Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Utility Nerd #2: San Pedro Radio

Don't expect facts here, because I was like 6 years old and don't remember any. My father had a Hallicrafters SX-62A. It had a glass slide rule dial the size of a skate board, full of little dots for all the cities you could tune in.

Mostly he listened to the San Pedro Marine Operator. This was pre-VHF, and pretty antediluvian. The frequency was duplex in the 2 MHz band, with the shore on the high side of the pair and the vessel on the low side.

The call sign shown on old lists is KOU. Modulation was plain old AM, not USB. When the vessel was talking, the shore station filled in with an old-school, pre-DTMF busy signal.

Google turned up exactly two references to the KOU Marine Operator. Both described heroic Old Salts on fishing boats using the miracle of radio to talk to their business people BEFORE they got to shore! Wonder of wonders!

(San Pedro, CA actually had a fishing industry at one time. There were 500 boats and 15 canneries. Now there are maybe 50 boats and no canneries.)

I'm sure business calls happened, but I don't remember them. I remember a bunch of Hollywood types coming back from Catalina Island in pleasure boats. Most of the time they were so hammered it was lucky they could find San Pedro, let alone call it on the radio. All they ever said was that they would be late (just like last week). Don't wait up for dinner (just like last week).

Now, you'd think this would have produced some great on-air marital spats. If there were any, however, they're lost in my brain way down there with First Grade and bad kiddie TV. Here's what I remember:

"Where are you, Honey? Over." (Baap baap baap.)

"OK, we'll eat alone [again]. Nice day out there? Over." (Baap baap baap.)

"WHO fell over the side? Over." (Baap baap baap baap baap baap baap.)

And so it went, in the glamorous world of HF utility. I think I prefer UVB-76.