Submitted By Member: Terrykc

Anybody who has been ‘in the trade’ knows that it can be difficult to go for a quiet drink sometimes without somebody bending your ear about their latest problem – but this is a little different …

Remembering exactly when any past event took place can be difficult – unless you’ve got a mental ‘hook’ to hang it on. In this particular case I can categorically state that the year that what our American cousins call the vest pocket radio ‘invaded’ the United Kingdom was 1962 …

1962? In 1962 I was eighteen years old and, after over ten years in scouting, I was a newly warranted Assistant Scout Master. 1962 was also the year that we spent our summer camp on the outskirts of Rotterdam. In 1961, we’d camped in Ireland and my 4-valve (’96 range) superhet was the only radio in the camp. By 1962 I’d got myself transistorised – but I wasn’t the only one (though I was the only one with a 7″ x 4″ speaker, or anything remotely similar in size…!)

It didn’t take long to stumble on this: “Hier is Radio Veronica op honderd twee en negentig meter, het station waar muziek in zit” (Here is Radio Veronica on a hundred and ninety-two meters, the station where(in) the music sits!). Two years old, and two years before the arrival of (Veronica inspired, allegedly) Radio Caroline, nobody wanted to listen to anything else, although there was the odd exception …

On the morning of our second full day, I was having a conversation when I became aware of a blond head at the edge of my vision. John was only 10½ but had pestered his way into the scouts early. When I gave him my full attention, he spoke in that way that only a young child can do when they want something. “Ter-ry, David Bragg says you might be able to make my radio get Veron-i-ca”, he said, and a hand appeared containing one of those far-eastern midgets.

It was immediately obvious that the set was very lively – it was just missing the edge of the band. Being a scout, I was, of course, prepared and, in less than a minute, I was armed with a sample of the ubiquitous ‘Stead’ terminal driver (2½” blade) that was the standard tool of choice in those days.

Conscious of the lack of test equipment available in the average Dutch field, I was a bit cautious. The trimmers on the back of the tuning gang rotated through 360° and, as the plastic was frosted, it wasn’t possible to see which way the blades meshed, so I found the first signal available at the HF end of the band and detuned to the LF sideband. Having identified which was the local oscillator trimmer, I rocked it gently to find which way to go. Then retuned to the end of the band and confidently nudged the oscillator until Veronica appeared. A quick tweak of the aerial trimmer and job done!

These sets were obviously the latest must-have because several more passed through my hands over the next couple of days: alignment accuracy obviously wasn’t their strong point!

Another mental hook (or three) ….

On the afternoon of the second Sunday of our stay, several of us were waiting to listen to Pick of the Pops on the Light Programme on my radio … Before the programme, there was a newsflash to tell us that Marilyn Monroe had been found dead …

So, I can tell you that Marilyn Monroe died on Sunday August 5th 1962 …

The three hooks?

1962 = Rotterdam
Sunday = Pick of the Pops
August 5th = my mum’s birthday!

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5 years ago

I remember trying, without success to tune into R. Veronica on a Fidelity Coronet pocket portable in, I think, 1961, here in Oxfordshire and about 30 miles north of here in Warwickshire. As 192M was right at the end of the MW Band and Veronica was probably 300 miles distant, plus only having a 5kW transmitter, perhaps I was expecting a bit too much! I was never able to hear Veronica.

5 years ago

No chance, Michael! Unlike the UK pirates with their massive masts, Veronica had a simple horizontal aerial that was quite capable of sending a strong signal across the essentially flat Dutch landscape. I would have thought that the earth’s curvature would have virtually hidden England from it.

In 1963 I picked it up on the beach at Lowestoft but, as I walked up the beach and over a sand bar, it vanished! I could hear it on the top deck of a bus but once we’d gone more than half a mile or so inland I lost it.

I did succeed in picking it up from time to time in Grays (on the Thames, near Tilbury) but only when repairing car radios! Our TV aerials were quite high – we had something approaching the size of a telegraph pole bolted onto the back wall – and we used to use them when repairing car radios and did pick up Veronica quite well on them but not on anything else.

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