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Robert Baird (W9NN)
August 1, 2002
I first met Bob in 1962 when I volunteered to be chairman of W9DXCC. Bob, Mike Hexter, W9FKC (SK), and a few others, started this gathering in 1953, if my records and memory are correct. Bob and Mike, both being residents of Chicago suburbs, were of great help to a young fellow from Milwaukee, full of enthusiasm, but not very experienced.
While I saw him annually at the W9DXCC dinner, we did not really cross paths again until the late 70s. In the meantime, I was transferred to Clearwater, FL.
He retired from his post of Engineering Supervisor at WGN, Chicago, in 1971. At some point, he began spending winters in the Sarasota, FL area. I lived about 40 miles to the north, in Clearwater. I noted from the FOC News Sheet that he was in Sarasota, so eventually contacted him via the 2 M repeater and we set up a schedule to work on 40M.
The late Buck Lewis, W4BV, set up a mini lunch in St Petersburg, FL, circa 1979 or 80. Bob attended one of those and we were able to meet again face to face and tell stories about some of our mutual friends in the Milwaukee-Chicago area.
In later years, Bob began spending his winters at a condo on Cocoa Beach, near W4QM and W4MJ. Dale helped him erect and dismantle an R5 on top of the condo, from where he kept in contact with club members and his regular skeds with K4FW.
He was a regular at the early Florida FOC Dinners at the "famous" Wilson World. I can still see him standing behind the bar, cigar in mouth, instructing Chas, VA3CH, on the finer points of making martinis.
Bob's Wisconsin home was about 2 hours away from my birthplace in west central Wisconsin. Shirley and I were able to visit him 3 times during the past 7 years on our infrequent trips to that area. His home was located at Plover, WI, just south of Stevens Point. The house was right on the Wisconsin River. Fortunately, it was right between 2 power company dams, so seasonal flooding was only a minor problem. His house was only 10 feet or so above the level of the river.
While at his house on our visits, we played a lot of "remember when". His garage wall was lined with photographs taken of him and many entertainers from the days of radio who subsequently became very famous. I recall particularly a very young Bob Hope and Perry Como, who was a life long friend of Bob's. There were also tapes from some of the remote broadcast sites, including one of a bank robber being interviewed by a reporter via telephone to the station.
He also had pictures of early days radio equipment, especially that used for remote broadcasting. I remember a very big, black, shinny Buick that was outfitted with 2 way radio. Bob and other station dignitaries were in the picture, all dressed up as if going to a formal business meeting. I guess they did things that way back in the 30s.
I wish I could remember just a few of the many stories he told about the glory days of radio broadcasting and his early days in ham radio. The one I do remember was how he "borrowed" DC power from the next door church to run his spark transmitter. For whatever reasons, it did not occur to him that perhaps he should not transmit on Sunday mornings. He did and there was trouble next door with the organ and the lights. This event caused considerable embarassment to his parents and himself. I do not recall him saying much about punishment, but he paid closer attention to operating times after that.
Bob was born and raised in Dayton,Ohio. In 1927 he moved to Chicago to work for Crosley Radio. That job ended in 1935 and through a series of coincidences and his ham radio contacts, he soon found an engineering position at a prominent Chicago radio station. He worked for WGN 36 years.
We always enjoyed our visits to his house and also at the Florida dinners. Over the years, he sent me many pictures and written memorabilia from the 20s and 30s. There is a very fine article about him in the QCWA Journal, Fall 1997. K4EF wrote another article (date unknown) about Bob and his long time friend, Al, K4FW.
Of the several pictures I have, my favorite is one taken about the time of retirment. Bob is sitting at a huge console surrounded by monitors and a number of switchboards (computer control had not arrived). The caption on the picture says: "Bob Baird slept 7 hours a day in this chair with one hour off for lunch at the Sheraton Bar next door".
Bob's wife Lorraine died shortly after he retired. I never met her. They had no children.
Until the past 6 months or so, Bob appeared weekly on 7022 where N4OO, W4QM, W2MUM and others, meet almost every evening.
I will miss his stories and his wit. Rest In Peace, old friend.
Perhaps others will fill in some of the blank spots. I will be glad to share some of these pictures and articles with others.
Contributed by: Arlan Bowen (N4OO)
Sometime around January of this year, my friend Rob Peebles (W8LX) told me about a regular schedule he had with an old-time ham from Chicago. This turned out to be Bob (W9NN). He also told me Bob had worked many years at WGN. On a whim I asked Rob to mention my call sign. It orignally belonged to my father (also Dave - W9DPY, sk 1985), that he was licensed as a ham in 1927 and worked as Chief RF Engineer at WGN in the later 50's. Lo and behold, Rob called me about two weeks later and told me that Bob indeed remembered my dad, both professionally and as a ham friend. I had intended to contact Bob, but put it off due to all of the regular things that life brings on. I now regret this, knowing I missed a golden oportunity. These ham pioneers are quickly leaving us; we all need to preserve our heritage by recognizing what they have handed to us and trying to preserve it. 73's Bob and dad, may the QRM at your QTH be low!
Contributed by: David Chapman (W9DPY)
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