Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


A quirky hobby intensifies...

Posted 3/31/15 (Tue)

I’ve been thinking about my dad lately because when I was a kid, he got me started on a hobby that has recently turned into an obsession.

My dad, who passed away in June 2012, loved boxing. We had a 1945 Sparton console radio with shortwave and every Friday night, he would tune into WJR, 760 AM in Detroit, and together we listened to the Friday night fights.

Separately, while driving out in the country, my dad would dial in 680 AM, CJOB in Winnipeg and listen to Allen Willoughby, a disc jockey who I remember had an incredible sense of humor.

Those two radio stations, both on the AM dial, got me interested in radio when I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old.

As I got older, my intrigue grew and in high school, I started playing around with copper wire and created a clandestine, single wire antenna so I could receive KOLY, 99.5 FM in Mobridge, S.D., which was out of normal radio range.

Oddly enough, that bare piece of copper wire hanging willy nilly on the wall, worked like some sort of magic wand and one day while I was tuning through the FM dial to get KOLY in Mobridge, picked up CKY-FM, 92.1 in Winnipeg.

I mentioned CJOB in Winnipeg earlier, but there is a huge difference in AM and FM frequency characteristics. AM waves can “bounce” into infinity, but FM travels in a straight line, and in North Dakota, that’s about 80 miles. Winnipeg is 410 miles from where I grew up.

Conducting eccentric experiments in high school science, I learned copper is one of the best conductors of electricity but I never thought, and to this day find it kind of peculiar that I could listen to an FM radio station from more than 400 miles away, a station that is now branded 92 CITI-FM.

Since that time in 1975, obtaining beyond-line-of-sight radio reception has been my hobby, turned obsession, turned hobby and now back to obsession.

In March 2006, Ilene and I moved into a new house in Carpio. In April 2006, my National Guard unit was mobilized and I was away from home 15 months. A lot of items that were moved, were stacked in the new garage and remained there until recently.

That included a 1979 MCS component system that I used often to tune through the dial and listen mostly to the Fargo FM stations in my hometown of Hazelton.

In the past couple of years or so, I became sick of the junk and started going through the garage. In so doing, I wanted music so pulled out the MCS  and locked on to KOWW, a low-power, commercial-free station in Burlington.

One day my nephew stopped on his way home from Regina and told me about a new station called CKSE, 106.1 in Estevan.

That gave me an idea; point an outdoor antenna made for FM toward Estevan to receive CKSE.

I did that and lost KOWW but what I gained was incredible to say the least; two stations in Estevan, two in Weyburn, two from Regina that are rebroadcast from a tower in Warmley, Saskatchewan and one that is actually coming from Regina, CFWF, 104.9 that is available occasionally, usually late at night.

Not stopping there, I got a second FM antenna, pointed it to the northeast toward Brandon, Manitoba and was able to hear all seven FM stations from Brandon.

At that point I sought out the most sensitive FM tuner and found a Kenwood KT-6040, on eBay, but it was in Austria.

I ordered it, hooked it up and Wow! I always knew the MCS was good, but this is far better. Brandon all the time, in addition to Bottineau, Belcourt, Yorkton and Bellgarde, Saskatchewan.

In high school it may have been a fluke that I received CITI-FM, but all these years later following 12 years of research and now knowing how FM radio waves behave, I can assure you, it’s no fluke.

It’s all easier said than done though as there are a number of challenges to consider like perfectly aligning the antenna, using quad-shield coax cable, putting rubber around any connector to not conduct electricity I don’t want, use of commercial grade signal amplifiers and living in a valley.

But in so doing, I have an FM  radio dial that has at least 38 stations, including two that are broadcast in French.

But there is more to do as I would like to receive some stations from Montana, including KGCX, 93.1  in Sidney to keep in tune of what’s going on in Montana.

I wish my dad could see how this quirky little hobby has progressed into serious FM DX. And by the way, it’s been nearly 50 years and I still listen to CJOB and WJR on occasion.