Old pieces of radio history that had a home in Highland County for several years now rest in a West Virginia museum due to the efforts of the Highland Amateur Radio Association (HARA).
Today, most people take radio for granted as they have been able to listen to music and news like it has always been there. However, if you could to go back before the turn of the century and turn on one of today’s radios all you would hear would be silence and static. It was only after the turn of the century when you might even hear only Morse Code dits and dahls, then used to communicate because voice was not yet possible.
It was not until Christmas Eve 1906, when Canadian Reginald Fessenden made the first transmission of voice and music over the airwaves.
However, even if you knew Morse Code and wanted to listen to the traffic between ships and their land stations, you could not go into a big box or appliance store and purchase a radio receiver off the shelf, let alone a transmitter. If someone wanted to listen to this thing called wireless they had to build their own receivers using things like wire, oatmeal boxes, pieces of coal and telephone headphones. Often these items were assembled on a kitchen breadboard leading to the “breadboarding” term that is still used today by those who build their own projects. Even after preassembled radios became widely available, many experimenters still wanted to build ones of their own designs. Thus, in most villages and towns a radio store operated that not only sold these new-fangled devices, but made repairs and sold parts to those wishing to build their own.
Recently, HARA member David Gunderman notified the club his father, Robert, needed to relocate to a smaller residence and wanted to donate his early “home brewed” radio equipment to an organization that would not only honor those early radio pioneers but preserve the equipment he designed and built for future generations with an interest in early radio history to enjoy and appreciate. Thus, a different and challenging project was undertaken by the Highland County club.
A few years ago, the Highland County Historical Society found an old wooden-cased radio in the Highland House Museum attic and contacted HARA to try to find information about it. The local club put out an inquiry to fellow amateur radio operators who collect antique radios and similar equipment. A ham in Switzerland referred them to Huntington’s West Virginia Museum of Radio and Technology (WVMRT). Contact was made with the museum and not only was information about the Dayton, Ohio made radio provided, but an offer to repair the radio to working condition was offered.
That response led to the West Virginia museum being selected to receive the Gunderman collection.
Recently, HARA members journeyed to Huntington with the collection where they were met by museum president and curator Geoff Bourne. The WVMRT members receiving the donation were impressed with the quality and condition of the items. Members expressed their appreciation to the Gunderman family and HARA for wanting to preserve the impressive collection of the radios and radio-related items.
The museum is located at 1640 Florence Ave. in Huntington.
The HARA is an organization of 140 federally licensed amateur radio operators and/or others interested in ham radio as a hobby and service to the community. Most members live or work in Highland or the surrounding counties. More information about amateur radio can be found at www.arrl.org while information about the local club is available on the club’s Facebook site or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or club information officer John Levo, 937-393-4951.
Information for this story was provided by John Levo.