October 31, 2005


The NEWARK NEWS RADIO CLUB - the pioneer of radio clubs - was founded in Newark, New Jersey, in December 1927 to promote the hobby of long-distance radio listening, "DXing."

The club evolved from a column in the old NEWARK EVENING NEWS entitled ``Broadcasts Winnowed'' by Charlotte Geer. Irving Potts served as the club's president from 1928 until his death in 1962. During Potts' tenure, membership swelled to about 2,000 ``DXers'' worldwide.

``Radio enthusiasts liked the idea of swapping yarns,'' according to a 1947 article in the NNRC BULLETIN commemorating the club's 20th anniversary.

Sadly, the original NNRC disbanded in 1982. The newspaper folded in 1972 after a strike.

Decades after the founding of the original NNRC, opportunities abound for long-distance radio listening - via satellite, on the Internet and on shortwave and medium wave.

Amateur radio has also advanced from the day's of ``spark gap.''

Mrs. Geer would be amazed!

In an October 1977 article marking the club's 50th anniversary, newsletter editor Bob Colegrove sounded an optimistic note: ``Things aren't they way they were in 1927 ... And, no doubt, they will be very different in 2027. We think the future is promising.''
Do you remember the old club?

Former member Charles Wackerman writes:

I was a member of the board of directors of NNRC at the time it went under. In fact, Matt Zahner, the longtime editor of the BCB column in the NNRC monthly and I drove to that meeting together and neither of us had a clue that the club was about to fold. Matt was a close friend, my son's godfather, and a fascinating person to know. He had been ill and I had run his column for some months prior to the shutdown though he did the final column. I was also the head of the Courtesy Program committee contacting all manner of BCB stations in the US to arrange programs and then listening on Sunday night for those rare chances to hear a station not otherwise available. Matt taught me to listen for Trans Atlantic staitions (splits -- because they were on frequencies between US/Canadian stations and caused hetrodines "hets" which with careful tuning and the right radio could be eliminated and the stations heard -- my first was Italy on I think 845. I reciprocated by teaching Matt how to listen for Long Wave Broadcast stations.

Bob Colgrove was also a friend back then and I was the one who collected his technical columns and made reprints available. Carrol Wyrich (spelling may not be right) an old time SWL and the editor of a monthly column on the clubs history was also an occasional visitor to my shack.

When the club closed down Ruben Degold (sp?), Matt, and I weren't willing to give it up so we founded the Association of DX Reporters which solicited former NNRCers as members. I printed the first copy of their newsletter on a spirit duplicator owned by my church. After that experience we went to photocopy or offset printing and eventually Ruben took over the operation. I was in an accident at that point and spent nearly a year in hospital and when I came out I had sort of lost contact with the whole thing. Your blog brought back the memories and I went to my picture collection to have a look.

I think ADXR went the same route as NNRC some years later but it did continue many of the columns and policies and memories of NNRC for a bit longer.


One of the principal aims of the original NEWARK NEWS RADIO CLUB was ``to assist members in logging stations, which for one reason or another, were difficult to hear,'' according to a history of the club written by Carleton Lord in 1947.

That led to the birth of the ``Courtesy Program'' in which radio stations - both shortwave and medium wave - transmitted special programs for DXers at off-hours, typically before dawn when interference was low.

``A list of stations which have broadcast programs for the club would comprise a substantial cross section of transmitters in the United States and Canada,'' Lord wrote.

Overseas stations participated, too.

``Older members will not soon forget the first overseas special from Cologne, Germany, arranged by Louis Hahn in 1930, nor the broadcast from HHK, Port-au-price, Haiti, which drew over 500 reports,'' Lord wrote. ``In 1931, Station TJW, a little 5-watter at Hamilton, Bermuda, received 348 reports from an NNRC special.''

Irving R. Potts, an office clerk at Newark Fire Department headquarters, was the driving force of the original Newark News club.

He served as president from 1928 until his death in 1962.

He wrote the weekly DX column in the Newark Evening News.

He edited the club's newsletter.

He held the club together in good times and bad.

According to his obituary, which is posted on ON THE SHORTWAVES.com:

Mr. Potts first became interested in radio through articles he read in The Newark News in 1924. In those days only a few stations were on the air, and pioneer listeners vied with each other to pick up different signals.

Reports of unusual feats of reception appeared frequently in those days on the radio pages of The Newark News, and before long Mr. Potts and other enthusiasts banded together under the newspaper's auspices.

Within its first five years the club enrolled more than 1,200 members in every state and many foreign countries. The organization's emphasis shifted from standard broadcast to shortwave as radio equipment improved and the number and power of stations increased.

Over the years, Potts logged 1,000 stations ``on ordinary receivers,'' according to the newspaper.

His column - ``Doings of DXers'' - in the Evening News appeared each Wednesday from the club's early days. The column shifted to the newspaper's Sunday edition in 1947. Potts' final column was printed in the same edition of the newspaper as his obituary.

Hank Bennett was another influential member of the original club.

Bennett, shortwave editor for Popular Electronics magazine from 1955 to 1970, edited the shortwave column for the NNRC newsletter as well, and managed the WDX radio monitor registration program. The WDX program, which was independent of the club, succeeded the WPE program once sponsored by Popular Electronics.

Bennett's column from the NNRC Bulletin featured a comprehensive list of stations and frequencies.

His December 1970 column noted:

No word has been received from the clandestine station WBBH that has reportedly been using our post office box number for a return address. The station is still on the air ... Our offer of "No 3rd Party" given last month still holds.

That pirate station, the column said, operated on 7260 KHZ.

What about the flagship newspaper?

According to Nat Bodian on virtualnewarknj.com:

One of New Jersey's great institutions, The Newark News, founded in 1873 by Wallace Scudder, and operated by the Scudder family for most of its life, died on August 31, 1972.

It had been for most of the 20th century until its demise, the newspaper of record in New Jersey and a highly respected news medium that wielded considerable political power and ranked with the country's best newspapers.

To many, myself included, the Newark News was "The New York Times of New Jersey" and a publishing institution that dominated the State's publishing scene.

The beginning of the end came as the 98-year old paper was already falling into a sharp decline, circulation wise, for the first time in its history being surpassed in both daily and Sunday circulation by the Newark Star-Ledger
The 'clincher' was in February 1971 when the newsroom, which had never been (union) organized, voted to go out on strike. They walked out in May 1971.

It took until April 1972 for the strike to be settled, and for the News to resume publication.

But by then it was too late
The paper's owners, Media General, which had bought the paper two years earlier from the founding Scudder family, had already sold the Sunday News, along with its presses, to the Star-Ledger.

The sale to Media General in 1970 had been made by Edward M. Scudder and Richard Scudder as co-owners. Edward was president. Richard was publisher.

During the lengthy strike, many of the Newark News top staffers had found jobs or were lured to jobs elsewhere. Longtime News readers had gotten used to the Star-Ledger for their daily news needs, and many large advertisers had opted for keeping their ads with what seemed like a more reliable Star-Ledger, which by now had a huge daily circulation of over 400,000.

A competitor of the Newark Evening News - the Sunday Call - was also a radio pioneer, broadcasting the baseball World Series for the first time.

According to Nat Bodian:

In 1921, the first year of commercial radio broadcasting, The Sunday Call made radio history by broadcasting a World Series baseball game, the first such broadcast ever, from New York's Polo Grounds.

Here is how that first World Series radio broadcast was set up:

The Sunday Call sent a reporter to the Polo Grounds and there he put the ongoing game, play by play, on a telegraph line to the Sunday Call office.

There the plays were handed to the Sunday Call sports editor, Gus Falzer, who read them into a telephone line to the newly-established broadcasting station of the Westinghouse Company at the corner of Plane and Orange Streets. From there, the phone call was broadcast over the air. Station WJZ was America's second licensed broadcasting station.