THE HISTORY OF CALL SIGNS IN THE 5TH RADIO DISTRICT, CONTINUED 1938-1945


Today the 5th region ranks in about the middle, by ham population. This was not always true.

Compared to the other 8 districts in 1938, the 5th was at or below average or below in amateur population. The first district in New England had reached W1KZF, while the most recent calls issued by then in the others were W2KZO, W3HGV, W4FDD, W6PON, W7GRG, and W8ROV. The 9th district had already run out of calls, with W9ZZZ issued to Joyce G. Wright of Topeka, Kansas, one of the few female's engaged in amateur radio back in that time period.

K6 calls at that time were assigned to Hawaii, and K7 calls to Alaska. Most Alaska calls in 1938 were in the K7A-- through K7G-- group, with no two letter calls out except for some former W7 holders who converted to K7 when the FCC ordered them to. Instructive was a note at the bottom of the page of the RAC, "US Amateurs are requested not to write the FCC regarding unassigned calls."

In 1938, the 8th district included most of New York and Pennsylvania, territory that was subsequently moved into the 2nd and 3rd districts at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1946. Once again, it is assumed that many amateurs received counterpart calls when the shift occurred, and the call sign change would have been manditory unless the amateur engaged in some sort of address manipulations. One could always receive their mail at the address of a relative or friend in another state.

It is hard to say how many W calls had already been reissued by 1938, with so many new "virgin" calls available in most districts. There had to have been quite a few, as it was apparent that the FCC had intended to stay within the W allocations as long as possible. It did become quite common for the Commission staff to make "runs" through the alphabet at some point. It is suspected to have already been underway in the 9th district as early as the late 1930's. Later on, when "N" was added as a second letter for new novices, it became easier to spot these recycled calls. The "WN" assignments were peppered throughout the alphabet. In the 5th call district, systemmatic recycling of W calls took place at least twice, first in the early 1950's prior to the opening up of the K pool, and again in the late 1950's prior to the opening up of the "WA" group of calls.

The spring 1940 RAC is also available in scanned form on the internet. This provides a fairly accurate representation of what the amateur radio call sign program was like prior to the world war II shutdown of the service. By then the last new call issued was W5ISW, to J.J. Miller of Hobbs, New Mexico. W6SLX was the newest California call sign issued at that time, indicating that it would not be too much longer before the Golden State would run the tables on call signs, as the 9th already had done.

Even some pre-War hams were youngsters, such as Paul Elliott, also of Hobbs, New Mexico, who obtained the call sign W5GGV in 1937 at the age of 14. He graduated from the US Naval Academy and served during the War. As of 2017 he is 95 years young. But, as was typical of many, he gave up his original call sign to get another one later in life (W5DM). Had he not changed call signs, he likely would hold the record today of having continuously held the longest original W5 call sign.

HAMS RETURN FROM WORLD WAR II

As servicemen returned from war in 1946, many prior hams put new stations back together and returned to the air. A number of new licensee's got into the hobby during a period of relative prosperity in the late 40's and early 50's. Commercial television, the development of which had been constrained by the war, took off. Commercial radio, which had enjoyed a monopoly in the pre-war period, had to share the big city audience. By the mid 50's, commercial television began to make intrusions into middle sized metropolitan markets, and with outdoor antenna installations, most could receive at least one station off the air by 1954. In the big cities, there might be two or three channels to choose from. Antenna experimentation for TV brought many into amateur radio, but a big bugaboo developed as well, TVI, or television interferenc from amateur transmissions. This was especially bad in the fringe areas around a channel 2 station, such as in south and central Louisiana after WBRZ popped on the air in Baton Rouge.

After the end of hostilities, the FCC was aware of the need to open up additional call sign blocks, and most newly licensed hams started receiving K5 calls. As was the practice with other districts, certain "offshore" territories got calls from the nearest overwater district. Thus the Panama Canal Zone had "K5" calls while it still legally existed. Swan Island, which was a Voice of America propaganda station location, also had early K4 calls while engineers with ham licenses worked there tending the installation. Also off the southern coast were Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with K4 series calls.

K BLOCK CALLS BEGIN TO BE ISSUED

The first "K" calls in the district were assigned to Navy base stations in the late 1940's, and the 5th district was no different. K5FAA was also an early post-war grant to an individual with a Lakefront Airport address in New Orleans. K5NAA-K5NAR were out to military addresses, and K5NRA-K5NRZ to naval reserve related addresses. In somewhat of an oddity, K5USA went to one Albert Williams at the Barksdale Army field in Bossier City, and K5USN to William M. Wilcox of Austin, Texas. It is hard to know if these were actual military or MARS type installations needing a custodial licensee, or early forms of vanity call signs. The US series of calls at one time were not to be issued.

The creation of the novice license in 1951, as well as the relative prosperity in the post war period, brought a huge influx of newcomers into amateur radio. With this bulge, of course came a rapid depletion of the pool of available call signs. It did not take long for the FCC to rip through the K blocks in the 2nd and 6th districts. By 1958, virgin K2 and K6 calls were all gone. Elsewhere it took longer. The fifth district was in the middle, about average.


K call signs were needed first in other districts, most notably the 2nd, and the 6th. Most newly licensed hams finally started receiving K5 calls after 1954. Before doing so, the FCC went back through the W pool once again, opened up most of the Y and Z series, and recycled what it could of older dormant ones. Thus the last of the "virgin" W call assignments occurred in this cycle, just over 60 years ago.

As was the practice with other districts, certain "offshore" territories got calls from the nearest overwater district. Thus the Panama Canal Zone had "K5" calls while it still legally existed. Swan Island, which was a Voice of America propaganda station location, also had early K4 calls while engineers with ham licenses worked there tending the installation. Also off the southern coast were Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with K4 series calls.

MORE CLUB STATIONS

In the club station department, W5YU was shown in this RAC as licensed to the Tulane University. This apparently happened at some point after 1930, as this call was not listed in the 1930 Department of Commerce book of call signals. While there are many other schools having club licenses elsewhere in the alphabet, the two letter Y calls are perhaps the best recognized even today. In other districts, where the Y two letter calls were all taken, a third letter was added. For example, Washington University in St. Louis received W9YAB, and the University of South Dakota station was W9YAM. In 1946 Missouri and South Dakota became part of the tenth district though, and they were forced to change calls. It is pointed out though, because even though call sign issuance was not that far down the alphabet, some early 1x3 "Y" calls predated the rest of the "W5Y--" assignments by decades.

Clubs organized after World War II no longer necessrily received "Y block" call signs. A good example was the Southwestern Louisiana Institute at Lafayette, Louisiana (now known as the University of Louisiana). The original SLI club call was given up at some point when the club was inactive for a while, and now belongs to a private individual, obtained under the vanity program. There are doubtlessly other club calls that came and went over the decades.

In the 6th district, K6YAJ was the club station at Lahainaluna Tech High School in Hawaii and K6YAL McKinley High in Honolulu, at a time when Hawaii hams all had K6 calls. W6YAA-YAS had been assigned between 1928 and 1930, in addition to all of the other available two letter "Y" calls. Examples are W6YAC to Los Angeles High School, and W6YAR to the University of Nevada (Nevada was shifted to the 7th district in 1946).

Early Department of Commerce "call signal books" listed hams in a geographical cross reference, which makes it fairly easy to see who the earliest amateurs might have been in a given town. There were no zip codes or search engines back then, but having copies of the Unversity of California Library collection of these reference books scanned and on the internet today definitely improves the ability to search the early Commerce Department records.

Another interesting aspect of these early reports is that mobile and portable stations were listed separately, by type of vehicle. There were several aeronautical stations listed, many in trucks and cars, and even one in a railroad train licensed to one Larry Smith of Kentucky!
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