Recollections of Dennis Widdows, W9VHN
Thanks for the E-mail alerting me to the site. I checked it out and it brought
back memories (although at my age, kinda fuzzy, Hi.) I wish I had spent more
time paying attention to the Lorain Electronics history. However, I knew most
of the people listed, and can provide some additional information.
I was with Lorain Electronics from 1962-79 - stationed in Chicago, In those days Chicago and Lake Michigan were pretty hectic regarding field service. I was responsible for ports from Grand Haven, Mich around the lake to Green Bay, WI, and down the river to Peoria, IL. Also had the VHF stations at Sturgeon Bay, WI,, Port Washington, WI, Benton Harbor, MI and WAD. As you might guess, I wasn't home a lot Hi.
You asked about the winter work schedule: I can only remember about 4 winters that weren't fairly full. Layup was in November and fitout was in April. We used the winter time to do installs & attend meetings and seminars around the country. April got very hectic with FCC inspections etc. I usually had about 95 boats to get ready on the Michigan and Wisconsin sides of the Lake. I put in a lot of overtime in April as you can imagine. My longest work day was 26 hours straight at the shipyard in Sturgeon Bay, WI. Needless to say I only did that once.
Wes Goodell was in charge of the shore stations and I didn't have a lot to do with them. However, I did service gear at WAD occasionally and stopped to visit when heading up the shore on a service call. There were 2 brothers (Vic and Elmer Ash) who operated the station and both were excellent techs, so I just helped occasionally. They both held 1st phone licenses and were hams. Elmer and Vic were up in years when I used to visit WAD. I pretty sure they are SK. They would have to be in their mid-90s' today. They were 3 or 4 years apart.
With respect to the ship radio installation shown at the top of the Lorain Electronics page: I looked at the enlargement you provided and did some further research, and I am confident that the ship is the SS George F. Baker with Capt. Homer R. Johnson pictured.
I remember that in the early 70's at WMI they installed a R.F. Comm SSB unit with a 1500w linear amp. They also put up a log periodic. This was to handle schedules from the supertankers in the middle east. We also oversaw the installation of SSB stations on new tankers at the shipyard in Cadiz, Spain. I didn't have enough pull to get sent over there although I would've liked to. Don't remember what freqs. they used, but I think they were in the 18-20 MHz region.
I received a reply from one of the guys I contacted and hopefully it will supplement or correct my memory about WMI. The facility at the end of Meister Rd. was decommissioned late 78 or early 79. CAI SSB equipment was installed at a location in S. Amherst, Ohio. An operator position was installed at 2307 Leavitt Rd. The VHF system was operated from there also. MF/HF operation was discontinued after a very short time. The sales & service dept. was disbanded in 1980. The VHF system was operated till 1984 when it was sold to WJG- Maritel. In 1985 the remaining contents of 2307 Leavitt Rd. were sold and Lorain closed it's doors. Maritel operated the VHF system till 1990 then shut it down for lack of business. WLC picked up a couple of the VHF stations and used them till it shut down in 1997. Some of the Techs went to work for ITT- Mackay in 1980 and in 1985 they formed their own company, Radio Link Communications. They are still in business in Elyria, Ohio. This info is thru the courtesy of Chuck Reynolds who now runs the Elyria business.
Also, despite what is shown on the AT&T maps none of the 3 LEC stations were ever became a part of the Bell System. We had a monthly company newsletter, and I'm sure that a station move or sell-off would've have been big news.
Incidentally, you had a query on power limitations. I think the AM shore stations were limited to 1KW. I know WAD had a beautiful Collins AM unit that was was 6 ft. high and 2 rack spaces wide and covered to the 8mhz channels. I don't remember what the pa tubes were but I think the modulators were pp 810s'. Great looking piece of gear - hopefully it's some old timer's 160 and 75 AM phone rig today. Shipboard VHF was 20W Min and 25W max. Not sure on the AM rigs but our LC15010A was 150W input. Also, on the rivers, the most common VHF was RCA. We sold a lot of RF Comm also. We installed a Collins MR201 or MR301 for a trial but it was expensive and unreliable. SSB radios were the RF Comm. and CAI. With reference to the Lorain shipboard VHF radios; you have the MC-261 correct, and in the picture of one being installed (on the Lorain Electronics Page) the technician is Chester Dobeck and the vessel is the Wm. G. Mather. The 261 consisted of GE Pre-Progress Line gear which included 2 receivers, a 50 Watt transmitter (set to 25W out) mounted in a 6 foot pole mount cabinet along with a relay panel and a vox panel. These were replaced by GE Progress Line gear in a 41 inch cabinet. The last one was the MM-14C. It consisted of GE Mastr-Pro components mounted on a hinged frame approx 41 inches tall. It consisted of 2 receivers, transmitter, selective calling unit and control chassis. It utilized a telephone type control unit w/bcd channel select for 14 channels. I had one here for years and finally sold it. Never thought to take a picture of the darn thing. We also installed RF-401 VHF secondary radios on most all the carriers. These were small 10 or 12 channel radios and were powered by the emergency AM radio batteries. All vessels were required to have battery operated AM radios also. I'm not sure anymore, but I think we used small Apelco Yacht type units (50W out) with a vertical antenna. I should remember this as I must've installed at least 50 of the things Hi. At GLA inspection time, we had to do a timed discharge test on the batteries for the FCC.
The shore VHF remote stations were equipped with GE Mastr-Pro components. They also used a programmable subscriber unit at each location. I don't remember the manufacturer, but I do remember running around reprogramming the darn things after lightning storms. I became a fan of GE gear as a result of working for Lorain, but as you can imagine, being in Motorola's backyard, I became known as the guy who worked on gear made by a light bulb company, Hi.
Dennis Widdows, W9VHN ---- Fall 2005
Unfortunately, Dennis became a silent key in August of 2006