Recollections of Using a Wireless Set No. 19

By Ralph Cameron, VE3BBM

(Ed. Note: Ralph has been a regular columnist in RAC's magazine, 'The Canadian Amateur', writing the 'Crosswaves' column and still contributes periodically.  We are very pleased he has agreed to submit his wonderful recollections of a wonderful radio!)

As a young, newly licensed teenager in North Bay, Ontario, I ordered my complete #19 set from Edwards Supply House on Mount Pleasant Road in Toronto. It cost all of $49.50 and included all the accessories packed for export to Russia, in a 7ft long wooden crate.

I lived on the third floor of an apartment building and I remember the cursing to get it up three flights of a very tight stairwell. The apartment was owned by the Mayor of North Bay, Merle Dickerson (1947) and he was quite encouraged to see it since he had been a Major in the army.

It took the better part of a week end to remove all the screws from the crate. I don't know if anyone has counted them but they must have been placed every four inches. Of course, after the lid came off, I removed the metallized airtight packing foil and the bags of silica gel to keep it moisture free.

Once it came out of the box it was a sight to behold and my father kept nodding his head as box after box of spare parts, headphones, mikes, cables, variometer, dynamotor, key, whips and all the rest of the things I've forgotten. For a teenager it was 7th heaven.

After cutting the transport box with a saw in order to remove it from the hall of the apartment (it stayed there ten days) I used the wood for a desk in my bedroom. There were chunks of tar and greenish wax from the fungal treatment applied to the wood that became permanently embedded in the bedroom floor. I can still see it in my mind. The photo in gallery #13 is taken when this desk was in use.

At the time I got my 19 set, my best two chums, Paul Cutsey, then licensed as VE3BCJ got one and Stewart Scott, formerly VE3DFQ and now VE3CW got one. Stewart lived only two blocks away.

I used the 'V' whips for quite some time on 80 and 40 m. They worked well and with a battery supply I soon ran out of battery rental money so invested in the AC supply, also sold by Edwards. By the way, I remember there were hundreds of 19 sets gobbled up by the hams and the AC supply was in high demand. Its price too was $49.50, a lot of money for parents in those days.

I ran both the "A" set and the "B"set and used the former to check into the old "Beaver" CW net on 3.535 MHz. There were quite a few comments about the note, ranging all the way from T8C to T7. Of course, the purists with crystal control didn't think much of it.

The AC supply was short lived . I think it was only rated to 50ma and not CCS ratings that we were used to with Hammond transformers, and in any event the secondary developed shorted turns, overheated the tar bubbled out of it and caused me great tears.

I then built a power supply using a pair of 816 rectifiers for the high voltage and regular Hammond ones for the low voltage requirements. I can't recall where they ended up but I still had a few pieces of the 19 set in the basement 'vault' until this year. After more than 50 years I gave them to a collector. Now I hope to get another one.

I graduated from using the vertical antennas to a 40M dipole and the mayor allowed me to string it between two ten-foot poles on the roof of the apartment building. I used it on 80M and 40M and the variometer made it a breeze. I had no idea of power output or the efficiency.

One didn't worry too much about those things in those days. I do know that other occupants of the apartment heard me loud and clear on their AC/DC type radios but most were happy to see this high school student 'develop his mind' (?). That has been cause for concern ever since.

Forty meter CW was the best band for the 19 and my chums and I worked a lot of DX in the wintertime. Crossing the pond was just a matter of staying up past midnight and reports averaged around 55/69 with the occasional T8 for tonal quality (seldom heard these days of 5NN).

I must dig out my old log book one of these days and see just what was worked. I do recall my very first contact and it was a terrifying experience. I guess I never believed someone would actually send Morse over the radio to me, but one Saturday around noon hour I called CQ on 80M and VE3BEK, Oliver Este (now SK) from Sudbury came back and I was so scared I only managed to give him a report , send my name and QTH and the turned the whole thing off.

It was most trying and a couple of weeks later one of the local hams asked if I had worked VE3BEK and I said, 'No'. But later, I did acknowledge having worked him and had a few laughs after having met him in person.

VE3BCJ and I had a direct link on the 'B' set and I used to open the 3rd floor apartment window which faced west and hold the antenna in my hand looking for the best reception while he transmitted.

He was about 2.5 miles to the north west of me at 1186 Fraser Street and signals were perfect and quality was so good Paul used to rebroadcast the Scollard Hall football games across town to me.

I remember all these addresses because Paul's father was VE3GW and the manager of the local CN telegraph office. Paul and I used to deliver telegrams and we were great pals, both with 19 sets.

One other event occurred which I think will be of interest but I'll save that for another story.