From Small Beginnings

A Brief History of the Guelph,
Kitchener-Waterloo and the
South Waterloo Amateur Radio Clubs.

Produced by the Kitchener-Waterloo Amateur Radio Club.

Gord McPhail VE3IH J. Gordon MacPhail
1593 Gordon Street,
Guelph, Ont. N1H-6H9

Callsign since then: VE3IH
First Licenced 1929

Born January 30, 1914

How I became a Radio Amateur

The very early days of spark and battery radios were not mine to enjoy until one day in 1926 when a trip to the local library turned up an interesting book called "Home Handicraft For Boys". Having been introduced to miniature steam engines and electric trains at an early age, it was challenging to read an article describing a one tube broadcast band type receiver.

Immediately the scramble was on to find or make the parts to start. The old oat and pepper boxes were procured and duly coated with shellac to provide some rigidity. 75 turns with three taps provided the grid coil and this was tuned with a shaky variable condenser. The pepper box was wound with 30 turns on the 2 inch form and rotated inside the larger container on a pair of stove bolts, thus providing the feed-back or "tickler" as duly described.

Fixed condensers were quite difficult to fashion, but the article suggested the use of several layers of cigarette box silvered paper and waxed paper rolled many times, so this was done. Now for the scrounged socket and an old UV200 tube and we were almost finished. Our local BELL CANADA plant threw out perfectly good dry cells after they were in operation for so many hours. Jack Bolton, VE3LH, and I were their best customers and the batteries were collected regularly. They were the large size and provided both "A" and "B" voltages (5 and 45) and they worked admirably.

The big day arrived but with nary a whisper from the borrowed headphones. We lived next door to Roy Chappell, who, seeing me stringing up an antenna asked if I were interested in radio. It turned out that he had been for some time and he offered to help. The removal of my home-rolled condensers and the substitution of the new mica types worked wonders and in rolled WLW, KDKA, and WJR in fine fashion.Roy later held the call VE3AUE for many years, but is now deceased.

The construction of many more one tubers, then 2 and 3 tube sets followed and the latter eliminated the necessity of using the fish bowl to entertain our family. These were all constructed breadboard fashion with foil glued behind the wooden front panel to help eliminate hand-capacity effects. Shortly Short Wave sets made their appearance and the famed "Junk Box" one tube set was constructed with marvellous results. The coils were wound on the base portion of a defunct tube and simply plugged into a socket. A set of four covered the range of 80 to 20 meters or slightly below and this covered the frequencies used by both amateurs and foreign broadcasting stations.

In 1928 we went to high school, joined the school cadets and also the non-permanent militia. It was at the local armories that signalling was offered and learning the International Morse Code was a first priority. Naturally we couldn't wait to become a ham and didn't.

Our first set was a self-exited oscillator with a 112 tube, followed later by the 71A. CW was excellent and loop modulation with a carbon mike was used and produced strong signals across town to Fred Hammond VE3HC and Jack Bolton, then VE3IO and now VE3LH in North Bay.

Ralph Bartlett did a little ghosting too and we worked him with another new rig using push-pull 45's and a 250 modulator. He had a similar outfit but inserted the carbon mike in the antenna lead. Ralph later became VE3AO and is now VE3BJX. Jack Bolton, Fred Hammond and I took our tests in Kitchener and were granted a temporary licence each in 1929. A full licence arrived in 1030 and a certificate of proficiency in 1931.

The 1930s were mainly spent on 80, 40 and 20 CW with new transmitters being constructed every few years. By 1938 we had purchased our first commercial receiver made by the Howard Company and with band-spread tuning no less. During this mostly lean time frame we were helped immensely by the late Len Hammond and to Fred and Len I owe a great debt of gratitude for their expertise and many donations of parts, transformers and much more.

1939 saw Germany sweeping through many countries and it was then that all the Guelph hams got together to brush up on their code and theory, just in case. Sure enough, it happened in September and this brought about a shut-down of ham activities and a rush to join up. By this time I had spent some twelve years in the army signals and knew I must do my part.

Puss Valeriote joined the airforce (VE3DSC) in 1940 followed by Crawford Robinson (VE3YH), Ralph Bartlett and myself in late 1940. We arrived at Manning Depot in Toronto in January 6/41 and all four of us served in the RCAF or RAF but in various war zones. We were all chosen to learn Radio Direction Finding (RDF) which was eventually called RADAR (Radio Direction and Ranging) when the United States entered the conflict.

My lot was with the RAF on loan for the duration and after a brief stay in England and Scotland our Radar unit was sent to Singapore. This unfortunately fell when we were two days sailing away and so we landed in Batavia, the then capital of Java. This proved to be short lived also for Japan was now in the war and was most successful in their early start. We left Java after three weeks and arrived in Colombo, Ceylon where we stayed til 1945. We arrived back in Canada in May of 1945 with our discharge following in August of 1945. Radio activity was commenced again in 1946 and we have been active since that time, especially so for the past fifteen years.

Present equipment is the Tempo 2020 transceiver on the low bands and two 2-meter units to keep in touch with local affairs. Out TH6DXX triband beam, plus a 1200 watt linear ensures our being heard in most parts of the world.

Our greatest thrill, however, is still Field Day and we have tried to emulate the late Fred Holm, VE3SM, who was a great friend to all hams and a past president of our Guelph Club. A special hello to our coffee club members in Kitchener/Waterloo/Cam br id ge and Guelph. You must join these fellows when you retire and become a Professional Loafer.



J.G. MacPhail VE3IH
* Long may your chimney smoke

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