Friday, July 18, 2008

Howard Hughes, Ham Radio Operator

I haven't blogged for about a week because 1) I took a needed break from writing after finishing my latest book, and 2) I went on a buying rampage at my local Barnes & Noble and have since been in a reading frenzy.

Last night, I started a new book by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele titled Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness. This is shaping up as the best biography of Hughes I have ever read, with some original insights into how his personality was shaped by his overprotective mother and the death of both parents before his eighteenth birthday. Like Elvis, you get the sense Hughes died the day his mother died; he was never the same afterwards.

But what I'm blogging about today is the information that Howard Hughes was a ham radio operator in his youth. I knew from other Hughes biographies that Hughes was interested in electricity and built radio sets as a youth in Houston, but Barlett and Steele provide more details in this description of him at age twelve:

Howard's room was on the second floor, facing north. There he assembled his shortwave radio equipment and, using his call number 5CY, spent hours flashing messages to amateur operators all over the country and to ships at sea. With fellow radio enthusiasts, he formed the Radio Relay League, a local organization of young amateurs like himself. Since Howard had the latest equipment, the boys usually met in his room.

Zowie! This was news to me. I did a Google search and managed to come up with just one link mentioning Hughes's ham radio exploits. That link confirms the 5CY call sign, which means it could be verified by checking call books of the 1918-19 era. (Unfortunately, I don't have access to any.)

Enough for now; I've got stuff to read. . . . . . . . .