Saturday, August 2, 2014

W9GYR

As a young child I can remember my late grandfather operating a ham radio station in Chicago using surplus military equipment that he obtained at the end of World War II. When I received my own amateur radio license about a year ago I began to wonder when he first became involved in the hobby. I suspected that he started before the war so I started to dig through old FCC publications which listed newly issued licenses. I couldn't find a single mention of his name or the call sign that he was assigned: W9GYR.

My first clue to narrow down the search was a website called Old QSL Cards which has a large collection of the postcards that amateur operators send each other to confirm that they had made a radio contact. QSL is early radiotelegraph shorthand for "I am acknowledging receipt" of a wireless message. They had a card from my grandfather that was dated 1939.

QSL card from W9GYR from 1939
QSL card from my granfather from Jan. 26, 1939.
Scan courtesy of Old QSL Cards.


There are far fewer sources to search through before such an early date. I was then able to find an annual series at the library called Amateur Radio Stations of the United States from the Radio Division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. His call sign was first published in the June 30, 1931 edition, which was a couple of years before the FCC was created. He does not appear in the June 1930 edition so that pins it down to within 12 months. He was about 23 years old at the time.

W9GYR in Amateur Radio Stations of the U.S. 1931
First publication of my grandfather's call sign W9GYR in 1931.

I don't have much information about his involvement in radio communication. I have some vague memories of him talking to other hams in Chicago and occasionally someone half way around the world. There is a brief mention of him participating in a "round table" on the 5 meter band with a large group of other local operators. It was published in the ARRL magazine QST in November 1935.

QST article from Nov. 1935
It was a grand "shindig," thoroughly enjoyed by all.

His license expired just a few years after he passed away. Shortly after I was issued my own operator license I applied to the FCC to have his original call sign transferred to me under a rule that allows a close relative of a "silent key" to request a reassignment. W9GYR has now been in my family for more than 80 years.

Resistor Color Code Guide, c. 1945-1955
RMA Resistor Color Code Guide.
Allied Radio Corp. Circa 1945-1955.

I also have his resistor color code guide. The company address and phone number date it to shortly after the war.

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