L Holman, Jr.
ONE BETH CIRCLE KNICKERBOCKER
MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA 19355
Oct. 20, 1986
- W. K. Dunbar, President Morse Telegraph Club, Inc.
- 1301 Maplewood Drive
- Normal, Ill. 61761
You had asked me to furnish a brief biography for your use in
submitting my name for confirmation as director. It follows - I've tried to be
(uncharacteristically) brief with the thought that fat is always easier to add
I was born Dec, 8, 1926 in Wilmerding, Pa. which is a small mill town
just east of Pittsburgh and home of Westinghouse Airbrake. It was in New York
City during the mid-thirties that my interest in telegraphy and radio formed.
This was mainly due to the influence of my father and his close friends. Pop
had worked, some years earlier, as an agent operator for the Arizona Eastern,
near Safford, Arizona, and later for the Western Union in New York. His friends
were still active in the trade, at that time.
We moved to Philadelphia in the late 30's. It was there that I
received my class B ham ticket, W31NV in January of 1940. Two years later, I
graduated from high school. Prior to graduation I had sized up the job market
open to too-big-for-their-britches kids. After being told by Western Union ( or
was it Postal- they were still in business then) that they couldn't use me
because (a) I was only sixteen end (b) I didn't own a bicycle, the Long Lines
Department of A T & T hired me as an Equipment Attendant at the princely
sum of $18.00 a week,
Long Lines was glad to get me, I suppose, because I knew a little of
telegraphy and radio, having had my ham ticket for two years then. Not being of
draft age for another two years didn't hurt, This was in February of 1942 and
we had just gotten into WW II. It wasn't tough to find a job in those days if
you wanted one.
Morse was used extensively in this era for circuit maintenance and
internal administrative purposes. All of us new hires in the Plant Department
were required to take instruction in Morse. This occupied an hour of each
working day, regardless of your shift. Even on 3rd trick (our "A" tour -
midnight to 8 AM), we were obliged to copy the practice wire under the scrutiny
of the night supervisor.
My attainments as a telegrapher were pedestrian and unremarkable. A
trouble report, a clearance, a test or put up a patch as the occ-asion arose.
My principle responsibilities were in the maintenance of the equipment. As the
telephone network grew and more voice circuits became available for use in
order-wire service, the need for Morse declined and, by the mid-fifties had
faded away altogether. Even among our leased-wire customers, only a small
handful still used Morse. All this was at the Bourse Building in Philadelphia,
a pebble-toss from Independence Hall. Sandwiched in all this was service in the
Army from Dec. 1943 to May 1946 about evenly divided between the states and
European Theater. Again, nothing noteworthy.
It was obvious, though, after the war, that things were changing
rapidly. Much of the old equipment had been scrapped, particu1arly the older
te1egraph apparatus. It was then that I started seriously trying to collect and
preserve what of it I could, instead of merely "acquiring" it for my own use.
That which we had taken for granted for so long was fast disappearing. In those
days, though, folks would give you equipment, if they thought you were
interested in it.
In 1956, several of us were sent to Wayne, Pa. , a suburb of Phila.,
to work on the installation and cut-over of the brand-new 4A toll switcher (now
junked). From there, after a brief stint at Pittsburgh's "J" office, I went
into the Wayne Division's 0ntside Plant Engineering group as a Technical
Assistant. Following that, I went into the Wayne District as Staff Assistant,
Outside Plant and, later on Private Line Services. This would have been in the
early l960's. After spending a year in virtual exile to the 'woods' - phasing
out jobs - I was able to take an early retirement at age 56 with 40 years of
Many years ago - perhaps in 1954 - a dear friend enlisted me in the
old Morse Telegraph Club of America as it was called then. The demands of
changing jobs and raising a family broke this thread and I lost touch with the
Morse world. In the early 70's, however1 I was fortunate to be able to
re-establish contact, and have enjoyed it since. It was indeed a singular piece
of good luck to be able to associate with a number of other operators on a
leased Morse wire in the Philadelphia area for a period of some ten years. I'~
still fortunate enough to enjoy a short two-point circuit with my friend Frank
Since retirement, I've kept busy. Between Chapter affairs, trying to
bring some order and coherence to a modest collection of Morse apparatus and
paper and digging holes in my half acre mud puddle, there's little chance of
boredom setting in. My ham radio activities have always been on CW., low power
rag chewing for the most part. Although in recent years, on the air activity
has been limited. I seem to spend more time in the shop taking things apart and
putting them back together, trying to maintain at least a nodding acquaintance
with technology. Sure could use a little more steam in the boiler.
That's about it, Bill. Let me say simply that, regardless of how the
conformation process works out, I feel honored to have even been considered for
the office. For that, I thank you. Take care,