Scratchi: the Real Origin of the Name

Revised September 16, 1997

Who Was Scratchi?

Back in the 1940's, a ham radio magazine called CQ had a wacky monthly column, supposedly by a person named Hashafisti Scratchi. He had some pretty funny adventures in ham radio, always one step beyond the outer limits of the twilight zone. Even today the columns are still great fun to read, if you can still find any old copies from the 1940's and 1950's.

Who Wrote Scratchi?

It was a mystery as to who created the character over 50 years ago for CQ, whose editor at the time was Mr. Wayne Green, now W2NSD/1 and publisher of 73 Magazine.

Wayne kept the author's identity secret for many years. He certainly had a lot of people guessing and second-guessing, especially in Phoenix Arizona, where the original Scratchi had his many adventures from the 1940's through the late 1960's... possibly beyond.

I met Wayne in person at an ARRL convention (San Diego, 1986) and asked him. He got a big grin but wouldn't tell me!

Now it can be told! I met Wayne again at the 1995 ARRL Southwestern Division Convention, which was held in September 1995 in Long Beach CA. And I asked him again. This time he told me the story, and here it is:

The "Hashafisti Scratchi" character was created by George Floyd, W2RYT, prior to WW2, and appeared in "GE Radio News." After the war, the columns began appearing in CQ Magazine. Due to an emergence of what is now called "political correctness", they eventually ended sometime in the late 1960's or so.

How come I've been sometimes found using this handle?

The whole gory story follows. Read on.

Shortly after I upgraded to a Technician-class license in the mid 1980's, I decided to try to get onto HF. I didn't get any HF gear until sometime around 1987. About this time, the new Novice and Technician HF privileges came to be, and so I decided to try putting up an antenna.

I bought a simple 1-trap sloper antenna for 2 bands, then added a bunch of additional wires to it, fanning out, sort of a half of a fanned multiband dipole. The idea was to make it work from 40 meters all the way through 10 meters.

About this time I decided I needed to get something to help me accurately tune and adjust that thing, and so I spent some money on a Palomar Engineers' RX Noise Bridge. That dandy little thing is the greatest little tool you can have when tinkering with HF antennas.

Earlier on the same day I bought the noise bridge, there was an area ham radio swap meet. I was there that morning and found a huge stack of old CQ, 73, and QST magazines. These were all from the late 1940's, a lot during the 1950's, and a good number from the 1960's, and they all were that nice, small size magazine that they don't make anymore. At ten cents each, I carted off as many different ones as I could find.

Over at my house later that day, I was getting out the brand new noise bridge, reading the instructions, and trying it out. My brother and another ham friend were there, and taking turns reading these old SCRATCHI columns out loud from CQ Magazine. I should add that this wasn't easy, because they were in very bad, misspelled English, which was part of the humor.

In one of Scratchi's (mis)-adventures, he needed to whip up an antenna tuner, so that's what he did. He just slapped one together using whatever parts he found first. The strange thing was, that tuner worked incredibly well, pulling in signals from an otherwise dead band (80 meters at high noon), as well as allowing transmissions to get out to the world just as well! And this was with a QRP transmitter! Well, then, imagine how well it might work with a full kilowatt running through it... KA-BOOM! And of course, Scratchi couldn't concoct a tuner ever again that worked so well!

So here we all were, laughing hysterically at Scratchi's antics, issue after issue, reliving in hours what took old timers decades to enjoy issue by issue.

And there I was with that noise bridge. I finally got that antenna tuned perfectly with it, working in conjunction with an MFJ antenna tuner. So I decided to key up on low power to see what that SWR meter had to say.

I can still recall the warning on the instructions for the noise bridge. Something about: Never transmit through it.

I keyed up. A little wift of smoke came from the noise bridge. Yes, that noise bridge did its job, and tuned up ONE antenna system in its amazingly short life.

The others in the room looked on...
and they've saddled me with the nickname Scratchi ever since!

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Dave Bartholomew
Copyright © 1997-2000 David G. Bartholomew, WB6WKB/AD7DB.
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