The first article of this series inadvertently identified the last name of the author as "Lynch"--this has been corrected to "Leech". The original scans for this series are at
Radio Age, September, 1924, pages 20-22, 49:

R e m i n i s c e n c e s
of  an  Old
mast collapse

Part One:
"My  Amateur

A  Vivid  Retrospection  of  the  Days
When  a  Radio  "Bug"  Who
Claimed  to  Extract  Mes-
sages  From  the  Ether
Was   Declared
Mentally Un-

THIS article is the first of an interesting series by a veteran commercial operator, who describes the facts and thrills of his rise from an awe-inspired experimenter, back in 1907, to a full-fledged radio expert. Don't fail to miss a single installment, you amateurs!


MY  EARLIEST remembrance of wireless dates back to the latter part of 1906, or the early part of 1907, I am not quite sure which. The excitement started with my discovery in a current boys' magazine of a diagram for "a wireless receiving set which any boy can make," over which fortunate experimenters had heard stations "five miles distant." The diagram of this wondrous creation as it appears on a tattered piece of school drawing paper is now among my prized possessions in case some intrepid experimenter might desire to try it out alongside his superheterodyne.
    The slogan "make it out of the junk you have" would hardly apply to a masterpiece of this magnitude, as few if any would find their shop stocked with the necessary apparatus. The list of materials was impressive, containing such highly scientific items as "200 feet of annunciator wire, one 75-ohm bi-polar telephone receiver," and again "one carbon rod from a common dry battery."
    Among the concluding items stands out in my memory a shining item--"one brass head upholsterer's tack with head between 3/16" and ¼" in diameter." How I did sweat over that item! With foot rule in hand I visited some fifteen upholstery shops in my own and neighboring cities in search for this elusive item. Upholsterers' tacks by the bucketful, yea, by the wagon load, were to be found in profusion, but not one could I locate that fell exactly within the limits specified by my guiding genius.
    Early in my search I found little interest in my micrometer standards as to tack head sizes, the dealers visited feeling that I should somehow squeeze in a tack 9/32" or worry along with one about 5/32". With scorn I rejected their counsel! What could a mere upholsterer understand of the niceties of science!
    That was the trouble with the non-scientific gentry of those days. They looked askance at we youngsters' experiments in the mystic sport--wireless. They thought we were tinkering with instruments of the devil--to put it mildly. They offered us absolutely no co-operation at all. Which made our efforts all the more difficult. But it was such dogged determination that finally overcame early obstacles and made radio what it is today. And now those same skeptics are our staunchest admirers and the first to say: "I told you so! I knew he'd make good!" But let us proceed.
    While searching for new stores to enter I concluded to take the next shopkeeper into my confidence, but after three trials I concluded that this would not do at all. In no case did I get beyond a third explanation of my purpose in procuring an upholsterer's tack with head between 3/16" and ¼". The first fellow was merely dumfounded. "Wireless telegraph!" he kept exclaiming. He HAD heard that it was possible to telegraph and talk with wires, but a wireless telegraph was absolutely beyond him.

All  "Unbelievers"

HE  HAD to call Lena, his wife, who came with two babies in arms and several afoot to hear me tell it all over again, which story was no sooner complete than friend Otto, from the bakery, happened in with his Meerschaum for a chat with his good friends. A third telling was finished amid an accompaniment of wondering exclamations from all but Otto. This sturdy German struck a jarring note in the symphony by expressing entire disbelief in the whole project.
    In the argument which followed the object of my quest was entirely forgotten and I finally extricated myself, followed by thunderous advice against my foolhardiness from the now thoroughly aroused Otto.
    My next conferee quickly became bored at my insistence upon such close dimensions and returned to his bench with the darkness dense and unpunctured by my careful explanations of the wonders of the new science.
    The third auditor listened to my opening text, but as I began on the sermon itself he laid his tools down, came closer and started to scowl ominously. Then he interrupted and roughly informed me that I was crazy. Telegraph without wires! Any time a freckled, lanky, shortpanted kid armed with a smudged foot ruler laid off in eighths tried to tell him he was going to hear some messages coming through the air without any wires--well, he was too dash-blamed, gadswocked wise for that. I was some young Edison, I was, etc. carbon receiver
    In despair I returned to my room and viewed the lavish outlay spread before me. Everything was there, right down to the "two blocks of soft wood 1¼"x 3"x 1" thick" which were supposed to support the tuning coil on the base "3"x 3'2" long by 1" thick," all shaved down to the hair--but no upholsterer's tack with head between 3/16" and ¼". I almost gave up making the set because to my mind it never could work with an upholsterer's tack over ¼"; and at night I had dreams of Hertzian waves, little purple glowing rings something under ¼" in diameter, dying by the millions, hanging in festoons on my wires with their leader stuck fast on the brass head tack some thirty-second of an inch too large.
    Finally, with much care I filed down the circumference of a large tack to just a trifle under one and three-quarters of the eighth-inch spaces on my foot rule, and after polishing off the rough file marks, tried to convince myself that it would work.
    With the set assembled, the first of many vigils at the one phone of the outfit began under awesome circumstances. My skeptical upholsterer friends had somewhat cooled my own ardor, and with my confidence further shaken by dissenting voices among my friends, I became chary of confiding my plans to anyone. Only my mother knew what I was doing and on the night of the first trans-continental tests she was in collusion with me falsely to announce that I had gone out for the evening.
    In the darkness of my room I lay in hiding until quiet reigned in the household and mother's whisper at the door assured me that all was well. With curtains drawn and light turned low I made a final inspection of my connections from lead-in to gaspipe and found everything as per drawing.
THEN with a firm gulp swallowing my heart for the fifth time, I grasped the receiver and--witness the birth of the loud speaker idea--placed it within a close foot of my ear! Of course it was foolish of me to expect to hear the distant (four miles) station without radio frequency amplification, but remember that I was brand new at the game.
    Suffice to say that I heard nothing from that receiver, even with it only an inch from my ear. Gaining courage I pressed it lightly to my ear, then, not suffering any ruptured eardrum, I squeezed it tightly, but no amount of grinding of receiver into ear produced anything but a dead silence. Right ear or left ear made no difference; light pressure or heavy pressure of needle on carbon block; brass curtain ring at top, center or bottom of tuning coil, all was silent as the grave.
    Wrathfully I eyed the offending upholsterer's tack which, you recall, I had doctored into a semblance of proper dimensions. There, undoubtedly, was the trouble. However, I decided I would look over my aerial and outside connections on the morrow.
    My aerial consisted of a brass rod stuck about four feet above the third story roof. Quite an antenna, at that, when a fellow can get Cuba on a loop--and six or eight tubes. Passing up the good or bad qualities, for I knew naught of either then, my daylight inspection showed everything shipshape, so I decided to give the outfit another tryout that night. Possibly, I thought, there were no messages being sent the night before.
    But there was nothing doing that night or for several succeeding nights. Then as I was pondering one day I was chilled by a horrible thought. Possibly our only local station, "CG," Collingswood, N. J., was farther away than the four miles I had always believed lay between our house in Camden, N. J., and the suburb. The article regarding the set only claimed five miles for it, you will recall. Maybe the station was five and a quarter miles!
    At first opportunity nothing would do but for me to pedal on my bike to Collingswood, watching the odometer tick off the tenths. 4.3 it registered from my house to Collingswood by road. In an air line it was no doubt much closer.
    Now, absolutely stuck, I started doggedly listening, listening. In the morning before breakfast, at noon as soon as I was home from school, night after night, and still not a sound until--
    One noon, as usual rushing up to my room, I was arrested at the doorway by a prodigious clicking coming from the general direction of my set. With heart standing still I breathlessly approached and soon traced the wild racket to the seventy-five ohm phone lying on the table. No need to put the receiver to ear--the clicking was of goodly bulk and strong and could be heard perfectly well with the phone where it was.

His  Dreams  Blasted

ON  THE point of tearing madly through the house shouting the tidings to all, I paused. Somehow it struck me that something was irregular about all this. Picking up the receiver and placing it near my ear I immediately noted that the loud clickety-clicks emanating therefrom had little in them of a far off nature. They sounded more like good, healthy battery juice being fed directly into the coils of that phone. We had often used this very hook-up as a variation of our key and sounder circuits.
    Hastily I examined my wiring. Sure enough, there were signs aplenty of dirty work at the cross roads. Hooked to my aerial and ground was an extra pair of wires leading over the window sill and down the outside of the house. Tiptoeing softly downstairs and down cellar, I came upon my Uncle Joe, a dabbler in electricity but a skeptic as to wireless, with a key, two dry cells and the other ends of two wires which I could gamble were furnishing sigs to my third floor "wireless" set.
    Now that I am more or less grown up and able-bodied, I am firmly resolved that if I ever meet my Uncle Joe again I am going to poke him hard at least once for that frameup. At that, his signals were the only ones I ever heard on my first set.
    There follows a period in my radio career of which I can recall nothing. Then, perhaps a year later, I became acquainted with my first wireless friend, Norman Shepherd, who lived at 214 Broadway in my town, and who I found had quite a complete outfit. It always has been a mystery to me where he got his dope for the good equipment in his station. The details certainly were not being widely published--witness the diagram and description of my premier effort.
    Shep had an electrolytic detector with platinum wire sealed in glass tube, later to be supplanted by the "whisker point"; he had fair receivers, a two-slide tuner, some potentiometers made of lead pencils, and a raft of other stuff. His sending set was a sight to behold. A ten-inch spark coil was used on 110 A. C. with about fifteen lamps series-multiple on a board right over the operating table. Broadway was a darkened country lane in comparison when Shep pressed the key. People came for miles to see the display.
    The aerial would do credit to any good commercial station today. It was a ten-wire flat top a fair city block long, atop three-story houses and held forty feet farther aloft by two masts, each composed of a 4x6 below and a 2x4 above, supported by a maze of guys. The poles merely rested on the roof and were not fastened at the bottom. The guy wires were calculated to divide the strain equally and to do all the holding up necessary.
    And believe me, they did that. I immediately became very active in the game and engineered many an aerial put up like Shep's in the following eighteen months--and always the same system of guys with no bottom support. I believe honestly I would hesitate a long time right now before I would swing a tall stick aloft depending solely on my calculated lengths of guy wires to tighten up and hold 'er there when it reached the perpendicular. Yet we did it dozens of times in those days with never a qualm, and with but one serious smash.
    The author of this discordant recollection was barred forever from our construction force, and even now I can picture his disappointed little face in the crowd of smaller kids who were always on hand to pull the ropes, hold the guys and run the errands at every aerial raising.

An  Aerial  Calamity

ON  THE day in question little Harry was detailed to hold for dear life onto one of the two topmast back guys, the two which above all were depended on to come to a comfortable tightness and STAY there as the pole reached its upright position. Through some misunderstanding, although thoroughly instructed, this youngster let go just at the critical moment. Pausing momentarily at the pinnacle, the stick continued its arc, first slowly, then more rapidly falling toward the white-faced and helpless group of would-be young engineers. The remaining top guy had only complicated matters by causing the stick to lurch sickeningly to one side, and the middle guys, not being greatly counted on, were too slack to exercise any restraint until the pole was well on its downward flight. Two fairly good chimneys to which these guys were fastened promptly crashed to the tin roof, upon which the assistant engineer in charge of the remaining middle guy let go the end, thinking to save his chimney from a similar fate.
    Careening madly in a side-sweep, the pole knocked two of the boys for a row over the edge of the roof--fortunately a short story to the second floor roof of a wing of the building, then shot like an arrow, amidst a jangle of guy wires on the tin, straight through a skylight into a barber shop below. Although casualties could have been more numerous among us, perched fifty feet above, the nearest approach to actual death was in that crowded five-chair barber shop on a busy Saturday afternoon. A final check showed nothing more serious than several cases of panic, but wireless was strictly taboo in that household--yes, in the entire neighborhood.
    Arthur Leech, author of the reminiscent series beginning in this issue, has followed radio from its lowly birth to the lofty perch in the scientific world which it has now attained. After seven years in the commercial field, he spent two years as an operator for the Navy and four years as a practicing "observer" at home. He was one of the first to hear a raucous "Hello" from the DeForest experimental station in New York in 1909. From all these years of experience, he will unfold to amateurs and "BCLs" some glimpses of the progress of radio through the eyes of one who loves the game.
--The Editors.    

    How long the Navy and commercial companies had maintained workable systems of wireless I do not know, but I clearly recall that at this period we could hear a string of stations up and down the coast from Cape Cod to Key West. Right fair distances, eh?
    Which reminds me that never do I read an account purporting to chronicle the progress of radio that tells the real story of distances achieved or that is chronologically ten per cent correct. Per these accounts no understandable signals were ever received more than five hundred miles prior to about 1913. I am telling you right now that in these extremely early days we consistently copied Key West every night in the Winter, and later on in my accounts of commercial work on shipboard, I will tell of regular two-way exchange of volumes of business between ships and stations 2,500 and 3,000 miles apart. Furthermore. I remember Dave Heilg, my tutor prior to my entry into the commercial game, telling of the same regular transmission of messages as far back as his shipboard days on the Hamburg-American South American ships in 1904-5.
    How we used to thrill at "Q1," Washington, with a wonderful high-toned spark--about 120 cycles!--trilling back at "PV," our coarse-voiced neighbor at League Island, now Philadelphia, Navy Yard. "PV's" spark would take fits of breaking, making noises like a big boy whose voice is changing rather late, except that its normal note was high and the break was downward. Catapulting up and down at every other letter, it must have been a "peach" to read through static.
    "PT" I remember as Brooklyn Navy Yard and "PR" as Fire Island. If I miss on any of these, somebody please correct me. "QL" I believe was Norfolk's roughly spoken sign. And dear old "RD," Key West--what a triumph when he would rattle in on 1500 meters with a spark frequency of about twenty-five cycles. In the same period was "BX," later "BS," the United Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company's station on the Bellevue Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia, working with "AX," Atlantic City, "NY," 42 Broadway, New York City, and "FS," the Plaza Hotel, New York City. As the United flourished, more ships and stations were added until any night our electrolytic and silicon detectors brought in a veritable beehive of stations. "WA," Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, and "DU," Dupont Building, Wilmington, Del., were late arrivals.

The  First  "World  Criers"

SOMEWHERE in this period, too, "CC," Cape Cod Marconi, came on the air--or probably we just discovered him then, and after that, it was press every night at ten o'clock. These bulletins, which we could have read in five minutes in the evening paper, we would struggle for a good two hours, posting same on the kitchen door or back fence alongside of Washington's weather report at the same time we changed the weather flags for the day. Sure--every amateur in our neighborhood had a complete set of signal flags which all the laymen in the block marveled at, but, of course, could not understand.
    How many here--hold up your hands--who remember the thrill of that cold, impersonal non-synchronous spark starting promptly at ten with ...-  ...-  -.-.  -.-.  -.-.  -.-. then "To all Marconi ships and stations," followed by "New York Herald (or some other paper) says--" and a short editorial from some New York sheet and a long string of press, the items separated by the word "stop," with stock reports at the end? This press, we understood, was punched onto a tape and fed through a sending machine twice as both sendings were identical, even to any mistakes which had crept into the punching.
    As I think back, however, I believe our biggest thrill came when we heard our first 500-cycle spark. The Navy was running some tests between the scout cruisers Chester and Birmingham and the land station at Brant Rock, Mass. We never heard the cruisers, but one night Shep and I landed "plop" on Brant Rock's tune at something above fifteen hundred and we positively did not get over it for weeks. The sound of that marvelous Fessenden synchronous rotary, with its pure soft whistle, will live with me forever.
    And then--Shep went to sea. Which marked the turning of my footsteps toward the commercial game, and, incidentally, nearly marked the head of my grave with the usual inscription. It happened like this:
    Shep, being away on the ships, had commissioned me to dismantle his set, for which I was to receive most of the equipment. The ten-wire flat top had been replaced by an enormous two-wire triangle extending along two sides of a city block and diagonally from one corner to the other, this last side being about 500 feet long.
    In taking this long stretch down, I was standing on a tin roof, grounded through the rain spout, heaving away on these two long strands when they swung low onto some old 4,600-volt power lines in the alley on which the insulation was hanging in shreds. There was a tremendous report and a great flash and I found myself sitting on the roof with the ends of the wires dangling over the roof--absolutely untouched and without having felt a slightest tingle.
    Very quietly I sat while the neighbors returned, one by one, indoors, figuring how in Sam Hill I was still there, absolutely as green and uncooked as if I had not just a moment before shorted, or grounded, or in some way run counter to a lot of volts on the wrong side of the transformer. Cautiously investigating, picking up a couple of handfuls of perfectly rounded copper marbles in the alley under the power lines, where some six feet of aerial wire had been melted, I found a perfectly satisfactory explanation. It was a nicely fused ground switch from which I had "neglected" to disconnect the lead before trying to pull the wires over to my roof. That was all--but that was enough.
    My amateur days overlap into my commercial with my first trip to "BX" station and my adoption by Dave Heilig as one of the men "posting up" for a ship job. But more of that in the next issue, if the good editor will let my sigs get through.

    (In an early issue of RADIO AGE Mr. Leech will write on "My Initiation Into the Commercial Game" in which he experiences some hazardous adventures while serving as operator on the S. S. Seminole to Haiti. Watch for it.)
October, 1924, pages 22-24, 60-61:

Hazardous Adventures  as  a  Commercial  Operator

Being  the  Second  of  a  Series  of  Unusual  Memoirs

Above deck in storm

IT  WAS not more than two weeks after I had started to "post up" at the "BX" station, (Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia, later "BS"), that I was called on to go to sea.
    The fast-growing need for operators could only be supplied by encouraging amateurs and wire men to "break in" at the land stations, as there were no radio "ham factories" (telegraph schools) in those days. Examinations and licenses were unknown.
    At that time I was a proper "lid" on receiving stuff where every letter counted. Sitting at home quietly piecing out press and weather reports, et cetera, I found it to be a different bit of business from having the stuff slapped directly at me thirty a minute by a Morse hound bent only on getting my OK and sine on a flock of real messages. Continental was at that time a novelty, being used only by the Navy.
American Morse is at least a third faster.
    On the third or fourth night of my course, Dave Heilig, station manager, was called out and left me in charge. I was so scared I could barely lift up the phones, and as I got them on I was immediately paralyzed from ears to fingers. My worst fears were realized--"NY"  WAS  CALLING  "BX"  LIKE  A  HOUSE  AFIRE! By the time I had gotten my palsied muscles to functioning "NY" was on his fourth call, four times as mad and sending four times as fast. I was faintly slapping the key in reply when Dave returned. "Good gosh! What's the matter?" he asked, after a look at my haggard countenance.
    "Nothing," I managed to reply. "MIN," I said on the key, then to Dave, "Here, take 'em."
    I handed him the phones and staggered to the roof for air.
    One of the first messages gave me my second big thrill from the commercial slant. After I had reread it for the tenth time to be sure it sounded right--it was a SVC (service) and had no check, or number of words to assuage my doubts as to whether or not I really had it all--when I finally assured myself that I had been justified in OK'ing the message, I noted its contents. It advised the station manager that on the following Saturday New York would need two operators to sail to parts not mentioned. I did not take the allusion "operator" as referring to me, but after Dave had looked the SVC over, he said: "Well, Art--what say? Want to go?"
    With the big chance suddenly looming up before me, I waxed weak in the knees and home and Mother seemed a lot more desirable than steamships and foreign ports. Maybe my scant fifteen years had something to do with it. However, Dave SVC'd "NY" that "Operators" Killie and Leech would report. On the way home I spent a hectic time, hot and cold in turns, one minute on a pinnacle of joy and the next in the slough of despond, and by the time I got to Camden I was well nigh gibbering. Mother was as concerned as I had been at the news, but after a conference we decided to see it through.
    What a pathetic little figure I must have been, trudging aboard the Camden-Philly ferry before daylight Saturday morning, October 9, 1909, in a dense fog that symbolized perfectly what I was facing.
    Meeting friend Kille as arranged, I looked him over anxiously, but vainly, for any traces of such excitement as was surging through my breast.
    In New York we repaired immediately to the roof of 42 Broadway, headquarters of the United Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company, and crawling under and over and around a host of pipes, tanks, wires and similar devices common to the attics of New York's office buildings, we shortly stood before the arbiter of our destinies in the form of H. J. Hughes, Operating Superintendent, absolutely one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met--in spite of his being an operator. H. J. H. I shall always remember as a medium-sized gent whose face was always smiling, even when he was serious. I must certainly have looked like a tender sapling to trust with the safety of an ocean-going steamer and her precious cargo of human lives. However, reassured by H. J. H.'s kindly presence, I gradually regained some measure of the last ounce of poise which had trickled out of my system as we had ascended in the elevator.
    Kille, quickly assigned to a vessel, briefly took leave and passed out of my life. I was bade to stand by while H. J. H. disposed of routine duties. After an hour I began to get anxious again. Anxiety shortly turned to panic and I spent some minutes picturing my dire circumstances--with no ship, alone, penniless and forgotten in New York, a fifteen-year-old wanderer with an enormously heavy suitcase, buffeted about by the careless crowd. Despairingly I looked into H. J. H.'s room, to see him apparently at ease as if the docket were clear. As a reminder that the most important piece of business in the world was still on the boards, I stepped in.

Hope--Then  Despair!

"HEAVENS," said H. J. H., (or was it the other place), "we have forgotten Leech."
    And by the way he looked vacantly at his list of ships I instinctively knew that I had been left out somehow. "Everything that sails today seems to be filled up."
    I felt too forlorn to reply.
    "Ah," said H. J. H., "here's one--but she does not sail until next Wednesday." I was so immensely relieved at having something that it was a few minutes before I started to wonder--how I was to live until Wednesday with about two dollars in my jeans. H. J. H. evidently saw my predicament.
    "I think," he said, "that you can live aboard, but they don't keep house in port on that line, so you will have to eat ashore."
    Everything was in process of overhaul when I arrived aboard the "Seminole" at Pier 31, South Brooklyn, and a heavy, depressing smell of fresh paint mixed with the usual dock odors prevailed everywhere. To this day similar smells around a dock remind me of that day and give me a momentary fit of the blues. The wireless room, a 6x8 converted stateroom on the upper deck, was a wreck. Steamfitters had installed a new radiator and had departed leaving the usual mess. And on this detail hangs an important later development. As to furnishings, the upper berth contained the big coffin-like 1 K. W. transformer, a case of leyden jars and the helix and spark gap. A shelf over the motor generator was large enough for the tuner and a pad of message blanks. The lower berth held mattress, blanket and one pillow, but, of course, no linen. The washstand contained nary water, soap nor towels. I could not get any bed linen, but I did get a towel, some soap and a clue to a fresh water tap. The stewards informed me that the ship was out of commission and that there was nothing doing on any service before sailing day. However, the berth, linen or none, was better than a bench in the park, so I dug in for a lonesome wait.
    The three days and nights before sailing I spent in cleaning up the set, copying for practise and wandering around Brooklyn. I was already so homesick that I nearly deserted ship, but I stuck it out and finally the big day arrived. As I watched the dock receding I had to admit a grand exhilaration now that the "great adventure" had commenced.
    The first duty in those days was to send a "Leaving dock" "OS" (position), a practise long ago discontinued on account of the unnecessary interference caused. Listening carefully for a break in the fearful jam of stations on the air, I finally got a clear minute and with generator running I threw down the aerial switch and--lost my nerve. Having faltered for a few seconds I knew I was too late, and sure enough on throwing up the switch "NY" was working with another ship. At the next break I slammed the switch bravely and called "NY NY VJ  .  .  .  - " Back he snapped with "VJ NY GA  .  .  .  - " and I was into my first ship to shore communication. Outside of the key sticking every other letter and the fact that I said "1:55 A. M. VJ left dock" instead of "1:55 P. M." I got it over. "NY" had quite a job on his hands getting me corrected, but I finally savvied and made it "1:55 P. M."

A  Rude  Awakening

ABOUT 7 a. m. the next morning I suddenly "came to" compactly piled up in one end of the berth. Before I could get unwound, or the ole bean to work doping out this unusual situation, my end of the berth elevated itself to the top of a perpendicular and I shot down to the foot, plus pillows, bedding and some clinging, snapping, troublesome articles which I shortly discovered to be the phones. Now thoroughly awakened, I could hear a tremendous whistling which I took to be the wind, accompanied by much splashing and running of water. Recalling a storm warning I had pieced together the night before we sailed, I gathered that this was it.
    This much understood, I next turned my attention to a strange tumult raging nearer at home--somewhere between the heart and liver, to be as specific as I was able. Two guesses as to what was the trouble. Not wishing to dwell on such personal matters, I watched my chance between leaps and vigorously swung my feet out of the berth and plunked them down hard--right into my suitcase on top of the clean shirts. I then perceived that practically everything but the set had broken adrift and was mixing it merrily on the floor at each gallop of our laboring steed. A sudden lurch shot me into an upright position and into another surprise, which was that this business of standing up had to be learned all over again. Three good wallops put me where I would be safe while I formulated plans.
    I had wound my arms desperately around the tuner. My efforts were fully rewarded as this instrument accompanied us on the backward crash and I kept it close to my bosom for the complete cycle back across the washstand and return to the table. Only--we missed the table by several feet of altitude and joined ourselves freely with the motor-generator and the oil can. There we stuck. Forsaking my first love, the tuner, I firmly embraced the motor-generator and with face resting comfortably among the collector ring brushes, I thought this thing over calmly.
    The disturbance in the neighborhood of my floating ribs becoming serious, I determined to return to bed. Spreading arms and legs so as to give myself a stable wheelbase, I cautiously sat up and quietly studied the strange contortions of our gallant vessel for some sign of system or sequence, but I could detect neither. I had just given it up when a heavy, regular tramping approached on the deck outside. At this sign of life aboard I felt better and with the knowledge that here at least was one person who could not only stand up but make excellent time in a predetermined direction.
    But the tramping stopped outside my cabin, a firm hand seized the knob and opened the door. In rushed a large section of salty gale, mixed with a dash of spray and Captain McKenzie. Slamming the door behind him, the skipper dashed the brine from his eyes, took one look at the wreckage, burst into a flow of language that started like a prayer but wasn't, and stamped out of the room. Five minutes later Carey, the First Mate, came in and not unkindly offered to lend a hand to get matters straightened around. Shortly we had everything made fast and the room took on a business-like aspect.

"Fishing"  for  Signals

CAREY had brought our 8 a. m. "OS," also a request from the Captain to rustle up a weather report. As I was about to reply my stomach turned end for end and did not immediately return. Carey instinctively ducked, but it was a false alarm that time and by a herculanean effort I forced my digestive organs back into place. Agreeing to have the engineers start up the dynamo--we normally only had juice during the night--Carey left, after advising me that I would feel better in bed.
    Then started a session which paralleled my first siege of listening at my first set in 1907. Not a sig could I hear; not a soul could I raise, although we were but 250 miles from New York and in easy range of "AX" and "HA," Cape Hatteras. As often as I could marshal strength I continued calling "AX" and "HA" for hours, then "CQ"--general call. Hearing no response I started broadcasting my "OS," "8 A. M. VJ 210 South Hook," keeping this up steadily until without notice the juice suddenly went off.
    In the forenoon I attempted the trip below to ask for power again. The wireless room was on the windward side and I soon found that I had a lot more stuff to learn about conduct in general with relation to the roll of the ship, wind direction, et cetra, nearly breaking a complete set of arms and legs in the first battle with the cabin door. Once outside and flattened against the deckhouse by the wind, I was appalled at the sight around me. Waves higher than I had ever imagined, topped by masses of wind-whipped foam, towered all about us, threatening to wipe out our little craft. The ship, which at dock had impressed me as a mass of sizeable proportions, was a mighty unimportant speck in the tumult. I was first surprised, then relieved, at the quick response of our ship to the necessities of the raging waters. Looking forward I saw a monster wave headed directly at us and I thought the end had come. But the old "Seminole" climbed that hill like a duck and in an instant we were right on top--all ready for the dizzy slide down the other side. I proceeded on my way, slowly slipping, sliding, down the deck.
    In introducing the author of this series last month, RADIO AGE erroneously referred to him as "Arthur Lynch" instead of "Arthur Leech." Mr. Leech is a veteran operator known to thousands of fans throughout the country, and his adventures will be appreciated by those who know the true facts of the early days of radio. We hope the impression created last month will be corrected by this explanation.

    For the next three days, fighting sea-sickness, homesickness and general disgust, I doggedly hammered that key by the hour, whenever I could get juice, calling "CQ" and broadcasting our latest "OS."
    Then, Saturday night, (October 16, my diary says), with weather moderating, I decided something was wrong with the set, and I discovered that I had been working without a receiving ground, absolutely no soap for any distance in those pre-R. F. amplification days. You recall my allusion to the steamfitters installing a new radiator so as to furnish me with material to write about fifteen years later? My receiving ground had run to the steampipe and those gentlemen of the wrench and red lead had cut the wire and stuffed the end inside the partition while proceeding with their dirty work!
    Touching the wire to the radiator, I immediately heard about eighteen sparks with different tones, sounding like the lost (and found) chord on a church organ. Making hasty connection, I heard in five minutes enough ships and stations to fill two log sheets. While rejoicing at thus solving the problem, my blood suddenly froze ice as I realized what I had been doing for the last three days and nights. I had dumbly been jamming the whole coast. I must have done especially heroic execution on the second day out when, while only 150 miles from "AX" and "HA" I had been on the key steadily during those hours when said stations were normally overtaxed clearing the flock of ships that had left New York the day before. And at night, during the freak range of the set, which might be anything. What a mess I had made of the wireless communication of the Atlantic seaboard! Appalled, I decided to remain silent on the up-trip, sneak off the ship to avoid the lynching party sure to be waiting, change my personal sine, develop a new style of sending and ask for a transfer.

Another  "Faux  Pas"

HOWEVER, that was borrowing trouble. I still had enough for the immediate present, what with a skipper absolutely convinced that I was purely excess baggage. Next day we were to pass the "VK," S. S. "Cherokee," northbound, which was something of an event to the skippers anxious to exchange long messages regarding general conditions. I made a complete daub of this deal too, and my stock went from .00 to .0000 with the Boss. Due to a comedy of errors in which "VK" called while I had no juice, and I had juice while "VK" was off the job, in connection with real tropical static when we both had juice, we missed each other entirely. After this had been going on about a day, "VK" called me, and in response to my impassioned plea to the Chief that "VK" was calling, he forced his crew to reassemble the dynamo right in the middle of some delicate repair work. The fact that it was twenty minutes before I could answer, during which time "VK" had given up and gone off the job, meant nothing to the Chief. As my pilot light died down, my last hope went with it, for in my diary under Sunday, October 17, 1909, I wrote: "Have decided to resign. Wrote letter to Ma."
    Tomorrow was another day and I felt better when we saw our first land--Turk's Island, a British possession. Although producing only one thing, salt made from evaporated sea water, and anything but beautiful in form, it was my first view of a foreign land and for a time my troubles were banished in the activities attendant upon lightering the cargo to shore. The lightermen were British negroes, a different type from our American negro, and as they worked on some kind of a piece work scale, much competition was engendered in maneuvering for a place at the ship's side.
    The outstanding point of interest on my first trip was the arrival at Monte Christi the next morning. I looked over the ship's rail at the most colorful panorama I had ever seen and it remains with me to this day as a peer of my travels. The water about the ship was a transparent blue as deep as laundry bluing and as it approached shore, it shaded off to a light blue, then through all shades of green to a line of foam on a white beach of coral sand. Clumps of palms, picturesque native huts, and a deep purple background of snow-capped mountains in the distance from which the morning mists were melting in ever-changing halos of gorgeous coloring, completed the picture.
    The glamor of the extended excursion from port to port among an old world atmosphere so different from what we knew at home, kept me free from worry until the day we took the aerial down looking for a loose joint that had developed an annoying swing in received signals. The aerial had been up for three years and was badly corroded and oxidized, and when Carey and I started to lower the after end, the cable stuck in the block, despite vigorous prayerful remarks made by Carey at the aftermast. Carey gave a wrathful yank on the flimsy leads and--what follows sounds like slapstick, but it is gospel truth--one of the leads broke off, came shaking down around us, and the end, an ugly snare of seven sharp, salty, smoke-covered barbs, caught right in Carey's nose and stayed there. With the wire still holding fast, and gouging at every little movement until the blood spurted all over, there was no comedy apparent at the moment. Carey's bellow brought help, and the doctor was quickly on the job, but, believe me, we had one hard time getting that wire out of Carey's nose and the old beak was fearfully lacerated when the delicate job was done.

The  Fall  of  China

WE  LEFT the calm waters of some port during breakfast, for a short run to the next stop. The meal had been served in calm weather style, with complete china and silver service, and of course without the racks which in rough weather persuade the stuff to stay on the tables. We steamed into a heavy swell, which struck us square on the beam for a few minutes, which was a disastrous thing for it to do to a ship all rigged out for fair weather. After one little, harmless roll, the "Seminole" laid right over flat on her starboard side just once. There was the grandest crash in all time from the pantry and only a slightly lesser one from the dining room itself, where the tables were stripped as clear as they had been before they were set. The principal comedians were some of the ship's officers sitting at the head of the thwartship tables. These young men were the glad recipients of ten complete covers, consisting of everything but the linen. Along with the china and cutlery came at least one portion of everything on the menu from grapefruit to coffee, and if there is anything that detracts from the dignity of a natty, gold-laced white uniform, it is several plates of oatmeal and half a dozen softboiled eggs spread thickly from shoulders to lap.
    My interest in communications of all kinds, as well as wireless, let me in on a little comic opera which is far more amusing today than it was at the time it was being staged.
    One day I found myself pursued by two native sleuths in the inconspicuous garb of white army uniforms loaded with yards of glistening gold braid. Upon discovery, these actors went through an amusing scene to convince me that they were not interested in me, and if I had started in their direction they might have retreated. But I made the tactical blunder of trying to cut through an alley and beat it back to the ship, which bucked up their waning courage immensely. Assisted by several score of spectators, I was quickly rounded up. A slight hint of resistance on my part brought a show of sword play from the two braves and a yell of expectation from the audience. I suffered myself to be led to the Commandante's office. A lengthy speech in Spanish was delivered to me by an officer in a carriage starter's uniform. I attempted to explain that I did not understand Spanish, but at every interruption the orator folded his arms and waited, my captors drew their swords and the whole assembly arose in horrified protest. Finally an American merchant was sent for, and he explained (after I had tried to kiss him for joy) that a revolution was on and that my similar actions in several towns had excited suspicion. I was before the council to explain why I should not be executed as a rebel agent bent on destroying the Government's communication systems.

Adopting  "Safety  First"

MY  AMERICAN friend advised me to get the Captain of the ship at once! I refused. This must have aroused the suspicions of the American himself, as he looked at me curiously for a moment. However, he agreed with the high moguls to be responsible for anything that I might do to the Government, and interpreted to me an order from the council to the effect that I was to go to the ship and never set foot ashore again. I did go ashore in Santo Domingo city, but on the way back I had another shock that kept me within running distance of the ship the rest of the time we were in the island. A dusky citizen speaking very good English approached me and asked if I had any small arms and ammunition to sell at a good price. To me this bird was one of the same gang that had me corralled before, probably trying me out on some more revolutionary bait. I did not even wait to say "No"--I yelled from a distance of about 100 feet, all the time making fast progress to the dear old "Seminole." The trip back was uneventful. Arrived in New York after a beautiful northbound passage, I was on the fence about resigning, and by the time I was again ascending in the elevator to see dear H. J. H., with all the grief behind me as experience, I was a little ashamed of the boyish letter I had written Mother from Monte Christi.
    He looked up and--smiled broadly. "Why, hello, Leech," he said cheerily.
    "Hello," I responded in a smallish voice.
    "How'd you make out?" he asked. I thought briefly of the million times a night that I had burned up the air with my "OS" and could only grin in reply.
    "Guess you did fine," he returned approvingly. "We got your 'OS' every night."
    "So did San Francisco, I'll bet," I thought. But I only said, very discreetly: "Yes, sir."
    [In the November RADIO  AGE Mr. Leech will narrate his thrilling adventures as an "Op" to Jamaica on the Steamers "Admiral Schley" and "Admiral Farragut.]
November, 1924, pages 29-31, 58-59:


Along  the  Atlantic  Coast

Part  III:  Reminiscences of  an  Old  Operator


MY  Jamaica-Philadelphia voyages, plus three special trips farther south to Panama and Colombia, covered a period from November, 1909, to May, 1911. This run, like that of the "Seminole," was an outside route, i. e., one on which most of the wireless work was a standing contest against distance, all U. S. shore stations being out of range and workable only at night on "freaks." It was our business to study these freak conditions to determine if possible some regularity about them, on which we could base our informal communication schedules.
    A trip or two on a run would show up the consistent performers among the land stations, and ship and shore operators possessed an uncanny faculty of slipping through great wads of "OS" (ships' positions) and messages on these "regular" freaks.
    An experienced "op" possesses a "feel" of the situation hard to explain to the novice. To passengers who would stop to condole with me, as they thought marooned in a tiny cabin with an inanimate chunk of hard rubber clamped on each ear, I would try to picture the situation as it really was. To me, placing on the receivers always seemed like clairvoyantly reducing our half of the earth (at least) to a hemispherical relief map, upon any part of which I could at will place my finger. Every dot and dash in the phones was immediately recognized and understood. The tone of a land station's spark, coupled with the style of the operator's fist, served to identify every signal. A stranger on the air was immediately discerned and placed either by his station sign, or, before the International Call Books were issued, by a direct question by one of the regulars.
    All this prelude so that the reader will understand that the "op" sits in on another world in which little is hidden and everything highly comprehensible; that the snappy operations are all clearly deduced when traffic is slipped through a jam of signals to a certain station, with a possible shift to another station where more favorable conditions obtain; assisted perhaps by a few friendly dots and dashes from an interested listener five hundred or a thousand miles in another direction, fully as awake to the situation as the principals themselves. And, of course, our only detectors were
crystal or electrolytic. Tubes were known to us only experimentally--even when I left the sea in 1916.

A  "Rapid  Relay"  Man

ONE class of work which energetic operators could do when within easy day range of the land stations--usually the first or last day out--was what I always termed "rapid relay" work. A mass of ships leaving or concentrating on a port like New York create an unimaginable jam, and the ships just barely in range have little chance to be heard at the land stations whose high aerials are flooded with signals from a hundred sending sets. Being young at the game and full of pep, and on the "UG," ("Schley"), having a 120-cycle spark set easy to hear over the coarse 60-cycle notes of the mob, I was a favorite central station during these conditions. About which, more later.
*    *    *    *    *
    At home after my first trip, the all-compelling reasons for my intention to resign faded and only the glamorous details were to the fore. I was somewhat chagrined at my childish weakness. Upon leaving Philly for New York to make my second trip, however, I was again threatened with a severe case of chilled pedal extremities, and aboard the "Seminole" with sailing about due I had a bad attack of the homesick blues and was much in mind of deserting ship and rushing back to Mother.
    My deliberations were rudely interrupted by the sudden inrush of a messenger escorting my relief and bearing glad tidings of my transfer to the "Admiral Schley," lately laid up in New York and sailing in half an hour for Philadelphia to run regularly between the latter port and Jamaica. Hearing of the opening at the last minute, dear old H. J. Hughes, Operating Superintendent, had dispatched a messenger with positive instructions to get to the "Seminole" before she sailed.
    A nervous ride to New York and a mad run to the Battery, and I found myself aboard my new home just as the lines slid over the dock's edge. In those days the law did not require that an operator be aboard and it was strictly up to that gent to be aboard of his own accord or he was simply left behind. The new job looked good. The "Schley" was a modern, white, yacht-like steamer and the wireless quarters of two rooms were palatial--comparatively. The set was a duplicate of the "Seminole's," but the name plate on the generator said "120 cycles," which stirred up mild excitement that was considerably heightened by a few dashes on the spark with the aerial disconnected, disclosing a wonderful smoothness to the spark that informed me I had a history maker of a sending set. My conclusions on this were quickly corroborated. I found the "UG" a marked ship, being one of only two or three in existence with a high (!!) frequency spark.
    Then began my real participation in the commercial game. The ensuing Winter was a record breaker for bad weather and I was dutifully sick every time we passed Hatteras, both up and down, for several months. This condition interfered somewhat with my wireless ambitions, but as I conquered ole mal de mer, my last reason for a threatened bolt from the business disappeared and I became a confirmed young salt.
    I found rapid relay work almost as interesting as the long distance stuff. True, there was not that feeling of triumph embraced in the mastery of space consumated when one had completed a satisfactory two-way communication over a thousand or two miles, but there was some delight in surveying a foot-high pile of business which had been handled. To make it worth the effort, problem enough existed in extracting the stuff from the terrific jam of signals which in the first place made it necessary for some ship to jump in and help the land stations. station map

THE principal spot for this lively work was about half way between "HA," Hatteras, and "AX," Atlantic City, on Sunday morning when all of Saturday's sailings from New York were clustered two-score strong within a hundred or so miles--absolutely too close for any duplex work with waves flatter'n a billiard table and tuners as selective as an ash sieve made of three-inch chicken wire. Ships were bursting with traffic, all the land lubber passengers sending messages back home telling the folks how fine the weather was and wishing they were along, etc., etc., and with big commissions in sight every "op" threw his manners overboard and vigorously plied the key to get his business off first. The resultant jam was a wow! I didn't know if I was here or there. Here was where my 120-cycle spark came in good. "AX," "HA" and I would clear the ones nearest us and I would unload to one of the shore stations every time I got twelve or fifteen, my spark cutting clear over the interference. Lacking proximity and a club for the more ravenous of these birds, to keep them quiet until their turn came, my most effective weapon was to threaten to close up and clear nobody until they calmed down and waited to be called. Every time my switch went up to receiving, after giving one ship a final OK,--Zam! it would be on again, with about fifteen all calling at once. Through the fearful din I might be able to recognize one call, to which I would shoot "GA," leaving the rest to cuss their luck until the next contest.
    My diary notes a couple of amusing incidents in connection with this work--more amusing now, as is always the case, than when I was worked up to a lather over the proceedings. On one occasion, just as I was loaded with twenty-two relays and about to shoot them to "AX," my juice went off and I was left flat. Investigation disclosed that we were to lay to for four hours to delay our arrival on account of an over-ripe condition of the fruit, the Captain figuring the cargo would keep better fifty miles at sea than alongside the dock through a hot July night. All hands flopped for a four-hour rest and with not enough steam to run a peanut roaster there was nothing doing on the dynamo being started. With "AX" and "HA" calling every minute and saying "GA that wad;" "wake up;" "come to life," etc., and with the gang getting panicky over my disappearance with a bunch of their commission-bringers, I did anything but rest, and when I finally got back on the air with a snappy "AX AX AX UG  ..  .-. " there were yelps of joy from all, including myself.
    On the other occasion I got caught with a wad on account of the static coming up suddenly so strong that "AX" could not read me. I was threatened with the disgrace of having to carry the bunch up to Philadelphia and to the Western Union office, but old "RM," Bob Miller of the slow, steady fist, evolved the bright idea of copying me on a ten-foot wire in place of his high, static-eating aerial, and the day was thus saved. Strange we had to wait ten or twelve years before putting the idea into general use by building loops.
    After listening carefully for a couple of trips, getting the "feel" of the situation, I got busy on that fascinating night distance work, and from that time on most of my sleeping was done in the day time and my work during the dark hours. The layout resembled that of the "rapid relay" work, except that it was on a huge scale of two or three thousand miles instead of two or three hundred miles. There was more "quality" to the work than "quantity," so to speak. As against the terrific jam of the in-range work, we had the fading--or swinging of signals from a roar to a faint whisper and out, characteristic of freak work between sets out of range.
    Our land connections were, in addition to "AX" and "HA," "PD," Tampa, Fla., and "DF," Coney Island. Other stations would occasionally come up strong enough to relieve us of some traffic, but the four mentioned habitually kept a long distance watch and could be depended upon. "DF" was the most consistent of all, seeming to be in a sensitive spot never equalled until the advent of "WST" at Miami, Fla., several years later, in an entirely different period of my sea experience. "DF" had the usual crude junk, including the crystal detector, but he was a marvel at responding to calls from anywhere. Opr. "RO," Vosburg, was my buddy at that station and many a bundle of "OS" from the far waters did we pass through in those balmy days. United Fruit ship
    My first two-way long distance stunt was from dock at Port Antonio, Jamaica, to "HA," about 1100 nautical miles--a "knot" being about one and one-sixth land miles. I had finally made up my mind to get in on this distance-smashing work and as "HA" was coming good I gave him a short call. He came back pronto and I slipped him "OS 4 p. m. UG arrived Port Antonio," to which he gave immediate OK. I shut off my motor with the feeling that at last I "belonged" in the business. And keep in mind, dear reader,--two-slide tuner and a piece of coal.
    In milling around in my diary for notable instances to relate, I note that the stuff was so regular as to almost pass out of the category of freak work. I note a long one, but one worth writing about, under December 30, 1909. I had collected a bunch of twelve relays; one I got direct from a cable ship digging up some trouble along the Brazilian coast, about 1500 miles southeast of us. We were off Cape Maysi, Cuba, about a thousand knots from "HA" and 1300 from "DF." The interference was bad up to midnight and several attempts to clear to "HA" or "DF" were unsuccessful. I napped until 3 a. m., when I broke up a little chat between "HA" and "DF" and got a "GA" from "DF." "DF" gave me OK fine on No. 1, then lost me on No. 2 and when I came on I heard "HA" filling him in on No. 2. "DF" then OK'd No.2 and said shoot another. "DF" took three more then said I was getting weak and to finish the bunch to "HA." "HA" and I then cleaned up the bunch, but toward the last, "DF" began to get me good again and he copied the last four messages right from me and broke in ahead of "HA" to give me OK direct. I then gave "DF" a list of OS I had collected and we called it a night. "DF's" last signals were rather weak, and no wonder! I suddenly noticed it was getting unusually light in the room and glancing out the porthole I saw the first act of a glorious sunrise. It was 5 a. m. and in that latitude good and daylight.
    This was a good instance of a long sustained communication, but plenty of short snappy work could be done right in the early evening in between the heavy jam.

A  Distance  "Stunt"

OUR regular run never took us more than 1500 knots from New York, so there was little chance of doing bona fide work much farther, and working distance for the mere sake of doing it was not in favor on account of the unnecessary jam caused. Occasionally, however, we could not resist a brief call to some ship a couple of thousand out in the Pacific, but if we got a response, these incidents were rarely logged, because of the rebukes they were sure to bring from the office.
    Every time I heard one of these Pacific stations, I would wish I could carry my 120-cycle spark over to one of those Japanese runs, where with superior atmospheric conditions and possible runs up to 6,000 miles, the boys used to do (and probably still do) some marvelous work.
    My best direct distance stunt with "DF" was from Santa Marta, Colombia, on one of the special trips we made there. About 11 p. m. I got on the warm tropical air, laying for one of the stations up where the snow was flying, and soon had "DF" coming in fair. My diary records show that old "RO" was not at the key, and I believe that was why it took a number of calls to get "DE" to hear me.
    However, about 2 a. m. I slipped him "OS 3 p. m. UG arrived Santa Marta" for friend H. J. H. to look over in the morning.
    I recall using a home-made loose coupler of Oscar's on the "UG," in defiance of Company orders, and getting into a peck of trouble on account of its EXTREME  SELECTIVITY. You can imagine! However, it nearly resulted in putting "nipped in the bud" on the tombstone of my wireless career. I got into trouble with my friends at "SI" Guantanamo, Cuba, U. S. Naval Station, through not hearing them answer about twenty-five calls. I waxed abusive and when I got back to Philadelphia that trip I had three official letters on the subject. Be assured, I was ultra-respectful to Naval stations thereafter. Another funny thing about that case--several months later I met "LR," Chief at "SI," on the Fall River boat coming down from Boston when I was transferred to the "Farragut." Instead of the roaring bull I had imagined him to be, I was talking to a mild-mannered gentleman who reciprocated my surprise and pleasure at meeting so far from our tropical stamping grounds. And after the way of operators, a bit of lunch in the buffet settled all our differences and when he returned to "SI" our good relations were resumed. monkeys disturbed by sparks
    On my sixth Jamaica trip one night I had an awful jolt in the memory tank by hearing the following "4:30 p. m. VJ (The "Seminole," you remember) left Monte Christi." Owooah! It gave me a sickness around the stomach to hear that familiar name, and by the way he was laying on the key he was in the same fix I had been--nil communicado, you might say. I took pity on him and shot him an OK and passed his OS up the coast, but when I turned in at midnight his receivers had apparently told him nothing. He was still broadcasting. That night I had a nightmare and woke up groaning just as the aerial lead broke and was swirling down for a sure catch in the Mate's nose!
    Jamaica I found to be a delightful bit of tropical island. I wondered at the women doing such heavy labor, and of course got into the usual traffic jams suffered by tourists due to the "keep to the left" rule. Jamaica is always verdant, in contrast to countries farther south which often get brown and barren during the dry season. The Jamaican station was "JCA" and had a funny foreign set with only about three parts to the sending outfit. It used a very low voltage at the spark gap--they told me only 600. I know there was no step-up transformer and only a 600-volt direct current dynamo. I also know they had the deuce's own time making the blighter jump in rainy weather, but when it finally would get across the gap of .009 inch it was good for two or three hundred miles day time. The "ops" were extremely English and very skeptical. They point blank refused to believe accounts of my distance work and as they never listened after six p. m. they had no idea what really was done.
    Two of our special trips took us to Panama and I met up with the string of United Fruit stations that keep that company in touch with their large fleet of ships as well as handle much traffic for the U. S. that would otherwise bear heavy cable tolls. Theirs was a formidable fleet. At Bocas del Toro I spent some time with Smith, "op" from "B," who regaled me with many a comical tale of life in the tropics. One of these stories I remember vividly. He said that one morning as he started calling Limon, "X," there was a terrific commotion back of the jar rack, sounding like the setting off of a bunch of large firecrackers combined with the release of a giant clock spring. Startled, he stopped sending, then as quiet reigned he doubted his senses and pressed the key again. Immediately came another loud clatter and like shots from a gun a pair of good-sized monkeys sprang at and past him and through the window, screen and all. 20,000 volts had pepped up the animals considerably and they made wild time back to their habitat, the jungle, close by. I would not vouch for the gospel truth of this yarn, but it is no wilder a tale than I have lived through many a time in person, as I will relate in the course of my later accounts.
    While on the "UG" I tried out the famous "break key" originated, or at least introduced to us, by Opr. "PK," Pickerell, of "WA" (Waldorf-Astoria) fame. This consisted of placing your receiving set permanently in the aerial and ground, shunting same out by a "lightning arrester" with about one square inch of sparking surface. Contacts on the key also cut out or shunted your detector. "WA" and "BS," Philly, worked this fine and one dash from "BS" would be heard at "WA" instantly, and he would stop to see what was wanted. This might have been OK at a nice dry land station, but the first time I pressed the key on the "UG" I got a jolt through the head set that sent me clear across the room. I found that the receiving set was altogether too much connected to the business end of the transmitter and the only way I could handle it at all was to crouch high on the chair, absolutely clear of floor, table and everything else and reach over carefully to tap the key. At that, I was full of shocks at every dot and I gave it up. Probably "PK," who, I read, is Chief on the Leviathan will drop me a line and tell me where I had the thing hooked up wrong.

A  Change  in  Ships

MY transfer to the "Admiral Farragut" put a sad crimp in my wireless activities. The set was a Shoemaker, finely built and containing many innovations, but the ship's dynamos were in bad shape and every time I would start my motor the ship would be plunged into darkness until an engineer would rush over and give 'er more steam.
    Divorced from my first love, I awoke to another interesting phase of this sea existence--that of the social possibilities present in contact with people from all the world. However, another barrier presented itself in the ideas of friend Captain on the subject of wireless operators and ship society, said ideas running anti-clockwise to my own. This stirred up considerable unrest in my soul and I began agitating with H. J. H. for a transfer to some New York ship where there was social life worth mentioning and a captain to match.
    On my last fateful trip on the "Farragut" I left port in a wrathy state of mind. Up to the last minute I had fondly hoped for a transfer, and none coming I perpetrated some mental malpractice on the poor old "Farragut" by wishing that she would slam into something and have to go back. Of course, I was only thinking of some minor smash in the river and little did I know how vigorously my evil wish was to be granted. At 12:20 Friday morning we loosened a bit of inferno on the waters by crashing full speed into the passenger-laden "Merida," who had slipped up on us in a fog bank some hundred wet miles from shore. Climbing out of the debris of my aerial, I joined the ship's officers in fighting fifty crazed Spanish firemen away from the lifeboats--but Ye Editor says I am to tell you about that next month.
December, 1924, pages 29-30, 67-69:

The  Fourth  of  This  Interesting  Series  by  a  Veteran  Commercial  "Op,"  Proving  That  Life  Surpasses  Fiction

THRILLS  that  go  with  SOS

What  Happened  When  the  Merida  was  Rammed


THOSE of you who, at a warning shout, have looked aloft just in time to see a five-ton safe about to make contact with the ole bean, will realize how I felt shortly after midnight on Friday, May 12, 1911, when, on hearing the ship's siren blow the emergency signal, I rushed out onto the starboard deck to see, through the darkness and heavy mist, a ship about forty times our size headed for a bull's-eye three feet forward of the radio shack.
    That blast on the ship's whistle raised the curtain on as exciting a sixty-hour period of my life as I ever care to pass through. During this interval we calmly sailed from Philadelphia on time; drove into the side of a fat fog bank surrounded by dense darkness; with the same fell swoop stove in the side of a ship carrying four hundred people; rescued said four hundred people under difficulties and the stress of intense excitement; re-built a demolished antenna by the sense of touch alone to broadcast an "SOS" which started two ships scurrying to us through the fog-bound darkness; limped into a New York dry-dock with our front end a mass of twisted beams and plates right up to the foot of the forward mast.
    As I related last month, I had left Philly Thursday morning with a smouldering resentment that I had been forced to start another trip in a ship which, because of local conditions, had become distasteful to me. I also noted that I had thought some very wicked thoughts against the dear old "Admiral Farragut," wishing that she would have a little smash in the river and be obliged to turn back. Little did I know, however, that my mental malpractise would be visited upon us a hundred-fold, and when we passed out of the Delaware Capes at five o'clock Thursday afternoon, I had become resigned to the belief that another voyage was safely under way.
    In the early evening I had noticed that the weather was turning hazy, but up to 11:30 p.m. visibility had been good. At that time I could clearly see the lights of a vessel some five or six miles off the port bow.
    Shortly past midnight, after copying press, I had closed the station and gone to my stateroom. Suddenly there came a jangle of bells in the engine room, followed by a series of short wails on the siren--the danger signal. Fortunately I rushed right out onto the starboard side, where the fireworks were being set up for a grand display. Bearing down on us from a few points ahead of the beam was a monster steamer, aglow with lights which showed a thousand little rainbows through the dripping fog. Merida passanger

AS a matter of fact, the "Merida"--as we four hours later learned it to be--was probably three times our tonnage and one and a half times our length, but under the harrowing circumstances she was distorted into a ghastly phantom of tremendous proportions.
    In reality, it was not over two minutes from the time I sighted the oncoming ship until the moment we struck her, but time is as subject to distortion as space and it seemed that hours were crowded into the period. For about a week during the first minute the "Merida" was oblivious to the danger and bore straight on toward us with no effort to avoid the impending crash. Then her officers apparently sighted us and jammed the wheel hard over, as suddenly the ship swerved sharply--or as sharply as a 10,000-ton vessel can--to starboard (right). Our officers, exercising the prerogative of disregarding maritime rules in an emergency, swung our vessel's head to port (left), their idea being to minimize the force of the collision by making it a side-swipe rather than a head-on. But their efforts were futile.
    However, the "Merida" swung to starboard and avoided what would have been a fatal crash for the "Farragut." Had she kept on as she was headed, she would have certainly cut us right in half. This would have meant a snappy three-minute tragedy with a score of survivors clinging to bits of wreckage. By chance or choice the "Merida" sacrificed herself in the effort to save us. Her swing to starboard ran her directly across our bows and as I gazed straight forward at the rows of lights along the "Merida's" several decks, it seemed that an eternity was consumed by the weird procession. It appeared for a time as if the ship might get by and allow us to plow across her stern instead of ramming her.
    The suspense was broken by a terrific, grinding, rumbling, ripping crash that lasted for several moments, accompanied by a quick rocking to and fro of the "Farragut" which sent me reeling violently across the wet deck. It seemed as if everything above, on deck, and below was smashing to pieces. A minor crash close beside me proved to be the after spreader of the aerial, the six wires tangling about my ears. Immediately pandemonium broke and everybody was on deck stirring up a beautiful panic.
    The stricken "Merida" quickly drifted away into the darkness and fog off our port bow and was lost to sight, but her whistle at once took up the distress signal of four long blasts, sounded every few minutes, and we knew that she was doomed. We had, however, a houseful of trouble at home and at the moment could not concern ourselves with her possible fate.

SO many things happened in the next ten or twenty minutes that a complete impression would be difficult, if not impossible, to convey. Probably the most ridiculous and unimportant incident is always the one that comes to my mind first when I think of this interesting night. It was the sight of First Mate O'Neil, who had been off duty and asleep, rushing down the deck wrestling a refractory pair of trousers up over his pajamas, a revolver under his arm, cursing volubly at a frenzied mass of Spanish firemen who had swarmed up out of the forecastle and were making a sad mess of trying to launch several lifeboats. Severely handicapped by the personal problem of securing his pants, he was a pitifully impotent figure for a few seconds, although a powerful man physically and a valiant leader of his men. His galluses properly adjusted, however, matters took on a new aspect in his vicinity, and this flash from the film fades out in my memory with a comfortable majority of Spanish gentlemen falling cold to the deck from the impact of O'Neil's revolver butt. lifeboat launch
    For myself I cannot say that I was among the least excited of those present. Not being widely experienced in ramming vessels amidships on pitch dark foggy nights, I was completely sold with the idea that a young seaquake such as had just occurred meant but one thing--the prompt sinking of all the craft concerned. Not a little disturbed by this conclusion I wondered what port we would be rescued into and how uncomfortable I would be parading the streets of this unknown city minus shirt, collar and tie and with no hat. This small time worry was rudely banished by another group of the aforementioned Spaniards, who reeled from O'Neil's onslaughts and dashed toward a boat on the other side. Taking my cue from O'Neil's attitude, I gathered that the most expedient thing was to ward these eager gents away from the life boat before they gummed it up beyond recourse. My physical proportions counted for nothing, however, and an undershirt looked little like a uniform, so that I made scant headway against their frenzied efforts until reinforced by the First Mate, who had vanquished his pack of Spaniards and driven them below. Handing me a broken spar of some kind, he manfully jumped into my contingent and together we cleaned up the situation. A few random shots from the gun clinched matters and a few minutes later the firemen were herded together on the lower deck under guard of a husky seaman.
    Free from matters of public policy for the moment, the question of personal safety loomed up again and I looked over the side fully expecting the shafts of light from our portholes to show the waves about ready to pour over the lower deck. Surprising to say, it still seemed a long jump to the water line and my hopes mounted immediately. Possibly, I thought, there was still time to patch up my wrecked aerial before the inevitable sinking. The intense blackness of the night made it impossible to tell the exact extent of the damage, but having been showered by the tangled wreckage of the after cross arm I knew that that end was a hopeless jumble. I figured the best thing to do was to report conditions to the captain, ascertain how much time we had before the final chapter, and obtain instructions.
    Fighting my way through the crazed rabble of passengers and crew, who were madly struggling amongst the wreckage, boat gear, etc., I shortly stood before Captain Mader on the bridge. Here was the first sign of calm I had encountered. The skipper was in possession of reports from all vital parts of the ship and even then was publishing reassuring advices. We had received a poke in the nose which had paralyzed our bow for twenty feet or so, but the collision bulkshead was holding and no water was entering the ship!
    Feeling my way back to the radio shack through the soupy fog, I aided other officers in quelling the panic which was then the only feature offering immediate danger. Passengers and crew were still wildly fighting to get life boats launched. One boat had been dropped overboard and capsized and another we could see in the light of electric lanterns to be hanging by one davit, the forward tackle having been let go in the excitement. Working under these difficult conditions, the crew had done wonders in saving those who fell over the side.
    Investigation showed the forward end of my aerial to be intact. This made it necessary to untangle the wires and rig up a substitute for the after-spreader. At first there was no help available, all hands being busy with their own work, and I spent many precious minutes falling around over debris of every description trying to straighten out the wires. I finally gave up the idea of trying to re-establish the full six-wire aerial, and bunching the ends of the wires together, attempted to pull them up on the after mast as a single cable. Three times I figured everything was clear, but found upon heaving away that one or more wires was wrapped around the smoke stack, or under a life boat, or afoul of the engine room grating or some other such obstruction, making it necessary to unfasten the wires and start all over.

A  Display  of  Fireworks

AFTER an hour and a half of work, everything seemed to be clear finally, but at the first press of the key a grand pyrotechnical display around the after mast showed that one of the stays which had broken adrift was wound up in my leads. In addition to the shower of sparks, a chorus of lusty yells from a dozen men working at the foot of the mast advised me that all was not well. Twenty thousand volts of good transformer juice had sent a dozen of these gentlemen in as many directions, and as we were not over-supplied with able-bodied men, I desisted yet again lest I electrocute some of the available supply. My "SOS" was once more postponed until we could unscramble my leads from the rigging.
    This meant more work in the darkness, but two seamen sent by the Captain rendered able assistance and were immediately aloft, shortly to report everything ready for another try. Pressing the key this time resulted only in a normal discharge at the spark gap and I plunged into a siege of wireless work which did not end until the following Saturday afternoon when we arrived at New York.
    This being in the good old days when ships only carried one operator, repeated "SOS" calls were for a time of no avail. We were within easy range of many ships and at least two land stations, but all the operators were pounding their ears on the downy at two o'clock in the morning and might as well have been in the South Seas.
    In the meantime we had begun to hear signs of life from the "Merida." By the diminished volume of the oft-repeated four dismal blasts of the stricken vessel, we deduced that the ship had drifted on about a mile into the inky black fog before coming to a final stop. This made a long row for the boats, groping their way toward us. The single blast we were blowing on our whistle, served to show them we were not sinking and also aided them in finding us. About two hours after the smash we began to hear a splashing of oars, mingled with shouts and the murmur of voices coming to us out of the Stygian blackness.
    Shortly faint "hellos" and "ahoys" rose above the commingled sounds and showed that the survivors were within hailing distance. We immediately answered, and in response to their harrassed inquiries assured them we could take all their company aboard. It was then we learned that we had rammed and sunk the steamer "Merida," back from Mexico with a capacity passenger list.
    Soon after the first survivors were aboard, we also were advised that the "Merida" had a cargo consisting in part of several million dollars in gold and silver bars. Those of my readers who follow the daily press will note the latest revival of the sporadic interest frequently being shown in this cargo, now resting three hundred feet below the surface. The promoters of the expedition now being fitted out believe they have solved the problem of working under the tremendous pressures existing at such a depth.
    The "Merida's" people, clamoring over the ship's side, presented a sorry spectacle. They ranged from babes in arms to be-whiskered grandees of old Mexico, and in garbs running the gamut from breeches and undershirt and no shoes to gay dressing gowns and unmated slippers of different colors. Each person carried with him exactly what he wore and no more. As our bow had torn into the "Merida's" engine room, all machinery, including the dynamo, was immediately submerged, plunging the ship into darkness inside and out. This, by the way, rendered their wireless hors de combat, which completes the explanation of why neither of us was able to do any snappy work on the radio.

Misery  Loves  Company

AS  THE "Farragut" could accommodate less than one hundred passengers with any degree of comfort, the "Merida's" four hundred partly clad people were soon piled eight and ten in a stateroom, Mexican greaser sharing space with New York cake eater, dark senoritas sleeping in the arms of fair American damsels and in some cases sharing the common comfort of one bath robe. Many heads were in curlers, some were loose or in braids, while disheveled boudoir and night caps were present in large numbers. Bobbed hair would have been a blessing in such circumstances, but not a shingle was to be seen. Altogether it was not a dress rehearsal. And when the outfit was landed at "Norfolk" that afternoon they must have felt in holiday spirits making a tour of the shops in search of new rigs.
    Our "SOS" calls were sent repeatedly with one minute intervals of listening. Had we been sinking, as was the "Merida," there would have been two shiploads of survivors waiting on the great waters for the chance passing of some ship. Yet the obvious lesson--that a continuous watch should be kept on all ocean vessels--was ignored until the "Titanic's" operator found himself in a similar predicament several years later, with direful results known to all. About 4:30 a. m. I was gladdened by the sound of the S. S. "Hamilton," call "OA," lazily calling the "OG" of the same line and giving routine directions for passing each other in the fog so as to avoid possibilities of collision. Any spark was like news from Heaven as it showed that the set was working. "OA's" op. was usually a snappy sender, but disturbed at this time of the morning for such drab duty found him rather dull on the key. The minute he stopped sending I slammed the switch and called him briskly, sticking in a couple of "SOS" to bring him to life. He had been too numb to catch my calls but the "SOS" shocked him into shape instantly, and despite the tenseness of the situation I had to chuckle to note the change in his manner of sending. "Zip! Zip!" he flashed into action. "WHO  CALLED  'SOS'--WHO  CALLED  'SOS'--WHO  CALLED  'SOS'--GO AHEAD AGAIN," he snapped. The story was soon told and five minutes later I handed our Captain a message from the "Hamilton's" Commander saying that he would be at our position about 9 a. m.
    We had just finished this satisfactory communication when the U. S. S. "Iowa" came in, saying he had overheard the talk and that his Commanding Officer had headed his vessel toward us. The combined good news was distributed among the survivors and served to lighten the gloom a little. But the general morale was still very low. Sitting in the comfort of your library, with loud speaker at elbow, it is hard to conceive of one-tenth of one per cent of the misery hanging over the heads of several hundred refugees brooding about the decks of a ship about a third large enough to hold them, the clammy, dank fog sticking closely over all.
    When Cape Hatteras "HA" shot a leisurely "GM" onto the air, I briefly informed him of the tragic happenings which had been going on a short hundred miles off his front door while he had been pawing the hay, and like the "OA's" op. he snapped into a different style pronto. As the ship operators began to come on the job and learned of the night's doings, we were flooded with offers of assistance. Many of the ships had passed almost within sight of us, being obscured by the fog, and had their operators been on duty, rescue would have been a matter of minutes after our first "SOS."
    However, we felt that we were well taken care of and broadcast the information that all offers were declined with thanks. This did not suffice to quiet some of them, however, and all morning the "UG" was being called by somebody bursting with the desire to render us succor. With the motor generator red hot from a run of many hours, and a constant stream of messages still passing between our captains and their offices ashore, I was forced to ignore these calls and tend strictly to my knitting. I recall especially the "Santa Marta," of our own line, call "UFY," calling furiously all morning. Every time I threw the switch he was in, but I simply could not take the time to get into a chewing match with him, and I did not answer him until nearly noon. Then I told him briefly that we had no use for his services, at which he was one sore op. Sitting snugly in his room away from such scenes as were going on around us he could not appreciate the situation and I certainly had no time to offer any apologies. With a brief "nothing doing; much 'bliged" I returned to working "AX," Atlantic City, who had another long dispatch for our Captain. "UFY's" operator would not speak to me for several months.
    "The Hamilton" arrived on time, performing a beautiful bit of navigation by laying out a course, when we worked him at 4:30 a. m., which brought him directly on our beam at the estimated moment without the deviation of a hair.
    Transfer of survivors began at once and continued until about 1 p. m., when the last sad-eyed member of the "Merida's" company was safely aboard the "Hamilton" and she continued her voyage to Norfolk. About the time the "Hamilton" left us, the "Iowa" appeared and offered to convoy us to shallow water. Our bow being practically non-existent, the open sea was pressing against a comparatively frail bulkshead. We had not moved an inch since the collision, fearing that any forward movement would add to this pressure and bring disaster. However, as we were about four hundred miles from New York or Philadelphia something had to be done and with the "Iowa" standing by we started slowly ahead, then as nothing untoward happened we increased to about one-third speed toward New York.
    At 3 p. m. Saturday we arrived at Erie Basin drydock, Brooklyn, and I removed the phones from a set of aching ears and turned in. Not having batted an eye since Thursday morning, I was practically out of the habit and it was some hours before I was able to make satisfactory arrangements with the Sand Man. But once in work--oh, boy! The next thing I knew it was Sunday night.