HARA donates radio history – Times Gazette

Old pieces of radio history that had a home in Highland County for several years now rest in a museum in West Virginia thanks to the efforts of the Highland Amateur Radio Association (HARA).

Today, most people take the radio for granted because they have been able to listen to music and news as if they had always been there. However, if you could go back to before the turn of the century and turn on one of today’s radios, all you would hear would be silence and static electricity. It was only after the turn of the century that you only heard dits and dahls in Morse code, then used to communicate because voice was not yet possible.

It was not until Christmas Eve 1906 when Canadian Reginald Fessenden made the first transmission of voice and music over the airwaves.

However, even if you knew Morse code and wanted to listen to traffic between ships and their land stations, you couldn’t walk into a big box or an appliance store and buy an off-the-shelf radio receiver, let alone a ‘an emitter. If someone wanted to listen to this thing called wireless, they had to build their own receivers using things like wire, cans of oatmeal, lumps of charcoal, and telephone headphones. Often these items were assembled on a kitchen breadboard, resulting in the term “breadboard” which is still used today by those who build their own projects. Even after pre-assembled radios became widely available, many experimenters still wanted to build ones of their own design. Thus, in most villages and towns, a radio shop operated that not only sold these state-of-the-art devices, but carried out repairs and sold parts to those who wished to build their own.

Recently, HARA member David Gunderman informed the club that his father, Robert, needed to move to a smaller residence and wanted to donate his first “homemade” radio equipment to an organization that would not only honor these early pioneers of radio, but would preserve the equipment he designed and built for future generations who are interested in the history of early radio to enjoy and appreciate. So a different and challenging project has been undertaken by the Highland County Club.

A few years ago, the Highland County Historical Society found an old wooden-cased radio in the attic of the Highland House Museum and contacted HARA to try to find information about it. The local club has launched a survey of other radio amateurs who collect antique radios and similar equipment. A ham in Switzerland referred them to the West Virginia Museum of Radio and Technology (WVMRT) in Huntington. Contact was made with the museum and not only was information about the Dayton, Ohio radio provided, but an offer to repair the working radio was offered.

This response led to the West Virginia Museum being selected to receive the Gunderman Collection.

Recently, HARA members traveled to Huntington with the collection where they were greeted by museum president and curator Geoff Bourne. WVMRT members receiving the donation were impressed with the quality and condition of the items. Members expressed their gratitude to the Gunderman family and to HARA for wanting to preserve the impressive collection of radios and radio-related items.

The museum is located at 1640 Florence Avenue in Huntington.

HARA is an organization of 140 federally licensed amateur radio operators and/or others interested in amateur radio as a hobby and service to the community. Most members live or work in Highland or surrounding counties. More information on amateur radio can be found at www.arrl.org while local club information can be found on the club’s Facebook site or by contacting [email protected] or club information officer John Levo, 937-393-4951.

Information for this story was provided by John Levo.

Pictured with some of the items recently donated to the West Virginia Museum of Radio and Technology are Kathy Levo (left), a member of the Highland Amateur Radio Association, and Geoff Bourne, museum curator.

The Gunderman Collection lands at the West Virginia Radio Museum