Monday, July 21, 2014

Tribute to WYFR-WRMI - A Multitude of QSL Cards

We continue in our series of topics on the fascinating backgrounds of the large American shortwave station, WYFR-WRMI, and on this occasion, we present the interesting information regarding the enormous amount of QSL cards issued from this station at its various locations in the state of Massachusetts.  But first though, we examine the QSL cards that were issued from New York and Mattappoisett by the forerunners of the big Boston station.
On May 10, 1924, the noted amateur radio entrepreneur, Irving Vermilya at Mattappoisett some 50 miles south of Boston, broadcast a music program from his mediumwave station WBBG under the experimental callsign 1XAL.  He received many reception reports from listeners in surrounding states, written onto the popular Applause Cards of the day.
In his first radio history book, On the Shortwaves 1923 - 1945, Jerome Berg in suburban Boston refers to the fact that shortwave station 2XAL, with studios in New York and transmitter at Coytesville New Jersey, received a reception report from a listener in Australia in the year 1928, at a time when the station was running at less than 500 watts.  Station W2XAL from New Jersey was transferred to Boston and it took over the experimental callsign from WBBG at Mattappoisett and began broadcasting in Boston under the now abandoned call W1XAL in mid 1931.
The earliest known QSL cards from Walter Lemmon’s experimental shortwave station W1XAL in Boston were issued a few months later, in January 1932.  This first QSL card acknowledged reception reports addressed to the shortwave station, as well as to the experimental TV and Apex high fidelity stations operated by the television pioneer Hollis Baird.
Since that time, this Boston shortwave station under its different owners and locations has issued untallied thousands of QSL cards in a multitude of different card designs and styles during its more than 40 years of on air activity.  Recent research has uncovered at least 50 different QSL card designs and styles, and it is likely that many more, perhaps even four times that number, were issued.  
One particular card showing the callsign WRUL diagonally in large red letters was issued in 1954 and it was numbered 14,424, though it is not known when this particular numbered sequence began.
The design on many of the earlier QSL cards featured a stylized microphone, and this motif was emblazoned on several different QSL cards, both in size and in position.  These cards usually listed the callsigns and frequencies in use at the time.
One of the very rare QSL cards issued for the reception of experimental station W1XAR verified test transmissions on 11730 kHz on March 19, 1939.  According to an analysis of the historical events associated with this specific transmitter, this particular QSL card is the only known verification of transmitter W1XAR at its temporary location at suburban Norwood in Boston.  A picture of this card can be seen in the Canadian DX magazine, DX Ontario dated July 2006, page 13.
There are no known QSL cards verifying the usage of the two regularized callsigns, WSLA & WSLR, which were in temporary use for just 13 days at Hatherley Beach, Scituate from August 25, 1939 until September 6.  Both transmitters at 20 kW each had been removed from the Boston location and re-installed at the recently acquired facility at Hatherly Beach.  The two temporary callsigns were replaced by the now better known calls WRUL & WRUW.
A QSL card printed in the Spanish language and posted in Nicaragua shows the two newly installed transmitters in the renovated transmitter building at Hatherley Beach Scituate, with a diagrammatic representation showing the scheduling for the two transmitters on five different shortwave channels.
There are no known QSL cards verifying the reception of the callsign WRUR which was in use on the air from 1941 - 1947 approximately.  The call WRUR was apparently a subsidiary call for the 20 kW WRUW on 9700 kHz.
On July 1, 1953, all five transmitters at Scituate, WRUA WRUL WRUS WRUW & WRUX, were redesignated as WRUL 1- 5 and the owners of the station, WWBF World Wide Broadcasting Foundation, introduced a new QSL card.  This new card shows the single call letters diagonally in large red print, WRUL.  At least four different versions of this card are known, though all are very similar.
In 1959, a listener in Sweden received one of the new red letter QSL cards, and instead of the small stylized microphone in the top right hand corner, there is a small version of the globe, planet Earth.  This is the only known copy of this particular card, though obviously many more would have been printed.
There is also only one known copy of the QSL card verifying the 5 kW WIOD transmitter from Miami which was re-activated at Scituate under the WWBF callsign WRUS.  This same transmitter was later re-designated as WRUX, and another QSL card was printed for the occasion with the callsign again printed diagonally in large red print.
During the era when the Scituate station was in service with the  Voice of America, United Nations Radio and AFRS the Armed Forces Radio Service, these parent organizations issued their own QSL cards for their relays via the WRUL transmitters.
Metro Media in New York purchased the shortwave station at Hatherley Beach in 1960 and they owned the station for just three years.  Their QSL card showed the code letters QSL in large black print on a plain card.  At least two versions of this card are known, one in off white and the other in dark green.
Then it was in mid 1962 that Bonneville International bought the station and they owned it for a period of eleven years.  Their QSL cards showed the letter W surrounding planet Earth, and most designs were very similar, though printed on different colored card.
On June 1, 1966, Bonneville changed the callsign from WRUL to WYNW and they produced a commemorative QSL card to honor the occasion.  This card shows their production studios at 485 Madison Ave, New York.
Then, early on Sunday morning April 9, 1967, a disastrous fire of suspicious origin completely destroyed the Hatherley Beach shortwave station.  As Jerome Berg tells us in his first radio book, the WNYW programming was carried by the shortwave communication stations at Brentwood and Rocky Point for a period of some four months.  There are no known QSL cards verifying this temporary fill in relay service.  
In 1973, Bonneville sold shortwave station WNYW to Family Radio in Oakland California and they changed the callsign to WYFR and this change brought in a whole new series of new QSL cards.  We plan to present this story here in Wavescan on a coming occasion.
(AWR/Wavescan-NWS 282)