Family History, Musings, Poetry

Around the World in a Second

Well, more or less.

This is ZL2FA . . . ZL2FA on the air . . . โ€™ grandad would say.

Voices, foreign voices
rising and falling in pitch
Like a cow giving birth
Long silent pauses
Then the static so loud
Sometimes burying my curiosity.

The dial would be turned towards
the very centre of the pain, trawl
through it over and over and inside
there might be a man’s voice
clear as a bell from an undiscovered land.

Grandad was the man
who got to be the first to communicate
to another in a town around Southern Africa.

More chatter and static for hours on end.
Grandad and the man
would exchange first names
report on each other’s signal strength
and say something mundane
“what’s the weather like?”.

That seemed to be enough.

Many times passing his radio room
There was nothing much going on
It seemed Grandad was just being himself
Quiet with the receiver on and listening.

Within seconds more and more
unacknowledged signals circled the earth
until someone received them properly.

If hearing one of these signals,
all he had to do
was say the person’s call sign
and then say, ‘ZL2FA, receiving.’

That was enough.

Two articles from the GISBORNE HERALD, AUGUST 1947, include George Butler, the radio operator.

The photograph was taken on 23rd April 1969

As a child, observing Grandad establishing contact with other radio operators worldwide was magical. He had been an amateur radio operator since 1929 until he passed away in the mid-1980s. During our school holidays, listening to him on his radio was the most dialogue we kids would hear from him. It was so wonderful that he could talk to any other radio operators in any part of the world about very ordinary things. Within those seconds, it ignited my desire to know more about the broader world behind those static radios.

18 thoughts on “Around the World in a Second”

    1. Honestly, Rebecca, I have no idea, though; there wouldn’t have been too many people in the world doing it from their homes. My grandfather had a massive aerial in his backyard.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Nilla; I suppose it did, though he was never into travel and not sure many of that generation went far. He was gifted with radio operations and good at creating various radio components.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I wonder what your grandfather would have made of the modern world, now that it is so easy to make those connections with people on the opposite side of the globe? Would he have relished it, do you think, or would that very easiness make it less exciting and rewarding for him?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think he would’ve in some ways though I think the enjoyment came from creating the radio setup. My father was similar in that he was very good at thinking outside the square regarding machines etc. Dad embraced technology and taught himself how to use computers. So, I am sure that my grandfather would’ve been interested in knowing how the computer systems worked.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Communication has gone leaps and bounds since then; I wish we could pick the best from all generations and how perfect our communication skills would be then. No wars etc. A bit of a fantasy long shot.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much, Martha; it was enjoyable to remember and write up about something I took for granted, as it was a big deal being able to chat with people around the world by radio.

      Like

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