Howard

Back when I was a poor college student, my roommate and I went into a local DC liquor store to do some competitive price checking. While we didn’t find the prices to be all that good, I was shocked to find something else: radios. One of the guys who ran the store, a ham by the name of Howard, fixed up and sold old radios out of the back, so the shelves were full of wine, liquor, and shortwave sets. I quickly became friends with Howard, and ended up buying a couple of radios from him before I graduated, including an old Delmonico and a Hallicrafters S-77.

Fast forward to the spring of 93, when I am now a poor college grad working at a shitty job in Baltimore. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I couldn’t resist making the trip down to DC to see Howard and his radios. What I found there on that Saturday was the most amazing radio I’d ever seen: a Hallicrafters SX-73. The mother of an Ex would describe it later as a ‘big, ugly box’ (and believe me, this woman knew all about being big and ugly), but it was beyond beautiful to my eyes. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew it would be going home with me if I could afford it. When Howard told me he wanted $75 for it, we made the deal and I started the process of lugging it back home. I got some funny looks on the train that day, but I didn’t care. I was a very happy man.

My SX-73 in my basement apartment. The HQ-140XA was also acquired from Howard as well.
My SX-73 in my basement apartment. The HQ-140XA was also acquired from Howard as well.

Of course, that radio became my go to receiver, and I made a lot of catches with that beast, including my first pirate on 7415 (WKIK). One thing I didn’t expect though was the reaction I got from people when I told them I had an SX-73 at home. Dealers at hamfests or on the phone would fall all over themselves trying to get me to sell or trade it to them. I never took them up on their offer, but it made me start to wonder just what I had here. This was in the days before the internet (yes, there was a time when the internet didn’t exist), so I just kept politely declining their offers, and I kept listening to the bands on my “Big Hal”.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I found out the back story to this radio, and why everyone was so interested in it. After making a post to a news group about the rig, a man replied and filled me in. It turns out these radios were only made between 1952 and 1954, and cost a whopping $975 bucks new. Needless to say they didn’t make a lot of them, and were considered to be the second most rare of all the Hallicrafters. He ad vised me that, if I were to sell it, I could probably walk out of the deal with about $750.

Wow, that’s a lot of money for a broke 25 year old. That could buy a lot of computer parts, ore even a new radio. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that Howard knew very well that radio was worth a lot more than $75. Rather than getting full value for it though, he was willing to practically give it away to a kid who loved radio, and who would put it to good use. Yeah, I could sell it and make a handsome profit, but it just didn’t feel right. Now I know that this is what Elmers do, they hook up those just getting into the hobby, and give them a way in.

Today, that liquor store is a Domino’s pizza place, and I’ve long since lost touch with Howard, but I still have that old SX-73, and she still works. She doesn’t get used much anymore, but it’s still one of my prized possessions.

So here’s to you, Howard. Thanks for giving the 23 year old me a break.

Sarah Jane and the Hallicrafters

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While the summertime weather heats up, the band conditions are definitely cooling down. Aside from a few notable exceptions listed in our summertime listening guide, not much is happening on the HF bands. Solar activity has left 15, 12, and 10 quiet, while 17 and 20 sound like they’re broken. Meanwhile whatever is broadcasting on the tropical bands is buried under a layer of hiss and static crashes.

Here at HF Radio Review though, we have a plan to help heat up the ionosphere with vintage tube gear and the lovely Miss Sarah Jane. I don’t think it will help propagation any, but it should help take your mind off of things.

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Radio Pinup Shoot

It’s tough work, but someone’s gotta do it.

A few weeks ago, I got a message from a young woman on ModelMayhem wanting to work with me on some photos. Well, being a red blooded American male photographer of sound mind and body, I quickly agreed, and suggested we do a shoot around, what else, old radios. She liked the idea, so we met up earlier this week and took a lot of pics. I am not done with the whole post-processing routine just yet, but here’s a taste of what’s to come.

Sarah Jane and a hallicrafters SX-62a

Stay tuned for more.

Dayton Photos

The madness of the main convention floor on Friday morning.
The madness of the main convention floor on Friday morning.

As I write this, all the radios are disconnected from their antennas as a few spring thunderstorms roll through my part of the world. With every crack of thunder though, I can;t help but think of what happened in Oklahoma today, and just how dangerous life in tornado alley can be from time to time. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in “five land” affected by today’s storms.

The trip to Dayton and the side trip to Toledo (more on that in another post) have left me exhausted. The late hours, the long drive, and the multiple trips through the tailgate have left me ready for bed. Before I do though, I’d like to share some of my photos from the big shindig for everyone who couldn’t make it this year.

The porcupine on wheels.
The porcupine on wheels.
Now THAT is a hat!
Now THAT is a hat!
Bob Heil holding court. His company is coming out with a mic for mobile operators this fall.
Bob Heil holding court. His company is coming out with a mic for mobile operators this fall.
A McMurdo Silver, the antithesis of disposable electronics.
A McMurdo Silver, the antithesis of disposable electronics.
Caution: ham at work.
Caution: ham at work.
Another radio that helped to win the cold war.
Another radio that helped to win the cold war.
Two Hallicrafters looking for a new home.
Two Hallicrafters looking for a new home.
A couple of hams give a nice looking r-388/51J a going over.
A couple of hams give a nice looking r-388/51J a going over.
Two American beauties pose for a photo.
Two American beauties pose for a photo.

And with that, I’m going QRT. Goodnight folks.