Updated 2-18-2003

March 2003 Column




As radios were being placed aboard ships in the early 1900s, it created a job market for Radio Operators. Many a young ham ran away to the sea, to become known as "Sparks". "The Old Man," (the Captain) would assign him to duty in the "Shack" (many times it was a quickly constructed room out on the deck of a ship, a ship that was built long before the use of radio.) As he "tickles" his "bug" he hears his Rotary Gap, the "Rock Crusher" beat out his transmission. Sometimes radiomen would give up the sea, but would continue to work at "land-side" stations.

This months story, His Handle was Al, was written by Carl E. Hammond, W7WQA, Al's son. Carl started the story with, "Al Hammond was raised in Tacoma, Washington and ran away to sea aboard the lumber schooner "Lottie Bennett", as a cabin boy. That was in December of 1911. Eighty-two days later the ship tied up to the pier at Sydney, Australia."

Thus began the Wireless story about Al Hammond. For the complete article, read the Old Radio column in the March 2003 QST. As promised, below are some of the photos from the story.

Al Hammond, K7IIJ, using his son's Heathkit AT-1 and Hallicrafters S-38.

The Libby McNeil & Libby Yakutat Alaska Salmon and Cannery Radio Station KKA. Taken in 1924, it shows the combination radio shack and living quarters for Operator Al Hammond. This was pretty good accommodations for 1924 Alaska. If you look closely at the desktop you can see his key, and just to the left his "Mill" or typewriter as they are now called. The Spark Gap transmitter, behind the "Mill" is the same as found aboard ships of that time. Behind his Key is an early tube receiver which may be an early DeForest, but it's hard to tell. At the right, just under the calendar, you can see the butt of his pistol he used to scare off wild animals who showed up from time to time. He kept that handy, just over his bed.
Click on the photo to see larger version, 1200x830.

The call signs scratched into the bottom of Al's old "Bug" were those stations he operated: WQD - SS Hisko, WDG - SS Otsego, KKA - Libby Cannery Station at Yakutat, KOTD - SS Cross Keys, KDV - SS Libby Maine, WNUO - SS Brookdale, KIDF - SS Hegira, WML - SS Lurline, and WKDM - name unknown.

Al's NC300 and Viking Ranger, Carl Hammond, W7WQA, at the key.

For an additional Alaska Cannery story from the the same year, click here:
Bristol Bay - 1924, by Earl W. Korf

This story is about the Alaska Packers Assn. (APA) in 1924. This company had the largest sailing ship fleet in existence at the time, including such windjammers as the Stars of Alaska; Scotland; France; India; Italy; Lapland; Scotland and New Zealand. This was the last year that many of these grand old ships saw service.

John Dilks, K2TQN    125 Warf Road, Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234-8501   e-mail: K2TQN@arrl.net