Article 3 from the archives of the Danville Commercial NewsResearched by L D Warner, N9ZIV
Amateur Radio Operator Often Has Dramatic Role In Emergency, Disasters
By Joe Fairhall Jr., (March 29, 1931, Commercial News)
No section of the country is exempt from disasters such as hurricanes, blizzards, fires and floods. But no matter when they come or what section of the country is visited the amateur radio operator is always prepared for any emergency. It makes no difference to the amateur if the roads are blocked or telephone or telegraph lines are down. Nothing can happen or at least it never has happened to destroy his means of communicating with the outside world. The air is always in service, and after all other means of communications have been destroyed it can be dependent upon to carry messages to the outside world from any stricken area, and it is the amateur radio operator who must send the messages. And these messages can be sent any time to any place, and quickly, for it requires but a few minutes for the amateur to rig up an outfit and by the use of a few batteries send out a call for help.
As recent as March 7th and 8th, 1931 an amateur radio operator rendered excellent service for the city of Quincy, which was cut off from the outside world as a result of a sleet storm. Even the high tension wires from the great source of power at Keokuk, IA., were coated with sleet and finally, at 6:00 o'clock on the morning of March 6th they went down. The city was without electrical power. Everything was tied up. Factories were shut down and stores and shops were closed. The amateur, relying upon his only means of communications, the air, secured some storage and "B" batteries, rigged up a transmitter and sent out a call.
W9BNL Hears The Call
The first station to answer his signal was W9BNL, Centralia, and a report of the situation was given to an Associated Press correspondent. The message was forwarded to the A.P. office in Chicago. Then he got in touch with the station W9BNI, at Springfield, which handled traffic for the Illinois Telephone Company and transmitted a three hundred word message from Springfield to the Quincy branch of the Company. By Sunday morning the telephone company had a wire strung and in service between Quincy and Springfield. The Bell Telephone Company was very pleased with the assistance rendered by the amateur operators, and gave the credit to the amateur stations; W9BFL, W9BNI, W9ANR, K9AFQ, and K9FKO for it was they who handled the emergency so successfully.
The Western Union Telegraph Company had only one wire working and the Postal Telegraph Company was paralyzed. The Quincy Amateur also acted as a newspaper correspondent. He prepared and sent out a six hundred word story to the Associated Press which was "slugged" by radio to the office at Centralia. This story of the Quincy storm was among the first that appeared in newspapers throughout the country.
In the big disaster at Florida, not so long ago, the amateur operator played an important part in establishing communication with the outside world and getting relief to those in the stricken area. Each year thus a new crop of new amateurs spring up. Their first start when the bugs bites them, as a rule, is to produce a small crystal, some wire, an old spool and soon they have made a little radio receiving set that works without the aid of batteries. Then they become more interested and begin learning the code. The first thing we know they are enrolled among the 18,000 (eighteen thousand) or more amateurs of the United States. These beginners, or fledglings, are never satisfied until they become full fledged amateurs hoping to become operators.
Hope To Be Operators
The ambition of most amateurs is to serve as a wireless operator on some sea going vessel. How many can remember back to the day when the first S.O.S. signal was flashed from the sinking Republic by Jack Binns, the wireless operator, who used a crude code that was picked up by several vessels, which hearkened to the sinking ship and saved the lives of several hundred passengers.
We have in the district the first amateur in Vermilion county. He is Everett Anderson, whose station is W9KK. Anderson served in Uncle Sam's Navy several years before the World War (WWI). He, with other wireless operators who have served on Uncle Sam's great vessels, having many interesting stories to tell concerning the foreign countries they have visited, the customs of the inhabitants of these countries, and of their work as wireless operators. As a rule the wireless operator is the last man to leave a sinking ship and there are several records of the operator with his finger still on key, tapping out the S.O.S. signal going down with his ship.
In closing I would like to quote from a book written by Dr. Lee DeForest, one of the foremost radio operators of the world, who says, "if you haven't a hobby get one. Ride it. Your interest and zest in life will become greater. You will find common (----not readable----) in getting together, in exchange of ideas which only hobbyists can know. Wireless is of all hobbies the most interesting. It offers the widest limits, the keenest fascination, either for the intense competition with others, near and far, or for quiet study and pure enjoyment in the still night hours as you welcome friendly visitors from the whole wide world".