Monday, November 04, 2013
Tribute to Shortwave WYFR-The Early Years at Hatherly Beach
It was in 1939 that the pioneer shortwave station operated by the radio entrepreneur Walter S. Lemmon was transferred from the city of Boston down south to what is now a beach resort area nearly 25 miles distant. This is what happened.
Walter Lemmon at WWBC, the World Wide Broadcasting Corporation in Boston, applied for a Construction Permit for a second shortwave transmitter, and this CP was granted for 20 kW W1XAR at an approved location in Norwood in suburban Boston on February 27, 1939. Work on the construction of this new transmitter was undertaken by the Chief Engineer, the well known TV pioneer Hollis Baird.
In the Spring of this same year 1939, two recently acquired mobile shortwave transmitters were taken to various locations in and around Boston for the purpose of making a series of test broadcasts in order to find a suitable location for a new permanent station. These two low power portable stations, rated at around 250 watts or less we would guess, were activated simultaneously at several different locations.
Although it is not known just how many different locations were chosen for these test transmissions, yet it is understood that tests were made from at least three locales; two nearby locations in Norwood in suburban Boston, and another down the coast at Hatherly Beach. On air requests were made for reception reports for the test transmissions at each of the various locations, though there are no known QSL cards verifying these test broadcasts, due no doubt to the low power of the two transmitters.
When the series of test transmission was completed, a site in the Boston suburb of Norwood was chosen as the location for a permanent home for the two broadcast transmitters, W1XAL & W1XAR. The FCC gave approval for this move, though the official document showed the wrong address as 1218 State Highway, apparently one of the previously approved test locations. However, a subsequent FCC document corrected the address, which was a vacant area a little west of Providence Highway and north of Morse Street.
The first test broadcasts from the new W1XAR went on the air from Norwood on the same date as the CP was granted, February 27, 1939, and two frequencies were in use, 11730 & 15130 kHz. One QSL card in the Indianapolis Heritage Collection dated March 19,1939 shows the callsign altered to W1XAR and it verifies reception on 11730 kHz. This card was issued to a listener in Canada, and the timing would suggest that it verified a transmission from the very temporary site at Norwood.
However, it was soon discovered that the new Norwood location was not as good as was previously expected, so the transmitter was closed down and returned to the Boston location at 870 Brookline Avenue. Thus it was that plans were enacted for relocation to an isolated spot further down the coast.
Back around the time when World War 1 broke out in Europe, mid 1918, the American army acquired a lease on a total property of more than one hundred acres from several private owners at Hatherly Beach. This property was located just off the beach area, about one and half miles north of Scituate town, and a spur line was installed as a connection to the nearby railway system operated by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railway.
During the war era, this property was in use as a storage area for war weapons, and as a testing ground for different forms of ammunition. In 1921, the total area was returned to its original owners.
In 1939 (apparently not 1936 as sometimes listed), Walter Lemmon took out a lease on a forty acre section of what had been the Army Proving Ground, which included the main power plant building and a few smaller buildings. This isolated location became the home for the new transmitter facility of the mighty WRUW during the era of World War 2.
On July 21, 1939, the shortwave station in Boston was closed for the purpose of moving the electronic equipment into the newly acquired radio property at Hatherly Beach. The two shortwave transmitters, still officially under the older callsigns W1XAL and W1XAR, were upgraded to 20 kW each and they were installed in the 20 year old building that previously housed the army power generation equipment. A new radiation system was installed, a total of seven new antennas.
This new radio broadcasting station was activated at this new location a little over a month later on August 25 under the new though temporary callsigns WSLA and WSLR. Then thirteen days later, the callsigns of these two transmitters were amended again; W1XAL-WSLA became WRUL, and W1XAR-WSLR became WRUW. Soon afterwards, the station callsign, WRUL, was painted on the large chimney stack on the radio property.
At the time of the transfer from Boston to Scituate, Walter Lemmon made an appeal for funding due to the heavy cost involved in the move and to the upgrading of the equipment with the two locally made transmitter amplifiers. During the following year, the federal government did provide a financial grant to the station because of its strategic location and its significant coverage areas towards Europe and Africa.
In May 1940, WRUL was noted with test broadcasts in co-operation with shortwave station TG2 in Guatemala City; and during the year 1941, WRUL was noted with special programming that was on relay by the BBC London and by FZI Brazzaville in the Congo in Africa. And sometimes, they were on the air with a program of practice in the usage of Morse Code.
Another special program from WRUL, under the title “Your Friendship Bridge”, featured English refugee children giving greetings to their parents in England. This 15 minute daily program was produced in the studios of mediumwave WMCA in New York and fed by landline to Boston for incorporation into their shortwave programming. This program relay was also broadcast by the BBC in England.
In 1942, WRUL opened an additional studio in the center of New York City, at 630 5th Avenue; and in September 1940, WRUL bought at a remarkably low price the shortwave transmitter W4XB-WBKM-WDJM in Miami Florida. This 1932 model home brew transmitter was in reality two units at 5 kW each. (Six years earlier, that is in 1932, Walter Lemmon had requested the FRC, the Federal Radio Commission, to deny a license to mediumwave WIOD in Miami to operate a shortwave relay transmitter.)
It took Engineer John Hall more than a year to reassemble the pieces of equipment from Florida into a workable transmitter, and test broadcasts began in January 1942. This composite transmitter is sometimes listed incorrectly, at this stage, under the callsign WRUX.
However, all available monitoring observations during this era, as heard in the United States, New Zealand and Australia, give the call as WRUS. It is understood that the call WRUS was intended to identify; WR for the company cluster of calls, and the final two letters US, to identify the United States.
This temporary auxiliary unit WRUS at Scituate was on the air with 5 kW on only one channel 6040 kHz, the same channel when it was on the air as WDJM in Florida. As WRUS, it was sometimes heard as far away as Australia, and it always carried the same programming in parallel relay with the other two transmitters WRUL & WRUW. This low powered transmitter was retired in early 1943, and the temporary FCC authorization was cancelled in April.
This temporary WRUS was then replaced by a 50 kW transmitter (a double unit) with the same callsign, and that’s our story when we look at the background history of shortwave WYFR on the next occasion.