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"
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
Click on the photo to see larger
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.