good friend and supporter Warren "Tracy" Reese. His key fell silent in November.

TR at the key at KPH

Tracy, whose sine was TR, was both a KPH Morse operator and the KPH technician in charge at the Bolinas transmitter site.  It was he who kept the 1950s vintage RCA transmitters on the air and it was he who supervised the installation of the new Henry HF and MF transmitters in the early 1990's.

TR standing before BL-10, the mighty 40kW KPH MF transmitter

When the KPH 300ft base insulated tower used for MF became unserviceable it was TR who came up with the idea of installing a Marconi T antenna in its place.  The cost was a fraction of what it would have taken to replace the tower but the KPH and KSM signal on 500kc and 426kc have been heard on Hawaii and Australia using this antenna.

TR had a sharp sense of humor.  Click HERE to read his story of how he and fellow engineer "Duke" Snyder got trapped in Building 1... and used BL-10 as a 40kW intercom!

TR was a friend and colleague to many, including Jack Martini, the last manager of KPH.  Jack writes:

Sad news to report.

Warren Reese passed away some time in November. No details as yet. TR was a fine telegrapher, and an excellent transmitter technician. We would not have survived as long as we did without his talent and dedication. He truly loved working at KPH. He was my friend and colleague in that order, and I'll miss him.

Regards to all,

TR never failed to provide his knowledge and experience to those who needed it.  And that includes the MRHS!  In the early days of our KPH restoration project, when we were still trying to get our minds around how all the infrastructure fit together and worked, it was TR who stepped up to assist.

TR adjusting a 902 tone set at the Bolinas transmit site on the first Night of Nights, July 2000

He also helped those just getting bitten by the radio bug.  Adam McLaughlin remembers:

TR was my Elmer and someone whom taught me everything I know about radio. He brought me with him to work at KPH every summer in the 1990s and let me copy ships from RS. We worked many Marconi day events from KPH until the station closed.  He was a very good friend and will be missed.

This summer at night of nights I told him how much I appreciate what he did for me over 7 MHz. I am very thankful that I got this chance

I will never forget you TR


In closing, we can only say VY 73 ES BV OM

> Mini Night of Nights Report

Mini Night of Nights 2015 was an event that TR would have enjoyed... and maybe he did.  As reported in Newsletter 52,  mNoN was a MF oriented event with KSM and K6KPH staying on the air well into the evening hours to give listeners around the world a chance at hearing our signals at times when we are not normally on the air.

Here's a report on the event from Stephen King (SM) of the Operations Department:

Once again this year the Maritime Radio Historical Society marked the anniversary of the Berlin Convention of 1906 by extending operations into the evening on November 13 (GMT), with a particular emphasis on Medium Frequency operations - effectively a "Mini Night of Nights."

The Berlin Convention established important protocols to bring order to the early days of maritime wireless, including the establishment of 600 meters and 300 meters as standard operating wavelengths in the maritime service, as well as fixing the international distress signal as the familiar SOS (...---...). Before the Berlin Convention wireless companies, dominated by the Marconi Company (whose American division acquired KPH in 1912 and built the Bolinas/Marshall station in 1914), each had their own competitive, and at times conflicting, protocols and procedures. Hence, the Berlin Convention was a key moment in the development of maritime wireless history.

To mark the 109th anniversary of the Berlin Convention, in conjunction with a Medium Frequency operating event for Canadian amateur stations and experimental license stations in the United States, MRHS San Francisco Radio/KSM offered extended operations until well into the evening to allow True Believers far and wide, afloat and ashore, the excitement of hearing activity once again on the sacred wavelength of 600 meters and "up."

Through the evening KSM broadcast the traffic list, memorial messages in honor of maritime history, and press broadcasts. Operations at the Point Reyes Receive Site (RS) were made more remarkable by putting the recently acquired 1947-vintage Radiomarine Corporation of America AR-8510 into service as our receiver on the working frequencies of 426 and 425 kc.

Enthralled mNoN visitor copies the KSM MF signal on the AR-8510, Fr. King in the background.  The power supply on the bottom shelf was built by Tom Harris (TH)

The highlight of this year's event was the activation of the lovingly restored Mackay radio console on SS RED OAK VICTORY/KYVM, docked at Richmond, California, by MRHS Transmitter Supervisor Steve Hawes (SH).


In the early evening Transmitter Supervisor Hawes turned over transmitter operations at Bolinas to Bob Venditti (VI) and proceeded to navigate the twisting coast road and Bay Area traffic snarls in order to keep the watch at KYVM.

Earlier in the day SS AMERICAN VICTORY/KKUI had sent radiogram traffic to KSM for relay to KYVM. Other revenue traffic was passed to and from KYVM through the evening, keeping 500 kc and the working frequencies of 425/426 kc active with the music of Morse.

We were honored this year by a number of esteemed guests at both the Bolinas transmitter site (BL) and the Point Reyes receive site (RS). Andru Livisi, KJ6YFD, successfully completed all the written and telegraphy elements to earn the coveted Radiotelegraph Operators License. Andru joined us at RS later in the day and sat the circuit at KSM, exercising his license privileges for the first time. He also composed and sent a special message that was broadcast on all KSM HF frequencies and on 426 kc. Congratulations, Andru!

If you want to learn how to follow in Andru's footsteps and join the fraternity of commercial radiotelegraph operators, Click Here.

We were also joined by Peter Hughes, N3PH, a former coast station operator at legendary Portishead Radio and a Radio Officer on QUEEN ELIZABETH 2/GBTT. We were all focused on soaking up all the maritime radio history and culture we could from Peter. Peter was kind enough to spend the afternoon sitting the circuit at K6KPH, giving our amateur customers the excitement of working a seasoned and highly skilled "sparks." We were honored by his presence and grateful for his years of service to maritime radio.

Last, but not least, we were joined by Dave Wolfe, former ship's radio officer, operator at WCC on Cape Cod, and renowned radio raconteur. As always for MRHS special events, Dave dutifully sat the circuit on K6KPH and filled the log with stations anxious to QSO the "Wireless Giant of the Pacific."

Later in the evening, Dave also honored us by sitting the circuit at KSM and sending a special message in remembrance of the Paris terrorist attack, which had occurred the previous day. If you heard a crisply sent message in French from KSM that evening that was the incomparable Dave Wolfe.

No MRHS event is complete without a hearty meal to please the palate of any wireless telegrapher. Operations and Maintenance Department member Roy Henrichs (RH) provided a savory Radioman's Stew that was enjoyed by all. Chief Operator Dillman, along with supervising all the operations at RS in the spirit of the great Frank Geisel, also provided a fabulous apple pie that quickly disappeared.

With the completion of the Narrow Band Direct Printing (RTTY & SITOR) press transmissions originating from Bolinas, Transmitter Department member Bob Venditti was able to secure operations at BL and join us for dinner at RS, as well as sitting the circuit at K6KPH until close of operations.

As operations continued into the late evening on the Pacific coast a continuous watch was maintained on 500 kc, as law and tradition demanded. However, we also made an effort to monitor the activities of our Canadian amateur and United States experimental station colleagues on MF. The following stations were monitored at RS - all QSA 5:

VE7SL (Mayne, BC),
VA7MM (Coquitlam, BC),
VE7BDQ (Delta, BC)

and USA experimental license station WD2XSH/20 (Cottage Grove, OR).

It was heartwarming to hear the narrow 472 - 479 kc band chock-a-block with fantastic Morse signals sending CQ's and marker signals reminiscent of the great coast stations of the past. These stations created an effect not unlike the magnificent recordings of 500 kc in Europe from the Golden Age of wireless telegraphy, where each coast station was assigned a frequency slightly above or below 500 kc in order to make each one sound distinctive.

We were also grateful for the many KSM MF signal reports we received by email and on the station landline (415-669-9646). We received MF signal reports for KSM and KYVM from as far away as Dallas, Texas and Hawaii.

The "Most Interesting Signal Report of the Night Award" goes to VK5EEE, Lou, in Adelaide, Australia. While we were not able to QSO with VK5EEE via K6KPH, former RO Lou, in the best traditions of the service, "sent" a radiogram in Morse to KSM via the telephone landline. We were honored to QSL that radiogram over the air to Lou via KSM on 22Mc. It never ceases to amaze the lengths that True Believers will go to to be, in some meaningful way, a part of our project of preserving and honoring the technology, history and culture of maritime radio.

VK5EEE in, we presume, earlier days

This year's Mini Night of Nights, focusing on MF operations, seems to have been another great success. But keeping all of our facilities on the air is an endless challenge. Faithful readers of the MRHS Newsletter will recall that one of the main supports of our Medium Frequency Marconi T transmitting antenna at the Bolinas station was felled during a winter storm last December. The loss of just one antenna support took our KSM Medium Frequency and K6KPH 3550 kc services out of service for half a year. Thanks to the contributions of True Believers, we were able to erect a makeshift MF antenna just in time for Night of Nights 2015. That makeshift antenna has continued to serve us ever since, but another Pacific coast winter is nigh. Your end-of year gift to the MRHS will go a long way in helping us to restore and preserve the entire Bolinas antenna field. The MRHS could not do what we do without generous True Believers as partners. If you can help us we would be grateful if you would click the "Make A Donation" button below. And don't forget that your end-of-year donation to the MRHS, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is completely tax deductible. Thank you ever so much for your continual generosity!

 Support the MRHS

It's hard to add much to what Friar King has said (that's right folks, we have the only known Morse code slinging Friar in captivity right here at the MRHS!). 

Well, maybe there's this: the biggest antenna under our care is a giant, four tower TCI-540 omnidirectional receive antenna at RS.  This is a multi-million dollar antenna once used by AT&T station KMI.  If we lose this antenna, it's gone forever. 


But wait!  Switch hitter Roy Henrichs (of both the MRHS Transmitter and Operations Departments and a genuine, certified engineer) has surveyed the antenna and identified what we need to do to make if mechanically secure into the future.  Mainly, this involves replacing the turnbuckles that are part of the tower guy system. 

Why mention this detail?  Those turnbuckles cost more than $4,000.

Why mention the cost?  Those dollars came from you and other True Believers who have made small (and sometimes astoundingly large!) contributions to the MRHS. 

Without those contributions there is no way we could fund the purchase of what's needed to keep KSM going.  Can you help us replenish the funds in the MRHS account?  Great!  We knew you would step up yet again.  Just click on the yellow button... and thanks!

Make a Donation

> Distinguished MRHS Visitor
Sometimes a series of connections and links strains belief.  Check this out: Andy Wiskes, who has provided his skills and support in our antenna projects, found himself in the emergency room.  Nothing too serious and Andy, with the energy we have come to associate with him, told the ER doc he needed to get out of there soon because he had an important event to attend - at the MRHS!  He and the doc chatted about our project and the doctor, Richard Bodony, said, "you know, my father, Andy Bodony, used to work for RCA".

We were deeply honored when Andy and Richard were able to visit the Point Reyes receive site in November.

It turns out that Andy Bodony, was an RCA engineer who worked Riverhead, Long Island, the receive site of Radio Central, the giant trans-oceanic station.  Not only that, he was responsible for much of the design of the SSB R3 dual diversity point to point receiver!  These were used at the Point Reyes site but all went to the dump.  It will be remembered by readers of this Newsletter that earlier this the MRHS located  the components of a SSB R3 earlier this year in Germany and had them shipped to us.  See Newsletter No. 51 for details.  We're sure you can imagine what it meant to meet the designer of this magnificent receiver.  Andy kindly offered to be a resource for us during the restoration process, which will be invaluable.

He also designed the 901 and 902 tone sets we use to key and control the transmitters in Bolinas from the Point Reyes receive site.  These were actually by TeleSignal and purchased by RCA - in the RCA color scheme.

Andy also founded and was the CEO of the Coherent company.  We were able to show him examples of his company's products at the receive site, including the tone keyers used to control sister station WCC from Point Reyes.

Andy Bodony with Coherent equipment at Point Reyes

Andy's life history is fascinating.  He told us how he escaped from Hungary after the Russian invasion and came to New York where he interviewed with RCA at 60 Broad Street in Manhattan.  If that's not enough, he was the one who sent the distress call from Hungary to the UN via ham radio during the invasion!

Andy remains an avid amateur radio operator and had to hurry home to the east coast so as not to miss the CQ World Wide DX contest - on CW of course!

We talked for hours at the receive site and later over lunch.  We covered a vast range of topics from anecdotes to technical details.  Andy reviewed many vintage photos and was able to fill in many blank spots in the history of point to point reception.

But wait, the connections continue.  Andy had a home in Westbury, LI where Richard grew up.  Your editor, also Richard, also grew up in Westbury.  And Richard Bodony turns out to be best friends with one of your editor's dearest Greenpeace colleagues!

Special thanks is due to Michael Owens of the MRHS inventory project.  Michael volunteered to make an audio recording of our conversation so it will be preserved for history.

Michael recording Andy Bodony in the MRHS "Treasure Room"

All in all it was one of the most astounding days ever at the receive site.  We look forward to Andy's return visit!  Andy's best quote of the day: "It's great to talk to someone who knows what I'm talking about!"

> New KSM Customer - M/V Pomplun Circumstance/WDI4501

As Fr. Stephen said above, True Believers never cease to amaze us with the lengths they will go to participate in MRHS activities.  Take Don Pomplun for example.  Until recently he was part of the Radio Department aboard SS JEREMIAH O'BRIEN/KXCH home ported in San Francisco Bay.  So right away you know he's got his heart in the right place.  But when Don moved to Virginia we thought we'd heard the last of him.  Of course we should have known better.

Fr. Stephen was on watch at KSM.  He had worked SS AMERICAN VICTORY/KKUI in Tampa as usual, and continued scanning the HF calling channels for other ships.  There are so few ships equipped for Morse operation these days that we know all of them - or at least we think we do.  But rising up out of the static came a new call sign calling us: WDI4501.  What's this!?

It turns out that Don, taking the tradition of the True Believer to the max, has licensed his pontoon boat for commercial Morse operation and was calling us from a pond near his home!  How about them apples?


We present this story not only to tell you of this great event but, we hope, to inspire you to similar heights of True Believerdom.  Right, you too can license your boat for commercial Morse operation and become a KSM customer.  It's easy.  In fact we covered the whole thing in Newsletter No. 24 . If you missed that issue check it out, file your FCC form and give us a call.  Operators are, as they say, standing by!  On Saturdays at least.

> Frank Geisel's Report No. 5 for October 1946

FG continues to find it difficult to fine operators for KPH due to the remoteness if the receive site.  But Bill Meloney, regarded by many to be the best Morse operator KPH ever had, has finally joined the staff.  He remained with the station until his retirement.

A shipping strike has reduced traffic.  To make things worse ships with RCA operators are filing their traffic via competitors.

Station KAA in Manila has reopened

All of this is reported in the inimitable FG style:


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Thanks for reading this this latest update of what we're up to at the MRHS.  We very much look forward to hearing you on the air or seeing you in person on a Saturday soon.  Until then we wish you the best of luck and fair winds & following seas.