When I first began short wave listening, in the early 1960s, my first real experience was HCJB in Quito, Ecuador. Almost at once I began chasing QSL cards and, of course, heard the Voice of America in the process. But VOA was no big deal. At that time I also built my first kit, a Knightkit Star Roamer. On graduating from high school in 1968 and entering the U.S. Air Force I did some SWL at times from my barracks at tech school and a few times when I was based in England, but serious SWL waited until the late 1970′s when I was able to buy first a Drake SSR-1 followed by a Collins R-388 (see the photo below) and really spend some time chasing shortwave broadcast stations.
At that time I joined the North American Short Wave Association and eventually earned their DX award for confirmation of reception (via QSL cards) from 50 countries. They also offered an all Voice of America DXer’s award. I’m proud to say that I earned certificate number 20. To earn the award you needed to hear and obtain confirmation of reception from all 14 VOA transmitter stations. Those stations were in: Bethany, OH; Delano and Dixon, CA; Greenville, NC; Bangkok; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Kavala and Rhodes, Greece; Monrovia, Liberia; Munich; Poro and Tinang, Phillipines; Wooferton, England; and Tangier, Morocco.
I still have all the QSL cards (see some below) and the document that identifies the relay stations and the number of transmitters, power levels, etc. That must have been the high point for VOA shortwave broadcasting. Now I believe they are down to just a few transmitter locations and mostly send their transmissions via the Internet, satellite television, and local overseas FM stations. In fact, I still monitor their Facebook page for international news!
I came full circle here recently as I matched up my new found stamp collecting hobby to the 5 cent stamp honoring the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Voice of America in 1967. I decided to purchase, via eBay, seven first day covers for this stamp. They are all included in the gallery below. Also included is my certificate for All VOA DXer. I also found my certificate from 1964 when, at age 14, I joined the Popular Electronics Short-Wave Monitor program and was issued the call sign WPE0EDP. Those were the glory days for shortwave listening — 1960s to the 1980s — in the height of the Cold War when every country needed to get its message out and shortwave broadcasting was the only real way to accomplish that goal.
In the mid-1980′s I let my SWL hobby slip and entered amateur radio RTTY (radio-teletype) communication with serious digital and analog receiving and transmitting systems along with a major mechanical contraption that was the Teletype Model 19. Still it’s been fun to find all the old SWL QSL cards and the Voice of America stamps and first day covers. I hope you enjoy them, too.