On taking over my dad’s collection of stuff

On the 31 May 1964, in the upstairs of a small home he rented with my mum, my father tuned his radio to 6155 khz. Between 18.30 and 18.45 GMT he could hear the radio programming broadcasted by Österreichischer Rundfunk. He subsequently sent a transmission reception report to Austria and received this card in return:IMG_20150914_192126

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This QSL card is one of hundreds my father has collected as a radio hobbyist since the 1950s. I am currently going through them all and find them a delight. They come from all corners of the world and offer a glimpse of the golden age of international radio broadcasting, in which Voice of America and Radio Moscow battled the airwaves and even tiny rocks like St. Helena pumped out broadcasts for all the world to hear. There is something wonderful about picking up distant broadcasts on the radio, which were a kind of SETI-lite for the pre-internet world. My own memory of 9/11 is of hearing faint reports on the BBC World Service in a dingy hotel room in Van, Turkey, a wire aerial strung across the window. Radio is elemental and often all the better for not being in HD.

The cards also help me imagine my parents in their home in Worcester, newly married and with one child, my mother probably ironing as my dad twiddled knobs, his radio delivering the <crackle> news <fizz> from Vienna.

Mum and dad's old house

Mum and dad’s old house

It would have sounded something like this:

I also have his stamp collection and have begun slowly sorting and arranging them, ‘cos that’s what I do. Staying with the Austrian theme, these are all the stamps I sent home from my mission from 1995-1997:

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There are much older stamps too, including some from the Habsburg period. After Austria it’s Algeria (the alphabetisation isn’t perfect) and then, in months, perhaps years, I will get to Zimbabwe.

I love this. My approach to “stuff” is generally close to Marie Kondo‘s but here is something that really does “spark joy.” We are told not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but these things are surely an exception.

Next: my mother’s record collection.

Comments

  1. There is something magical about stamps– the travel, the places, the art, even the cancelations. I’m so glad you shared this.

  2. These are relics in the finest sense of the word. Thanks for sharing these. We don’t do books of remembrance any more in our church but maybe we should.

  3. This pleasant post made me think of my own enjoyable (brief) time collecting coins as a boy. Thanks.

    And this line was a an unexpected delight: “We are told not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but these things are surely an exception.”

  4. The lake scene at 9 o’clock on the card is of the Traunsee, which has been a home-from-home for me since 1997. Obviously, my dad could not have imagined that when he received it in 1964.

  5. Delightful. I really enjoyed this and share your love for stuff like this. The mundane material niceties of someone’s lost golden age are irresistible.

  6. Also, there’s something really magical — and truly lost — about Europe in the 1960s. A much more rugged, particularized experience for the traveler.

  7. Yeah. When you heard Radio Austria over short wave in 1964, you were listening to a broadcast from the very edge of the free world.

  8. Ah, I still remember the power I felt receiving the faint BBC World Service on my shortwave in those years just before the internet burst the world open, and the BBC is just another channel on American cable. Thanks for this.