Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ernie Margheim: On watches and radio signals

An extract from an email Dad wrote to Ethel Lock May 2008.

Fred and Ethel Lock
You know this electronic age still baffles me. My wrist watch quit so I bought a new one for $29. It has a feature that a radio signal in Fort Collins (CO) keeps the right time on my wrist watch with a radio signal. Now that is something! All those miles and me being inside my house, that radio signal can still SET MY WATCH to the second. I also bought a table clock that projects the time on the ceiling or wall and it is the same with that radio signal. And it shows AM or PM on the wall. I have it plugged in but it is equipped with two AA batteries. 

I remember when a good watch (they called them Swiss, jeweled escapement (little red Rubies) movements would cost over a hundred dollars. 

When I was in the Army in an Ordnance company, I fixed binoculars. We also had a watchmaker in our section. I would get to watch him and saw those little red dots. (Jewels they called them). His name was Hank Duce and he always wore one of those eye pieces that magnified his work. You don't find many watchmakers anymore. When my Seiko wrist watch quit, I looked in the yellow pages and found a watchmaker working out of his house living here in Canon City I went to see him and he said he still works on grandfather clocks, but he is in a wheel chair and quite old and said his hands are not steady enough anymore to work on my watch. I found this one for $29 so I bought it. Can't go wrong with that price. The labor to fix mine would probably cost more than that. 

Getting back to setting my watch by radio. I remember when I was in Hoisington High School, the clocks on the wall were hooked up to Western Union, and ever so often you could see that second hand or minute hand jump. They were probably hooked up to Western Union with a telephone wire at that time (1936-1940). 

Years ago when radios still had shortwave, I learned from a fella in the Navy that was on the ship that brought us from France back to New York. He worked in the radio shack and I played guitar, so we were buddies for the trip. He told me the Washington Bureau of Standards had a short wave frequency that every hour would give the Greenwich Mean Time. And in between it sounded the frequency sound of 440 (Musical A note) that we used to tune our guitars or fiddle with. So that was by radio, mind you from Washington DC, clear out in the ocean to France. That was pretty marvelous for the times (1945). I forgot what frequency it was. I think it was around 80 on the dial. It seems the call letters were WWVA. No, that does not sound right, more like WWVA might be the AM West Virginia radio station. They used to have a Saturday night barn dance music program from Wheeling West Virginia, something like the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The wires get crossed up in my brain I think. It is probably still on the air. 

Ernie's Philco table radio
I had a table radio that I bought while in the CCC Camp (1941) that still had shortwave on and I used to click on it and it had changed the frequency pitch every 15 minutes. I think it was E-Flat part of the time, as I recall, so you had to wait for the quarter hour to get 440-A. 

Did I indicate I was going to click my SEND button? Oh well, bye for now. Ernie

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