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It was 1977 and I was running a lonely little gas dock up in Bristol Bay, AK during the Salmon season. Any kind of personal entertainment was very hard to come by – TV consisted of 2 hours a day from a far away military base, Walkmans and VCRs were strange devices rumored to be in Japan, there were no FM broadcasts and even AM wasn’t really tunable, it seemed like nothing bounced up (or out) that far.
While searching the Quonset huts we used for storage, looking for a missing valve handle, I spied two silver grey radio cases on a shelf at the back of a closet. Being a radio freak even then, I grabbed the radios and took them back to my bunkhouse room for further investigation.
I had discovered two identical compact, early 60s table-top shortwave receivers!
Having already been a bit of an electronics nut, I examined the units carefully before powering up either one. The first unit I looked at had obvious capacitor problems with a swollen can and a couple of drippy cardboard electrolytics – probably a no-go. The second looked much better, with no obvious issues. I powered up #2 and got a little bit of hum, but no joy.
Going with what I had, I started exchanging tubes, one at a time, between #1 and #2. Swap, power, nothing. Swap, power, nothing, swap, power… YES! The unmistakable sizzle of a shortwave receiver tumbled out of the speaker! I grabbed a long chunk of Romex that was in one of the dump boxes and attached one of the leads to to the antenna terminal and laid the Romex out on the floor.
After a short band scan I heard the unmistakable “click, click, click, BONG – at the tone, 21 hours, 37 minutes, coordinated universal time” down at 5 MHz and I was in business. For the rest of the summer I was entertained by everything from Australian jazz to Soviet propaganda to Deutche Welle and our position “at the top of the world” provided good reception at all hours.
1977 – Probably close to the halcyon of the shortwave era, and what a blast to sit out in the middle of the Naknek river and tune the world!
What I can’t remember after all these years was the brand – I’m sure it will come to me and I’ll update when it does.
UPDATE: Found it online – they were Hallicrafters S-38Es