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Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD

Edward P. Swynar (VE3CUI) on August 28, 2017
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Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD

Every aspiring wannabe DX'er-type Ham from 1948 through to 1978 surely recalls Rod Newkirk (W9BRD) from this regular “How's DX?” column that appeared monthly in QST magazine. Rod had a wit and a way about him that translated into a writing style that made for irresistible “...must-reading” in that span of 30 years...

Who can ever forget his lucid descriptions of the goings-on at the fictional “DX Hoggery & Poetry Depreciation Society” that he created...? Rod managed to paint an image within the mind of the reader that needed but very little imagination in order to envision all of the meetings that the “society” regularly held. And yet, as humorous as his descriptions were, there were somehow always nuggets of truth imbedded within those whimsical poems and odes read aloud by subscribers to the assembly that rang quite true in that day's amateur fraternity --- even in that of to-day, the truth be known --- with admonishments directed toward anyone and everyone who might dare to violate established and proven DX norms, protocol, and “mores.”

Surely my all-time favorite entries of W9BRD in his “How's DX?” columns were the on-going adventures --- or, perhaps more fittingly, “MIS-adventures! --- of that whimsical character creation of his named “Grommethead Schultz.” Poor Grom simply could not win, try as he might, even with his absolute best efforts...many of which were, by the way, really quite original, inspired, and illuminating, if only fictional, as they sprang forth from Rod's ever-fertile imagination.

I can envision one “episode” of Schultz's in particular, that struck a responsive chord for both me and a good friend of mine at the time (now a SK, sadly) that left the two of us practically in stitches. Mac and I shared a deep, unbridled passion for ever-more exotic antenna designs and construction --- object: DX'ing (what else mattered, right...).... and the more esoteric the design, why, the better! Well, W9BRD had Grommethead Schultz come up with some sort of unique antenna creation fringing (apparently) on the borders of “The Twilight Zone,” which he erected briefly, used for a short while, then quietly abandoned, dismantled, and quickly forgot about...

A short while later, the cards and letters started to pour in, all with comments like, “...You were so very strong that you interfered with our local Mongolian rag chew net...!” and, “Yours was the only American signal coming through --- yet you were still 5x9-plus...!” Or, at least, it went along something like that --- but I'm sure you get the picture. Mac and I could hardly stop laughing each and every time that we discussed that one, and pictured poor Schultz in our mind's eye at how he became just absolutely beside himself in frustrated, futile efforts to try and recall details of that obviously successful “super aerial.”

And then there was the time Grom came up with the ultimate “stealth” antenna that was completely unobtrusive to the neighbors living about him: a vertical element that would shoot up through a hole in his attic roof, its swift rises and decays all very masterfully keeping in sync right down to every dot and dash of the character formations in his CW sending! This engineering marvel was the result of Schultz's masterful application of silent-running, highly efficient counter-rotational synchro motors(!) in his cellar shack, that were affixed to the base of the collapsible vertical. Not only did this engineering marvel garner him scads of new DX, it also managed to skewer more than a fair share of flying overhead formations of ducks --- Grommethead's log book was chockfull of choice DX pickings, alright...but so, too, was his oven regularly stocked with a fresh roast duck for his dinner...!

But there were more --- plenty more --- tales like that in those older, small-format issues of QST. Even today they are well worth a read. Yes, the topical DX tips, as such, in Rod's column are long since out of date(!) now, but the stories that he would lead them off with are timeless, and priceless, both.

Next time you happen to be at a Hamfest, and might have the good fortune of stumbling upon a cache of QSTs from that era, do take pause for a moment and look at some of the “How's DX?” entries of W9BRD. I'm sure you will re-kindle a long-dormant affection and appreciation for Rod Newkirk, at the very least, and --- if you were too young to savor his writing first-hand --- you're sure to discover a fellow amateur, now gone from our presence, who is still capable of reaching out and very effectively tickle your funny bone...and all this from a time of at least four decades ago...

In any event, you will not be sorry, I am sure...!

Edward P. Swynar (VE3CUI)

3773 Concession Road 3,
R.R. #8,
Newcastle, Ontario L1B 1L9,

Phone: (905) 987-3603

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Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by K5UJ on August 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Rod wrote "How's DX?" during the golden era of DX which ran from WW2 up to the time of the Internet, spotting networks and websites and packet, CW skimmers, and world wide communications for everyone.

In those days, his column actually had DX news that was a must read. The bands were a nightly low noise level adventure of discovery -- weak chirpy CW from exotic tropical locations, maybe a pirate or two, real QSLs and IRCs, and hams like Don Wallace and Doc Stuart with their rhombic farms. You had to tune and tune and hope to hear something, and in the U.S. an Extra class ticket was a must to be able to get the choice DX that always seemed to be just a few kc into the bottom of the CW bands.

Get an old QST today and read "How's DX?" to get an idea of what DX chasing used to be.
RE: Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by W8QZ on August 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Wasn't 'Stu Pidlid', with his 18-cylinder Lotus automobile, etc. also one of the characters in that column?
Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by WB8VLC on August 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Rod also had his serious side especially about low cost gain antennas especially suited for novice ops and such.

I remember his BRD ZAPPER antenna AKA a w8jk wire beam antenna project.
RE: Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by N2EY on August 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
When W9BRD wrote "How's DX", it was a philosophical commentary on Amateur Radio and life in general, disguised as a DX column. You could have no interest in DX at all, yet his musings were worth reading.

Grommethead Schultz is the reason I love anchovy pizzas. I tried one, years ago, and was hooked.

The DXHPDS was using verbal puns (Lotta Chassis, Noah Q. Essels, Harry Uppensign) long before the Car Talk guys. The Jeeves cartoons ("Prop motor? I said prop PITCH motor!) were inspired.

There's a classic piece about the miniaturization of ham gear, with Madame Mu (the shack cat - a Siamese, of course) being disgruntled by the small size of a borrowed transceiver. January 1964 - the "compact transceiver" would be considered a "boatanchor" today.

But there's more.....

The first article W9BRD had published in QST (not a letter but an article) appeared in the January 1946 article. "Christmas 1944" - it's a true classic, and a true story.

IMHO, the ARRL should publish a collection of W9BRD's writings, complete with W1CJD cartoons.

73 de Jim, N2EY
Jim N2EY  
by VE3CUI on August 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Jim,

The league did have a book out some 20+ years ago simply called, I believe, "Gil" --- a collection of memorable Gil cartoons that graced the pages of "QST" over the years...

I recall I bought a copy on the occasion of what was my 2nd visit to Newington HQ --- I still have it to this day in my radio shack's library.

~73~ de Eddy VE3CUI - VE3XZ
Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by K4DPK on August 29, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
You, sir, are as good a writer as the one you describe. You should produce more such well-written articles.
Phil C. Sr.
k4dpk 1955
Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by W6HTC on August 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I believe the book of cartoons , "Gil", is still available at ARRL. I bought a copy a few years back. As a new novice, 13 years old, back in 1963, I remember well those wonderful images!!

Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by K4JRB on August 31, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I read the DX column in QST first each month. Rod even listed my DX posts at times. He got me into subscribing to the Don Chesser W4KVX DX Magazine.

This was a great time for Dxing with long path 20 open most morning.

RIP Rod es 73 Dave K4JRB then K5MDX
Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by NI0C on August 31, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Ed, thanks for this article! My buddies and I used to send in QSN reports for Rod's "How's DX" column. That was what we had in terms of DX spots during the early 1960's.

Rod was a great CW op, and I recall that he qualified at 60 wpm during at least one of the Connecticut Wireless Association's semi-annual High Speed Code Tests broadcast by W1NJM.

Prior to his passing, Rod wrote some articles for the K9YA Telegraph and Rod's daughter wrote some articles about him after he passed away.
Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by KH6VP on September 4, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I have all the QST's from 1941 to 1985 and Rod's DX articles are a must read.

What happened to such writers today? It's not that there isn't DX news [heck, you can find everything on the internet if you look hard enough], but looking into the people's backgrounds, commenting about their equipment, locations and writing anecdotes about them was what Rod did very well. It was a real pleasure reading his column.

QST editors should try doing this today. But I don't think they can. Like most of us, they just report DX headlines which they find on the internet. Duhhhhh.

But think about this: last weekend was a contest and I was in Central Europe. It was exciting to check the action (I was not in the contest). I did manage to get some 2m DXing (more than 400 miles distant which was exciting!) You can listen to people's MO. Also exciting. Different nationalities, different MO's. Rod would have explained it. Language issues, another operating type. Clubs participating that, when you look at their website, you find out that many kids are involved in such clubs, making anything from radios to robots. That's the background they could write in QST. But, there is no Rod. And thus non real DX articles anymore.
Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by K0RS on September 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
“DX Hoggery & Poetry Depreciation Society”...the meetings of which were held in Long Hall. Hilarious.

Rob and Cass (WA6AUD) were two irreplaceable personalities that gave us a lot of laughs.
RE: Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by K0RS on September 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Excuse me, "Rod."
RE: Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by W3WN on September 12, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It can be very hard to write the type of easy-going humor that Rod had in his column.

I tried, for a few years, to do (WITH his permission, by the way) a variation of the DXH&PDS items -- we billed it as the local chapter, which met at Paul Long Hall (named after a famous local broadcaster, in addition to remembering the 'HQ' location).

My hat is off to those who can do it, and make it look easy. I did OK, but man, that was hard!
Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by W8WOJ on September 13, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, I will never forget the beautiful way that Rod and even Hugh Cassidy described the workings of the DX world back when Charlie Mellon W1FH and Don Wallace W6AM were at the top of the standings. Rod and Hugh were ones of a kind and I miss both. W8WOJ
RE: Affectionately Remembering Rod Newkirk, W9BRD  
by K3NRX on September 18, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
to K5UJ....AMEN!


RE: Jim N2EY  
by N2EY on September 21, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
VE3CUI writes: "The league did have a book out some 20+ years ago simply called, I believe, "Gil" --- a collection of memorable Gil cartoons that graced the pages of "QST" over the years..."

Hello Eddy,

I have that book too. It's good, but it's only a small sampling of W1CJD's work.

W9BRD's actual writing in the DX column was only about a page per issue when you remove all the "calls heard" listings and pictures. He was DX editor for about 30 years (1948-78) so it would be about a 360 page book.

I'd buy one!

73 de Jim, N2EY
Jim (N2EY)  
by VE3CUI on September 22, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I think that I'd buy that book, too, Jim…!

And I'm sure that there'd be a LOT of guys from our demographic group who would do the same, as well...
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