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The Ham Who Was President
November 1952 QST

November 1952 QST

November 1952 QST Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from QST, published December 1915 - present (visit ARRL for info). All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Since this is a presidential election year, I figured it would be a good time to post a tongue-in-cheek- story that appeared in the November 1952 issue of QST magazine about a fictional American president J. Willoughby Winkelspoof. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) always has been and still is apolitical, so don't take seriously anything you read here. If you are an astute follower of politics, you might pick up on the nuances woven into the story, and might even marvel on how much the political landscape has changed in the half century since Pres. Winkelspoof graced the Oval Office. Incidentally, the 1952 presidential election was between Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson. You might wonder how many U.S. presidents were/are Amateur Radio operators. Answer: None; however, the son of Herbert Hoover, Herbert Hoover, Jr. (W6ZH) was licensed. Here is a list of some famous Hams on the QSL.net website.

TVI is the cause of JWW's problems, and the federal bureaucracy's means of dealing with it are ridiculous, but entirely believable. What is your guess as to why his call sign was changed? Send me an e-mail with yours and I'll let you know mine.

Morse Code translation:

W0!! =   · − −   − − − − −   − · − · − −   − · − · − −

W0!!/3 =   · − −   − − − − −   − · − · − −   − · − · − −   − · · − ·   · · · − −

W3E =   · − −   − − − − −   ·

Additional info:

In 1927, the International Radiotelegraph Conference in Washington established the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) to study technical and operating questions related to radio communications and to issue recommendations on them.

WAS = Worked All States

The Ham Who Was President

By Rod H. Newkirk,* W1VMW

The Ham Who Was President (inaugural address) - RF Cafe"JWW" came up the hard way. He started out with a blooper and a '45 TNT, ran the garmut of '46s, '10s, and a variety of nondescript skywires. But it wasn't until he put his Advanced Class ticket to work on the 'phone bands that he really found his element. From that time on he was a natural.

His inauguration went off in accordance with custom; rain seized an opportunity to soak everything in sight. Though it was unnoticed by the multitude, J. Willoughby Winkelspoof could not find his misplaced speech. But the President-elect put his long hamming career to good stead and produced an oral snow-job that would have put his most glib round-table buddy to shame.

Then, in a flurry of tails, gold braid and limousines, it was all over. W0!! had become W0!!/3 - the first ham chief executive in U. S. history!

* * *

JWW got the intricate hang of it in no time at all. Appointments, conferences, releases, yachting excursions - all such details kept him so occupied he had absolutely no time to contemplate the trend of conditions on the amateur bands. Months went by. His prideful pals back in Ridiculous Heights, Nebraska, began to figure he had gone high-hat. There was a definite void on the air with old W0!! QRT.

Finally, a propitious moment arrived. Mrs. Winklespoof was away as guest of the Daughters of the Industrial Revolution, the kids were away at Space Cadet school and somebody, somehow, had neglected to fill in this date with the usual duties of state. "Aha!" chuckled Will.

Shortly thereafter, he appeared in the White House sub-basement surveying four or five crates of ham gear. Clearing out some curious menial help, JWW went to work. He hauled up his old receiver, staggered upstairs with three power supplies, the r.f. section and modulator. He selected an alcove off the Green Room for his shack and soon strange squealing noises could be heard emanating therefrom.

Willoughby whipped out a log sheet and made ready to blast forth a sharp CQ only to realize he had no antenna. Back down into the depths and out he came again with a few rolls of No. 14, some insulators and a pair of cutters. Darkness was at hand; there was need to work fast.

Looking over the White House grounds, JWW elected to rig up an east-west Vee beam. It was while he was perched on the iron fence, fastening one leg at the far end, that he ran into his first bit of grief.

A shot rang out through the twilight and J. Willoughby did a dive to the lawn with a clean hole through his striped tail-coat. The fragments of the Pyrex insulator he had been holding rained about him. He had to admit that the guard detachment was really on the ball!

This situation was quickly straightened out and the guard chief apologized profusely. W0!!/3 was ready to hit the air!

This our hero did with his customary vigor.

The Ham Who Was President (republican on f street) - RF CafeThe Vee worked fine and his first CQ raised a W7 in Walla Walla on twenty 'phone. "You're S9-plus," said the Seven. Winklespoof gloated. "Trouble is," the voice continued, "everybody else is S9-double-plus tonight." Will then increased his modulation from 150 to 200 per cent and began to get results.

But this fun was too good to last. The landline rang raucously, forcing him to abandon the QSO, and when he picked up the 'phone extension he was almost pinned to the wall by the blast. It turned out to be a Republican over on F Street.

"You no-good - -, I'd like to mangle you!

I'd know that hacky campaign squawk of yours anywhere. It's not bad enough you're taxing me goofy, but now you even have to blot out Uncle Wiltie on my TV set. Drop dead!"

J. Willoughby succeeded in placating the gentleman to the extent of selling him some Savings Bonds. But the 'phone resumed ringing as soon as he hung up. Exasperated, he tore the connection from the wall and decided to switch temporarily to c.w.

Thus did time pass as President J. Willoughby Winklespoof hammed away in his snug Pennsylvania Avenue diggings. He hadn't had such fun in months! However, strange things began to happen on the outside.

FCC monitors were picking up bizarre signals from a weird-sounding transmitter which they triangulated as being very close to the Executive Mansion. The jargon used was undecipherable, although they picked out the combination "RSQ" very often repeated.

Less than an hour later, armored cars, a platoon of infantry, and a company of artillery converged on the White House gates. Signals were still being heard from somewhere within the Mansion.

Will had barricaded the door after his TVI 'phone call, determined to have one decent QSO before he pulled the switch. His concentration was so intense that he heard nothing strange until a tear gas bomb shattered the alcove window and went pfft! beneath his chair. Cursing the cigar he was smoking, a gift from the Sultan of Lendleasialand, whose country he had had the State Department recognize for DXCC purposes, he burst out of the shack and sprawled flat on his face beneath the crossfire of three machine guns.

The Ham Who Was President (scheme met disaster) - RF CafeThis unfortunate affair was, with considerable effort, kept out of the papers and things gradually got back to normal. Congress rushed through a bill giving the President an easier call to send - W3E - and the Army assuaged his injured feelings by presenting him with a gold-plated correctly-spacing electronic key.

A special detachment of FCC engineers installed in the Chief's rig a series of 32-section low-pass filters especially designed for W3E by the Bureau of Standards. (These filters served only to aggravate Winklespoof's TVI troubles but the Bureau laid the blame on technical papers of the CCIR, because their components were measured correctly to within one part in forty quintillion. A Congressional investigatory committee later settled the matter with a stiff censuring of both factions.)

The final solution to the President's TVI problem was found by compulsorily increasing inputs of all local TV stations (from 200 to 200,000 kw.), which power increase extended their fringe areas to points beyond reach of W3E's keying transients, harmonics, and parasitics.

At any rate, despite these minor difficulties, J. Willoughby Winklespoof made out okay. He successfully parried affairs of state while accomplishing WAC, DXCC, and RCC. Yet he was horrified one evening while checking through his logs and QSLs - he still needed Vermont for WAS!

Years had passed and his term was drawing to a close. Was he fated to go down in history as the only Presidential ham not to make WAS? Perish the thought!

Thereafter, JWW cut short many a conference to scan 40 and 80 meters in search of Vermont W1s, but for some reason they just couldn't be raised. He even went to such length as having the Interior Department install three one-kw. transmitters close beside the Vermont state line which he operated by remote control from his White House shack. No soap. No comebacks from Vermonters.

Will had another inspiration. The young son of one of his few Capitol Hill senatorial boosters had just gotten his ticket and had a suitcase portable layout ready for action. At the behest of the President, the lad undertook to enter Vermont by automobile, set up his gear and work W3E. But alas - local phenomena beyond the boy's control brought the scheme to disaster.

The naked truth finally dawned upon JWW. There was no doubt about it. Unless something drastic was done, the Chief was not going to make WAS.

And so it came to pass that his next Thursday press conference made history. He looked the hawks of the press in their stolid faces and calmly announced:

"Boys, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately.

It wasn't an easy decision to make, but I find it a necessary one. I've decided that, as of now, I've become a Republican."

After the least robust of the reporters had been carried from the room, the news hit the headlines with tremendous impact. Even word of Lisabeth Saylor's seventh marriage and a boy for Eddie Candor were crowded off the front page. The bedlam on Capitol Hill was unprecedented. But the announcement had the desired effect.

Slipping back to his shack, JWW worked five Vermont hams in quick succession and received their QSLs airmail-special delivery in the next post. Special courier brought the cards to ARRL Hq., and J. Willoughby Winklespoof became our first president to accomplish WAS.

* * *

The boos, cheers, and catcalls died away in the distance as ex-President Winklespoof headed for the club car of the outbound Capital Express, clutching his WAS certificate in one hand and a cheroot in the other. There was no band to greet him at the end of his trip, but the Ridiculous Heights Amateur Radio Club met him with open arms and congratulations.

"It was great to be President," said JWW, with an accent on the tense. "But the job certainly interferes with a fellow's ham radio."

Whereupon he went home and fired up the rig on 75.

* DX Editor, QST.



Posted August 10, 2020
(updated from original post on 6/15/2016)

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