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Recollections of Jack Estes

I learned of your web site recently and found it very, very interesting and bringing back a lot of old, old memories from my time at WJG!

I was 17 when I passed my Second Class Radiotelephone license, and started to work (in August 1943) for Russell V. (Skipper) Warner (Warner & Tamble Radio Service, Inc) at WJG as a radio operator. Except for a year in the army, I continued to work for Skipper, who actually was a mentor to me, until 1960 when I left and went into the towboat and barge business on my own.

I was actually hired by Loyd J. Carlson who had conceived the idea of ship-to-shore radiotelephone on the rivers and convinced Skipper to fund the project. L J was the Chief Engineer and the technical brains while Skipper provided the funds and industry connections. Carlson left in 1945. Bill Dinniger succeeded him until 1947 when I was promoted to Chief Engineer and later became General Manager of Warner and Tamble's radio operations.

In the 1940s and early 50s WJG provided the communications link for about 50 towboats, most of them owned by the American Barge Line - WJG's prime customer. Opeating hours were from 6am to 8pm. The original frequency for WJG was 2738 KHz - Channel 4. However, this was soon changed as shown next when the FCC assigned 2738 for ship-to-ship communications. All of the frequencies were shared by all of the river stations.

2782.0 KHz Channel 5 (More heavily used by WJG) - 4162.5 KHz Channel 1 (More heavily used by WGK) - 6455.0 KHz Channel 2 - 8840.0 KHz Channel 6

There was also a frequency in the 11MHz band that was seldom used and the safety and calling channel, 2182 KHz, which was never used. All operation was amplititude modulation - A3 as the FCC called it.

The equipment used at the station when it was on the barge in the Memphis harbor was a Western Electric 24B. The boats also used 24Bs or 24Cs. When the station moved to the pecan grove location the transmitter was a 400 Watt Western Electric 14C and the receivers were WE 24C with composite individual RF Stages. The 14Bs and Cs used on the towboats had a built in pin-wheel-coded ringer. However, the WE equipment became obsolete and was replaced by RCA 8012s 8050s & 8060s which did not have ringers.

Here are some of the Thirty's, Forty's and Fifty's crew of WJG:

OPERATORS:: Jimmy DeHart - Warren McCoy - Evenlyn DeMarrero - Mary Ann Blackburn - Carl Savage - Harold Hopper - Jerry DeGregory

TECHNICIANS: L J Carlson (founder) - Bill Denniger - Clifford Cross - Frank Roach - Bob Thorn - George Meyer

This page would not be complete without the mention of one, Wesley "Pat" Patterson, now retired in Florida, who was a technician for RMCA out of Memphis and a very good friend for many years and very popular with all the river towboat crews and owners.

Skipper Warner sold the station around 1965 to Bill Miller, but this was after I had left.


WFN: In the early 1940s Warner and Tamble applied for licenses for stations at Louisville and Pittsburgh, and the subsequently FCC granted the licenses. However, W & T did nothing to put the stations on the air until the FCC pressured for action. Finally, in the late 1940s, W & T decided to move ahead with the Louisville station, and I installed equipment and put WFN on the air on the same frequencies as WJG Memphis. The station was located on the edge of the Ohio River at the foot of Preston Street. The first WFN operator was George Meyer who stayed with the station until about 1958 when he transferred to Memphis as a W & T service technician. Roy Harmon operated the station until it was sold to ACBL. The station hours were from 6am to 2pm.

WCM: About the same time that WFN was activated W & T surrendered the Pittsburgh license in favor of RMCA who put the station on the air in 1951.

WGK: Every morning I exchanged "Good Morining" greetings with George Armerski the morning operator at WGK. The main customer for WGK was the Mississippi Valley Barge Line, and the station was located at the river's edge in their terminal. The WGK engineer was Robert Ugel and the sales person was George Martin. Both of these are deceased.

KMP: This Cape Girardeau station was FCC authorized, but never put on the air. The licensees were Robert and Eddie Erlbacher who operated a shipyard and drydock and 3 or 4 towboats.

WPI: Prior to WJG, there was a CW marine station in Memphis, WPI, which was operated by, and served the boats of, the Inland Waterways Corporation, a federal entity.


To the best of my recollection and of the boats has four-letter callsigns in the early days and the first letter of the call was a W. Therefore, the KTRE callsign shown for the Jason on the Inland Rivers page puzzels me. Archivist Note: However, see Shipboard Gear where the leading photo of a 1940s towboats radio instillation shows a KPUM callsign.

G. H. Tamble of W & T didn't have much to do with WJG as he worked mostly on the towboat and barge part of the business. He also had interests in the aviation field.

Jack Estes - Spring 2006

Reconstruct the E-Mail address: jackaestes4 at aol dot com

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