Former Gardner businessman Del Sawyer, left, call sign K0DDS, logs a contact he had just made as Gardner’s Gil Ludwig, WA0YCY, looks on inside the mobile operations trailer the Santa Fe Trail Amateur Radio Club owns. Submitted photo
Special to The Gardner News
An otherwise shuttered Ensor Park and Museum in south Olathe provided the setting Jan. 5 for a special event marking the 80th anniversary of the presentation of the prestigious William S. Paley Amateur Radio Award for 1940 to amateur radio operator Marshall Ensor (1899-1970).
Ensor was given the Paley Award on June 2, 1941, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, an occasion members of the Olathe-based Santa Fe Trail Amateur Radio Club fittingly remembered last week by taking to the airways for several hours using Ensor’s pre-World War II call sign, W9BSP, in an effort to contact as many amateur radio operators, or “hams,” as possible. By mid-afternoon, which is when the special event ended, club members had connected with 89 other “hams” in 25 other states, 87 by way of a 20-meter frequency and the remaining two by way of a 40-meter frequency.
The states where one or more stations were “worked,” as operators like to say, by club members were Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
The SFTARC operators included Marty Peters, KE0PEZ, who in the mid-1960s was a member of the Electronics Club at Olathe High School (now Olathe North High School) that had Ensor, a Manual Arts instructor, as its adviser. “To me it was really fun to talk about what Ensor did and to hear the keen interest in our special event and in Marshall Ensor (on the part) of most of the hams that I made contact with,” Peters said Sunday afternoon in an email when afforded the chance to discuss the experience.
What Ensor did was to voluntarily teach radio by radio from 1929 up to the start of World War II, a forward-thinking endeavor that ultimately gained him the Paley Award for 1940. The nightly winter lessons taught by Ensor or his younger sister Loretta, W9UA, when he wasn’t available to man the microphone, covered the fundamentals of radio and prepared an estimated 10,000 Americans for possible future military assignments or communications-related jobs in the private sector.
In a typical year, Ensor Park and Museum is open to visitors on weekends in May, June, September and October, but earlier this year the City of Olathe, which owns the facility, decided to close it “ for the spring tour season because of a concern for the safety of guests and tour guides,” quoting here from the May newsletter for the Santa Fe Trail Amateur Radio Club. A decision regarding the fall tour season has not been made.
For more information about the Santa Fe Trail Amateur Radio Club, visit www.sftarc.org.