Monday, June 27, 2011

JOHN LEARY HAMMARLUND RECEIVER

They've started announcing employment anniversaries at work, with little e-mail blurbs. Mine rolled by recently and my department head described me as "...an accomplished radio amateur...." High praise and while I wish those accomplishments included more QSOs, one takes what one can get.

In this case, it was a note from a co-worker" "You're a ham? Did you ever hear of John Leary? He worked for my Dad; we've had this heavy radio he gave us for years. Dad was the only one who listened to it and now it needs to go to someone who will use it." John Leary, W9WHM (SK) was the Andy Warhol of radio restorations -- no, more like the Mad Potter of Biloxi. Just as George Ohr managed astonishing technical feats in pottery, often in stunningly bright colors, W9WHM did with radios -- mostly, Hammarlund SP-600s. They're already very good tube-era receivers, but by the time he was done with them, they were outstanding, boasting stability as good as or better than solid-state, low noise, excellent selectivity and good sensitivity. They were quite often done up in unexpected colors -- electric blue, acid green, hot orange. This example (which may contain an ex-mouse) is quite sedate, in gray, black and a muted red. (More info here, in a big PDF). It almost violates my "No radios I can't lift unaided" rule, though.

An unexpected and delightful gift, accompanied by personal recollections: "He was a good guy. Kind of politically incorrect and he made terrible coffee, but a very good man." Not such a bad way to be remembered.

13 comments:

  1. WOW! F**K! Holy s**t!
    What a coup! A beautiful radio.
    Looks like you've finally got something to put in your, er, Bud cabinet.

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  2. I can't imagine turning down such an offer. Sometimes life works out in your favor!

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  3. Wow. That's just beautiful. Have you had it on yet?

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  4. That's really great. I've never owned an SP-600 but I did have an HQ-100 and HQ-110 when I was in high school.

    The only SP-600 I ever saw was in the radio shack of a C-124. The C-124 belonged to the 442 MAW (Reserve) at Richards-Gebaur AFB near KC. When the 442nd upgraded to C-130s, the avionics team pulled all the SP-600 before the 124s went off to the bone yard. The maintenance chief said they were too good to let the "bone-pickers" have them. They were sold at auction a few months later but the base airmen got first pick. I didn't know about them until after the auction and they were all gone. A missed opportunity that I still remember.

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  5. "Electric Radio" had a good article about him a while back. His receivers are technically excellent, but have limited resale value because of the bad-acid-trip way he used to paint them.
    Quite an interesting guy.

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  6. This one is really nice-looking, but will need careful disassembly and inspection; I caught a whiff of eau de dead mouse when carrying it down to the workshop.

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  7. W9WHM GrandaughterJune 30, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    Wow! What a trip down memory lane for me. I am John Leary's grandaughter. I lived with from age 7 unti adulthood. Some of my fondest memories are sitting with him in his work shop and testing tubes. Not to mention going to the "ham fest". W9WHM took so much pride in building his radios - he would be pleased to know people are still enjoying them.

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  8. How wonderful you found this blog posting! Yes, he and his radios are both fondly remembered; his name came up several times on the old mit.edu (orignally) "boatanchors" e-mail reflector, usually with the advice, "If you see one of his Hammarlunds, buy it --they're great!"

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  9. John was one of a kind, self made and brilliant. He was my best friend and mentor from when I first met him at age 14 until he died. I still miss him.

    Skip, W9YSX

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  10. Thanks for sharing that, Skip! I wish I had met him.

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  11. I knew John R. Leary (W9WHM) from about 1952 until I left Indiana in 1960. At that time, he had an HQ-129x and a Globe King transmitter, and spent his time hunting DX on 20 meter phone band. I also worked for him as an assistant mechanic at the Kimberly Chevrolet garage. He was a good friend and a great guy.
    Charlie Call W9ICL

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  12. Charlie, if you see this, email me if you would. I've wondered since 1960 what happened to you! My email is jfranke_326@comcast.net. Surely you remember me and my dad, W9YSQ.

    Manfred (Skip) Franke, W9YSX

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