Memories of National Radio

Memories of National Radio

W1BC, Working at National in the the late 30s
Don Wall, Working at National in 1969
W0VLZ, My first National Rigs

I never met James Millen as I joined the Company about the time he left. I worked for Dana Bacon, Chief Engineer who probably replaced Millen. Cal Hadlock was a Development Engineer who initiated many of National products and wrote extensively articles for QST.

Both Bacon and Hadlock, about 35 years of age at the time, became my greatest friends as they were with everyone else. It was no wonder that the Company grew so rapidly in the late 30's. I was hired to final test and align HRO receivers. There were four of us. Jim Messina, now 92 who I see often, Rufus Turner, deceased who wrote many articles for Radio News, and Claude Darling, who later joined FCC, and whose sister married Cal Hadlock, now deceased.

The HRO was a beautiful receiver. It required nearly four hours of intense concentration to align the basic receiver and a complete set of coils. Amazingly, each HRO performance was identical among all of them.

Dana Bacon who worked in his own room was a friend to all. If you had an idea for a home project, he would provide you the necessary components, free. I recall once having proposed to Dana Bacon my idea of building a transmitter mate to the HRO, having the same front panel appearance. The plug-in coils for each band containing its own oscillator, the next section containing buffer or doubler and so on to the fourth can feeding the final amplifier on the chassis. The PW dial placed in the center as with the HRO srved as the VFO control. Dana went bananas over the idea, also pushing to build it as quickly as possible. He suggested the company could finalize its design and market it as the HRO Companion Transmitter. I provided him the list of components required and he promptly plucked them from the stockroom and placed them in a carry home carton. That was Dana Bacon who generated a field of enthusiasm and was a friend to the men whoworked at National Company.

Unfortunately, Dana Bacon passed away after a short tenure with the company. As for my HRO Companion, I had fun with it but I finished up at Tufts College in 1940 and joined the Electronics Division of General Electric Company at Syracuse NY. As you know, there was no end to the production of HRO receivers, then and after the war. But then, somehow,the Japanese snuck in there!

Ray Minichiello, Lt.Cmdr. USNR, W1BC

Member Radio Club of America, Past Director QCWA. Past Director VWOA, Member Old,Old Timers Club, Member A.R.R.L.

In 1969, I was working at National, and though the company survived for a number of years after that, it was already bankrupt in 1969. My paycheck was stamped 'Debtor In Possession', and most of our test equipment had been sold and leased back. Technicians were being let go every week, and the outlook was grim. The NCX-1000 was being built over on the ham side, and was wired with all one color hookup wire, to use up existing stock! On the government side, we were building the MD-777/FRT, which was an exciter being built for the Navy under a contract from CRF (joint venture, Continental Electronics (Texas) and RF Communications (New York). The exciter was designed to be used with various transmitters, up to a power of thousands of watts, as I recall. I was involved in testing this exciter, from board level, to module level, to system level, and acceptance by the government inspector. By that time, National's plant in Malden, Massachustts had been long closed and torn down, and National was operating in the Melrose, Massachusetts plant only. This was the former home of the Boston Rubber Shoe Corp., and the building still exists, subdivided into multiple businesses and a furniture store/warehouse. In the 90's, I again worked in that building, for one of the small businesses, downstairs from my old workstation on the second floor. After 1970, the company survived in name only, with no connection to the National of decades of quality products.

Don Wall

I remember my first National receiver. It was 1964, I was 13 years old and we lived in Dixon, California. A neighbor of an uncle heard that I was interested in radio/electronis (I had build up a crystal set and "soldered" together a little electronic game). A WWII surplus NC100A variant was soon mine to play with. It had a few querks, the worst was the missing knob/gear to move the coil catacomb. I had to use the receiver upside down without the bottom cover so that I could change bands by manually moving the coil catacomb. Using that radio I was the first in my home to learn about the earthquake that struck the Anchorage, Alaska area on March 27, 1964. Eventually some of the coil contact figures broke and I replaced it with Knight Kit Star Roamer. I still have the Star Roamer but, unfortunately, my first National became junque box parts and then lost 35 years ago.

My first current (first the time) National rig was a National 200 transceiver. I was a freshman at Texas Lutheran College at the time and the transceiver came mounted in the family '65 Ford Mustang. It was a great match. I had many QSOs while mobile. Those that come to mind right now include one with with New Zealand while sitting in the student parking lot at Texas A&M University, another with Vance (then W5GST) as I waited along side IH35 for a new fan belt and another that included a close encounter with a fence post along the road between College Station and Seguin, TX (this particular QSO included the lesson to not dip and load while driving). I used this rig both mobile and fixed all through college. One day I grew tired of the audio hum in this rig when operated from the AC power supply. I carted it into the EE lab at school and eventually found that the AC line to the front panel power switch was bundled in with all of the signal leads. Coupling between the AC line and the low level audio line was the problem.

Niel - W0VLZ

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