Late-nite DXing

Cohasset / Hippisley
Sat Feb 23 19:50:34 EST 2008

-----Original Message-----
From: Donna Halper
Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2008 2:01 PM

When I was a kid, I used to love to do dx'ing and 
Sunday nights were the best time to do it because 
so many stations signed off for transmitter 
maintenance....I think today's 
kids have no idea how exciting it was to pull in 
distant stations.

For my 13th birthday my grandfather bought me an RCA 5-tube clock radio
(with an RCA phono jack in the back for their companion 45-rpm changer the
company brought out to support and enhance the sale of their new vinyl
"singles" format, replacing the 78-rpm shellacs that broke far too easily).

For the next 4-1/2 years there was hardly a night I didn't go to sleep
listening to AM broadcast band "DX" on my little 5-tuber.  Somewhere I still
have the reception log I kept.  I lived in the Finger Lakes of upstate NY,
and my only local station went off the air before midnight.  After sundown
the Syracuse stations (with patterns that generally protected stations in my
direction from them) were non-players, so the closest nighttime Top Pop
stations I normally tuned in were WKBW, WPTR, and WMEX.  During the day, my
#1 choice was the quite conservative Top 40 format and delivery of
Syracuse's WFBL "Big Six" announcers on 1390 kHz.  

When I moved into my dorm room in Cambridge to start my college years, it
was harder to DX because of all the industrial and retail noise, along with
all the misbehaving fluorescents in the dorms.  Somewhere in the middle of
my freshman year I developed a massive case of homesickness, driven in part
by my parents' separation and divorce while I was off at school; about the
only antidote I could afford was to wait until after midnight, when most of
the stations on 1390 went off the air, and try to tune in WFBL in Syracuse.
I think I had about a 30-40% success rate; as I recall, there was a station
in the Carolinas that gave them a run for their money.  Sunday nights were
tough, because WFBL itself went off the air then!

Ironically, when I was home from Boston on vacation or holidays, both during
and after college -- especially during the sunspot minimum of the early-mid
60s, I'd drive around central NY with the (vacuum tube) car radio tuned to
WMEX on 1510!!! 

I still have the old RCA 5-tuber; it has a massive crack in its plastic
case, and it's been through a couple of exterior paint jobs, but I can't
bear to part with it.  I wouldn't dare plug it in and turn it on without
replacing all its capacitors, but it was kinda like a teddy bear to me at a
time when I needed it the most.

Bud Hippisley

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