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Donna's amazing adventure

So, today (Monday) I got the opportunity that historians dream of-- visiting
the home of somebody I have researched for a long time.   Through the
kindness of her niece, I was a guest at the childhood home of Eunice
Randall, a home which still stands, looking not that different from how she
left it so many years ago. It is located in a very rural, very isolated
area-- about 11 miles from the town of New Bedford, Mass (a town called
Mattapoisett, formerly known as Old Rochester).  The only access is via a
dirt road which is still unpaved.  Walking along that same road that Eunice
did, I saw where she strung her first radio antenna.  Her bedroom, with its
window opening out to that long expanse of unpaved road, has some of the
same furniture as when she was growing up.  I could imagine her as she built
that first radio set, and I understood even more clearly the role that radio
played in the lives of rural people-- it was literally her link to the
'outside world'-- the Randall farm house was not near much of anything, yet
when Eunice listened in or sent out morse code, it brought her into contact
with people she never would have met otherwise.  Most of us today take that
sort of thing for granted in our media-driven, electronic universe; she
could not possibly have felt anything other than amazement at what her
little station was able to do...  

Radio cost Eunice a lot, it turns out.  Her father virtually disowned her,
since she chose to leave the farm and cast her lot with AMRAD-- not a career
path he approved of; for years, he and Eunice had little contact, although
he did at times hear her on 1XE and WGI, where she was the sensation of the
town-- people would drop in on her mother and excitedly tell how they had
heard Eunice on the radio.  Eunice's niece shared rare pictures with me--
Eunice's parents, her sisters and brother, some newspaper clippings that I
had never seen (and I thought I had seen them all!!!), a picture of the son
she lost (she was married to a man who worked for AMRAD and he insisted that
she not work in radio; they got divorced and he evidently took the kid and
vanished...), pictures of a young Eunice in high school-- she was on the
basketball team (!) and in the choir, pictures of various pieces of
equipment she built or helped to build, some of the blueprints she did at
AMRAD, programmes from various conventions where she and the AMRAD
contingent spoke or demonstrated equipment, and a hand-written log from Irv
Vermilya of amateur conferences where he and Eunice appeared in the early
1920s.  There were various letters, some old photos of people she worked
with... it was like being transported back into the 1920s and watching as
she became the first woman radio star in Boston.  I wonder what would have
happened if AMRAD had not gone bankrupt and if her first husband had not
insisted that she not be on the air... but I guess we will never know.  

I am archiving some of the items I was allowed to borrow, several of which
seem to bolster the case that 1XE was in fact on the air every bit as much
as KDKA was in 1920.  But that's a discussion for another day.  Eunice still
made appearances on radio after WGI, it turns out, speaking on a number of
"women's shows" in the Boston area.  One of the items I have is an acetate
of one such show that she did on WORL in 1949 about early radio-- I can
hardly wait to listen to it as soon as I find a record player that plays 78
rpm records... but it turns out AMRAD was using her voice for promotional
purposes-- I found a fascinating QSL card from a 1921 Chicago radio show
where it said you could hear the voice of "The OW of 1XE" telling about
AMRAD's newest equipment-- it was played "on a Dictafone record... three
times a day, via a loud speaker."  Amazing but true...               

So there you are-- a brief but unforgettable visit to the world of Eunice
Randall.  I think there's a magazine article here-- or perhaps a book...   


End of boston-radio-interest-digest V1 #80