“Uncle Ray” HUNTER, VE3UR
appeared in the Fall 2001 issue “The New RTTY Journal”. Reprinted
Interviewer -- Dale Sinner. Re-typed for OARC by VE3SUH
name is Murray Eugene Hunter. I was
born April 6, 1909 in Toronto, Ontario. When
I was two, my family moved to Galt (now Cambridge), Ontario.
My father purchased a garage, a taxi service and a sporting goods store.
When I was 5 and my brother Ernie was 4, we caught diphtheria. I recovered, but Ernie didn’t. At age 7 I developed an ailment in my left leg. The doctor put a cast on it, but the next day it had swollen out of the ends of the cast. The doctor wanted to remove the leg. My dad said no, that we had an appointment at the Sick Children’s Hospital in two days; the doctor said the boy may not be alive in two days.
arrival at the hospital, and after examination by the doctors, an injection was
made into my left arm. The doctors
had diagnosed a blood infection. After
being in the hospital for four months, I became an out-patient.
Luckily for me, both sets of grandparents lived in Toronto, where I
stayed with them alternately. My
grandmother Hunter was an expert checker player so we played as often as
possible. My grandfather Buckner
took me to the barber shop and we played checkers in the back room.
I played from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and never lost a game.
Needless to say, I was never invited back.
When I finally returned to Galt, I was in a metal brace from the hip down
to 2” below my foot. My right
shoe had to be built up 2” to compensate.
I wore this for about six months.
My father’s garage had a good machine shop with a lathe, a drill press, plus tools, including micrometers. I enjoyed standing on a box and working the lathe. The years passed, then I received my mechanics license. In 1928 when the Model A Ford’s came out, I purchased three wrecked ones. After starting to take them apart, I contracted scarlet fever and jaundice, and was quarantined in the top front bedroom of our house.
mother put a cotton sheet sprayed with Lysol over the door.
Nothing was to come out of the room while the quarantine was in effect.
Feeling better after a couple of weeks, I lowered a rope from the top
front veranda outside my room, and one of my four remaining brothers would
attach a door or fender from one of the cars, and I would haul it up and work on
it. When the quarantine was over, I
had a corner full of auto parts I had worked on, a corner full of paper I had
stripped from the walls and ceiling, and I had sanded the floor.
I ended up with one coach that I sold, and one roadster for myself, and
When I was 21, I told my father that I was going to quit the job I was in and get a good job over in Guelph. The company there had just bought four new international trucks and four Chevrolet coaches for the salesmen. They also had two walk-in freezers to service. I met two chaps who were building a Pietenpole aeroplane, which has a 30-foot wingspan, two cockpits, and had a Ford Model T engine. I joined the group, and I offered my Ford Model A engine. We worked on it all winter, then it was ready for a test flight. We were using a Henderson motorcycle magneto.
The insulation on the mag was poor and kept breaking down and we could only get about three-fourths of the RPM required. We were all taking flight lessons and flew it all summer at about 1,000 feet. The magneto finally became useless, so we tied the plane down outside. We did not have any grommets, and the hot sun made little cracks on the plane’s wing surface. Then we had a lot of rain and the wing took in a lot of water. We finally found a German Bosch magneto, but it was set up for the wrong rotation. We had to order the small parts for the opposite rotation from Detroit, which took about two months. Finally we got the parts and installed them and the magneto ran beautifully.
The engine ran about 300 RPM more than was required. Ray Reid had already made a solo flight, so he was picked to make the first real flight. It was a beautiful take-off, and at about 2,000 feet, he made a left bank turn. The water in the wing came down to the tip of the left wing and he fought it all the way down in a large spiral and hit the ground, and smashed the plane up. When we got to the plane, he had gone through the first cockpit and was laying on the engine. We took him to the doctor, about a mile down the road, as we thought he was dead, but he just had the wind knocked out of him. The doctor gave him a good examination and told him to take a couple of days off work. We took the engine and the metal parts off the plane and dug a big hole, burnt the plane, and covered it up.
The Globe and Mail had a column called “News and Nonsense”. They drew a sketch of a boy in a soapbox with a helmet on and the helmet straps flying, with a little bird flying beside. The caption read, “Guelph home-made plane can do everything that a bird can do, except lay an egg and fly.” This brought an aeronautical inspector from Toronto who quizzed us for three days. We said we didn’t know anything about an aeroplane crash. He got the three of us together and read out the riot act. He could not find any evidence, so he got back into his plane and flew back to Toronto. With no plane left, we started building model aeroplanes. I was designing them and making model engines. I had about twenty engines of all different sizes.
did a lot of model aeroplane flying and model boat floating.
I got into building transmitters and receivers using peanut tubes.
One boat I took to Belle Isle, and entered it into the radio control
class. My boat had portional rudder
control along with speed control; the other boats had neither, and I won the
The war broke out, and I got a job at A.V. Roe, at Malton, Ontario. My job at A.V. Roe was as an inspector. I started off with small parts, and worked my way up to inspecting completed components. I was sent to Fort William (now Thunder Bay) and my job was to learn all about the completed Hurricane Wing. The rest of the group sent to the fort were not told of their responsibilities for when they returned. It was one big party.
Being newly married, I did not participate in the revelries. I took notes of everything I could and returned with three notebooks filled. After the three months were up, we all returned to Malton. Things were quite a mess, most parts that were to be inspected had to be rejected Finally the chief inspector and I were called to the boardroom. When we entered, we could see the leadmen around the board table. It seemed that they wanted Hunter off the job. The general manager finally said, “Gentlemen, it appears that Hunter is the only one who knows how the job should be done.” He also advised the men to get back to their stations, and anything they wanted to know, Hunter would tell them. The job went along pretty good after that. A rig was made for drilling holes in the main spar to carry the auxiliary tanks. It was put up for inspection.
The first thing that I did was ask for the jig that drilled the holes. There was no inspection stamp by the toolmakers on the jig. I asked the leadman why there was no inspection stamp on the jig. He said that if Hunter passed it, he would put the stamp on the jig, was his reply. Once again, the general manager was called, and asked me why I did not inspect it. Finally I agreed to inspect the drilling without the stamp on the jig. I spent three days putting the wing up in flight position, and using a “flipstick” or calculation. As there were no hand calculators in those days, I found that the rear hold had been drilled about ¼ inch out of position. It was a very serious matter – we had to get permission from the English Ministry of Aeronautics.
Fort William also had the same condition on the ten pairs of wings that were on the high seas on their way to England. They also had to make application to the English Ministry of Aeronautics for acceptance of these wings the way they were. I had two friends who wanted to go into the production of small parts. I loaned them my quick change lathe along with a fair amount of money. Their business grew very fast. Finally they wanted me to join them, which I did, upon them putting one of my engines into production. We already had the certificate to buy material, if available, under educational purposes.
The first thing we did was to buy a bank and ground, and then we built an extension to our shop. We had approximately 65 toolmakers working for us. At that time I was designing tools for our engines. We had pressure casting make the main casting mold. It was water-cooled and it took two men to lift it. It took us about a year to get things into production. It was a high-class engine; we used meonite #6 for it’s perocity, for both the piston and the sleeve. The tungsten for the ignition points was very hard to secure. I had a handful of tungsten discs to be welded on to the spring and screw. They put all 2,000 discs on the spring, and left none for the screw. We had to find a substitute for the screw. We tried gold and silver, which did not work very well. We then tried platinum, which worked real well, but was very expensive.
United States was our biggest customer as they were not allowed to make model
engines. We would export the
engines to Buffalo, and we would go and clear them through customs.
We then sent them from our Buffalo office to our distributors.
We estimated that we sold over 200,000 engines to the States.
We also were exporting them to several other countries, in particular,
New Zealand. Finally, the war was
over, and it took the Americans about a year to tool-up for engines.
This had a big influence on our sales.
We finally sold the engine business.
My two partners left the business and I formed up with my Canadian distributor a new company called Rayberts Limited. Bert and I intended to have the biggest hobby store in Canada. The time was not right – materials were not available as yet. We built a big factory in Weston, but it was still too soon to start a hobby distributorship, so we sold the building to IBM. We bought a building on Bloor Street, in midtown Toronto, put a new stone facing on the front and remodeled the interior for a retail hobby business. We had model airplanes, model railroads, leathercraft, painting supplies, archery supplies, plus other handicraft materials.
Bert and I went to New York to purchase materials. We were in a jewelry manufacturing company, and we noticed a lot of jewelry findings. We bought a fair amount of each and took them home to Toronto, and started assembling them. We had them plated silver and gold. We ordered different sizes and colors of rhinestones and before we knew it, we had created a new hobby called jewelry craft. We extended the building including the second floor. Business was booming. At Christmas, we had a girl giving out numbers at the front door, and twenty clerks. Bert and I both ordered two new cars from two different companies. My cars were a Ford and an Oldsmobile. I finally sold the Ford.
I had a big cyst approximately the size of a golf ball on my right hip. I had it removed, and was at home recuperating, when Bert came and said why don’t I go to New York to see what was new, take it easy and go on the train, and take in a good show. About fifteen minutes out of New York, the incision broke open. Upon reaching the Hotel Roosevelt, being a Sunday, there was no doctor in the operating room, therefore the nurse patched me up and wheeled me up to my room. Next morning, the doctor re-stitched me up.
as I reached my room, the telephone was ringing; it was my partner Bert calling
to tell me that my mother had just died. All
the airports being fogged in, the only way I could get back to Toronto was by
train. I got a roomette and
travelled home on my stomach. Bert
met me at the station at 5:30 a.m. and got me home.
I got dressed and took my car, driving by sitting on the front edge of
the seat, and travelled to Galt for my mother’s funeral.
Bert wanted to retire and sell out his part of the business. Oscar, our sales manager, agreed to purchase the other half of the business. Things went pretty good for a few years until the subway came along. The city appropriated the rear half of our building for the subway. We let the city have the rest of our building and bought a factory in Weston. We deleted the retail part of our business and sold only to distributors.
At that time, I was quite busy with amateur radio and took on several agencies; R.L. Drake, Ten-Tec, and M.F.J. were a few. I was doing this in my basement, and then things started to grow. I did this for about ten years, until my wife took ill. I sold this business to enable me to look after my wife I was quite heavy into operating amateur radio, and had a weekly sked with Alert, Northwest Territories, the Gaza Strip, and made quite a few friends on the air, including ZLIPA Allan, Workworth, New Zealand. Allan told me he was coming to Canada to help his younger son, as the company he worked for was starting an office in Canada. Needless to say, he spent most of the three weeks in my shack.
he left, he invited me to New Zealand. I
went, and when I arrived he had an amateur call all set up.
ZL0AFF, the call letters used, is now used for Antarctica.
I visited him twice more, and the last time, we were planning a trip to
Labrador. I hadn’t heard from him
for a few weeks, so I called him on the telephone.
He could hardly talk, and told me he was dying.
In the meantime, my wife had died. I spent approximately three years alone in the house. I then decided to move, and found a place called Big Cedar Estates, approximately seven kilometers west of Orillia, Ontario. There are 230 owner-owned homes, with frontage on Bass Lake, our own clubhouse, driving range and shuffleboard court, along with a separate administration building with our post boxes and a board room.
monthly maintenance fee includes satellite, grass cutting, and road and driveway
clearance in the winter. It also
includes water which comes from our own wells.
Our park is kept in a beautiful condition with flower beds and bushes.
At the main entrance are two lagoons, which host Canada geese.
I celebrated my 90th birthday at our clubhouse with 140
guests. I have a beautiful
two-bedroom house and a large sunroom which I use as my radio shack.
My health is very good except for my eyes; it appears I am going blind.
I get around well enough, slowly but surely, and my eyesight is still
good enough to operate and keep up with my amateur radio.
73 and 88 de Uncle Ray, VE3UR
This year was my 31st time to the Dayton Hamfest.
My DXCC is 333 confirmed, and my RTTY is about 200 confirmed.