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Real Radios & Milspec Listening

Updated 25 July 2004

The comm shack at NAVFAC Ramey would hardly seem the likely place for me to start up the radio frenzy again, but that's really what happened. The one thing that I knew about, the one thing that had been part of my life since probably my earliest conscious breath was now around me, part of my uniform, part of my being.
    We had two R390 receivers and a couple FRR2s in Puerto Rico. Each radio is probably well known to other salts who have worn the sparks, and each radio was beyond the wildest dreams of any kid with a Hallicrafters back then. These were the first radios I ever saw with digital tuning (albeit mechanically digital in that the frequency display was part of a gear set for tuning). They were the only way to fly.
    So it wasn't long before, on slow nights, I'd sit next to one of those boxes of tubes and mechanics tuning around, hoping to hear something familiar. What I caught, instead, was the usual vitriol of Radio Peking (as it was then known) or the somber tones of radio evangelists reading from the appropriately gruesom parts of Revelation. Radio Caribe was gone, probably with the fall of the Trujillo dictatorship. And I had lost track of the melifluous tones of Willis Conover's comments about the continued joy of American jazz music.
    I did find it easier to tune around, however. Soon I picked up Norsk Rikskringkasting (Radio Norway) with the weather report for the North Sea. Radio Havana was an easy enough catch, since they were in the island neighborhood.
    I started to think about building a Heathkit receiver. (Dad had arranged for me to get their catalog.) I settled on the SB310, the shortwave listener version of their SB301 ham band receiver. It took me a few weeks to put it together but eventually it was up and running. I was hearing things with a dial-light precision that only one who has operated a R390 would understand.
    From there, of course, it was all down hill. The weeks went by & I listened on and on until finally it dawned on me: I could be on the air too. At which point, I got interested in amateur radio again. Which is another story, one you can pick up later on. But first I have to tell you the rest of this one. . . which leads to the next page.


Copyright 2004 Nils R. Bull Young