Tribute to Robert V. McGraw
July 12, 1920 - 2002

The photos are Bob's W2LYH state of the art homebrew station

When my Dad passed away in 2002, as painful as it was to deal with his ham shack and radio parts, (the attic and garage were full) I looked at the last entries in his log book and saw that he was in his shack as recently as two weeks before, despite a long illness. Radio was his first love, and dare I say, his last! He became interested in telegraphy and radio as a child through his own father, who was a telegrapher for the Long Island (N.Y.) Railroad. He built his first crystal radio on a breadboard and was hooked, often falling asleep on a school night with earphones on, unbeknownst to his parents. They did find out about the holes he drilled in the wall though, to set up an antenna, and were less than thrilled.

He reached the highest heights in receiving and sending in Morse code and had many awards for best WPM from the ARRL contests and maybe from others. (I wish my knowledge was not so spotty). One of his friends, who helped with disposition of his radio equipment told me that he was very near the top, if not the top, of all telegraphers in the U.S. at the time. He never used voice, only a bug or, for certain contests or occasions, a straight key. Only in later years did he sometimes use voice with a mobile device that he would take on trips.

His entire career was spent in radio, first at RCA (later RCA Corporation) in Riverhead, N.Y., and then at ITT in Southampton N.Y. in their marine communications division. I remember as a child going with him to the station in Riverhead and seeing the floor to ceiling banks of receivers and the huge antennas strung out on telephone poles over miles. RCA owned some 20,000 acres of flat, eastern Long Island land perfectly suited for their radio operations. Technicians would tune these receivers to get signals from all over the world and then relay messages via teletype to headquarters in New York City. I wish I knew some technical stuff, but all I ever knew was a few basic points about what were both Dad’s work and his hobby. In addition to the many technicians and engineers, they had teams of riggers to maintain and construct all the antennas. At Rocky Point, about thirty miles to the west, RCA had its transmitting station, with another whole set of huge antennas and banks of transmitters. Bear with me if you are already familiar with some of this history. In the early seventies, on its last legs, RCA folded its radio operations in Riverhead and consolidated everything at Rocky Point. Dad hung on there until it too folded a few years later and then he spent his last years with ITT until it folded in the early eighties. It’s all gone now, and its history is erased and forgotten. But it was a huge thing at the time, and they had a good run while it lasted!

I singled out some pictures and info that I thought might interest you. Note the QSL card showing his home brew ham shack. In his retirement, Dad and some of his ham friends took pride and enjoyment at having helped to bring the original Marconi radio shack to Rocky Point. W2ER was one of his long time coworkers at Riverhead.

Tribute, QSL Card, & Photos courtesy of his daughter Joni

 


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