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A Reception That Was Different

From The N.Z. Radio Record and Electric Home Journal,
May 16, 1930

When His Excellency, the Governor-General, spoke in Wellington Town Hall on the occasion of the reception accorded to him, he was heard far afield in North America. Listeners in the Central States and in the States on the Pacific Coast, heard him.

North Dakota received 2YA's transmission on that occasion particularly well. The furthest inland province in Canada to report having heard the Governor-General is Saskatchewan.
Atwater Kent Ad

Atwater Kent Ad, a typical home radio set
© NZ Radio Record & Electric Home Journal 1930,
Radio Heritage Foundation

Though the majority of the letters come from the United States, and especially from the Pacific Coast, there is great pleasure in a Canadian household when a New Zealand station is picked up. One can picture the domestic scene as disclosed by this extract from a letter:

"My wife woke up at 2 a.m. and asked me what station it was. When I told her she said: 'I thought it was no American station. It must be English.' She lay awake until you went off the air. Enjoyed your broadcast, as also did my little girl. We get so much jazz from the stations here that one gets fed up of it. It is a treat to hear a good old brass band again. I thought for a while I was back in the Old Land. I will be listening for you again every weekend."

On March 5 1933, a listener in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was listening on his homebrew radio when he also heard the 2YA signal, then the second most powerful signal in the British Empire.
Radio Station 2YA QSL, 1933

2YA QSL for Saskatchewan reception 1933
© Ron Hopkins Collection,
Radio Heritage Foundation

According to his son, Ron Hopkins:

He and his friend would often use a barbed wire fence of a farm as their antenna. Little did they realize they probably had a wonderful beverage antenna. Who knows where it terminated. Apart from that I can't tell you much more. Transmitter powers were obviously much less, frequencies were not as crowded and interference was much less. My Dad would tell me some of his stories from the 30's. Sadly, he only passed on to me two of his mediumwave QSLs. One was 2YA in Wellington, and the other was KGU Honolulu.

At the same time as Ron's father was listening to 2YA, a young listener in Christchurch, New Zealand, Eric Shackle, was listening to nearby CJRC from Winnipeg in Manitoba, co-incidentally owner of CJRM in Moose Jaw and CJGX in Yorkton, both over in Saskatchewan.

Mr HR McLaughlin, Manager wrote:

We believe these listings would be of interest to the many listeners from whom we receive reports from your city, as well as other New Zealand points. Our mail bag brings daily dozens of letters from residents in the United States, Mexico, South America, the West Indies, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Great Britain.

Radio Station 2YA QSL, 1933

CJRC letterhead for reception in New Zealand 1936
© Eric Shackle Collection,
Radio Heritage Foundation

It's typical of this early era of radio that a listener in Canada would be seeking out 2YA in Wellington, whilst a listener in New Zealand would be seeking out a station in Canada. Well before internet radio and a 'wired world', domestic radio audiences were able to hear stations from across the world in their own homes. It's not a new phenomenon.

Earlier, mention was made of KGU Honolulu being heard in Canada in 1933. Again, at the same time, Eric Shackle heard KGU in New Zealand.

In fact, here's an item from the same issue of the NZ Radio Record back in 1930 [from JE Hewlett, Nelson]:

On Friday last [Anzac night], I picked up station KGU Honolulu. Several jazz items were broadcast, and this station was received quite loud on the speaker. Last night [27th April] I picked this station up again, at 5.30 p.m. approximately, when the announcer was giving out the numbers and makes of different cars which had been stolen. He then closed down for two hours and said he would be on the air at 9.30 p.m. He gave his frequency as 940 kilocycles [319 metres]. Honolulu time is exactly 22 hours behind New Zealand standard time. I expect many other listeners have heard this station, as I received this on a four-valve set.'

KGU kindly confirmed reception of its signals from both its listeners. Mr Hopkins in Saskatoon [3,440 miles or 5,536km distant] and Mr Shackle in Christchurch [4,805 miles or 7,733km away] both received their cards in 1933. Here they both are:
Radio Station KGU QSL, 1933 to Saskatoon

KGU Honolulu heard in Saskatoon, Canada 1933
© Ron Hopkins Collection,
Radio Heritage Foundation

Radio Station KGU QSL, 1933 to Christchurch

KGU Honolulu heard in Christchurch, NZ 1933
© Eric Shackle Collection,
Radio Heritage Foundation

Whether you lived in Canada or New Zealand, it seems that listening to KGU Honolulu in the 1930's was a memorable event, and a shared experience that helped create the image of Hawaii as warm and welcoming islands. The colourful tourist designs used by KGU on both cards are good examples of how Hawaii built its romantic image around the world.

Consumption of global broadcasting programs in the 1930's was very much a shared experience. Radio brought ordinary citizens in countries thousands of miles apart into a real time common audio world decades before satellite TV and the internet. Grandma and Grandpa really were wired in well beyond their backyard. In fact, they had the world at their fingertips too.

Our thanks to Ron Hopkins [Canada] and Eric Shackle [Australia] for sharing these memories.

For an interesting comparison of radio broadcasting in Auckland, Sydney and Toronto in 1932 see our article A Tale of Three Cities. For a colorful look back at Hawaiian radio since the 1930's, our popular Art of Radio Hawaii © is highly recommended.


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