AM radio waves ...
I was helping a friend clean out her cellar recently when I came across an old vintage radio, circa 1950s, with all its tubes intact. She said I could have it. The reason I wanted it? To pull in distant AM radio stations late at night, when the waves can travel incredibly far distances. Old tube radios, when they heat up, have amazing AM reception abilities.
When I was around 10 or 11 years old and in bed for the night, I would turn to an old AM-only tube radio that used to be my grandmother's (just like the one pictured), and I would start at the low end of the dial and just turn the tuner carefully and slowly. In the quiet darkness, I would hear faint signals that would get stronger for several seconds – long enough to sometimes hear the call letters and location of the station. From the Boston area, I would routinely pull in stations from places like NYC (WABC) … Cincinnati (WLW, a forerunner to TV’s WKRP) … Detroit (WJR) … Chicago (WLS) … Montreal (CKAC) and Fort Wayne IN (WBCL). These were among my “regular” stations that I picked up without much problem.
On a real good night, I might hear stations as far south as Raleigh NC, Nashville and Memphis … maybe even Atlanta … as far west as Kansas City, Minneapolis, and even Omaha! But the most amazing pick up I had was on one cold winter night, when I heard a station giving the weather for Boise Idaho! It was only for about 10 seconds or so, but I heard “You’re listening to KTIK, Boise’s number 1 radio for news. The time is 9:45 ... and now a check on our weather.”
I remember thinking “Boise? Where’s that? It’s 11:45 here!” And it was a “K” station. Well west of the Mississippi -- over 2000 miles from Boston! The atmosphere must have been perfect for AM radio wave bouncing.
The funny thing is that my wife told me that she, too, used to do the exact same thing at about the same time, (of course, long before we met). She knew the same stations and then some! We often muse that we could have been listening to the same distant radio stations on the same nights way back then, unknowingly linked by AM radio waves in a way that only the angels in heaven could have known about :-)
So now I’m doing the same thing here in 2007 with this old tube radio, pulling in faraway stations and once again being transported by that strange sense of travel and connection that I loved so much as a kid. I still enjoy being airborne.