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GUS M. BROWNING, 1908-1990
MR. RADIO, W4BPD, and GUS M. BROWNING; three names, one person! Anyone associated with Ham Radio during the 1960s, 70s and 80s would have known of Mr. Browning. He sailed the seas around the world several times setting up Ham Radio stations in remote lands from which no radio transmissions had ever been transmitted. The following articles that appeared in Mr. Browning's DXers Magazine, will take you to some of those remote places with stories recorded by Gus and his loyal wife, Peggy. Some of the stories will make you laugh and yearn for the adventurous life that the two experienced long before Satellite Weather forecast, Personal Computers and the Internet. (JWB, 6-01-05)
Portrait of Gus M. Browning,
painted in 1965 by Letty Hulmes.
This portrait was commissioned by a loyal advertiser in Mr. Browning's DXers Magazine. The portrait is 20X24 inches, and hangs on the wall in the home of Mrs. Sandra Hill, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Browning.
(I met Mr. Browning in 1956, soon after my discharge from the US Army, when I had an interest in Ham Radio. However, that interest gave way to flying, but I continued to visit Gus and his wife Peggy on somewhat of an infrequent basis. (John W. Baxley, editor, 6-01-05.)
The following stories were originally published in the DXers Magazine published by Gus Browning Enterprises of Cordova, SC. The stories will be reprinted here as they were printed in Mr. Browning's magazine. The reader should also be aware that Gus used many words and phrases that one would have expected to hear in the early part of the 20th Century. Please, remember that many speech patterns and word usages have changed dramatically during the past 50 years. The reader must attempt to "live" during that era so as to fully appreciate the writings of Gus. (JWB,6-01-05)
NOTE: It is with Mrs. Browning's permission that these stories have been made available for publication on the Internet so that everyone may enjoy the humor and lifestyles of Mr. and Mrs. Browning in the mid-20th Century. You will be captured by their writings and experiences on their around the world tours.
Even though their travels were sometimes hectic, you will be filled with envy.
Photo of Mrs. Peggy Browning
on the shore of the Caspian Sea
A debt of gratitude is due Mr. Masayoshi Ebisawa of Tokyo, Japan, who collected and saved all 219 issues of Mr. Browning's magazine. He was most impressed with Mr. Browning when Browning met with a group of Japanese Armature Radio devotees in 1964. Mr. Ebisawa, a retired Radio Engineer, traveled from Tokyo to Orangeburg in May 2004 to put flowers on Mr. Browning's grave. It was during that time that I met Mr. Ebisawa, and have since maintained Internet contact with him on a weekly, or more often, basis. Recently, Mr. Ebisawa sent a CD to me with copies of the DXers Magazine. Mr. Ebisawa continues to be very active in Ham Radio and is Senior Advisor of the Japanese Radio Relay League. You are urged to check out Mr. Ebisawa's Web site at: (JWB, 6-01-05)
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(Note: Peggy's writings are 16 through 38.)
Reprints from DXers Magazine
From Dechenchholing to Timbucktou *
Reprinted from the DXers Magazine #195.
Sitting here in Central South Carolina in my modest home, I find it very difficult to actually believe that I have visited as many places in the world as I have. Knowing my own background like I do makes the following story even harder to actually believe.
I was born right here in South Carolina,
only about some 15 to 20 miles from where I now live. My parents were the
poorest “dirt farmers” and only an existence was about all we ever received
from our life on the farm. I had 2 sisters and 3 brothers, not a large
or small family for these parts of the U.S.A. As far as I can recall
we were a happy family. We were well fed, well clothed, made to go to
school, we were honest, and went to Sunday School every Sunday and to Prayer
meeting every Wednesday night.
The small town I lived in a good bit of my young life is a town named Elloree, S.C. and it is still on the map. Of course, when we lived there many years ago it was a very small, all dirt road and street town, with only a kerosene street light here and there、Some nights a few of these were lit up, casting a very small pool of light as long as the kerosene lasted that night.
No one was ever afraid to wander around this town when the sun went down. Being afraid was in fact unthinkable. In fact, even at this date (1971) it is the same, more or less, like it was way back then. I am trying to tell all of you how things were and how they still are in and around the area where I was born, raised, and have lived most of my life. If anyone ever had any advantages in their upbringing it most definitely was not me! If anything, it was just about the opposite. My life to most anyone was cut out to be about as hum-drum a life as is possible, or so it seemed. It was up to me and only me to see if this could be changed, and it took a lot of “doing” to do this, you can be sure. I will try to make this part of my story as short as possible, only hitting the high-spots here and there. I do think some of these details should be told to make this a well rounded story. I do want all of you to see exactly how things were with me and to show to all of you it is possible for ANYONE to do the same if you make your plans right and play your cards like you should have them stacked. It is very definitely possible for anyone to duplicate most of my travels and escapades, especially if you are the “adventurer” type of fellow and are not afraid that there is a microbe under every rock, lurking there to give you some terrible, incurable sickness. I am certainly not one of these big, strong, healthy specimens, a picture of good health. I am a small person and have never weighed more than 145 pounds in my life. I have been lucky as far as sickness is concerned, except for the 3 cases of very severe pneumonia I had before I was 3 years old. Maybe this was why I have always been a small person. Maybe these 3 cases of pneumonia filled my body with a lot of “anti-bodies” and have kept a lot of sickness away from me during most of my life. But, lets keep things moving with the story.
I was born Nov. 25,
1908 in Orangeburg County, S.C. I have very little that I remember about
World War number one. I remember doing without meat on some certain days,
and sugar on other days. I remember we used some kind of dried, baked and
toasted beans to make something that looked and half-way tasted like coffee.
These items were used on days that we called sugar-less, coffee-less,
meat-less days. I also faintly remember some of the soldiers coming home,
and the family rejoicing when their sons arrived on the twice per week train.
Seems like it was actually a freight train with a few passenger cars
attached to it.
* (Timbucktou is a town in W. Africa near the Niger River. Dechenchholing is a village located in Buhutan. I suggest the reader enter Dechenchholing into Google for some wonderful photos and information about this beautiful place in Asia. Ed.)
(word count: 727)
Reprinted from DXers Magazine #195
I remember after the war had ended and everyone was finally back home that things began to really get very bad on the farm, very little money seemed to be in circulation, or at least my family certainly didn’t have but very little of it. About that time (about 1922) my father made a trip down to Orlando, Florida. I forget the exact reason why. Anyhow, he had been suffering very bad rheumatism pains up and down his back and also both of his legs. He found that while he was in Florida that all signs of these pains disappeared. I remember my mother spending night after night rubbing his back and legs trying to ease those pains he suffered with almost every night. Well needless to say that after that trip to Florida about all we could hear from my father was, “let’s move to Florida”! Seeing how he had, and was still suffering with those legs and back pains, and since he said they had disappeared when he was in Florida, I can hardly blame him. He sold everything. I remember he rented a whole boxcar on the train and a friend of ours (some 3rd or 4th cousin) went along with our household possession, even a few cows, dogs, and a horse or two also was placed in the boxcar! Seems like it cost only about $300.00 to rent the whole boxcar. I can tell you that my father got his money’s worth and the boxcar was jammed full from bottom to top and from end to end.
I remember that we bought a brand new Model “T” Ford figuring that we could save enough on it by us riding to Florida in it. Someone forgot that none of us could drive that Ford! You can be sure a lot of “things” happened between the time that we got the Ford and actually had driven it to Florida. Yes Sir, I remember a few broken arms and wrists. That was a rather common happening when cranking these cars. Then there was that Sunday morning drive in the car when my oldest sister (named Lorena) had us all out for a practice drive. She was doing fine; she could “guide” the car all OK! Well, we arrived at a big church with many, many steps leading up to its entrance. The church was full and service was in full swing. But I can tell you Church Service came to a very sudden halt when my sister forgot how to stop that Ford. We were all packed in the car and headed directly for the front door of the church and my sister hollering “Whoa, Whoa, WHOA”. She knew how to stop a team of horses but, she had forgot how to stop a little Old Model “T” Ford! Up the steps went the car and banged into the front door of the church. The service came to a very sudden halt and so did the car! I suppose those days way back in the “teens and 20’s” were really the good old days, but to us they did not seem very good.
I remember my father and us boys all going coon and possum hunting, sometimes all Friday night, all day Saturday, Saturday night and even a part of Sunday morning, always being very careful to get home Sunday morning early enough for us to get washed up and dressed to get to church. My father (his name is John Bunyon Browning) was at his best during these hunting trips; him and those hounds.
I so well remember we were all in our wagon headed down to the Santee River and our weekend of hunting. The wagon was jam full of dogs and children. We were in a road with very deep ruts, a long way out in the country. In fact, we were a long ways from anywhere. A car (probably a Model “T”) met in those “deep ruts”. He honked his horn for us to get out of his way. He didn’t know my father so good! My father just pulled the horses to a stop, sat in the seat of the wagon, and told the fellow in the car he was not going to move out of the road. We just “loggerheaded” there for about 2 hours, no one moving and finally the man in the car sort of “chickened out”, backing his car a long ways back and pulling out in a cotton field and passed us by staying out in the cotton field. We then asked our father how long would he have waited in that road for that car to pass, his answer was very short, he just said, “Forever”, and I believe he was meaning just what he said. He was like that. I could mention many other similar events in our lives during those days that led me to believe that my father was that “hard headed” and not the type of man to early give up when things seemed rough. Maybe a little of that rubbed off on me.
Things went on like this all the time, and life was a big enjoyable joke, one right after the other, all the time. I can very definitely say that the Browning family enjoyed life to the fullest and something funny was always happening around our home; at times even my mother got into the “act”. We rally enjoyed living. I guess if my father hadn’t found that his “rumatiz” disappeared when he was in Florida our life would have been a completely different story. I am sure if the Browning family had stayed in South Carolina instead of moving to Florida things would have never worked out as they did. Maybe life would have been better or worse--who knows?
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I remember once when we were on a hunting trip down in the Santee Swamp (Now a National Park all fixed up fancy, landscaped, etc.) a stray dog came up to our camp, quite a nice looking pup. We borrowed a nice new dog chain from Dad and placed it around the dog’s neck and told Dad to hold the chain for us. The fun started when he had the end of the chain in his hand. That darn dog started snapping and biting at Dad, coming darn near getting him a few times, and he was yelling for us to “do something”, saying he didn’t want to lose that new dog chain! Finally, we gave the dog some food, got the chain from his neck, and turned him loose. The dog scrammed away and Dad put the chain back into the buggy. (Oh yes, we were using a horse and buggy in those days.)
My father used to buy a few wild horses every year with the hopes of “breaking them in.” Sometimes the horse broke us in! I so well remember the battle getting a bridle on the horse and one of us getting on the horse’s back and then they would turn the horse loose; boy what a lot of bucking and carrying on that horse did. Whoever was on the horse’s back usually ended up being thrown off, and then the excitement of getting the horse under control, and again someone getting on the horse again. We had our own “Rodeo” in our back yard every summer.
Sometime we would end up with a good riding horse, and sometime we would get an “unbreakable” horse and then try to sell him to someone else. The going price for horses, when bought directly from the freight train car, was around $35.00, as near as I can remember. Those “unbreakable” horses we tried to sell for about $25.00, more or less.
Such things as tying paper bags to cow’s tails and stray dog’s tails was another pastime at our farm. Sometimes it was one of our good nearby neighbor’s animals, causing a certain amount of hard feelings with them. Some of the larger boys at times would get into my fathers “home brew” and wine bottles, sometimes getting sick, (drunk) and this would make our neighbors accuse our parents of getting their son’s drunk! Oh yes, there was never a dull moment around our farm, something always happening there. So much for this “episode” of our life on the farm in South Carolina before moving to Florida.
The trip to Florida is a story in itself because in those days the roads were practically all dirt and most of the rivers had to be crossed by ferry, no road maps or signs telling you where to go. It’s a wonder we ever found Florida!
DXers Magazine #197
It took us, for example, one full day to get from Elloree, S.C. (near Orangeburg, S.C.) to Savannah, Georgia, and then, to us, a hair-raising experience getting over a shaky, noisy wooden bridge. Then we saw the “big city” of Savannah, Georgia, another “first” for all of us. We were seeing the world and having a ball, and we were eating it up. Eventually, we found our way out of Savannah and on to Jacksonville, Florida. This is just about the wildest part of Georgia, even in these modern days if you wander far away from the modern roads you will find many swamps with alligators, wild cats, raccoons, opossums, etc. (You will also find some auto “speed traps”. I know !) (Editor's note: Jesup and Ludowici, Georgia were notorious for speed traps in the 1950s and 1960s.)
We had to cross every river on a horse drawn ferry. The ferry was usually on the other side of the river, and this usually meant a few hours wait until the operator was good and ready to come across and pull us to the other side. It took us 2 full days to cross this small part of Georgia. Our old Model “T” bogged down many times on this part of our journey; meaning we had to find a farmer with a horse or mule to pull us out. What still amazed me is the fact that none of us got “hot” under the collar, peeved or mad about all these delays, waiting spells and other delays we had. I suppose in those days life was a lot more leisurely and slower than it is now. I can just picture what would happen these days if those delays were experienced on a similar trip.
To us, all this was “normal” and more or less expected.
(word count: 766)
We had not been spoiled by modern civilization yet, I suppose. Anyhow, I was traveling and maybe this is when it first started getting in my blood. The roads in Florida were not much better than Georgia in those days, and there were just about as many swamps then as now, and these swamps had plenty of big alligators, and you could see them without any close inspection or hunting around. We soon got into “Orange County”, and there were no signs saying hands off! We were from a state that was “Orange hungry”, and there were oranges in front of us. We just stopped and sort of helped ourselves, and we stopped often. But, don’t do it these days; you will get shot.
We did find that the weather was a lot warmer in Florida than South Carolina. (We made the trip in October.) We stopped a number of times and went swimming in all those beautiful lakes they have down there. After about two more days we arrived at the little wooden house my father had built for us. He was a carpenter and the house was very small, and it was built out of second hand lumber. Even the nails were second hands; each one he had straightened out himself. I wonder how many of you readers can picture how really poor we were. But we were all happy because no one had ever told us how miserable we were in those days. Our new house was built right beside a nice large lake. It was, and still is called Lake Fairview.* We kids, all 6 of us, went swimming about 10 times every day after school. We all went to school in Winter Park**, and we walked those four miles to school. School buses had not as yet been discovered down there. Did we gripe and grumble? No we did not because we did not know any better.
My father decided to build a larger house, and again out of second hand lumber. This meant that we kids had to pull nails out of all that second hand lumber and then straighten out those nails. (This reminds me of the problems in some countries I have visited overseas when they build a house.) We had quite a “big time” down there, going out nightly and visiting other people's orange groves and watermelon patches. We kids just loved oranges and watermelons. I guess it never dawned on us that those sort of items did not belong to us. Of course, we had enough “horse sense” to not mention all this to Mom of Pop. We knew what we would have received from them, and we would not have been able to sit down for a week without sitting on blisters. I know is not comfortable at all. Our parents did not believe in sparing the rod--but only when we deserved it. Do we have any hate for them? No! Our parents were not mean, but when they said “scat” they meant it! And we knew this.
My father, being hard headed and poor, would not think of having electricity installed in our house. This made "hamming" a little difficult, to say the least. I well remember selling newspapers on the streets of Orlando, Florida in order to buy a second hand, slightly used radio with “B” batteries. (Sometimes they had been a lot more than slightly used! They were as dead as a mackerel.)
As we all grew up a little we eventually went to the Orlando, Florida High School. I got an afternoon and Saturday job at a radio repair shop. The manager there called me, ”Marconi".*** I then started learning how to push a broom and mop, but eventually I was permitted to test tubes, and after a while I was starting to do a little digging into those radios. They were paying me 25c for each afternoon of work and $1.50 for Saturday work. I usually accepted old radio parts and used “B” batteries as my salary. After taking one full year building a LM Cockaday, 1 tube set and burning out two of those $6.00 tubes I at last got radio station KDKA**** in Pittsburgh. My father heard them (KDKA) and yelled out to my mother, “Dallas, this thing is playing.” (My Mother’s name was Dallas.) This caused a lot of untold excitement around our house and also caused a lot of “company” to suddenly drop in, all wanting to hear that “thing” play. This novelty (to me) wore off after about six months. *( Lake Fairview is located 4 miles N of Orlando, Fl. ** Winter Park is E. of Lake Fairview. Everyone knows that Orlando is home to DISNEY WORLD. ***Marconi, an Italian, is considered THE FATHER OF RADIO. ****KDKA was the world's first commercial radio station, first transmitting on Nov. 2, 1920. It is still in operation. Ed.)
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I had been hearing and reading about “ham radio” and had found that you must be able to copy code. My sister Lorena was interested in getting a job with Western Union, and she too wanted to learn the code. I got a door buzzer and a second hand key and wired them all up for us to use for our code practice lessons, after obtaining a list of the code characters from the local Western Union operator. My sister and I stuck to our code practice lessons for about 6 months and we were getting along fine.
Then I met a local ham (W4ACZ--Tony) and I was telling him about our code lessons. It ended up by him coming over to visit us. We were anxious to demonstrate our code proficiency to him. We turned on our buzzer system and “fired away” and he said “whoa” there Gus. I hate to tell you, but you have learned the wrong code! There is a land Morse and there is an International Morse! Since a Western Union operator had given us the code he was using, we had learned land Morse. Later on my sister found that she could not copy the land Morse either since she had practiced it on a buzzer system instead of the sounder like they use at the Western Union. We both had lost 6 months practicing the wrong system! In fact, my sister was so disgusted that she gave up on ever learning the code. It did not affect me like that, I am glad to say. It only made me a little peeved and made me that much more determined to learn the code, and to LEARN THE RIGHT CODE.
I had found out that when I took off some wire from the coils in my one tube radio that I could hear many stations transmitting code at various speeds. This was just the thing for my code practice lessons, and this is how I learned the code. I had no other way to learn it, but my sister had given up completely. It took me about 6 months to learn to copy code at about 12 words per minute. I had found some books and had read them all so as to pass my ham license test the next time the government man came to Orlando. The man came, and I passed the test and was assigned the call sign NU4ADB. I could now go on the air legally! This was a great day in my life. My first QSO was with a station in Oklahoma, and the second one was a station in the state of Washington. These, I admit, were “shaky” contacts. The shaky part being me. I told my Pop and family about these contacts and they thought I was kidding them until the QSL cards arrived.
The rig back in those days was very simple, two 201A tubes in parallel with 6 volts from a car battery on the filament and as much voltage on the plate as those used 45 volt “B” batteries would furnish. Sometimes the voltage would be as much as 600 until the key was touched and then it would drip down to maybe 150-Fine voltage regulation, I'd say. I used to listen a lot to NAA with that 400 cycle PDC modulated note until I built up an audio OSC and used it to modulate my rig. I received many fine compliments on this “note” I had.. All was well until either the auto “A” battery went dead or those string of used “B” batteries went out on me, then I had the task of rustling up more “B” batteries or having that “A” battery charged. Remember, we had no electric current in our home. I worked a lot of DX on that rig, too. I made WAC and I think I worked about 35 countries (that’s about all there was on the air) I kept hearing NU4ACZ in there with that rectified AC note (not filtered, mind you). He was running around 500 to 600 watts I think, and he would get an S8 and I would get an S3 – of which I didn’t like in the least. About that time I started visiting NU4XE in Winter Park, Fla., and found that he was just about one of the first people in the world to use a quartz crystal to control his frequency. But I could also see that the price of these crystals was a long ways beyond my small, flat pocket book.
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To be honest with you readers, I was fed up with being stuck without any hope of getting any electric current and thus never being able to ever run more than battery operated radio equipment. That meant only the lowest power and trying to learn more about radio without the many benefits I could use if we had electric current in our small, country home. I guess I may have also wanted to see some of the outside world. Maybe it was then that the “bug” to see more of the world bit me.
Fortunately, by oldest brother, Bud, had moved to Philadelphia and had a good job up there. He told me to come up and stay a while with him. The problem was getting there with but a small amount of money. The problem was solved by me deciding to “hitchhike” up there. I began this hitchhiking trip with the sum of $10.00 in my pocket! I had never been away from home in my life and had no idea of what I was up against in undertaking this 1,200 mile trip and with $10.00. Nothing drastic happened on this trip, and I found a fine place to sleep when I was low on funds, like I was. The local “jail house” was the answer to this problem, and was absolutely free. A few times I even got a free breakfast of “grits and fat back”. One morning I had to wait until 11 AM before they let me out because the night desk sergeant forgot to leave a note to the morning sergeant to let me out. I almost became a jailbird!
Then there was the small North Carolina constable who stopped me and was actually about to arrest me for hitchhiking in his town. They had a law there which said “no hitchhiking” at their city limits. This constable said he actually saw me holding up my hands trying to stop cars to hitch a ride. I quickly told him I was not one of those rotten hitchhikers. While we were talking a Greyhound bus came by, and since I had told the constable I was waiting for a bus, I very quickly flagged down the Greyhound bus and hopped on.
The bus driver asked me how far I wanted to go. I said that would be his next stop (only a few miles down the road). I asked him how much would it cost for me to ride that far. The price was 25 cents. I immediately hopped off the bus at that stop and continued my hitchhiking from that point onward. I remember arriving in Philadelphia about 1 AM. My brother had told me to get on streetcar No. 24 and that would take me out to Germantown, and then for me to get off at Queen Lane. Here I was in a big city, and I was not about to get off that trolley and get myself lost. It ended up that I just stayed on that trolley the rest of the night. At dawn I got off at Queen Lane and found my brother all OK before he was off to work.
I saw a want--ad in the newspaper saying Philco was hiring radio trouble shooters. I worked there a few years. The job to me was a real “salt--mine”. Of course, every penny I earned went to the places called “radio row” down on Market Street, and a few side trips were made to Cortland Street in New York City. I finally had myself a pair of 852’s with 3,000 volts on the plates with a full kilowatt input. I was getting ready to be a real DXer. My call sign up there was W3BBH, and I did work a lot of DX with this high power! I was having myself a “ball.”
About this time a fellow who roomed and boarded where I did told me he had a FB blind date all “fixed-up” for me. The bands* being dead that night, I accepted his invitation to this blind date. This blind date ended up by me meeting a YL* named Agnes Smith (how this name was finally changed to Peggy is another story which I may tell later on). I immediately saw that this was the girl I had been hunting for a long time. I wanted to really get in with this YL and I figured the best way was for me to go to work on her OM!* It just happened that he had a Philco radio (no TV’s in 1929 you know) that was not playing too good. I went to work on the radio, putting in a few tubes, tuning up etc. Of course, I would not accept a cent for this work. I wanted to establish myself as a “Good Guy”, and I think the scheme worked! I was, of course, invited back by the OM and I, of course, accepted his invitation, knowing that I would, of course, get to again see his FB* daughter.
Shortly after supper the second night, the older folks went up stairs to bed and he yelled down to us to turn off the electric lights, I answered his yell saying, “Yes Suh Mr. Smith, I want to save your electric bill.” Then I went to work on Peggy, trying in my deep Southern drawl to convince her that I was the right one for her. From that night onward we struck it off in fine shape, and from that day to this day I am sure that we both made a good selection.
(word count: 946)
* (Editor's note. "The bands..." Gus, I am sure, meant the radio bands, not musical bands. Radio telegraph abbreviations: "YL is Young Lady, OM is Old Man and FB is Excellent.)
After two years of this we became “engaged”, and then Philco’s business went into a slump due, I suppose, to the “depression” that was to befall the country a few years later on. I, along with a few thousand others, was laid off. Business was very “tight” and no jobs were to be found in Philadelphia. Therefore, the only thing I could do was to head for Florida and stay with my folks. By this time I had myself a 1927 Model T Ford and drove this to Florida and was back home.
I found myself very lonesome for my Peggy, and those six months I was there seemed like 10 years. I jumped with joy when that letter came to me from Philco telling me to come on back to work. I could hardly wait until I could drive back up north and see my Peggy again. When I arrived I, of course, headed back to see her, and it was “Happy Days” again for both of us. I was back to work and the future looked good so we decided to get married right away. However, we found that we would have to wait 30 days if we wanted to get married in Pennsylvania. We decided to drive to Maryland and have a Justice of the Peace to do the job, and this is where the marrying job was done.
Back to Philly we went and moved into our little apartment. Of course, I had my ham rig already installed there before we moved in! We were starting a long happily married life. I had my girl and my ham station and was doing work that I enjoyed over at Philco. What more could a fellow want? Everything was going fine except for one thing; I could be feeling “great” until I walked into that factory. Punching that time-clock was the hardest part of all. I hated that clock with a vengeance, and right then I made up my mind that some day I would not be working where there was a clock to punch every time you came or went. This darn clock would ruin my day whenever I passed it.
After about one year working back at Philco the Union moved in and all of the employees joined up. In a few weeks the assembly line asked for more money and less hours. Philco said no, and they went out on strike. After a few days the whole plant had to close down because they ran out of work. This meant I was out of work and had a wife to feed, in addition to myself. I hung around two weeks and decided it would be best if we left Philadelphia. Peggy wanted us to move up around Buffalo, New York where she came from and where all her kin folks lived. I wanted to move down to Florida. I suggested that we move half-way in between these two spots, and the rubber band I used to measure on the map indicated that the middle point was South Carolina. Now it is possible that I had overlooked telling her that South Carolina was actually my Old Home State and that I had plenty of kin folks there.
We sold our household furniture very cheap, and, of course, I shipped my ham gear to South Carolina, and in my Model T Ford we headed for S.C. We had a total of $129.00 in our pockets when we departed Philadelphia. By the time we arrived in S.C. I had $101.00 in my pocket.
Since I am basically one who refuses to let anything worry me, the fact I had so little money did not worry me at all. I found a job in Orangeburg for the total sum of $7.00 a week. Remember, this was in the depression days and a dollar went a long ways. I can truthfully say we were happy even then, and on top of this, I had myself a pair of 852’s with a kilowatt.
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We had only one small room. We lived there, cooked there and I hammed there! One day I noticed the electric meter was turning very fast when I had my rig turned on. I also found that it turned very slow when I put a jumper across the meter! This worked all OK until the landlady saw the jumper and asked me what it was put there for. I explained that it slowed down the meter and would keep it from maybe burning out! This worked a few months until she must have told someone else about my meter protector and she made me disconnect it.
I was getting along fine and was establishing myself as a good radio repairman in this area. Finally, the depression forced the man I was working for to go out of business. I then rented a small room on the main street (only $6.00 per month rent) and hung out my own sign saying “radios repaired.” I was at last in business myself. I was my own boss and there were no clocks to punch! I have never been sorry to this time that I took this step and went out on my own.
By this time I had bought a small house out in the country about one mile from the city limits of Orangeburg and had much more room for some “V” beams, and that’s when I really began to work real DX. After a few years houses began to be built up all around us and I could see that it would just be a matter of time before we would have to move further out in the country, or be forced to put up with all my antennas on a small city lot.
Somehow we made out OK all during the depression, of course, our belts were tightened up when business was slow, and our stomachs were filled when we had a good day. In fact, as well as I can remember we never did go hungry. We were both very well satisfied with how things were going for us. Everything was cheap and it did not take too much money to make ends meet. Plus this, I had a Fine Wife and she knew how to stretch a dollar to its ultimate limit. She liked me being home every night with my Ham Station, and we both loved each other, making everything that much more better. To us each day seemed to be better than the last. And, I was working some DX. What else could we have to make life happier and better? Money was not the answer. Something seemed to be missing, and it suddenly dawned on us that we both needed a baby in the house to “liven” things up a bit, I guess.
We both went to work on this project, and my DXING suffered a bit, I suppose. It was not really work in its strictest sense anyhow. During this time the radio repair business was very gradually picking up, and finally started getting to the point where I needed someone to help me.
About this time a tall colored man walked in the shop one day and said he was looking for a job, and that he would work cheap. He looked like a pretty good man to me, so he was hired at an “unfixed” salary. His proper name was General Ritter, but since he was around 6 feet by 6 inches tall and a “ladies man,” he had many other names as I was to later find out. We called him “Pocket” others (usually short fellows) called him “High Pocket.” Since he liked big fat ladies best, one of them asked me where she could find the “Big Leg, Ladies Friend” (meaning Pocket, naturally).
Pocket once asked me not to throw any rocks in a certain part of town where a lot of the “Big Ones” lived, saying that he was “'fraid the rock might hit one of his children!” (And the funny part is that it MIGHT have!). Many times he told me about husbands coming home unexpectedly and him jumping out of bedroom widows and leaving all or most of his clothing in the bedroom.
Such things were always happening, it seemed. Then there were a few times the Sheriff came around looking for him. Usually, because of some trouble at a “Hot Supper.” (usually fried fish or fried chicken) I can tell you, life was very interesting back in those “good old days.” Pocket and his driving at times was enough to run a fellow “mad.” I was once with him, and as usual, he was not stopping at Stop signs at street intersections. He called his stopping a sliding stop! I had warned him that the “Stick-man”* was gonna “git him.” Well, at this certain intersection he did his “sliding stop” and continued on his merry way. It so happened that the “Stick-Man” was hiding around the corner and with full-siren going he pulled passed us and told Pocket to pull over. He then asked Pocket, “Didn’t you see that STOP sign?” Pocket said, "Yes Suh, but I didn't see you!" Pocket stayed with us many, many, years. He was a good Jack of all trades and master of none.
* (Stick-man was jargon for a Policeman. Policemen carried long Bill Clubs and some, such as Pocket, called them "sticks." Hence, a Policeman was called a Stick-man.)
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Many times I asked Pocket, “How many children do you have now?” He ALWAYS countered by asking “Do you mean at home?” He was a real Casanova, if there ever was such a man. Some, in fact many, of the stories he told me are not of the nature I can put into print; it’s a pity, because most of them are amusing, to say the least. Since I want this story of mine to have a “GP” (general public) rating and not an “X” I will more or less steer clear of these kind of stories.
Peggy was at my shop all during this time assisting me in any way that she could. I let her handle the money, and I guess that was the reason why we seemed to always have enough to get by on, even when things were going slow. Of course, every now and then I would, on the sly, pocket a repair bill or two for my Ham Radio needs, telling Peggy that someone gave it to me. I am sure she knew better, but she would let it go at that. She is to this day like this, I am glad to say. I have often wondered how I would have ever made out if I had married someone else. I am sure I would have done a lot of “hunting” to find anyone more suitable to me than Peggy, and as things went during later years I am more convinced this is true.
During the first 8 years of our married life we both were busy working on our “Baby getting project” with no apparent positive results. I may have been doing too much DXING with my Ham Radio hobby, or something, but anyway no babies were in sight, so we decided to adopt one. We asked the local Salvation Army about this, and within a few weeks we drove to a city a few hundred miles from Orangeburg and picked up the little baby boy that was to become our first son. He was just a few weeks old at the time. We were both happy with him. This, having a baby in the house, must have set up things right in our own "baby getting" department because we started getting them every time we touched the button! Finally, the Doctors told Peggy “no more babies for you” and made things to stop this “population."
We had 4 children before the “stop” button was fixed. We had two boys and two girls. Now this, along with Peggy still working at the shop, forced us to have to hire a maid (she was maid, cook, clothing washer, butler, but mainly diaper washer) as well as most everything else around the house. Her name was Lovenia and she proved to be a real jewel in every way, but her best points were in the cooking and baby attending department.
To put it mildly, she was superstitious and she believed a lot of the different ghost stories we were continually telling her. I told her once that I had “died” many times, but had always “came back from the dead” and hoped I would be able to continue doing this from now on. Well, that same night just before supper time, the light over the supper table went out, and in replacing the burnt out bulb I all of a sudden let out a loud groan, and toppled off the chair I was standing on, rolling over on the floor, quivering a few times as I stretched out stiff like. Peggy came running in, saying “help me Lovenia, I think he is dead.” She said, “I will pick up his feet and Lovenia, you pick his head.” Lovenia said, “I am ‘fraid of dead people.” Peggy insisted, and as Lovenia was reaching for me I let out a “moan” and reached for her. That’s all Brother, we had a heck of a time catching her running away from our house. After that she eyed me with a certain amount of suspicion.
Other little “mild things” I tried out on her, from time to time. Too many to mention in an article of this sort. I will just tell a few of these, “happenings” around our house. I won’t bore you with too many stories.
Now you take “Pocket” for instance, he was not superstitious like our cook/maid was, but he was most definitely afraid of snakes, both kind – live ones and dead ones. I could tell many tales about Pocket and me and snakes. Luckily, I have never been afraid of any kind of snake.
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One time Pocket and I were down at the edge of the woods. I stayed at the edge of the woods beside a high wire fence, and Pocket went down into the woods cutting a right-of-way for another rhombic antenna. While I was there beside the wire fence (on the side away from the woods) a big Rattle Snake crawled by me. I “very quickly” grabbed him. To do this you have to know how, and you have to be “very fast”, and you have got to grab him right back of his head or you will be Rattle Snake Bit! Anyhow, I had him in my hands and I quickly grabbed his tail, and like a whip popper, I snapped his head completely off, the head flying into the bush and the rest of the snake remained in my hand.
To have a little “fun” out of Pocket, I placed the snake on the ground with his headless body hid in the grass, right by the wire fence where Pocket would land when he climbed back over the fence when he returned from the woods. Well, it got about sundown (oh yes, people worked until sundown back in those days) and here comes Pocket, whistling and sort of singing out of the woods. Just before he got to the fence (the squashed over part where he climbed over) I made the comment, “Pocket, I wonder if there are any snakes around here?” He said, “Well Capt, I guess this is the place to find them,” and he proceeded to climb over the fence at the “right spot”! I watched his foot as it began to come down right on top of that snake, and I yelled, ”look out Pocket” “there’s a snake there, pointing down at the snake, he looked and you should have seen the pretty backwards tumbles he cut getting back over the fence “ backwards”!
Continuing from the last episode about Pocked (my man Friday), who could just about do anything, even though never becoming an expert in anything. He was valuable in many ways and could be usually depended upon to do his best when he was called on.
I mentioned that he was afraid of snakes. Well, one more little snake story before I move on to other things that was “happening” in those days.
One morning as I walking out to my car and I saw a very small, green snake about 3 inches long and 1/4 inch in thickness, or may be even thinner. This was a “pretty”(?) little snake, and looked as if it was made out of some sort of light green plastic. I put the little snake in my coat pocket and proceeded on down to my place of business. After being there a while I went out, saying to Pocket that I had to go to the 5 and 10 store for something.
After I came back I said, “Hey, Pocket, look at this little plastic snake they are selling at the 5 and 10, it even crawls”. Explaining to him this is caused by the heat from your hand acting on the plastic material in the plastic snake. He held out his hand, palm up and open, I placed the snake in his hand, and the little fellow started to crawl. Pocket said they sure did make things “life like” any more. Then Pocket pointed one of his fingers at the snake and the snake, drew back and opened his mouth, and took a little snap at his finger. Right then Pocket dropped the snake on the floor and said “Capt, that plaxtic snake?”
I then picked up the snake again placing it in my coat, and after a while my daughter Jo-Ann came in and I told her the same “plastic” snake story. Ending it by her holding the snake in her hand. She was even more afraid of snakes than Pocket. She played with it a while and commented how “pretty” it was and how “life like” it was. About 3 HOURS later, Pocket told her that the plastic snake she had played with was a real, live snake, and the she almost had nervous breakdown from fright; delayed fright, I call it.
About this time we gained a new employee. It happened like this. One day when I returned to the shop from an outside service call I noticed a wide awake young teenager behind the counter busily cleaning up, dusting, rearranging the stock, sweeping the floor and in short making himself busy doing things that needed to be done. I said to myself, Peggy sure did hire a “hot shot”, and I noted he was a real hustler and got things done. This was on a Monday afternoon. This young man introduced himself as Campbell Martin. He was one of the smartest fellows I have ever met in my life. That first named “Campbell” was too long to pronounce, so I cut it down at first to just Camelin. We used this for a while, and later on cut it down to Camel. Then one day, for some crazy unknown reason, either he or I called the other Budrow, then we BOTH started to call EACH OTHER Budrow.
Finally, we both started calling everyone we knew Budrow, and to this day a lot of people around Orangeburg call each other Budrow, and that is the reason why W4WVF’s name is Budrow! Oh, we ran a very nonchalant place of business. There was no Mister Browning or Mr. Martins, etc. around our place of business. This fellow Budrow taught me a lot, and I think I did the same to him.
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The first day he was with us he suddenly said, let’s match for a Coke. I said, “OK”, pulling a coin out of my pocket. Then he said, “Just throw it up and let it land on the floor and I will call it before it lands.” I threw the coin and he yelled out,” Heads, she lay!” I looked, and sure enough heads was up, so I gave him the money for our Cokes. The next day when “Coke Time” came around I again suggested to him that we match for them, and like the two days before he said, “You throw the money up, and I will call it!” This time he yelled, “Tails, she lay.” THIS TIME tails came UP and I said, “Its about time that I win!” He then said, “Wait a minute, I said ”Tails, she lay, and it is LAYING on tails!” He was right, so I lost again for the 3rd day in a row. Actually, I had won the first 2 days and didn’t know it since I myself had said, “Looks like you win”, and then proceeded to actually hand him the Coke money myself. I learned not to match this fellow Campbell.
Let me tell you how this fellow Campbell was hired. When it was 6:00 PM the first Saturday, OH YES, we worked 6 days each week, and I mean LONG DAYS back in those times. I said to Peggy, “It’s time for “You” to pay Campbell”, and she said, “You hired him, so YOU pay him off.” Well, after discussing this it dawned on us that neither of us had hired Campbell. I then asked him, “Who hired you Budrow?” He the told me that he just went to work for us because he saw that we “needed him”, which was the truth. And that’s how that fellow went to work for us.
This fellow “Budrow”, as I called him, that had “went to work” for Peggy and me was a real “smart one”. He had other variations in his matching for Cokes, such as when he lost on first throw. “Oh, I “always” match the best two out of 3.” Then, if he still was loser, the best 3 out of 4!
I finally got enough of this matching business with Camel, and then he asked, “OK, let’s throw for the line!” I asked him what was that, and he then pointed out to me that the flooring in my shop was made out of long, narrow boards and there was line, actually a seam, between each board. He then suggested that we throw a coin from about 10 feet away from us, and the person whose coin landed the nearest to a line (the lines we were throwing for was a seam (any seam) between the boards in the flooring. He said, “Let me “demonstrate” what I mean”, pulling out a 10 cent coin and tossing it away from him about 10 feet away, then pulling out another coin of the same denomination and tossing it. Then he said, “Let’s see which is the nearest to a line.” We both looked over the coins and both agreed that the first coin was the nearest to a line. He then said, “Do you understand how “throwing for the line” works?” I said, “Sure thing.” He then said, “OK Boss, you throw first and then I will throw.” I pulled out a 10 cent coin and tossed, coming to within about one inch from a line. He said, “Not bad.”
Then he pulled out a big American SILVER DOLLAR, which is about the diameter of the distance between these lines on the floor. He tossed it, and of course it landed on a line. (It could not miss a line on account of its size!) Saying, “Thank you Boss for the “cold one!” I then informed him, “No more matching, etc. with you or line throwing either, Ole Buddy.”
Then he and I ganged up on others with those, and other gags, for our free Cokes. Yes Sir, that fellow Camel taught me a lot. He was always up to something. Usually, he was a good many steps ahead of anyone else.
One morning I came in the shop and I was sitting on a stool and observed a brass push button door bell switch mounted on my test panel with a sign above it saying, “Don’t push this button.” I asked him what it was for. He said, “Oh nothing.” I said, “Push it and lets see what happens.” He reached over and pushed the button and I got a tremendous jolt in THE SEAT OF MY PANTS. He said, “OH, OH, excuse me Boss, I must have got a wire crossed!” Then he said, “Let me try it”, and proceeded to sit on the stool and he said, ”OK, now you push it.” I said, “To see how it feels?” I pushed the brass door bell button and the whole brass shell gave me a shock, almost knocking me down! Then he said, “I sure must have a wire in the wrong place!”
I at that point I decided it was time to “inspect” this thing. I found out just how smart this fellow was. He had wired up a Neon Sign transformer (20KV) with a 10 watt bulb in series with its primary to keep it from really knocking you cold. Anyhow, to make a long story short, he had another push button up under the stool and when it was pushed, all the high voltage was removed from the tacks in top of the stool to the brass shell on the push button on the panel. If the push button on the stool was not held down the tacks on the stool had all the high voltage. Oh, I found out this fellow was a long ways from being a “dumbbell”!
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I do not want to bore you with too many stories about this fellow, but I think there are a few more items of possible interest to my readers.
I will call this his “FREE WATERMELONS GAG”, because it always ended up like that. We, here in South Carolina, live in a basic farming and gardening area and farmers, as a rule, always plant a good many watermelons. Most of my customers back then were farmers. My shop was rather long and narrow with the repair shop in the rear and sales in the front. Customers would come to the rear of the shop and watch us repair their radios (no TV’s then). Camel would get the customers to actually take their radios out of the cabinet, remove the chassis and turn it over. Camel would then walk over to the upside down chassis with his hands behind his back and make the comment to the customer who was looking at the upside down chassis; something like this. ”Ain’t that a mess of wires?" or “Just look at all them wires. Them things sure is complicated, ain’t it?" The customers naturally would agree with him. Then Camel would get the ohm-multi-meter and start testing here and there, but never actually putting the meter leads even near the parts he was testing. Then he would throw up his hands and say, “It’s too much for me!”
Camel would say, "I guess I will let “Mo” fix it for you". Then with a screw driver Camel would start pointing the screw driver here and there, saying as he pointed, "Eeney, Meeny, Miney and if I was the bad part I would Blow". With the screw driver at that time pointing at the part that he had checked with the meter previously, not ever actually touching it, but testing from the other end of wires that connected to it! He would then get THE CUSTOMER to remove the defective part, and even put in the replacement part, even connecting the wires to it. Then Camel, to top off the job, would solder the connections, telling the customer to put the set back together. The customer would say, "How about let's test the set and see if it will play." Camel would say, "That “Mo” said it was OK and that “Mo” knew more about these things then he did!" Well, after the customer had put the set together he would plug it in and it ALWAYS PLAYED! The customer would say, “How much do I owe you?” By this time I would have managed to be up in the front of my shop and Camel would, sort of in a sneaky way, “peek” towards where I was and say, “Don’t tell Gus, he might fire me, but I’m only charging you $4.75", or something like that. (Usually a dollar or two more than what I would have charged for the same job!.) The customer would pay Camel and just as he was leaving Camel would ask him if he was planting any watermelons this year. The answer was always, a “yes” to this. Then Camel would say, “Man, don’t forget me when they are ripe." And sure enough, at watermelon time we had plenty of “free” watermelons coming in nearly every day, sometimes three or four free ones! And that’s the Free Watermelon Story."
I could go on with many other stories about this fellow Campbell. OH YES, he is now teaching electronics as a Collage Professor at Clemson College. He has studied there for the usual 4 years and, of course, passed with flying colors and then he went on up to MIT for 3 or 4 years, and I suppose he has all the degrees he will ever need! Here is one College Professor that knows the practical end of electronics, how to really get along with the general public and how to “win” when he matches for Cokes!
I have found that when you sit down and try to write a story of your life, all of a sudden you think of things that happened in the past that should have been mentioned in some previous “episode”, so at times in these stories I will give you a ”flashback into the past”.
When I lived down in Florida, near Orlando, I met a Red Headed Kid at school. (I was a “cotton top” myself.) I named this fellow “Red”, and since that day I still call him by that descriptive name, even though his hair is not any longer very red. We were mutually interested in radio, and eventually becoming hams. His Callsign is W4BNF, and he has been down at Cape Kennedy almost ever since it opened up. I once asked him what did he do down there at the Cape, and he said he was the one that “lit the fuse” that sends the big ones up!
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Back in those days (around 1926, or so) Red and I joined the Naval Reserve, hoping to learn more about radio and communications. In addition, we thought maybe we might pick up a few spare parts. We were successful in all three points as near as I can remember.
One night we were returning from drill in Red’s car, I use the term "car" very loosely in describing that “thing”, but it did get us from point A to point B (most of the time, that is). Well, this night on our way home attending to our own business, driving along carefully, we were passed by another car full of school kids. One of them in the back seat threw a big, soft, half rotten orange right in Reds face (there was no windshield on his car). Well, it so happened we had a sack full of very soft, about half rotten oranges in our car. (Most of the people in Florida had a bag of oranges in their car all the time, that’s my opinion.) We spun around in the road and took off after that car with vengeance on our mind! We pulled up parallel to the car (the one that the orange came from) and I stood up in the seat and with a real “Whip lash” I let the driver of that car have the orange right in the face!
Then the chase was on! I have no idea just what would have happened if they had caught us that night. It was “nip and tuck” most of the time. We headed out for my home, some five or six miles out in the country. (It seems like I always lived about that far from the nearest town.) Luckily, we both knew “our territory” well, because when we got to the point where we turned off the main highway onto the dirt road that lead to my home, (With a very large oak tree in the exact center at the turn off.) Red turned off the lights on his car, and jammed on his brakes. There was no radiator cap on his car and that boiling hot stuff streamed back on us. I was yelling, Red, that stuff is killing me!
I’m burning up. I’m on fire and at the same time yelling, “ Look out for that tree!” Well, we came out OK. The car that was chasing us continued on down the main highway and I guess he is still looking for us to this day.
Red and I were great “Buddies” in those days, and I could probably write a whole “chapter” on things that happened down in Florida and later on up in Philadelphia when he stayed with Peggy and me for a while, but that’s another story for another time. Come to think of it, we were right then living in the “Good Ole Days”, but neither of us knew it! You young fellows who are just getting into ham radio, you are right now living in the “Good Ole Days” when you look back from date “X” in the future.
One of these “Episodes” I will tell you about things that happened to Peggy when we stayed in Florida for a few months. It was a midnight “visit” to someone’s watermelon patch when a shot gun and torn-off dress will be told about. We did not get any watermelons either. In fact, we were lucky enough to have gotten ourselves out from that patch of melons!
During those days I was down there on the air with a full 6 WATTS input to a pair of 201A’s. Naturally, it was breadboard constructed, the 2 tubes in push-pull, and I mean to tell you those taps on that copper-tubing tank coil was at the EXACT SPOTS, within 1/100th of an inch and if one was moved a hair breath a chirp was put on the air. I can tell you for sure, I had an Xtal sounding note, and when I threw on that grid-leak 400 cycle modulation my note was better than Old NAA with their modulated ICW note. I had many compliments on THAT NOTE, and I am at times “tempted”, even now, to do a little “modulating” of my CW signal, and then get a lot of Pink Slips from our FCC! The whole breadboard was hung with 4 long screen door springs and swayed in the wind beautifully!
Red and I once hitchhiked all over Florida, (voluntarily, Ed. note) spending the nights in various Jail Houses, because we just did not have any money. I guess I was getting trained how to live on a shoestring, which later on helped me to do a lot of over-seas traveling on the same “shoestring”. We had some “good times” back in those days, but at the same time I guess they didn’t seem too good to us. In those days Red liked to “build” and I the liked to chase DX. I often have wondered if a true DXer is born like that, or does he just change from a regular ham to a DXer! I think we fellows are born a DXer.
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Now back to the story. Here I was in Orangeburg, South Carolina trying to “eek” out a living, raising up 2 boys and 2 girls, trying to keep 13 rhombics up in the air (quite a task within itself!) running a radio, appliance sales and service store/shop, and trying to work all the DX as each new one came on after the war. I think I was reasonably successful in each one of these and other “ventures”, but having no “rich uncles” to die and leave me anything, I had to do every thing with the sweat of my (and Peggy’s) brow. Amazingly, while all this was going on Peggy and I and the kids were all enjoying ourselves--I am sure a lot more than people do these days under similar circumstances. I guess we being in love had a lot to do with us enjoying ourselves as much as we did.
Things were going fine, but I began to hear about this thing Television and I began to look further into what it was all about, ending up (like a blame fool) buying one of them. This was the first TV in Orangeburg, and after it was installed in my own home (that’s where I really slipped!) I found out that when it was connected to one certain rhombic I could pull in WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina some 135 miles away fairly regularly. They were on (and still is) channel 3, which you know is “murder” when you operate on 20, and 20 was my most used band. Friends and neighbors would drop in to see this thing called TV, and this meant I had to stay off the air. I even had TVI when just my VFO was turned on. Finally seven. THE FAMILY would tell me to “turn that thing off.” I finally found a spot on 20 CW (I mean AN EXACT SPOT, down to the CYCLE) on which I could use a full KW and not cause any TVI. One night, I so well remember, I was on this EXACT spot, rag chewing with some W2 station on CW, and he made the comment that I was lucky not to have any Television down our way. That’s when I said, “Oh Yes we do”, and explained to him that I was at that moment looking at TV. Seems to me that he didn’t believe me and he inquired “What station and show are you looking at? I told him it was some CBS show from WBTV. After a little bit more inquiring we found that the same program was on up in New York City and that since we both could see the same program at the same time he suggested that I hold down my key and then describe what took place on the program while my key was down. This I did, and I had told this fellow that I was using a open breadboard kilowatt, with open 600 ohm feed lines and looking at a TV station 135 miles away, and on top of that it was on channel 3, real “fringe area” reception on one of the worst channels for 14mc transmission.
This was almost too much for the W2 to understand, especially since he was only a few miles from the TV station he was receiving. In fact he told me he could see the Empire State building where all the TV antennas are located. I neglected to mention to him that if I “breathed” on my VFO that all TV reception here would be wiped out! I suppose to this day he is still “wondering” how this was possible, and I don’t blame him. Well, here I was with TVI in my own home and 6 open breadboard, 1KW transmitters, and people were beginning to buy TV sets all around me. The solution to my problems was a pair of wire cutters and a complete dismantling of all these transmitters and a whole rebuilding project with everything in screened and shielded cabinets, all of which eventually were done and most of the TVI was eliminated when we had TV stations nearer us and off of that channel 3. During all this time I was, of course, in there chasing DX, listening for the rare ones and working most of them.
About this time DXpeditions were beginning to spring up here and there and naturally I was in there trying to work everyone of them. At the same time I, like everyone else, was saying to myself that I would do, so and so “if I were the DX station”. I had no idea that one day I would have a chance to put some of my ideas into practice, because to me it didn’t seem possible that I would ever even get to Mexico or even Canada, much less Tibet or Timbucktou! I guess we all will “day-dream” about those far away places every now and then. I even had a world globe and have often looked at it and did a lot of “wondering” about this or that place, saying to myself, “Boy, how I hope, some day to get to some of these places”. Eventually I did get to many of them and this is what this entire story is all about, but I must “clue you in” to various events that eventually did take place in this big world of ours; places that the usual “tourist” has never visited or even wanted to visit!
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What rally started me off was that big tract of land I had bought with all those big pine trees growing on it. I had bought the land to have space for rhombic antennas and to get away from the congested neighborhood that was beginning to spring up around where we were living before we moved out in the country to my newly acquired “antenna farm”. Those pine trees furnished the money for the first DXpedition I went on. Here is what happened.
I had been offered various amounts from timber buyers for the timber on my farm. Most of the offers were much too small, but eventually the offer from a timber buyer was about ten times higher than anyone else had ever offered me, so the timber was sold and when the check was placed in my hand I said to myself, "This is DXpedition money!" Peggy, I thought, did not know about this, so I “sneaked” the check into another bank and told them not to send me any monthly statements. (Peggy opened all mail). Now, that’s when I really began to look very closely at the old beat-up world globe I had! I was at last going to see some of it and I wanted to see as much as possible with the little money I had ($7,500.00). I began to sort of “hint” to the boys over the air that I myself was going on a “good DXpedition," and most of them said, “yes, and I am going to the moon!” Back in those days I guess it was sort of like it is now, a lot of talk and many plans never did materialize, they just died out.
I suppose the boys thought this was another “day-dream” and would go up in smoke like all the others did at times, and I hardly blame them. Planning a DXpedition takes a lot more than looking at maps and buying a few air-line tickets, I found out. Two trips to Washington, obtaining a passport and various visas, many of them “lapsed out” before I ever arrived at the country they were for. The usual visa is only good for 90 days, so you have to watch out for this when obtaining visas; get them for the countries you intend to visit the first 90 days and obtain the others you need when you are overseas. Then comes the medical “shots” and “vaccines”. To be on the safe side I took them all and I found that even some of these are also good for just a certain number of days. You have to also watch out and not take them too late because some of them require a certain number of days before they are effective. Then if you are trying to get as far as you can on your money you should write, as well as QSO as many fellows along the way as possible and try to line-up places to stay at “gratis”, of course. Those hotel and food bills can eat a big hole in your pocketbook.
Typical Day at DXers Magazine
Occasionally, I get a letter asking me various questions about things here, so I write this little article and try to more or less describe a regular, run of the mill work day here.
First, Peggy gets up about 7AM and begins her days housekeeping chores, and at 8:30 AM (local time) she drives our Mustang over to the Cordova Post Office and picks up the mail from Box “DX” (yes we finally got that). She then wakes me up when she gets back from the P.O., usually around 8:45 AM. Peggy then opens up the mail and starts assorting it, etc.
I get up and head for the “Coke” machine in the print/ham shack shop. This is my breakfast. (Peggy insists she cook me a big breakfast, which I definitely dislike!) Gus, Jr. has, for a long time, been in the print shop, working some QSL or other printing orders. About this time Gus III (Gus, Jr's. oldest kid) comes in and says, "Grandpop, I “need” some Coke Medicine, how about some money for the Coke Machine!" I try to push him off to Gus, Jr. to furnish the “money part”, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Then little Peggy (Jo-Ann's little 4 year old girl) comes in and it’s the same thing all over again. (Gus III is also 4 years old) Jo-Ann’s house is about 150 ft away and Gus, Jr’s is about 250 ft. away. This goes on until about 12 O’clock noon (I try to do a little work in between the QRM!) ha ha. Suddenly, we all QRT for lunch and back to work again. Basically, our jobs here are: I do the layout work, and preparing the copy for photography (all printing we do has to be photographed), I also do the photography work, in addition, I try my best to attend to other business “runnings”. Gus Jr.'s job is to do the masking in, plate burning (making the printing plate), and the actual printing job. AND, he is a doggoned good one at that!
Peggy’s work is never ending. She keeps at so doggoned many chores that I could never mention them all. House work, cooking, attending to the mail, wrapping QSL orders, banking, sometimes even cleaning the press when we are rushed, and many, many other off jobs. Our place of business and home is located out in the country some 5 miles south of Orangeburg, S.C., and about 31/2 miles east of Cordova, S.C. – Come and see us some time!
Bedtime is 11 PM for Jr., 1 AM for Peggy and around 3 AM for – We “have a ball –Oh Yeah!
(word count: 958)
(The following post were written by Peggy Browning, on site, describing their travel experiences. She is just as remarkable as her husband, Gus! Ed.)
Article #1 THE INTRODUCTION
Greeting to you fellow hams (and XYLs) around the world. Each week there will be a story about the places we have visited and some of difficulties we run into.
So you want to go on a DXpedition! You have heard about the fun they have, the far off romantic places and the new countries for the fellows back home. Perhaps your XYL wants to go along (like me). She thinks about these places and thinks she is going to have a ball. She is in good physical condition and says she can stand anything! I would like to give you a little advice. If you don’t have a strong stomach and are afraid of snakes, lizards, rats, centipedes and all kinds of insects, if you get sea sick, afraid of natives, storms and a hundred other things, then you better not leave the U.S.A.
This kind of life is only for those who can really rough it! Other difficulties you may encounter; getting your equipment through customs--sometimes taking half a day. Spending as much as two days getting a license to operate your rig. Then the fun begins. Now you want to go to some of the islands. A fellow will tell you to go and see a certain man; you are told to come back in a couple of hours. You go back and he will tell you to see another man and this may go on for two days or longer.
Sometimes you see three or four different people or more. Finally, you get permission to go to the island, but then there is the problem of no passage on that boat, so you wait around another week or two begging or pleading for a place on any old boat, and then you find out your XYL can’t go along, and that you will have to go steerage. So you say, “Oh, well, I don’t mind that as long as I get to the Island”. Then they tell you that you must have permission from the BIOT, Another delay!
If the money is scarce and you are on a DXpedition you have to live at the cheapest places along the way and always fighting rats. roaches, lizards, centipedes, bed bugs and once in a while snakes. If you go on a fishing boat you have to smell the oil and fish cooking and this can be very nauseating. You end up with the bug quite frequently and also days of fever and headaches. You must be prepared to walk eight flight of stairs at certain hotels to reach the top, so your husband can have a good location to work the boys back home. You also certainly have a food problem! When you leave the good ole U.S.A. you don’t get hot dogs, hamburgers, milk shakes and such good things as that, or even ice water. Your just start drinking tea or coffee, and since we drink Cokes, sometimes they are scarce or too high for us to afford. You live the cheapest way possible, so sometimes eating just bananas, oranges and any other fruit that is available.
Sometimes you have to eat goat, lamb, eel or something else that you don’t care to ask about because you are hungry and you stop looking for the dirt or little black things in your food that you sometimes find. You just take a fork and push it aside and eat your food. You worry about your husband's health. He stays up as long as the bands are open to any country, and sometimes he has fallen asleep at the mike. Sometimes I have to dash cold water in his face to awaken him, but he loves being on the other end of a pileup, and I can tell you it is giving me quite a thrill when I hear all the boys calling him. So, I swallow my pride, keep quite, but always encourage him, and go to the places I am allowed to go and if I can’t go, I fight the loneliness that comes over me until he comes back.
I like to get mail, but here the service is terrible. I did find out about the U.S. Satellite Tracking base here and now we have an address and can get mail out faster. If anyone wants to get in touch with our daughter Joanne, they can call her. We will send out QSLs direct for $1.00 each. This will help to cover the expense of mailing the card and have a little left to buy some Cokes. Next week I will start writing a series of articles about each country we have visited and some of the things we have encountered. Now you fellows can bet that Gus will go to every island that he can get permission to work from, and he will not stop until he has exhausted every means. He has license and all the documents necessary to prove to ARRL of his being at these places.
See you'all next week…88’s Peggy.
(word count: 843)
The beginning of our trip was not bad. In fact, I found Dakar a rather fascinating place, in spite of the eight flight of stairs I had walk each day. The first thing Gus did after our arrival at the hotel was to head out for a license so he could get on the air immediately. After running from one place to another for four hours the man told him he could go on the air, and gave him the call sign of 6W/W4BPD. All was well and fine there, with Gus making plenty of contacts.
After leaving Dakar, the fun was just about to begin. We went by car to Bathurst, Gambia. It was hot, dusty, and we were almost half-way and I couldn’t hardly see because of the dust storm that hovered around us. We tried to talk with the driver, but he couldn’t understand English. I was almost gasping for air when he finally stopped at a rest house. Here we refreshed with a Coke and a light lunch and rested about one hour, and then on the way again. Every few miles now, we were being stopped by some police officials wanting to see our passport. All of a sudden we came to a detour sign.
I knew it would be a short distance, but it was a dirt road and a very rough ride. Through the jungle area, the monkeys were swinging from tree to tree and every once in a while a deer or some other small animal would dart across the road. Finally, I looked ahead and it looked like a big log was in the road, but when we got closer I saw it was a huge snake! I rolled those windows up and the heat was about to smother us. The driver blew the horn, and finally that lazy, huge snake slid across the road. By then I was really having the jitters. After a couple of more miles, we had to roll the windows down. I guess the distance was only about twenty miles, but to me it seemed like a hundred.
We arrived at a small fishing village where we had to show our passports, and they dickered around for another hour and finally told us we could get the Ferry and go to Bathurst by crossing the Gambia River. After waiting forty-five minutes, we were informed there would not be any more boats until the next day, but we could take a row boat and go across. I looked at that boat and it didn’t look very safe to me in that choppy water, and the wind was rising. I then asked the Harbor Man if any of those boats ever turned over. He said, “Madame, I wouldn’t go that way because two weeks ago an entire boat load drowned going across in that small boat at night”.
Of course, Gus was willing to go, but I told him I was not the best swimmer in the world and that he might lose his equipment. When I mentioned equipment, that just did it (hi). He says, “No, I wouldn’t want to lose that, or you either”. We looked around for a place to stay. There was an English man who had a little guest house. We went to see him and he told us he would be glad for us to stay there if he had furniture, but he didn’t even have a bed. We told him we would sleep on the floor, but he said it was full of rats. Did that discourage Gus? Not in the least!
The man told us there were some fellows, who had a trailer court not far from his place, and he said perhaps they would put us up for the night. These fellows staying in this trailer court were men that were construction workers, helping to build roads for Gambia. They are mostly fellows from England and a few from Ireland. So down we went to the trailer court. They were very nice to us, and not only did they give us a trailer to stay in by ourselves, but they also gave us our dinner that night and breakfast the next morning. They were really very nice to us and I will never forget their kindness. They had a Father visiting them from Ireland, and he insisted that Gus and I have the trailer he was staying in, and they told us to go into the refrigerator and get anything we wanted to drink. They had all the Cokes and milk that we wanted. Gus and I found fruit very cheap in Dakar and everyday we got oranges and bananas.
(Editor's note: Dakar, the most Western tip of Africa, is the capital city of Senegal on the West coast of Africa. Gambia is a narrow area of land surrounding the Gambia River, which is surrounded by Senegal. You won't find Bathurst on your maps of Gambia. In 1973 the name Bathurst was changed to Banjul, the capital of Gambia, located on St. Mary's Island in the mouth of the Gambia River where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. This area of Africa is rich in history, therefore the reader will gain much understanding of the area by reading some of the history of Gambia.)
(WORD COUNT: 781)
The next morning we were up early and getting ready to leave when their cook called us and said he was informed to fix breakfast for us. We ate and said goodbye to our friends (they would not accept a penny for the nights lodging) and they said they would come over and see us later.
Upon arriving here at another site, we went to several places trying to find the cheapest place with the best place for an antenna. Gus located one and we climbed 120 steps to the very top floor, and this was the ideal place for ham radio. I asked the girl if there was an elevator. She just looked at me and asked “what is that?” I thought to myself, “is she kidding?" However, she wasn’t. Shortly thereafter, Gus was down again and out to see about the license, and was lucky enough to be granted one within a couple of hours. We went up and down those steps three times a day, and when we would walk part way up, we would have to stop and rest. By this time the weight was really beginning to fall off of me. Each day I felt like I had done another hard days work.
By this time, I had led myself to believe that nothing else will happen on this trip. Was I kidding myself. You will find out about these things in future articles as I write about a huge snake getting loose in the hotel lobby, big rats eating my shoes, lizards running all over the walls, a lion on the loose, falling overboard, a garfish getting into my bathing suit, and many, many more thing that happened to me. I will also be writing an interesting story about the Coco de Mer palm here on the Seychelles, as this tree is called the “Fruit of Knowledge." I will also be giving interesting facts about the women on the Seychelles Island. (Coco de Mer palm: If you just can't wait to learn about this tree, I suggest that you go to Google or Yahoo and type in Coco de Mer palm. Editor.)
Now you fellows who don’t care to read these stories, just skip over that part. After you’ve finished reading your part, give it to the XYL and let her read this part!
This is the XYL of W4BPD, Peggy, writing to you from the Island of Desroches, located in the Indian Ocean.
In my last chapter, we were still in a little hotel in Bathurst, Gambia. It was about 9:30 at night and Gus was going strong on the bands, when suddenly I heard a lot of commotion down below us. In fact, I heard a couple of screams. Mostly, Swedish people come here on vacation during the time we were there. Gus decided to go down and find out what the trouble was. I decided to stay in my room, but as the screaming got louder I saw people pushing each other to get up the stairs. My curiosity got the best of me. I started down the stairs, and people were really excited, talking in Swedish. I had gone down 3/4 of the way and people were rushing up the stairs. I asked what was wrong. Some people looked pale to me. I started down the last flight and stopped dead in my tracks. There was a HUGE SNAKE IN THE LOBBY – people were standing on chairs, two girls were on top of the front desk. Gus was looking as if nothing had happened. The snake was near the stairs. The hotel floor is level with the sidewalk. I didn’t look anymore. I dashed up the stairs, locked the door and closed the windows. Finally, Gus came back and told me the snake had been killed, and that he was going to have the snake skin tanned, and sent to our home in Cordova. I had really seen enough of snakes.
A few days later we departed by British Air Lines for Accra. Gus decided to ship his equipment by air freight 2nd class. Now the fun was to begin with Gus filling out papers. He had to open the equipment to show each fellow what he was carrying, and even though he had a list made out he still had to fill out several other forms and bribe the fellows to get it on the next plane.
After three hours of running back and forth from the freight office to customs and the ticket office, we were told the equipment would be on the plane. We went by Ethiopian Air Lines.
(word count: 733)
Our next stop was Freetown in Sierra Leone, where we had a couple of more hours wait. Nothing much to see here. A few natives in their brightly colored clothes and a few Europeans. Finally, we were on our way to Nairobi. We arrived there early morning and were informed the equipment hadn’t arrived yet. Since we didn’t know where we were going to stay, we took a bus up town and unloaded our stuff and called Robbie, 5Z4ERR. In a few minutes he was down to pick us up, taking us to his home for a few hours rest, and fixing us something to eat. Robbie has a nice place with plenty of beautiful flowers and a nice swimming pool. He also has a hobby of collecting shells and rocks of precious metals. He also has a wonderful personality, always laughing, joking and doing all he can for you. After we had a few hours rest he took us to the Nairobi Wild Game Reservation, where wild animals roam at leisure. There’s thousands and thousands of acres of this reservation. We really got some nice pictures of all the animals, and in the late evening we returned to the QTH of Robbie.
Robbie told us that his children were there for a few weeks vacation, otherwise we could stay with him. He had made arrangements for us to stay with another ham, 5Z4KQ, Fred, his lovely wife and their two children. We arrived late, but dinner was warm and waiting on us. What a nice family this was. His wife, Marjorie, is crippled with arthritis, but she wouldn’t let me do a thing, and I never heard her complain once. My hat is off to Marge. She sets a good example for people who complain all the time about small things. She and Fred took us to the airport the next morning.
While in Nairobi, I saw people of many races. The climate is ideal. Hotels are very cheap, and most elegant. In fact, a new Hilton is going up, and all over the city new buildings of great heights are going up. Many tourists come here. One day when Gus and I came into town, we decided to go on our own into the country. Coming back I had to go to the Powder Room. None being along the way, Gus says to the driver – STOP, so he stopped. We stepped into some tall grass. I didn’t see anything, but all of a sudden I heard a loud roar of a lion! I dashed to the car and was so excited I could hardly talk.
I didn’t know lions were that close to Nairobi, but that ended my trip for the day. Fred and his children took us to Riff Valley. Biding goodbye to our friends in Nairobi, we will never forget them and the kindness they showed us while we were there. We are now headed for Mauritius, and next week I will be writing another article for the magazine about Mauritius, the people, the way they live, etc. See you next week. Peggy.
Greetings to the readers of DXers Magazine. This is your gal “Friday”, taking a trip around the Island of Mauritius, located in the Indian Ocean.
The area covers about 720 square miles. This island is only 38miles long and a few miles wide. You can drive from one end to the other in a car and still not see all.
There is quite a mixture of people here; some being Chinese, Indians, Moslems, French and English. Right here at sea level it is plenty hot, but when you arrive in Curepipe the days are nice and the nights cool enough to sleep under a blanket, but it usually rains every day. They have one main export, and that is sugar. We saw at least 15 sugar mills. They are all over the island. Sometimes all I can see is just sugar cane, and it’s tall enough so I can’t see a house on the other side. Of course, there are tea plantations. Also, there are plenty of fruits here, such as bananas, lemons, oranges and avocados. In addition, they grow manioe, maize, vegetables, indigo and clover.
This place is of volcanic origin, but is not active now. There are raised reefs and beaches along the coast, some as high as 60 feet above sea level.
When we arrived in VQ land, Steve met us at the airport with a big COKE and a bright smile on his sun tanned face. He has red hair and a pleasing personality. But, don't get his dander up.
Steve had made preparations for the trip to Rodrigues. We were told we had a few days wait, so off Gus went to see about his license, back and forth to Port Louis every day. Finally, after sitting around two whole days and taking a couple of the higher officials to dinner, he was given a license to go on the air, and his license for Rodrigues.
(WORD COUNT: 836)
The day before departure to Rodrigues, I was told I couldn’t go on the boat, since it was a fishing boat. Steve did manage to take his cook along with them. They left on Saturday morning.
I decided I’d go sight seeing on Sunday with a Indian girl and her husband. We left home early Sunday morning and headed for the beach. The tides were very high and sand was blowing in all directions. We then left and visited the beautiful Botanic Gardens. There are acres and acres of trees and flowers from all over the world. One pond had huge lily pads that looked like floating bath tubs; the most unusual lily I have ever seen. We must of walked for two or three hours. I had lunch and headed back to the beach. The surf was rough and seawater was splashing across the roads, and the wind was rising.
We arrived back at six o’clock. I was told that two hurricanes, with winds up to 120 miles per hour were headed for the island of Mauritius. I was petrified. Gus was at sea and would not reach his destination before Monday evening. I couldn’t speak French. All the people at the “Guest House” we stayed in could only speak French, except one who was a schoolteacher. They all huddled in one room. I went to my room for a couple of hours and came back out and got a Coke, and the man told me the storm was on its way. I went into the room and said a prayer, and prayed for Gus and the people on the island. I knew if winds that strong came, no one would be left on that small island. The wind howled, the trees bent forward, the windows rattled, the lights went out, the sea was angry, and the rain came in torrents. I stayed awake. At four o’clock there was a deep calm. I went to sleep and when I awoke the sun was shining brightly. I was told that the storm came within 100 miles of Mauritius and was headed out for sea. (Editor's note: The Island of Mauritius is about 1,000 miles West of Africa in the East Indian Ocean.)
What did this do to Gus and Steve. Let's find out in the next issue of The DXers Magazine. See you all then. Peggy
#126 Peggy’s trip – Article #5, Mauritius.
Here we are back on the island of Mauritius, located in the East Indian Ocean. It is the day of Gus’s arrival back from Rodrigues. The first one I saw was Steve. He arrived at the boarding house with the equipment, telling me that Gus would arrive shortly. Gus was already making plans for his return trip to Rodrigues, since he hadn’t had a chance work the fellows on 20 meter. This, Gus had given to Steve, since this was the band Steve wanted to work. Steve didn’t stay around long.
Gus arrived shortly, all dirty, and with a fever. He said, coming back, that Steve and his cook had to sleep on deck. The cook, Edmone, in her fifties is a very Christian woman. She slept on the deck and Steve slept in a life boat. The sea rocked the old vessel and it squeaked, and Gus said he expected it to split open anytime. Edmone said the sea was so rough that the water came over the deck and her and Steve couldn’t sit up. They had to lie down all the way back with one of the worst cases of sea sickness. Gus stayed down below in the lower deck in the kitchen. He said he felt a little sick, but still managed to drink Cokes. Edmone was quite shook up after her trip.
Gus had a fever for three days, but he still sat at that transmitter in Mauritius and worked the boys at home. Just before they reached Rodrigues the weather was so bad and the waves so huge they were concerned about the equipment being taken ashore. Out came the pirogue and away they went to shore. The huge waves rolled and tossed the small boat, and they expected it hit the rocks on the island. Finally, after battling those huge waves, they landed to Rodrigues. This was a trip Gus didn’t expect to get back from, so he told me later. Now, we will take a little trip around the island and find out more interesting things about this place.
We have just visited the lighthouse and “bat cave”. Here I saw large bats hanging from the wall of cave and about a thousands swallows flying around; a weird sight to look at all those bats hanging upside down and their beady eyes caused a chill run down my spine.
I wanted to find out more about the wild animals on this island. I found that the mountain goats live on the rocky cliffs of the mountain, so does the wild boar with his huge tusks, like an elephant. He looks like a prehistoric monster. There are several varieties of deer, a few black bears, and the mongoose that looks like a huge rat. However, there are no snakes. I found this place to be a fisherman's and bird watcher's paradise, with all sorts of sea mammals, and the biggest varieties of birds I've ever seen.
There are many beautiful shells on this island, due to all the coral reefs. There is also a fish that has seven deadly stingers. One Friday evening the French chap who ran the little boarding house we stayed at, decided to go fishing. He was barefooted and had just gotten out of the water when he accidentally stepped on one of these fish, just touching one of the stingers. Then, sharp pains went up and down his leg, turning it red and swelling immediately. He couldn’t put his leg forward. Someone rushed him to the hospital. For one week he was in much pain, and when we left two weeks later he still couldn’t use his right leg, which was still swollen.
I was told that if you step on one of these fish and have all seven stingers hit you, it could cause death.
They also have huge turtles, big enough to ride on. I watched them trying to chew up grass, and wondered if those helpless creatures had any teeth. They seemed to have trouble chewing their food.
I visited one of the Blue Lagoons. (an inlet of blue water) They make a magnificent sight as the swaying palm trees cast little shadows against the white sail boats on the water. You will want to know about the “Doo Doo bird”. I found this bird did exist at one time. People used to laugh about this. In the year 1598, several squadrons of Dutch settlers, scattered by storms, landed on the remote island and used to amuse themselves with these birds. They were not afraid of men. The birds were as big as swans, with ugly heads, clumsy feet, miniature tails, and wings consisting of small feathers. The years passed, and more and more of these birds were caught and eaten. After other animals were brought in the Doo Doo bird finally became extinct.
Around 1865, bones of these birds were found in the marshlands of Mauritius. These bones were put together and a Doo Doo bird is now on display in the museum on Mauritius.
One night Gus and I were having dinner when a lizard fell off the dining room wall into Gus’s soup. Did that bother him? Not at all. He said, “Poor fellow probably got hot and wanted a swim”!
Two days later, with equipment packed and a boat ticket in our pocket, we climbed aboard the M. V. Mauritius, a fishing vessel, for our trip to “The Forgotten Eden”, the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. The island if lonely, and the women out number the men ten to one!
Here, they may be blonde or very dark. Let’s find out what is happening on this island of lonely women as we begin a series in our next issue that may make 3/4 of the men want to take off for the Seychelles. You women, watch your men!
We will also find out something about General Gordon's theory that Praslin, a nearby island of Mahe, may be the site of the Garden of Eden.
See you soon with a real interesting fact about the Seychelles Island of Mahe in our new issue. WOW! 73, Peggy!
#127. Peggy’s Article Seychelles Islands
Here we are on a boat, the M. V. Mauritius going to Mahe, the Seychelles Island, located in the East Indian Ocean.
This trip will take three days and four nights at sea. I’m sitting out on deck. We are beginning to rock slightly. Feels like I’m about to get sick. One thing I don’t want is food! To the cabin I’m going for a rest.
It is now six hours later and I’m back on deck again; this time to watch the flying fish. They look like humming birds as they skim across the water. Those waves look like huge mountains as the boat goes up and down with a steady motion. Sorry, my sea legs have left me, and to the cabin this time for two days. Nothing to eat, and OH what a terrible feeling to be seasick. There is nothing like it! I felt like I was dying.
Two days later and we are out of the cyclone belt and into calmer sea. This time I see a few whales and sharks following close by. We have passed one small island; it doesn’t look like its inhabited. Beautiful white sandy beach. We have returned back to our cabin after spending the past few hours on deck. The moon is full, and as the boat moves gently forward we know that Mahe is not far away.
(Word count: 761/17,555)
It’s now our day of arrival on the Seychelles. I went out on deck and noticed that the boat was anchored about one half miles or so from shore. The sails were lowered and there was a ring of islands that made a Lagoon, and the beautiful sunrise makes a splash of colors as it comes above the horizon. A huge silver dome on top of a mountain attracts my attention. I’m told this is the U. S. Tracking station. I take a closer look and see stretches of white sandy beach lined with coconut and palm trees. It is truly a beautiful island.
Several small boats are leaving the harbor to come to our ship and pick up the passengers. My first impression is the beauty of the islands. These islands are mostly granite, with high hills, and mountains as high as 2,990 feet. There is lush vegetation among the dark rocks as it fights for a foothold as it climbs steeply into the sky. Of course, some of the other Islands nearby are of Corallim, but to me, Mahe and Praslin are the most beautiful and scenic.
My next impression was of the easy island life. Nothing is done in a hurry. Sometime it takes days to get a simple thing done there. They are happy people. There is very little crime on this island. The women are lonely. They outnumber the men ten to one. They may be from black to blonde, but they are basically Negroid, Indian, Chinese, European, Malay and many other nationalities. They have no Western morals whatsoever. To them it is perfectly alright to be a mans mistress on this island. A couple cans of “Tiger Beer” and enough cloth for a dress and you have a woman for your own, if you want one. Of course, all the girls are not like this, but I’d say 95% are; the other 5% being from the more wealthier families. There are many Europeans on this island, and many are married or have mistresses here. While I was waiting for Gus at customs, one approaches Gus and said, "You like nice woman to cook and make love for you?" Gus says, “No thank you, I have my wife”. I wondered if this was what made him want to go to the Seychelles again!
Some of the women have as many as five children and don’t know who the father is. The reason for the low morals among the people could be from lack of money to get married. Their main food is fish that are caught everyday. In addition, rice, and of course breadfruit, which is like a sweet potato, but is not sweet. They usually fry it in butter and put sugar on it. This breadfruit tree yields the whole year. There are plenty of bananas, and they are cheap.
They export copra, coconut, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla. The inside of a palm tree is also used as a vegetable and is mostly boiled. To me it was not too bad.
We were in a hurry to get to Beau Vallen Beach. This was on the other side of the mountain from Port Victoria, where Gus could put up his antenna. We got a taxi and he drove like a maniac over that high mountain with all the hair pin curves. I wondered if we’d get there alive! When you told him to slow down, he’d get faster. Finally, we arrived at the beach cottage. I gazed at the cabin surrounded by palm and coconut trees. I knew this would be a good vacation for me, or at least I thought so.
Gus immediately began the task of trying to find someone to help him get an antenna pole up. The same old story. (Seychelles story) "I’ll come at two", but still no one showed up. Then he found out they didn’t have the right power. Gus went out immediately to the man at the hotel, and got the same old story. Will talk with you later! Well, this went on a couple of days. Finally, Gus got things going. Was he happy! He had worked some of the boys back home.
Now the rat race was to begin to get passage booked to Des Roches. Finally, after going by taxi everyday to Port Victoria he finally found some one who would take us. I went down and looked at that old fishing vessel. It smelled of fish, natives, goats, pigs and etc. But I had promised Gus I’d go. I never knew what I was letting myself in for. This next week we will take a trip to Des Roches on this old crate and we’ll find out how I endured one of the most rugged trips of my life. This shouldn’t have happened to a woman, but it did to me!
Then we’ll come back to the Seychelles and find out more about this place, the women, and also General Gordon's theory that Praslin Island could be the site of the Garden of Eden.
(word count: 836/18,391)
#128 Peggy at Des Roches
Things were all set to go to the Island of Des Roches, in the Indian Ocean. This is a trip that takes one day and night. The Island Manager had given Gus permission to come to the island. He already had his license, which had taken several weeks before we were to get on any kind of boat. This was an old boat, and it carried copra, goats, sheep, fish, chickens and natives.
The gear was all packed, petrol, food and other supplies on board, and we were told to come aboard before nine the next morning.
An old plank about 1 foot wide came from the boat to the dock. Gus asked me to take off my shoes so I wouldn’t fall in the water while getting on board. I started to walk the plank, then all of a sudden I slipped on some grease and fell head first into the water (to the amusement of about 15 dirty smelling natives). I came up after falling into about 20 or 25 feet of water and my mouth full of salty water. I climbed aboard, and we had to wait until eleven O’clock before we finally sailed.
I tried to get into the powder room (cubby hole) to change me wet clothes. The door got locked and I almost smothered from heat and the smell of oil, until I got out.
We were given a room to ourselves, without any door, and it connected to the room of the old salty Sea Captain. It had three bunks and no blankets, and was full of roaches. Gus went right to sleep. I watched those roaches crawling over him. Finally, one got near his mouth and I swatted it, only to have Gus ask, what in the world was I doing. He said, "They don’t bother me, so why should they bother you?" I couldn’t eat, knowing the cabins were crawling with roaches. Night was coming fast and I decided I’d pull my half broken chair on deck. Suddenly, the boat began to rock sickenly from side to side. The moon cast shadows on the white caps. I decided I’d better crawl into the bunk. I didn’t think too much about the roaches then.
Finally, after all the lights were out and I had almost fallen asleep, I felt something hit my arm with a thud, then fall off on the floor. I screamed! The old captain opened his door and put the flashlight in my face and asked me what was wrong. I asked him if there were any CATS on board, and he said the only CATS we have are those on board (he meant the natives of course). He said probably a rat had fallen on me. By this time I was tied in knots from fright. I put the light on and crawled out of bed and into the deck chair.
I couldn’t have been asleep long when I felt something crawling in my lap and over my bare legs, and felt the tail of a rat as it ran over the side of the deck chair. I screamed again, and the captain came in again. He said, “Miss, they won’t bite, they are after food”.
All our food being put under the bunks; that did it! I took the deck chair and put it on deck and had just gotten to sleep when all of a sudden I felt like a cloud burst come over me. I opened my eyes just as a huge wave washed over deck, and me. I was soaked--BUT GOOD! I tried to stand up, and finally ended up crawling on my hands and knees and opened a little bag and got some dry clothes and crawled into the bunk, too exhausted to care about anything. Shortly thereafter, we were served hot tea and told we were approaching the Isle of Des Roches. I could see stretches of white beach as the surf beat with a thunderous roar against the rocks on the island.
I noticed the sails had been dropped, and we were about one mile from shore. A pirogue was coming for us. The Island Manager came ashore and wanted to see our papers and etc. He welcomed us and told us to come down the rope and lower ourselves into the boat. I said, "What do you mean, come down the rope?" The captain said, “You are to hold on to the rope and lower yourself down into the pirogue”. This is a long thin like canoe manned by four natives.
I looked at the depth of the sea and wondered what would happen if I fell into that deep sea. I got hold of the rope and began to lower myself. I burned my hands with the rope, and they were raw for several days. As we came ashore, and I was told not to stick my feet over the side of the boat because a few sharks might be in the water. A nice thought, and I was already scared half to death.
We were welcomed by the 56 copra workers and their 12 children. We were given two large bedrooms and told that our meals were to be served at the Island Manager's home. The natives were to carry all of Gus’s gear, petrol and the two power plants up to the guest house.
I looked around the island and saw plenty of coconut trees. The roar of the ocean sounded like a freight train as it beat over the coral reefs. Accompanying this terrific sound, there was one small chapel, a jail, a few grass huts and a couple of cement houses. It was very quite just after dusk; there was no sign of life, however, about 4:30 AM each morning the place came alive as the men began their day's of chores.
In the next issue we will learn what happened to Gus’s power plant and his troubles on this first trip to Des Roches, and my trip back, which surpassed any.
Let’s find out what happened to me in this old creaky boat as I cling to the cabin to keep from being washed overboard in our next issue of DXers.
#129 Peggy’s return from Des Roches.
We were on the island of Des Roches, and while Gus was checking the gear he found out one of the power plants (the new one someone loaned him) was missing. He immediately began asking the four native boys about the plant. They explained it had fallen into the sea! Gus asked them to dive for it. Not a chance they said; sharks were in the water. Gus went ahead and put up the antenna. He started off with a bang, only to have the power plant cut off and on. He tried using the other. Trouble with both! Gus and one of the native boys worked two whole days and nights getting the motor to run, but then it cut off completely. Gus was sick! He only wanted one thing--to get off that island, get the power plants fixed, and back to the island again. He never gave up work on it even though he couldn’t get it to run!
The ship was to pick us up in three days, but it didn’t come until four days later. The pirogue took all the equipment out first, then it came for us. My stomach knotted when I looked at the boat tossing on those waves. The waves beating against the jagged coral sounded like heavy thunder as it beat its way ashore. It was in a nasty mood, and the wind was shrieking against the boat. Finally, we arrived by the ship's side. Once again, I was told it climb the rope to get ashore. My hands were still raw, but they had been bandaged, so I climbed the rope as pains shot up and down my arms. At last, someone caught hold of me and pulled me on the deck. I was in a cold sweat, but the weather was steaming hot. I crawled into the deck chair. "All aboard", the captain called. The pirogue with the island manager and natives bid us farewell. We were homeward bound, and I was happy! No more climbing up and down ropes to board boats.
The wind was steadily rising. I knew it was time for the S.E. Monsoons. This is when the wind blows from the Southeast and they bring a lot of rain. I started to take a little walk on deck. When the boat gave a lurch to one side I almost fell flat on my face. I escaped that one with only a painful knee. I said to myself, “Peggy, if you’ve got any sense you’ll go to your bunk.”
Suddenly, I could smell fish cooking, along with the smell of oil, pigs, goats and the natives. Wave after wave of nausea hit me as I ran to the side of the ship. This was the worse case of sea sickness I’d ever had. I couldn’t sit up! I crawled into the cabin, and roaches were scurrying in all directions. I didn’t care. I just wanted to lie down. I hadn’t taken any Dramamine, and I was beginning to feel the affects of a rough sea. The wind howled, and rain began to fall. The natives had a canvas they dragged over their heads and bodies. I was too sick to get out of my bunk.
We were served lunch, but just the smell of food made me feel worse. I felt like I was dying. About seven at night the sea was one white, boiling, foaming, angry ocean. I wanted to take something for sea sickness. I got out of the bunk. Suddenly, the boat went far to one side and I caught hold of the table just as water washed over board and into the bunk. It seemed like the whole cabin was filling with water. It knocked me off of my feet and I caught hold of Gus’s bunk and held on for dear life as it rolled to the other side. The ship was being tossed high on the waves, and lowered. Suddenly, it seemed to ride the waves. I screamed when another wave came! It was pitch dark and I couldn’t see a thing, but the wind was blowing rain into our cabin. I didn’t know what was happening. I was soaked, but good.
I didn’t dare to move again. Wave after wave of sickness engulfed now. I wished for the night to end. Finally, it was dawn. The ship was rapidly approaching Mahe. I got on the Seychelles again. I had really been through a terrifying trip.
(WORD COUNT: 940/20,178)
Our friend, a doctor from the US Tracking station, brought me medicine for a bad case of bronchitis. Three days later, good as new, and I made plans to visit Praslin Island, the place General Gordon said was the site of the Garden of Eden.
Let’s take a little trip to this island of Praslin next week, where we will learn why he thinks it’s the site of the Garden of Eden. Maybe it is because of the unusual fruits on this island.
(Below is a little note that mother wanted to have typed up and put in the DXers Magazine to maybe clear up something that seemingly is becoming more and more mentioned each week concerning her trip with Daddy this past February. Daughter Joanne.)
I would like to say to the fellows (few as they may be) who complained because I went with Gus for four months.
#1. My trip did not cost the hams any money at all. My money came from my Father’s estate.
#2. I did not keep Gus off the bands – he worked all the bands as long as they were open.
#3. I helped with the logs and a lot of other work for Gus. I never complained about this, nor did I complain about staying alone in remote places, whenever it was impossible for me to go along.
#4. When he decided to stay longer, and my money ran out, I came home!
#5. I never asked or expected any glory for sitting back and letting Gus go whenever he was gone for two years. I had two hams to say, “Thank you Peggy, you deserve a good hand for letting Gus go for such a long time.”
#6. Now some are saying, “If Gus goes again, leave Peggy home.” I would like the opinion of each and everyone of you on this.
Thanks fellows for all the nice things you have done for both Gus and me. We are both very grateful.
(This is from Joanne.) First, I want to say that Mother has been hurt by the few that have made remarks about her being along with Daddy on this past trip. As she stated above, her part of this trip was made possible through my Grandfather’s estate. I am sure that Daddy wanted her along with him. I know what my Mother has gone through with during the times that Daddy has been away, and she was left here, and I want to tell you.
I don’t believe there are only a few wives or mothers that would let their husband take off for such a long time. I know Mother was helpful to Daddy, and I believe me she can really work. I know that the few that made remarks about Mother going with Daddy didn’t mean it in a destructive way, but it did hurt her because I think she has been more than fair. Just stop and think how many times Daddy has been gone during the past ten years, and that shows you what kind of woman I think my Mother is – ONE in a million!! (Also, my Daddy!!) Thanks fellows!
# 130 Peggy visits Praslin Island
Here we are on the Island of Praslin with it’s 19th Century atmosphere. Praslin is twenty three miles North East of Mahe. There are 5,000 people on this island. These people are very much concerned about the raising of coconuts, vanilla and vegetables and their daily food of fish and rice.
They have no telephone or electric lights. They go out in their pirogues and catch fish to take to the market.
Praslin is a very isolated island. It is famous for its Coco-de-Mer, the black parrot and General Gordon’s (Chinese) theory that Praslin's Valley de Mer was the Garden of Eden. Most of the homes are palm thatched. As you look at these huts, the greens and yellows of the hillside blend together.
General Gordon held that the granite islands of the Seychelles were once part of a land mass known as Lemuria that joined Madagascar to India. Aden was Eden, he said, and a great river once flowed out of Seychelles to become the four rivers mentioned in the Bible. Eden was a district, and the garden was east of it. In those times only the earth near the equator was habitable. An accumulation of ice in the northern hemisphere tipped the earth. The ice melted and the earth was submerged. But the Garden of Eden might have survived had the mountains of Seychelles originally been between 8,000 and 10,000 feet high. General Gordon stated, "I think any requirement is fulfilled for deciding that the site of the district of Eden is near Seychelles”.
(WORD COUNT: 794/20,972)
First, we’ll take a look at the Prince of Palms”, growing naturally only on this little isle. This is a most unique tree. This, I think, is the tree of “knowledge of good and evil”. The original tree used to test Eve was a natural tree, imbued for the time with a mystic property or set apart sacred.
The Coco de Mer tree has a male and a female tree. The young trees are short with huge fan like leaves. Some measured 15 feet by 10 feet. The older trees had been there for thousand of years. How many centuries, no one knows. There they were, hundreds of grey brown trunks rising straight up, 80 to 100 feet, measuring their leaves like a ballerina’s tutu. They were small, brown-mottled leaves, nothing like the fronds of the young plants. There were the catkins on the males, and the fruit on the females.
The fruit on the female tree is heart shaped like a female pelvis, and the outside shell is thick and sort of covered with moss, and the inside has a clear white liquid like stuff that resembles semen and something that the Seychelles people use it as love potion.
The heart is said to be the seat of desires, and that the fruit externally represents the heart, while the interior represents the thighs and belly, and which I consider the true seat of carnal desires. The male tree has a long catkins of about three feet long and two to three inches thick and sort of grayish looking. It has sweet smelling yellow flowers and it’s like a magnet of sort, and draws you to the tree.
As we walked down the path leading to the other side of the valley there was a tinkling stream that widened into a brook. There was a grassy space at the edge of the brook, and it was shadowed by three fine Coco de Mer palms. This was the place of temptation, where they knew they were naked and were ashamed. It is one of the most unique places I’ve ever been. The valley is peaceful. The only sound was the tinkling (like crystal) of the water as it winds its way down the mountain and into the brook.
The “Tree of Life” is another unique tree. It is the breadfruit. This is an evergreen tree, a humble tree, a tree that bears fruit the entire year. It can be eaten anyway one desires. It is sort of like a sweet potato, but it is not sweet. We had eaten it fried in coconut oil and sprinkled with sugar. It was delicious. They say if you ever eat the breadfruit you will return to the Seychelles. There is something about this Island that sort of puts you into another century. With all the beauty and charm and peaceful tranquility, it beckons anyone to this island who longs to get away from it all.
As that boat pulls away into the choppy waters for Mahe, I again take out my Bible and read 2nd chapter of Genesis and read from the 7th thru the 18th verses; then there is no doubt in my mind that this was the Garden of Eden.
See you all next week about more of the Seychelles.
#131 Peggy and The Seychelles
Greetings from the Seychelles Islands!
The place where ships never call. There were times when no other ships could leave the harbor except the well known ham, Captain Harvey Brain! He has made many trips to the outlying islands. He has fished for sharks and nearly everything else in the Indian Ocean, and has collected bird eggs, hunted for shells, run freight, shipped coconuts and done charter work for authors and all types of groups.
He first came to the Seychelles in 1947, and I guess he liked their way of life and stayed.
There are a few old fishing boats and only two sea going captains above 65 years of age. There are plenty of sail boats and pirogues. None of the big boats come to the Seychelles, except the boats that carry passengers from India to Mombassa, and vice versa. This is twice a month, and sometimes they are booked ahead and there is no other way off of the island. Mail plane from the U.S. Tracking Station brings mail twice a week to Mahe.
Life is very simple on this island: working, eating, sleeping and sometimes swimming. Quite frequently someone has a “Sundowner”. This is for anyone who wants to come dressed up, talk a while, drink plenty of alcohol and then go home after nine or ten O’clock at night. There is definitely a lot of partying going on, even during the day. I never could understand how anyone could make any money at all here. Even the very poor people are not prompt on their job (the men I mean). They get drunk very easy on a fermented drink derived from the coconut tree. One tree yields about one gallon of juice a day. They can rent one tree for three months for $3.00. This is a cheap drink, and it completely knocks them out. One English fellow visiting the island said, “It won’t hurt me. I can drink a dozen bottles”. He lifted it to his mouth and drank 1/2 bottle without stopping, then gazed in our direction and fell flat on his face, sleeping the rest of the day and all the next day and night. It actually looks like beer, but don’t try it, you might not wake up at all.
(word count: 923/21,895)
I decided one morning to take an early swim, but I didn’t venture out too far. They told me sharks were further up where it was quite deep. I had been in the water just a few seconds when I felt something wiggling around inside my bathing suit. I scampered for the beach. Whatever it was seemed about twelve inches long! I screamed and pulled my bathing suit way down and this long green garfish fell out. I was so frightened I didn’t even look to see if anyone else was on the beach. Suddenly, I realized several people had gathered. I pulled up my bathing suit and ran for the Guest house were we staying. I was never so embarrassed!
That same day Gus went over to Port Victoria, as he had been doing practically everyday. When he came home he was pale. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “Honey if you would have taken the ride I took around those sharp curves coming back and then have a tire blow out, you would probably have had a heart attack”. He was afraid the car would run off the road, so he jumped out and rolled down a hill and ended up in the top of a palm tree. It was a little funny, but wouldn’t have been if he had gotten hurt.
Oh boy, what you go thru on a DXpedition. Everyday was something new or adventurous. We never knew where we were going, or if we were going to any of the islands. You’ll find out you’ve got to bribe your way in just about everything, and since most of these people are so poor, money is the big word.
#131, pg. 18 –missing.
#132 Peggy and the Seychelles
Greetings from the Isle of love (The Seychelles) located in the East Indian Ocean!
On this island they have a very unusual clock. It chimes twice on the hour. No one seems to know why this happens. Some of the residents believe that it’s normal for a clock to chime twice. Some believe it helps to wake the drowsy people to go to work. The first chime to wake them and the second chime for them to go to work. Even though this clock has little influence on the habits of these people it still goes on striking twice on the hour.
As far as the clock is concerned, it does not help these people to keep appointments. They will make appointments day after day and never keep the first one.
The beauty of the Seychelles is being badly corrupted by the cocktail parties and the low morals of the people. It is not unusual to see cocktail parties starting in early morning and going all day, even on Sundays.
The majority of these people are Roman Catholic, and quite a number do go to church. Many will cry over their sins to the Priest and then immediately go to bed and comfort each other with strange men.
There are many points of interest on this beautiful island. At the pier there is a big turtle pond. This is where turtles from the outlying islands are brought in by schooners and are hosed down to help keep them alive. When they are wanted for food some will wade into the pond and put ropes around their necks, then the sad turtles are put on carts and wheeled through town to be slaughtered. These poor creatures are helpless once on their backs, and they are so clumsy. I thought of turtle soup, and wondered if I’d be able to eat anymore turtle.
One night lying in bed I felt something heavy on my head. I was half awake.
I jumped out of bed, the lights went on, but we saw nothing. Back to bed again, and this time something hit the floor. Gus and I both out of bed, but we never did find out what it was. However, there were two marks on the side of my neck are a reminder – maybe a rat !!
We visited the beautiful gardens here with many beautiful flowers of varying kinds. In this garden we saw the “Fruit Bat” or “Flying Fox”. These little creatures hang upside down, and they are about four to six inches long and have a wing span of about two feet. Their face looks just like a little fox. This is a delicacy for the Seychelles people. They usually hunt this little creature at nightfall.
Let’s take a look at some of the supernatural beliefs of these people: There is strong belief of Zombiism in Seychelles, and a zombie is called a “dodotia”. One man on the Seychelles told Gus and me that long after a man had been buried he was seen by several people who were his friends. Whenever someone would go close to him he would disappear. Many Seychelles claim zombies are chained in the hills. If a person who dies has not been guaranteed Tour, Malfaiteur will call the body from the grave the night after burial. A Malfaiteur will tie a string around the zombie and lead it into the forest. There it will be given a mattock and made to dig and plant. It will not be allowed to eat the produce of the soil, only sugar and starch.
The visible body takes the form of an everyday object, possibly a tree. The zombie slaves away until the time it’s death would normally have been.
Black cats are another thing scarce on the island. They believe you can become invisible by keeping a black cat seven years and then put it in a pot and boil it until the meat is loose. Then the bones are washed clean, and suckled on each end of a bone. After that, he keeps the bone and carries it with himself, and then he can be invisible to everyone, except a zombie.
All kinds of things are used by the Gris Gris people, even murders in recent years, to get material for their powerful witchcraft.
I made a trip half way into the mountains with a couple of Seychelles girls, but, something strange seemed to fall over me, like a blanket. I wouldn’t continue on. We were very near to a sheer drop-off into the sea of jagged coral. Hearing these strange stories sort of made me uneasy, especially after the house mother had acted rather strange (where we were staying) since I had a little hand-carved man from Africa about four inches tall. She asked me to remove it from my cabin and burn it. She said the girls were afraid to clean my room. I told her I’d burn it, but I knew nothing about witchcraft. After I burned it, they came in and cleaned our room.
Could it be possible something unknown was in my room at night and left these two small scars on my neck. A reminder of my trip to the Seychelles!!
See you all next week with my final chapter of the Seychelles!
(Below is a poem that Peggy has written about the Seychelles)
An island remote, so far away
Where coconut and palm trees sing & sway
With neer’ a worry, so little to do
With the glorious sunshine and mountain dew
The deep blue sea with it’s Indian blue
The many creoles in bright colored hues
The island of love so, far way
My thoughts of returning again someday
#133 Peggy and The Seychelles
Peggy’s Au Revoir to The Seychelles!!
My money was beginning to get short and I had been ill for over a week. The doctor at the U.S. Tracking station had gone to Mombassa with two wreck victims and I was unable to get the kind of medicine I needed. I was told by a Doctor (in exile on the island) to leave as soon as possible that it looked like I had kidney stones. The only way off the island was by the S.S. Karanja, which was leaving the island in three days.
We had made many friends on this island, and this wouldn’t give me much time to visit them. In fact, I didn’t feel like much visiting.
I had hunted shells, swan in the warm blue sea, fished, went on picnics, hiked into the mountains, (hoping to catch a glimpse of a zombie, at a distance) helped Gus put up antennas, packed gear, wrote letters, helped with the logs, wound up wire, climb coconut trees to hook wire around them, visited the beautiful gardens, also vanilla and cinnamon groves, and also the Copra plants. I had traveled by plane, boat, train and bus. I had come in contact with bats, lizards, ants, lions and other animals, including rats. I have been petrified with fear!
The day before departure I was told to come over to the hotel at seven O’clock. Not knowing what was wrong, I slipped into a slack suit and hurried to the hotel. There I was greeted by dozens of friends and a table laden with all sorts of exotic food. There was curried fruit bat! (ugh!) I didn’t try that; curried rice, fish and palm salad, made from the small shoots of the palm tree, and tasted delicious to me. There were potatoes and lamb, fresh salad, tomatoes, cucumbers and beets. There were all kinds of drinks, even Cokes and a special fruit bowl of fresh fruit salad.
Tears welled in my eyes when I realized this was a farewell party for me. I felt too ill to eat much, but forced myself to sit there for two hours. Finally, they presented me with a dish of breadfruit cut in slices, fried in butter and covered with sugar. Then they told me I was sure to return to the islands again. Then they presented me with a basket from the Co Co de Mer tree and said, “This is from the forgotten Eden, and we want it to be the remembered Eden by you”.
I was so touched by these humble people and I said, “Thank you very much for your wonderful hospitality and for this delicious meal and this beautiful basket. Now that I’ve eaten of the breadfruit, part of me will always be here and I hope someday to return again. I love you all." With that I bid farewell to my friends and went back to the cabin. I had never been so touched by anything in my life.
(word count: 981/23,631)
The next morning we were at the long pier at nine o’clock; Gus with a down-cast look on his face and me all choked up with emotion. My money about to run out, sick, and no medical attention. How I longed to stay with Gus. This was the hardest part, leaving him.
We bid each other good-bye. I didn’t look back. I knew I’d stay if I did. We were taken to the S.S. Karanja, one–half mile off shore. It was a calm day. At one o’clock we were notified the boat wouldn’t be leaving until the next morning. A load of Copra had to be put on the boat. I went on deck with a couple who were going by way of Pakistan to look after me. I was very ill for three days and had to have a doctor in attendance twice a day. At first they thought it was kidney stones. I was lucky, it was a kidney infection.
The evening before sailing, I came out on deck once more and gazed at the vivid sunset over the blue green water and the mountains of the Seychelles. Once again, I felt lonely, leaving this quite, beautiful island, so remote from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Then I thought once again of what one ham had wrote to me. He said, ”Peggy, it is better to be on an island where the only rat race is between the rats instead of some city rats, where it isn’t safe to live at all!"
Dawn was coming fast. I saw the sun rising above Praslin Island, and the boat was beginning to move. I went up on deck to have my final look at Mahe. The mountains faded away as bright sunshine cast different colors upon the water and as Port Victoria gradually faded out of sight. I felt like a part of me had actually been left behind.
Already, I was telling myself, “You know you want to return someday!”
The boat trip was smooth until we got part way to Pakistan, then the rain came in torrents, and the wind blew steady and the boat began to rock violently.
No one was left on deck. We were told the S.E. Monsoons were beginning to set in.
The rest of the trip was very rough and just about everyone was sea sick. Two days in Pakistan, and then on my way to New York and home.
Yes, it was all a wonderful experience for me. Would I do it all again? The answer is Yes!
(Note from Peggy)
The above story concludes my stories about my trip with Gus through the Indian Ocean. I am making plans to begin my articles about my trip with Gus to AC5 land shortly. With the series of articles about Bhutan, I hope to have quite a number of pictures to use. In the meantime, you fellows come on and send in any articles that you have. We’ll be glad to publish them. Whether it’s about your rig, travels or antennas! We all want to hear about them.
#137 Peggy rides again!
Beginning this week, I plan to write a series of articles about my trip to Bhutan, high in the Himalayan Mountains.
It is not often that someone is given a free trip to a place so far away from home. For several months Gus had spent sometime with these fine, humble people, working on their communication equipment (without salary). However, he was furnished food and a place to stay.
Gus and the Prime Minister became very good friends. Gus was invited to come back and bring me along. My job was to help in the hospital and distribute medical supplies to the needy people. We were given plane tickets for our trip there and back. This was in 1965.
Gus was pretty excited about this. He had been there and to Sikkim, and he wanted to return to give you fellows another try at these places and some further up in the Himalayans.
All I needed was a couple pair of slacks, a couple of sweaters, and I was ready for the trip.
Let’s find out what happens in some of these articles as we ride over mountains as high as three miles up, nothing but dirt roads, and barely enough room for a jeep to pass. We walked around cliffs with sheer drop-offs in a seemingly nothing. Looking below we could see clouds drift by as a mist closes in about us.
(word count: 752/24,383)
(Peggy recalls many of their past experiences below. Editor)
Dining with the Queen – New years celebration with the King – drinking yak butter tea – a land-slide that almost cost us our life – working among the natives – Gus’s experience of putting up an antenna in a snow blizzard – a close call with a leopard. The hardships one endures when the people are living in the 18th century. My inability of being able to breathe at a certain height.
Our visit with the King's brother. My fear of planes zooming over the Himalayans, since communist Tibet was so near. My encounter with an Oriental man who came to my room one night, and many other experiences.
We boarded an airplane in New York and headed for the Far East. We’ll see you next week and have a few pictures of Bhutan along and along.
#138 Peggy arrives in Bhutan
Here we are on a plane headed for the “Far East”!
Our first stop for any length of time was in West Germany where we were invited into the home of many German hams. Gus and I will never forget August Voss, and Helene, his wife, and also the other hams and their wives who took us for a boat trip down the Rhine, and where we also visited many old castles.
Talk about being entertained, but those fellows went all out. I’ll never forget that cabbage and small piglet. I do not know the German name for it. All you German hams, Gus and I will never forget.
Next we traveled to Switzerland, and then to Stockholm, Sweden – real nice fellows there, and what a welcome! It was freezing cold with plenty of ice and snow, but that warm welcome would melt any heart! The best hotel, excellent food, a beautiful banquet, stuffed salmon, and all kinds of elegant foods. Too bad I had gotten sick, but I still had a chance to meet the boys.
Then it was on to Beirut, Lebanon, and then to the “Holy Land”, where we visited “The way of the Cross”. We saw where Jesus was tried, condemned, and was given vinegar and gall to drink, and a crown of thorns about his head, and where he was given a heavy, crude cross to carry. Then we saw where he fell by the wayside, carrying his heavy burden up to Calvary where he was nailed to the cross.
On to Egypt; we visited the pyramids and King Tut's Tomb down on the Nile. Of course, while we were on the Nile I got the bug, and this can be a very distressing condition. Some of you have probably experienced traveling in Asian countries, or even Mexico. I thought I was dying. After two days of hardly caring what happened, I was suddenly well.
We then went to Baghdad, where they sit and smoke their peace pipes. Brass is very cheap there.
Our next stop was to New Delhi and to the “Taj MaHal” in Agra, India, one of the most beautiful temples in the world, and one of the “seven wonders of the world”. From there we went to Calcutta.
We waited around about three weeks trying to get permission to go to Thimphu, Bhutan. Things moved very slow there, and it looked like we weren’t getting anyplace. We had come a long way and we intended to finish it if possible. Gus had been there before and he knew some hams there. Finally, the hams came to visit us. VU2DK, and his wife, Lolita and I became very good friends.
Every Sunday we would all go to the various temples, and the beautiful gardens where I saw lily pads as big as wash tubs. Lolita and her husband had two fine sons, and we all enjoyed the sights together. The hams and their wives all entertained us royally at a hotel one night with an elaborate dinner. To our good friends there, we’ll never forget. To Lolita and her husband, we are forever grateful.
Finally, Gus heard the Queen of Bhutan was visiting in Calcutta, and he made arrangements to see her. It was about 8:00 PM at night when he left. About 9:00 PM someone knocked on my door at the hotel. I opened it and an oriental looking man (he looked Chinese) asked me to come and go with him to meet my husband. I told him I didn’t feel like going, and why hadn’t my husband called me. He said, “Your husband requests you go with me.” I told him, “No, I had a headache." He then said, “Perhaps the fresh air will do you good.” “I said, "No thank you." I then closed the door. This shook me up, especially after Gus came home and I found out he hadn’t sent for me at all!
The Queen could not give us permission, since things has changed in her country a lot since Gus was there previously. More delay, then a week later we were both invited to have dinner with her on Sunday. A chauffeur driven Cadillac came for us.
(word count: 824/25,207)
I was pretty excited having dinner with a Queen. I wondered how I should act, and what I should say. That shouldn’t have been a concern–she was exceedingly beautiful and very friendly with a queenly air of dignity and poise. We talked a few moments and had tea. Our conversation was mostly about children and health problems, and, of course, she admired my dress. She was wearing her native dress, like a sari.
Our dinner was served, and our plates heaped with rice and several kinds of curried meats, and I mean it was hot.
Afterwards, the phone rang and she talked with her children in London, where they were going to school. She excused herself, and said she enjoyed our company and would do all she could to help us. She told her chauffeur to be our escort, and to take us to the sights around town. Later, we returned to our hotel.
The next day we had word from Chana. (The Queens ADC-he was AC5PN, and a good friend of Gus, with information that we could not get into the country at this time.
We finally gave up, and I was ready to go home and let Gus go on to another place we called Chana (AC5PN). We both talked with him. I told him to relay a message to the Queen. (I wanted to thank her Majesty for the wonderful hospitality and I hoped someday to see her again, but I could not wait any longer for permission to visit her beautiful kingdom). He left about 9:00 PM that night. The next morning Gus was called to the phone. The Queen had granted us permission to visit her country. She had given Chana(AC5PN) instructions to buy all the food, utensils, bedding and etc., that we would need.
A tailor came to measure me for my white uniforms for me to wear at the hospital. Things began to really move then.
Only one thing – Gus’s equipment was in customs in Calcutta, and it looked like it would be staying there. He had been spending days going from one office to the other, and right back to the first one again; never any good news about his equipment. Finally, he gave up and we departed by plane for Hashimire. (Note: Hashimire is probably spelled incorrectly. An effort to find a location with that spelling was unsuccessful. However, it was probably a city in India. We will continue searching. Ed.)
Arriving around noon, we took a jeep to the Guest house at the foot hills of the Himalayans. As I looked up at those huge mountains, with land slips that looked miles high, I wondered if they would really be that treacherous. I could see the bewildered look on their faces when I asked if that was a dangerous road. We will find out about that and many other things as we begin our trip into the high Himalayans, and head for the “Last Shangri La”.
Fellows & XYLs, we had some nice pictures to include with this article, but due to the length of this article and the amount of room needed for photos, they will be excluded this week, but we’ll get them started next week!
Hope you enjoy this article and all the forthcoming articles about my rugged trip into the Himalayans!
#139 Peggy in Bhutan
Let’s find about the tiny kingdom of Bhutan, high away in the high Himalayas.
Bhutan is a small country in Southern Asia, bordered on the North by Tibet and on the South by India. It lies in the Eastern Himalayans, where the mountains rise more than 24,000 feet. It has a population of more than 300,000. The people are Buddhist of a Mongoloid race. Of course, there are many Indian people also living there, building new roads thru this rugged country.
These people are very humble, and you can often see groups of girls and boys on their way to school, stopping by the Guest House for the night, and not even a sound could we hear.
Most of them are of medium height and weight. Their hair is black and coarse and very short. The haircuts seem to resemble what we call a “beattle haircut”. The men wear a long striped coat lined with white, with a wide sash around the middle. (This is called a boo-koot.) (Note; We are unable to confirm if this is the correct spelling of boo-koot. ED.) The women wear long pieces of heavy hand woven cloth and some kind of a heavy blouse made longer than the arms & hands, to keep them warm. Their complexions are fair, with rosy cheeks. Most have that Oriental look – many of them were from Tibet and they dressed about the same. Their features were more on the Chinese side. Of course, most of the Bhutanese have slanting eyes.
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Gus and I were given a room to ourselves. This was at the guest house (where we were to stay almost two weeks). This was the guesthouse where the late Prime Minister had been shot. Of course, his room was at the other end of the guesthouse. Gus and I were allowed the privilege of his private bathroom.
Our food here consisted mostly of fried rice, always with eggs and some sort of a vegetable mixed in. Sometimes it was sugar peas. We had all the oranges and other vegetables we wanted in Phuntsholing. It was hot here during the day. Every morning before breakfast one of the boys at the guesthouse would pick a rose and bring it to me. This was something that really touched me. He would always clasp his hands together and bow (a Bhutanese good morning) and then hand me the rose.
We had hoped to go to Thimphu right away, but there was a delay due to a driver. It seemed like those fellows were not too enthused about going up that road. I’d go out there every day and gaze at those hairpin curves. One day I walked about 1/2 mile up that road, and made my trip back fast. I didn’t see how we could go around all those hairpin curves.
Gus was busy getting his equipment up, and in “hog heaven” when the bands were wide open. Still, we wanted to get to Thimphu. While we were waiting I decided to find out a little about this Thimphu road. I asked one of the natives how many land-slides they had per month, and he said, “Many”. I could guess that by standing by the guesthouse and looking up at the side of the mountains and see where there had been plenty of land-slides. He asked me if I had ever been there. I said, “No.” Then I noticed him smiling, somewhat like he felt sorry for me.
Time went by fast, and the day of our departure came! With our bedding, food, a makeshift stove, (made out of tin) a couple of thin mattresses, bedding, charcoal and 5 chickens, and a cook and a bearer furnished by the Queen, we were ready to depart. The Land Rover was filled to capacity. We were to follow in a small jeep. We had a driver, Gus and me in the Jeep.
We knew it would be very cold in Thimphu, so with heavy underwear, slacks and a heavy jacket we headed for our destination. We had gone about 1/2 of a mile when we found ourselves on a dirt road so narrow there was barely room for another jeep to pass.
Let’s find out next week how I make out when a road suddenly disappears before our eyes, and I am up above the clouds.
Here you see Peggy on the Thimphu Road, 150 miles of the Worlds most dangerous road. (Almost as dangerous as the LA Freeways!) (Photos unavailable.)
On this road the clouds are usually below us! Behind Peggy you can see the Jeep we used and the 4-wheel drive Land Rover with our stuff in it. I still don’t see how I “talked” Peggy into getting that close to the edge! One slip and it’s Goodbye! This was made from a color slide and hope we can get better with other pictures. (Comment by Gus on the back of the photo, which is unavailable.)
#140 Peggy in Bhutan
There we were on the road to Thimphu, Bhutan. The woods seemed to come alive with chirping birds. The leaves rustled and a few scampered for safety when a big cat, probably a leopard or tiger, crossed the road.
A steady breeze started blowing, and our jeep driver was going very fast around one hairpin curve after another. He drove like he was on an open freeway. This road is 150 miles of the worst terrain in the world. It takes two full days to make this trip.
We hadn’t gone very far before we were on a very narrow dirt road; so narrow there was not room for two jeeps to pass. One Jeep always had to back up into a small alcove, and then the one on the outside would be taking the risk.
All of our supplies were in the Land Rover, along with our cook and bearer (these two people were sent along by the Queen to see that Gus and I were well taken care of). She also furnished us with all our supplies, bedding, food and five live chickens.
A bearer is the one who does everything for you except cook. Our cook could understand English. The Bearer was Bhutanese, and couldn’t understand one word of English. However, we got along fine!
We noticed men, women and children working on the road. There were more women than men, and all were usually singing and smiling. Once in a while we would see a couple of Tibetans coming down the road, leading their small donkey, which looked like they were overloaded. Many carried forked sticks with a small seat. When they got tired they would stick the forked part in the dirt and sit and rest awhile. They all carried huge packs on their backs. The clean, fresh, cold air made their cheeks and lips a rosy color.
We kept going steadily up and up, with no guardrail to keep us from falling into a seemingly nothing. I could look below and see waterfalls beginning to cascade down the mountain top into the valley. Other waterfalls above us rushed down across the road.
We went around one cliff after another of nothing but sheer rock with deep chasms that seemed to have no bottom. Breathing was getting a little difficult for me. I found I had to breath twice as fast.
(word count: 953/26,925)
A sudden horn blowing of another jeep scared me out of my wits. There we were on a narrow ledge and about ready to start down again, and what was the driver going to do? We stopped and got out of the jeep and noticed 1/4 of the tire off of the ledge. I crawled into the tiny alcove as clouds drifted across my face and a cold mist set in. Finally, the jeeps passed. I thought about the thousands of feet below, and how no one would ever find us if we went over the ledge. About this time my nerves were a little edgy and night was falling fast.
We pulled into the only Guest House on the Thimphu road, one half way up, to spend the night. There was running water, but it was ice cold. Our cook made some hot tea on a bucked of charcoal, and we had cold sandwiches to eat. He made a fire in the bedroom, the only room that had any heat. Green logs were heaped on, and it burned just long enough to almost choke us to death with smoke. Then we were given three blankets and we retired. We were told to be on the road by six AM next morning in order to be past certain blasting points by ten o’clock. (Obviously, road construction blasting. Ed.)
This guesthouse is the only cement house on the Thimphu road, and all the cement and other materials had to be carried up from India. Imagine what a hazardous trip this was for the workers. Most of the houses going to Thimphu are bamboo and straw huts. Most of the Bhutanese people were barefoot. I must say though, the most beautiful unspoiled mountains are the Himalayans.
Finally, the sun shone and the clouds half-way drifted away. The sun was so bright it almost blinded me. Still, we continued on, curve after curve, down one mountain and up the next, always going a little higher each time.
Suddenly, we heard a rumbling sound – the jeep stopped. We were almost to the top. We all got out and looked up just as the road toppled into the depths below, leaving a big gaping hole. I screamed and screamed, and Gus shook me and finally gave me a slap that calmed me down. We had to wait several hours before we could continue on.
Let’s find out about the rest of the trip to Thimphu in next weeks issue, and Gus’s dealing with his antenna at the Radio station.
Pictures: (Unavailable, Ed.)
Part of the Thimphu road dropped in front of us. This kind of thing happens very often—If it drops where you are at you are in BIG TROUBLE.
Peggy at AC7 border between VU2 and AC7
#141 Peggy in Bhutan
The Thimphu road had disappeared. I looked across to the other side of a huge cliff and wondered how we’d ever get to Thimphu. Several road workers with shovels and a small bulldozer made another make shift road around the mountain. The height made me dizzy, and I crawled into the jeep and covered with blankets. The rumbling sound was annoying as big boulders, sand and trees plunged into the blackness below. We could hear the noise until it gradually faded out.
After going around and around the mountains, one after another, and the weather getting nippier all the time, Gus told me we were almost to Thimphu. I began to notice the Dzong, or their places of worship, along the way. Prayer flags were waving in the breeze by most of the shacks, and also along the road. These people believe the evil demons can be kept away if they write their prayers on a white piece of sheet, put it on a pole, and let the breeze carry the evil spirits away. We saw plenty of “High Buddhist Priest”, and those fellows never work, and they are usually riding. They never take a bath, and they want even kill a fly.
As we came to the river there were two Bhutanese guards who stopped the jeep, and after a few inquiries we were past the Palace and headed for the radio station above the Palace. We were offered their Guest House to stay in, but Gus had other ideas. We were here to work the fellows back home. That was reason #1, and the next was to try and repay these wonderful people for their hospitality to Gus and me. The Chief Signal Officer and his wife came out to the jeep, along with several other Bhutanese.
(word count: 756/27,681)
We were to stay in one side of the radio station. We had two crude rooms with heavy wooden pegs to hang about 3 garments on, and crude cabinets of rough wood to put groceries in. Our beds were some pieces of wood nailed to the wall. We had two, twin-size mattresses about 4 inches thick that we put together and made one bed. A crude wooden box served as our tables. Our cook got busy putting away the supplies. I noticed two old hard wooden chairs. The other room had nothing in it.
A blanket was hung at the window, and there was nothing but wide spaces for a window with no glass. The cold air was coming in. We placed about 15 rocks on the blanket to keep the cold air out. I looked about, wondering where we could wash. I was informed to use a dishpan, and that warm water would be brought to me once a day early in the morning. Then I asked where the bathroom was. They told me it was up the hill in a little white tent. Feeling very happy by the attitude of these soft-spoken people, I went up the hill.
I walked into the tent and my spirits dampened. Nothing but one big deep hole in the ground. Tears welled in my eyes. I was disappointed, but decided to make the most of it. After all, Gus had sacrificed this twice for the boys. Why couldn’t I do the same for him? I walked back down the little hill, and at that time was presented a potty. This brought a chuckle from Gus, and of course, I had to laugh too!
(Editor's note. Some readers might not understand the above paragraph. Peggy, undoubtedly, was not familiar with the "outhouse" as a toilet. Sixty years ago "outhouses" were common in America, and some still exist in remote areas. She states that Gus "sacrificed this twice for the boys". The meaning of this is that Gus had been to Bhutan twice to set up amateur radio, under somewhat harsh conditions, for the "boys" (Ham operators) all over the world. My guess is that Gus didn't consider this a sacrifice, but an enormous pleasure in making this part of the world available to "the boys".)
Night was upon us fast there. We were served fried rice with sweet peas and tiny canned fish and hot tea for our evening meal. The lights went off, and we were to use a lantern. I was about to freeze when my bearer came in with a full bucket of charcoal and set in on some bricks in the middle of the room. It was quite suffocating, and I found I was having trouble breathing. About two the next morning I fell off into a deep sleep.
The next morning Gus was up about daybreak, trying to get the fellows to help him get his antenna up. The pole was brought in. Six fellows were trying to hold it when suddenly it fell and slid down the hill with each fellow trying to stop it. In fact, two straddled the pole and held on for dear life. Quite an amusing sight to behold.
The pole was brought back, and Gus and the boys continued getting the antenna up. A growl from nearby scattered all of them, even Gus. Still no one had seen any animals.
Another hour passed and gradually each one made their way back, and Gus’s antenna went up. That first QSO from the U.S.A. was all Gus wanted to hear. He said, " I’ll see you honey when the bands go dead." And that is exactly what happened all the time we were there. The next morning we were awakened at seven o’clock for hot tea and thin oatmeal without any milk. This was our breakfast all the time while we were here.
The Chief Signal Officer's wife and I became good friends. She couldn’t understand English and I couldn’t understand Bhutanese. Everyday she’d come into my room to learn some English. Two days after I was working at the hospital I was furnished uniforms. We were given food and a cook and a bearer and our free trip there and back home.
The hospital was very clean, but crude. Beds with straw mattresses without sheets were what they were using. Medical supplies were not the latest. Ninety nine percent of the people had worms from eating raw meat. There were only 4 patients in the entire hospital, and they were in critical shape. An Indian nurse and a Nepalese doctor worked there.
I was frightened by the rides to and from the hospital. Our driver went around those curves like he was driving on a straight road. I would be filled with anxiety when I got to the hospital, and almost until it was time to go home. The people were humble and very good to Gus and me, and they all started calling me auntie.
Let’s find out next week about this yak butter, tea, and about their New Years celebration, of which Gus and I were guests of the Kings brother. See you all next week with more of Bhutan!
Picture… (Photo unavailable. Ed.)
(Thimphu road with clouds)
(AC5SQ, W4BPD.) Looks like Gus had lost his pants somewhere along the way, don’t it? That stuff back of them is CLOUDS. This picture was taken between Phuntsholing (AC7) and Thimphu (AC5) in Bhutan. I tell you, Gus was a “hero”, somewhat, to those people up there in the Himalayas.)
(word count: 820/28,501)
#142 Peggy in Bhutan
A couple of weeks after our arrival in Thimphu we were invited to join their New Years celebration, which is celebrated in February.
The valley seem to overflow with people from all over the smaller villages. Women came with children strapped to their back, and others carrying packs. It was like a big grandstand, filled, but there were no seats. They all had to sit on the ground.
The King's tent (which was white, and big enough to hold about 25 people) had Oriental rugs on the ground. A red velvet rug lay in front of the tent. A table laden with different candies, fruits, nuts and other goodies were in front of us. A white linen tablecloth with embroidery adorned the table.
There were several officials from India, along with their wives, and a few Bhutanese officials, such as Secretary of the King and etc.
Hardly had we been seated when I was presented a cup of yak butter tea. I had been informed earlier of this delicacy that must never be refused. I took the tea and gulped down two swallows, then I discovered that the yak butter had stuck in my throat! This tea tastes salty, and rank butter covers the top. Gus says, “Drink some more, honey”. I never thought I’d get another swallow down, when His Majesty was having another cup brought for me. I covered my mouth to hold down what I had already swallowed. In a few minutes I drank the rest. My mouth felt like it was completely coated with tallow. I didn’t want to be unfriendly, so down went another cup!
During this time several Bhutanese girls were dancing. They didn’t move their hips, just used their hands as they wove a fantasy of Oriental gestures, which to them had a special meaning.
Soon, we were served dinner. This consisted of red-hot spicy meats of all kinds and plenty of rice. This hot spicy food almost burned out my insides! Then His Majesty wondered why he had a lot of pain.
After dinner more people began to arrive and they began games of archery. I would like to say, I don’t believe that anyone could be more adept at archery as these people are. I was fascinated as they hit the “bulls eye” over and over again from a distance of five hundred feet.
Dusk was falling fast. The evening sun was going down over the horizon and it looked like a ball of fire on the peak of Mt. Everest.
Gus and I were beginning to feel the night air. We decided to leave and go back to the radio station. It would soon be time to contact the boys back home.
The next morning I had a call to come up to the top of a mountain and see a sick man. I grabbed my nurses kit and with two Bhutanese boys I trudged up the 1/2 mile to see this person who was ill. It didn’t take long for these people to know that someone had come who could give them a little medical attention. The man must have been at least 70 or 80 years old, and had a bad cough. I didn’t have much penicillin, so I decide to use the old time treatment; some Anacin aspirin and a good old fashioned rub down and few pieces of flannel on his chest. I put a couple more covers over him and told him to stay in the bed, and I’d be up later that day. When I went back his fever had dropped. Two days later he was out of bed.
Several times I did this same thing. Those people were so grateful, some brought me something like Rice Krispies in a basket. (A cold cereal made famous by Kellogg Company, which some readers in other countries might not be aware. Ed.) Another gave me a woven basket they had made, and others would bring me two tiny oranges. All of these things made me realize what wonderful humble people they were.
I felt that for once in my life I could do something for someone else, and let me tell you, it was a great feeling.
Another thing that seemed weird to me was the big horns they used to blow when they called the people to prayer. It would sound throughout the mountains, and made a real mournful sound. This horn would blow early in the morning and in the evening.
I liked to hike up the mountains, but didn’t dare to venture too far from the radio station. I was told a few leopards were in the nearby hills. Still, I decided to hike some with two small Bhutanese boys. We started out, and about 1/4 of a mile I was exhausted. We sat down to rest. One of the boys pointed to a tree and started running. I just knew a leopard was there, I also started running, fell down, got up and ran some more. Suddenly I heard the laughter of children. I turned around and two small boys were pointing at me and laughing. They had been in the tree and I guess they were tying to play a trick on me. That finished my hiking trips away from the station.
See you all next week with my final chapter of my trip to Bhutan.
Pictures: (Sorry, pictures are unavailable. Ed.)
(New Years celebration)
(Operating position of AC5H, Rcvr was a BC345 and Xmtr only a SR-150-My regular gear was stuck in VU2 customs in Calcutta, it was released ONE DAY after I departed from AC lands!)
(L to R: Pix snapped in AC5-Palace in the background. Indian (VU2) teacher, XYL of Chief Radio Officer, Peggy, and Letho, Chief Radio Officer of AC-land.)
(word count: 943/29453)
#143 Peggy in Bhutan
After three months in Thimphu, Bhutan, I was ready to come home!
We had trudged over mountain passes where no white man had ever set foot, traveled roads that were almost impassable, and we had survived the bitter cold and the heavy snowfall that comes at the higher altitudes. We had met the King and Queen. We had been invited to the most honorable New Years celebration. We had also been invited to the Palace.
I had come to love these people, and I felt very sad about leaving this beautiful country. By the time I left, Spring was just about to begin. This was about the 10th of March.
On the day of departure several people gathered to bid me farewell. The Chief Signal Officer's wife gave me her wedding dress, a piece of hand woven cloth and a jacket. The King had given me a leopard skin. He had shot the leopard a few weeks prior to this. All of these things made me realize that we had been given one of the greatest privileges of all, a visit to this tiny kingdom located in the high Himalayans.
In fact, I was the only American woman, at that time, permitted to visit this very remote place, except a certain movie star, who wasn’t there very long.
It seemed to me that those people were living in another century. However, with the building of roads this is gradually changing.
The jeep was slipping and sliding all over the road. The melting snow made the trip seem plenty dangerous, especially at two or three places when we came so close to the edge. Twice, I got out of the jeep and walked around the cliffs. At another point water gushed over the road like a waterfall. This time some of the road workers had to tie a rope to the jeep and pull it thru the water.
I prayed we’d make it to Phuntsoling safe!
Part the way down we stopped for the night. Only then did I realize I’d be leaving Gus by himself. I hadn’t had many good nights of sleep due to inability to breathe well. I couldn’t eat well, and my weight had dropped to 103 pounds. We had both decided it would be best for me to come home. I couldn’t stay with Gus. I had just been given the trip to Bhutan and back home again. He would be leaving there within another month.
Early the next morning I was on my way to Honchoing. The weather was getting warmer, and I could smell honeysuckle and other wild flowers. I got out of the jeep and picked some flowers, and thought of our good friends in Thimphu. Tears came to my eyes when I realized I might never get to see these fine people again, and be able to help them.
I had found real friends here, not for what I could give them. Our friendship with these people had become very close.
I arrived at the Guest House and repacked my clothes and got things together for my trip from Phuntsoling to Hashimir the next morning. This was a hot, dusty ride, just the opposite to the one I had just experienced.
As I got on the plane that took me from Hashimir to Calcutta, I bid farewell to my Bhutanese friends, and thought about my past trip and experience to the “last Shangri-la” located in the high Himalayan mountains of Bhutan.
One trip I’ll never forget !!
Would I go again? If I’m invited by the King or Queen to come again, you can bet your sweet life! I’ll be right there. Challenging anything. Bye-bye for now !!
Picture. (Photo unavailable. Editor.)
Some of the Palace attendants in AC5-land
(word count: 630/30083)
The DXers Magazine #148 By Peggy
Quite often hams have asked me how Gus and I met and what was Gus using for a rig then? In 1930 Gus was working for Philco Radio in Philadelphia. We met on a blind date. I knew at once he was the one for me, with his excellent personality. He could talk a “cow out of milk”. (Around the world there are people who are super salesmen. Gus was a SUPER SALESMAN! Instead of saying that he could talk a cow out of milk, we might also say that he could sell ice to an Eskimo. Obviously, an Eskimo does not need to buy ice, so anyone who can sell ice to an Eskimo is a SUPER SALESMAN! Editor) I did notice however that he would be telling me that he had worked this fellow or that on the radio. I got used to the idea of him talking and me listening.
We went off to Maryland and got married. I was only sixteen. We drove all the way back to the apartment (this was my first time inside the apartment he had). I walked into the bedroom and behold, here was this monstrosity, staring at me, with wires hanging down all around. I asked Gus if I would get shocked. He laughed and said, “No”. He said, “I hope you will excuse me honey for 20 minutes." This was our wedding night”! I said go ahead and I’ll get prettied up.
In ten minutes I came out in an elegant white gown, cut rather low and bent over to kiss Gus on his head, when a raw wire swung across me leaving a burned mark. I screamed! This was my initiation into the “GREAT FRATERNITY” of ham radio! Thru tears, Gus explained why this had happened. Seems his rig was breadboard, pair of 852, out in the open and a M.O.P.A. circuit. The receiver was also home made, also of breadboard with plug-in-coils. Even the power supplies were breadboards, and those were in open, with high voltage all over the place. I would look at this monster everyday and chills would run up and down my spine. I made up my mind that I wouldn’t let Gus know I was afraid of it.
Still, this transmitter got larger and larger and in 1939. W4BPD was quite a sight to behold, but still mostly breadboard, with Gus doing all his own building. Those was the days! For a picture of this, look on the front cover of this issue. Next week, a current picture of Gus and what he’s using now. Need any old tubes or junk, fellows?
See you next week!! 88, Peggy
#149 Peggy and Gus
My first few years with Gus was a new experience for me everyday and practically every night. I soon learned to ignore the alarm clock going off for him to get up and get on the air and work some of the ZL’s or VK’s as he called them. I remember so well the long hours he spent for years tracking down that station he “claimed” was supposed to be in there signing J9CA on the Marshall Islands. OH YES, he got all the other J’s, but up until the beginning of WW2 he never did get any sign of any signals coming from J9CA. I can’t say it wasn’t because he didn’t try! Those old 852’s, most of the time, showed a nice cherry red, so I guess he was pushing them a little bit more than they were suppose to be pushed. What amazed me was the many bargains he would buy and the many pieces of gear he said friends had given him! Later on I would gradually learn this was Gus’s system to get new parts. At times I ended up without getting a new dress and sometimes cutting down on the eating budget. One time he got a real scolding from our land landlady when she found a pair of clip leads hooked across the electric meter going to our room! Gus told her that the meter was turning to fast and that he was afraid the bearings might get hot if he didn’t slow it down by the clip leads! She believed him for a few months until someone told her this also cut the amount of electricity that Gus had to pay to the public utilities!
(word count: 681/30,764)
I really put up with quite a bit in those days (and even more NOW). One night I was QRL knitting a new sweater for one of our children. Gus was on the air, as usual. I was sitting in my rocking chair attending to my business and not paying much attention to Gus. He had taken out one of those “Breadboards” and had it in the middle of the floor soldering something on it that looked like a fire cracker with wires coming from it. Apparently, the wires going into the handle of the soldering iron came loose, and since the soldering iron cord was laying across my knees, the fire started flying out of the wire when it came loose from soldering iron. It swung across my bare knees and burnt a nice little groove there and shocked the devil out of me. I jumped up and got on top of our table and stayed there until Gus finally unplugged the wire from the AC. And what did Gus do? All he said was, “Excuse me honey, I guess the AC leads to the soldering need repairing." Then he proceeded to tape up the wires, plugged it back in the electric socket, (the same one it was in before) and I then MOVED THE CHAIR across the room. No more fireworks were going to “get me” from that darn rig.
I have the opinion that every red cent Gus could get his hands on was going into those rigs he was always building. He still, to this day, says he is going to build the “ultimate” in rigs! I live for this day to come and pass. However, I am kind of beginning to doubt if he will live that long! I don’t think there is any “rig” that will ever satisfy Gus! In fact, I am sure there is none. If it was, Gus would want to rebuild it and then make it “ultra-ultimate”, or something like that.
After many of his DX contacts Gus would try to tell me about what these DX QSO’s were like. He would even try to tell me how he thought things and scenery would be to these DX hams. When he was telling me all this, (I thought he was about to blow his lid) and the more DX he worked, the deeper this “gleam” would get. He said one morning, after he had been up since 5AM working that DX stuff, “One of these days I am going to be “DX”, and I am going to see some of those rare spots." And I would say, "OH YES, and I am going to fly to the moon, or something like that.
I think way back (this being around 1930 to 1935 or so) that the sun-of-a-gun Gus was beginning to make vague DXpedition plans, even though I don’t believe in those years anyone ever had yet thought about DXpeditions. However, I think Gus had!
Why I ever married that Southern Rebel (I am from around Buffalo, New York) may have been because of that Slow Southern Drawl! Or, maybe it was the idea of having a HAM for a husband and him BEING HOME EVERY NIGHT – but I have never been sorry. Get mad at him? YOU BET I have, and still do at times. However, with the years Gus and I have gotten more mellow, and loving someone makes their faults forgotten most of the time. And those little 13 grandchildren we now have kind of fills in the gaps! WOULD I EVER MARRY ANOTHER DXER, knowing what I now know? YOU BET I WOULD, if his name was Gus! NUFF SAID! Or do you all want more? ("Nuff said!", is local jargon for, Enough said! Editor.)
(word count: 626/31,390)
(Dear readers, this is the final post written by Peggy. Now we will continue with the writings by Gus. The writings of Peggy are contained in POST 16 through 38. Editor.)
(Continuing from POST 15, the writings by Gus. Ed.)
From THE TIMES AND DEMOCRAT, Orangeburg, SC.
Published Feb. 25, 1962.
Written by Dean B. Livingston.
Gus is Going Around The World For Hams
His Special Island: Gus Browning points to the Seychelles Island in the Indian Ocean on a map of the world. Browning considers the Seychelles “the Paradise” of the world. He visited them last summer and plans to visit them again this year. According to his schedule, the Seychelles will be his first stop on a round the world trip.
Orangeburg Radio Enthusiast Will Probe Wave Conditions
In the world of amateur radio operators, better known as “hams,” the name Gus Browning is associated with far away places and faint radio signals.
All over the world Browning is known as the ham operator who will go anywhere anytime to open up airwaves for benefit of amateur transmissions and receptions.
Last year Browning, a successful Orangeburg businessman, who is considered to be one of the nation’s foremost amateur radio operators, blazed a trail through more than 100 European and African countries and islands for ham operators over the world with more than 30,000 radio contacts.
Next month he leaves on a trip around the world to study radio conditions and make about 75,000 radio contacts with ham operators at all points of the globe. The study will take one year.
Browning said it is necessary he make the solo radio expedition during the next 12 months “because these are the months that sunspot conditions will be at a minimum and permit ideal radio conditions.”
He added that it will be 1974 before the sunspot conditions will be such to allow another study. The Orangeburg ham operator will be under the sponsorship of an Alabama non-profit scientific radio organization. He will be representing ham operators over the world.
For the past 32 years Browning has been an ardent radio enthusiast. His transmitter and receiver, situated in the rear of his house about seven miles from Orangeburg, is considered to be one of the best in the nation. Most of it is home-constructed.
The 51 year-old Browning looks upon the around the world study as a “year’s vacation with pay, and a chance to see the world while doing what I like most—working with ham operators.”
Financed mainly by contributions from ham operators over the nation, the Alabama organization will foot the bill for Browning’s trip and pay him for his services, too.
In Browning – style travel, the expenses will be minor as compared to a normal round the world trip. First class travel isn’t to his liking. He prefers to take it easy and conform to the travel customs of the country in which he is visiting.
While he is on the study, Browning will possibly have the largest listening audience of any ham operator in the world. His messages are expected to add hundreds of heretofore-unknown ham points to logs in all nations of the world, even behind the Iron Curtain.
Armed with only a suitcase and 175-watt transmitter and receiver, Browning will go it alone all the way. He doesn’t speak any foreign languages, but he’s not worried.
“There’s always a way to communicate with people,” he said, “ I’m sure I’ll require the assistance of much hand language and many pocket dictionaries.”
Neither does he have any worries about travel arrangements for an itinerary, which would scare off most would-be travelers.
“Ham operators over the world have a mutual understanding of each other and always provide for their fellow hams,” he injected.
On last year’s trip, he said, I was gone for six months and spent only $83 in hotel bills.
“Actually, I returned to Orangeburg with many typical tourist purchases and $284 more than I left with.”
This year’s study will take Browning to remote islands of the Indian Ocean, jungles of Africa, mountain outposts in the Himalayas in the shadows of Red China, areas of famine in India, small kingdoms along the Persian Gulf and Arabic Sea, ancient ruins of the Middle East, the wilds of Australia, island outposts in the Pacific Ocean, and many places where white men have seldom been seen, much less radios.
The highlight of the trip may be a visit to the mysterious country of Yemen, a small country on the Red Sea which doesn’t care much for Western civilization. Thus far, Browning hasn’t received a visa to Yemen, but he has hope.
In Nepal, he plans to stay in a hotel, which will afford him a direct view of Mt. Everest from his window.
He will not go into any countries behind the Iron Curtain. "I’m not looking for trouble this year", he remarked obviously referring to some difficulties he encountered in Communist-controlled countries.
(WORD COUNT: 786/32,176)
RATHER BE DEAD THAN RED
From July through December of 1961 Browning became the unofficial international ambassador for ham operators while making 30,000 contacts with other parts of the world from 100 different countries. The trip was financed by personal contributions of ham operators in the United States.
Although he wasn’t able to make any transmissions, Browning spent a considerable amount of time behind the Iron Curtain. He said he received a royal welcome from hams in all of the communist-controlled countries.
The people behind the Iron Curtain were friendly, he said, but he didn’t mince words in letting it be known he’d “rather be dead than be forced to live in a communist-controlled countries."
He told about staying with a couple in East Germany, who expressed a strong desire to escape to the West. “They told me they were the parents of a 11-year-old daughter,” he said. “I asked them where the daughter was, they replied that she was working for the government.”
Continuing, he said he asked the East German couple if they planned to include the girl in on the escape. Browning quoted the couple as saying, “we would leave her behind because she is a 100 percent Communist and we can not trust her.”
Explaining that he saw more dissatisfaction and unrest in East Germany than in any of the other countries he visited, Browning said, “the people in East Germany are so scared of the police that they won’t even ask them the time of day.”
He said it appeared to him that every third person in communist Germany was a policeman.
In one city in East Germany, he continued, “I was the house guest of the superintendent of one of the country’s largest ham radio manufacturing plants. He didn’t have a refrigerator, radio, television set or any other modern conveniences in his house.”
He didn’t see all bad about East Germany, however, “One day I was standing at the Brandenburg Gate on the West and East Berlin border and to the west I could see a tremendous traffic jam, and to the east I could see only a couple cars along a stretch of about seven blocks.
“I commented to a West Berliner that at least the East Berliners don’t have a parking problem." He replied, ‘they don’t have any cars.”
In Czechoslovakia, the Orangeburg man was granted a lifetime membership in one of the nation’s radio clubs. He says he received similar treatment in Rumania and Yugoslavia.
The only European countries not visited by Browning were Albania and Bulgaria.
None of his travels impressed him more than a 980-mile bus trip through the jungles of central Africa. The trip was made over dirt roads and took three days. It cost only $6.66.
“Anytime anyone wanted the bus driver to stop for any reason at all, he would,“ Browning related.
All along the way, he recalled, he could see wild animals along the road and often they would block the road so the bus couldn’t pass. "Once it took 25 minutes for a pack of thousands of monkeys to pass across the road." Everywhere you looked there were monkeys, I didn’t think there were so many in the entire world.”
He said a common sight along the road were lions and tigers eating the remains of dead zebras.
“The most beautiful place in the world as far as I’m concerned,” said the well-traveled ham operator, “are the Seychelles Islands.” Browning was so impressed with the Indian Ocean Islands that he has booked them as his first stop this year.
He rates the Seychelles as the most economical and friendliest of all places he visited. “I stayed in one of the most exclusive guest homes on the island, ate like a king and my bill for the two weeks was only $30,” he said.
“I heard it said that a person could retire on the islands for as little as $500 a year.”
From the Seychelles, Browning sailed on a chartered sailboat to Platte Island, a small island about 200 miles to the south. Incidentally, he plans to charter the same boat again this year for the same trip.
AROUND THE WORLD
With the experiences of the 1961 trip under his belt, Browning now has everything ready for the around-the-world trip. Visas have been obtained, the radio study outlined and ham operators over the world have been notified to listen out for Gus Browning.
Here’s a list in order of the places he will visit:
- Seychelles Islands, Aldabras Islands (off the coast of East Africa).
- Kenya, Tanganyika (in Africa), Madagascar Mauritius (islands off Africa’s east coast).
- French Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Thad, Nigeria, Upper Volta, Dahomey, Senegal, Mally, Mauritania, Lebanon (all in Africa).
- Syria, Jordan, Kuwait (Asia).
- Masqat, Aden Protectorate (both near Saudi Arabia).
- Yemen (if granted visa), Iran, Afghanistan.
- Nepal, Kingdom of Sikkim, Kingdom of Bhutan, Pakistan, Timor Island, Burma, Thailand, India.
- Christmas Island, Cocas Island (in Indian Ocean).
- Australia, Norfolk (off coast of Australia).
- Lord Howe, Samoa, Fiji islands (in South Pacific)/
- California, Orangeburg (South Carolina).
THE LONE TRAVELER
Since Browning’s only companion on the trip will be his shortwave radio, his travel arrangements are somewhat on a “wait and see” basis.
The places listed above are the basic points from where he will operate. Possibly a hundred or more points will be added to the itinerary as he goes.
Ham operators look to contact with a previously un-contacted point as a stamp collector looks to the finding of a rare stamp.
Browning, who greatly appreciates the opportunity to travel the world in behalf of ham operators, says he’s going to make sure he will log contacts “at places people before never dreamed of.”
(word count: 972/33,148)
＃The Times & Democrat 1964
(Note: photos are unavailable. Ed.)
BACK AFTER TWO-YEAR TOUR
Gus Browning, former Orangeburg radio station owner, is shown above pointing to the island of Madagascar which he visited on a two-year trip to far-away spots of the world testing radio equipment. The lines shown on the map show the routes that Browning took. His trip was all-expense-paid. He will leave August 20 with Mrs. Browning and a son, Gus Jr., for another trip over the world.
Radio Equipment Test
Browning Describes Two-Year World Trip
A partial description of a two-year trip to the far-away spots of the world was given to members of the Orangeburg Rotary Club Tuesday by Gus Browning, former radio station owner, who has recently returned for a short visit before leaving again.
Browning enjoyed the trip on an all-expense-paid journey financed by an electronics manufacturing company in Birmingham, Ala., while testing radio equipment all over the world.
In checking back on the total cost of the trip, Browning said that it totaled some $34,000.
Browning began his tour, that took him to Tibet and other countries in the Himalayas, to Africa, Madagascar, Calcutta, Bombay and other places, March 10, 1962. He returned to Birmingham March 10, 1964. He will continue his travels with Mrs. Browning and a son, Gus Jr., on August 20.
Much of his talk was concerned with difficulties experienced at customs offices while trying to move his three suitcases filled with a two-way 1,000-watt shortwave transmitter and receiver from one country to another.
He also told of being adrift in the Indian Ocean in a small boat for several days, a tour through the African jungles, and another, south of Cape Town, Africa, which took him into the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean.
That his trip was successful from a radio testing stand-point was indicated by the fact that he made more than 201,000 two-way contacts with other hams all over the world while in varied parts under varying climatic conditions. The average radio “ham,” he said, makes less than 21,000 contacts in 10 years.
Browning was introduced by W. C. Wannamaker Jr., program chairman. W. A. Livingston presided.
HAM EXPERT AND HIS ADVENTURES
# The Time & Democrat July 15, 1990
By T&D staff Writer Joyce W. Milkie
(Note: Mr. Browning passed away shortly after this interview, on August 21, 1990. Ed.)
I started with my first radio in 1925 and it took me a year to get it working!
Gus Browning’s treasures are his memories of world travel.
Enthusiastic radio operators:
While in Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, Browning (above, right) met another ham radio enthusiast named Raul, who stands with him in front of an Indian temple. Browning said 347 countries now have ham radio operators, including 50 located in China. (Photo special to The T& D)
“If I told you everything I have done, we’d be here for days!” said Gus Browning.
Browning, 82, has had experiences and adventures to fill two books, and satisfy the desire for excitement and adventure for half a dozen men.
He has been around the world seven times.
“Yes, seven times around the world and I’ve been in every country in Africa at least three times!” he said.
A ham radio expert, Browning began his love affair with the talk-box that reaches out to the world in 1925, and he’s been involved ever since.
“I started with my first radio in 1925 and it took me a year to get it working!” Since then, he’s put a lot of radios together and got them operating all over the world.
But ham radio wasn’t his only diversion. He also worked with Frank Best Sr., and with other entrepreneurs in establishing the first commercial radio stations in Orangeburg. WORG was the last one he did the technical work on, he said.
These days, Browning doesn’t do as much as he once did. His health is delicate and he tires easily.
“They tell me I’m a walking time bomb,” he said, leaning back in a big chair in his tiny workroom, filled with computer and electronic equipment.
Browning has two aneurisms, and his wife, Agnes “Peggy” Browning said he had a severe heart attack a while back. Medical advice is: no operation. Browning said he has been told he could have weeks – or 20 years.
“He has to rest frequently, and he gets very tired, “ she said.
But during the interview, Browning was alert and evidently enjoyed remembering the exciting days he spent in exotic places such as Bhutan (“One of my favorite places”), Madagascar and Afghanistan.
Born in Elloree, South Carolina, Browning has lived most of his life in this area…with stops along the way. On one of his “world trips,” he was away for two years. But, he said, Orangeburg has been home base to him for most of his life.
When he was young, the family lived in Florida for a time. In 1941, Gus said, he moved to Orangeburg and it’s been home for him and his family since then.
It was a little difficult to get a clear and progressive picture of Browning’s life and activities because he would veer off the subject to tell a humorous story, delighted at remembering it, and in this manner we learned that while Mrs. Browning’s first name is “Agnes” she’s never called anything but “Peg” anymore. “She got the name Peg when we were in a hotel in Spain, and she told someone, just off the wall, ‘My name is Peg.’ So we’ve called her that ever since, “ he said with a grim.
Mrs. Browning accompanied her husband on his last two trips.
“I took a first aid course and worked at the hospital in Bhutan. That was a wonderful country. The people couldn’t do enough for you,” she said. “Of course, by the time we went, the children were all grown and away from home. I didn’t travel while they were young.”
(word count: 987/34,135)
WORLD OF HAM RADIO
Browning talked about the different areas of ham radio, and said his favorite is the expedition type.
“You talk with someone in Afghanistan and keep a log of what countries you’ve talked to, the time and so forth. You try to work as many countries a possible, and you have to have proof that you did talk with them,” he said.
He noted that 348 countries now have ham radio operators and he talked about the new development the satellites – “You send a signal to a satellite and put it on a tape recorder so it can be played back to someone on the other side of the world. There are a lot of new things these days,” he said.
Browning joined the American Radio Relay League in the 1970s, and said this has been an important part of his life. “It brings all these hams together!” he said.
It was 1927 when Gus Browning got his first official Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license.
“At first, we had no electricity in the place in Florida, and we worked from a battery-operated set for about a year,” he said.
His three brothers and two sisters spread out across the country. One brother went to Philadelphia, and Gus joined him there and got a job.
“I worked as a technician on radio for four or five years. I was fascinated with the radio.” Then, he said things began to change. The union moved in – and he met and married Peg.
TAKING UP TRAVEL
In 1959, he raised the money, $3,750, for his first around-the-world trip. He said you hear people talk about traveling, but they have the money to do it.
“And here I am, traveling around the world on $3,750. But it got me over there and back the first time.”
He said he found that a round-trip ticket to the Seychelles Islands, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, was one of the cheaper trips, and on the way he visited the “little country of San Marino in the middle of Italy, and lots of towns and countries along the way.”
He decided he would like to go to Athens. He did, and stayed there about a week and a half. Then went on to Beirut, Lebanon where he stayed three weeks.
Questioned about where the money came from for all these trips, Browning said various companies funded his trips. He said some of them were equipment suppliers. Sometimes he worked in the countries he visited, handling technical problems on radio equipment. He also worked for the government at times, but he didn’t elaborate on that. Mostly, he said, the funds were raised - $30,000, $40,000 – by the equipment firms.
His excursions into radio land took him to places like Khartoum, Mombassa – and if he went through one series of countries, he returned home “a completely different way!”
He spoke of the late Buck Joiner, a manufacturing parts representative, who asked “How much will it cost to send you over there again?”
Browning said he told Joiner it would cost a lot, “But we will stretch that money as far as we can, and he raised $15,000.”
Browning also had a record shop on Russell Street at one time, and Skip Pearson said he remembers well visiting that shop and trying to get the new records (which he didn’t have money to buy) before anyone else would get them.
“I’d find the ones I wanted (mostly jazz) and I’d hide them behind the country-western records so nobody else would find them until I had the money to buy them,” said Pearson, a noted jazz musician and instructor. He said Browning probably knew what he was doing, but he never said anything.
Also, Browning worked with Frank Best for about five years, starting the first commercial radio station. He was in on the start of WORG’s operation.
Then he decided it was time to move along – and it was back to world travel again.
This time, he headed “right straight to Cairo, Egypt, then spent six to eight weeks in Afghanistan before getting a temporary visitors permit to Bhutan."
“I’ve been on every island in the Indian Ocean, and in every country where they have ham radio. China, now, has about 50 ham radio stations. And on our last trip, we discovered a group of little islands north of Europe."
“We never had any problems with European countries – except we couldn’t get behind the Iron Curtain. Our last trip, though, was short and sweet, except the one before that; that was when we spent four months in Afghanistan and went to every district in that country.”
He said it costs 75 cents these days to send a letter to alert a ham operator to be on the watch for a radio visit at a specific time, and said he doesn’t do much of that any more.
“Yeah, I get pretty tired and can’t stay with it very long,” he said.
(word count: 840/34,975)
However, he has some spectacular memories of all these years of travel. And in his travels he didn’t neglect his own country.
“My wife and I have visited every state in this union! Every one!” he said.
Mrs. Browning said that they did, indeed, set out to do just that, but when they reached California, she had to return home because of a death in her family, but Gus kept on going and completed the trip just as planned.
“He went to every single state!” she said.
Then they decided their traveling days were through. “My wife put her foot down!” he said. “We’d had years of moving around and she said, ‘Let’s make this trip our last one,’ and we did.”
By that time their four children were grown and on their own, and he said it wasn’t always easy for his wife having to handle family crises on her own.
“But I did come home at least every two years, and sometimes more often than that. If I came close to the U.S.A., I would come home for a week or 10 days at a time.”
Browning talked about the religious beliefs in the different countries, and the times in Bhutan wher he learned the people there were against killing anything.
“They didn’t kill anything under any condition,” he said. “Not even gnats and bugs; they just brush them off their arms and legs. Where we would slap at them and kill them, these people wouldn’t think of it.”
The food was not always as palatable as he would have liked. “There was a vegetable – tasted like cabbage. But they never did know how to cook chicken!” he said, shaking his head. “They had skinny chicken, too.”
ON THE HIGH SEAS
He traveled by boat. In one instance, he said half the people were seasick, and told how they cooked fish with the heads on. On this particular trip with a group of Americans, Capt. Harvey, skipper of the boat, brought out a tripod and grill, and grilled fish right on the wooden deck.
“There was gasoline close by, too. Well, he cooked those fish with the heads on, and you look at those eyes when you eat those greasy fish. One of the men, a brain surgeon from Kansas City, bought a couple of fish, but he took one look at them and headed for the rail! Someone asked me what he was doing, and I told ‘em I thought he was taking a fish survey!", Browning said.
“Me, I never got seasick. Once there was a fellow from Chicago, and he had this $75,000 yacht. He told me I could ‘buy’ into it for $1, and I did. We took off and went to the Caribbean!"
“One night we had to anchor, so we pulled up behind an island and went to sleep. I woke up to find an octopus in the sleeping quarters! Now that was something!"
“I talked with someone in Madagascar one time--it was still owned by Portugal at that time--and they invited me to come there. So we went.” He told stories of a bet, “right in the middle of the ocean,” about stopping smoking, and said he lost the bet. He spoke of big pieces of rock sticking up out of the water; and of sharks circling the area. "It was one of the most beautiful spots available for ham radio. No interference at all,” he said, "none except for the sharks!"
During this period when they were establishing a radio location on an isolated reef, they were trying to set it up and he said he pushed his chair back and found himself in the water among the sharks!
“It was about 2 or 3 a.m., and there I was, scraping the bottom! But I got out mighty fast! We never did get the chair!”
JUST KEPT MOVING
Browning has a globe marked in different colors showing the routes of his travels. On two walls of his workroom are paintings of scenes of Madagascar. He said he brought them home rolled up in his bag.
Travel became progressively more expensive, but Browning said, "As long as the fellows gave us the dollars, we kept moving around the world."
On one of his visits to Bhutan, Browning said he made a side trip into Tibet.
"Early one morning, about the crack of dawn, I had this feeling someone was looking at me. I looked up, and staring me in the face was a white snow leopard. I inched my hand out to get some kind of weapon, but by that time, the leopard had lost interest in me. I guess he figured I wasn’t good to eat! Anyway, he just loped off”, he said.
Boxes of color slides showing him in all the countries of the world are part of Browning’s treasures. But Browning’s memories are his treasures. He said he remembers, and laughs. Or sometimes he is sad. And he would like to be able to make one more trip.
“But Peg says no,” he said, grinning. “I guess my moving around days are over.”
(And so they were. Shortly after Mr. Browning spoke those words, he passed away on August 21, 1990. However, he left a recently found manuscript that will now be published. Editor.)
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