Historical Data on Radiocommunications in Canada
Lawrence (Larry) Earnest Nelson
Radio Operator → Radio Inspector
Joined the Department of Transport (DOT) in 1939 - Retired from the Department of Communications (DOC) in 1971
Larry Nelson was a radio operator and later a radio inspector with the Department of Communications. Larry wrote this account for us in Kaleden, B.C. in 1990. where he retired to in 1971. Larry is included in the group photo of the Whitehorse Radio Range Staff 1943 on page 13.
My interest in things electrical started in 1929 with attendance at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art in Calgary, Alberta. The course in Practical Electrical Engineering was not completed for lack of finances and due to a nervous disorder.
In 1932 I saw my first Ham amateur radio station, operated by Bill Lawrie, VE4IN, in a grain elevator at Kirkcaldy, Alberta. He was very patient in teaching me the code and the rudiments of amateur radio. In those days the formalities of amateur exams and licences were treated very casually so I fired up my home-built station in the same year. We had no power at the farm so I managed to acquire a set of dry cell batteries from the rural telephone company. A hundred of these and a 201A got me a few contacts locally. My first distant station 'DX' was VE4HB at Ghost Pine Creek, on January 2, 1933. Unfortunately Ray is now a Silent Key.
In 1933 I had a visit from Bill Stunden, the radio inspector from Calgary and my operation was made legal with an Amateur Certificate and Licence VE4NN. My hamming continued spasmodically up to the present time with Packet, Teletype and all those goodies VE7CP.
In 1950 my wife Blanche got her Amateur Certificate and this made it possible to communicate home from the radio inspector's car when I was on the road in Manitoba. In 1972 my daughter Deanna got her licence and in 1984 my daughter Lorraine joined the Ham ranks.
In 1934 I took the commercial operating course at the Marconi School in Toronto. It was there that I met Bruce Marshall and thus began a very good relationship which lasted until his demise in Penticton in 1983. At exam time I decided to improve my employment chances by taking the 1st class exam instead of the 2nd class test. This proved to be a good move as I was taken on by the Ontario Forestry Branch right away.
From 1935 until 1937 I worked for Ontario Forestry Branch at its radio stations in Ontario at Hudson, Woman Lake, Goose Island and Red Lake. In Red Lake I met Blanche DesChenes and we were married in 1937.
In 1939 I joined the Department of Transport (D.O.T.), and we drove our 1937 Chev from Kenora, Ontario to my first posting at Coleman, Alberta. This was a small station near the Coleman emergency landing strip. Duties consisted of weather reports and communications for the very rare landings at the emergency strip of Trans Canada Airlines familiarization flights. On the trip to Coleman we visited Dusty Weaver at Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Dusty was a skilled operator in Morse and Landline codes. It was great to meet him after radio contacts in the Ontario Forestry.
In 1938 I managed to get a posting to Calgary and reported to the Civil Aviation Engineer at the new Calgary Airport. The airport was just being finished and had no buildings of any kind. Jeff Williamson, radio engineer, arrived in due course and we started work on the radio range. Eventually a building from the airport in north-east Calgary was moved onto the new airport. This single building housed our range office, the meteorological service and the TCA flight service, including its transmitting equipment. It goes without saying that the din and confusion was horrendous. After some time S. A. Shatford, the new officer in charge, arrived on the station and the new administration building was used.
In 1940 I won the competition for radio inspector in Winnipeg and embarked on the inspection career which included station inspections, examination, interference location and the very distasteful job of prosecuting unlicensed broadcast listeners. In 1942 our department suffered funding cuts and I was sent to the Winnipeg Range and then to the monitoring station. When our department would not release me for active service in the RCAF I transferred to the Radio Range Station in Whitehorse, Yukon. Russ Travers was the officer in charge there, and when he left in 1945 I took over his post. This was a very interesting and pleasant assignment.
At the end of the war I transferred back to my old job in Winnipeg and back to radio inspector duties including the miserable prosecutions. In 1953 I was made inspector in charge of Regina and shortly thereafter broadcasting licences were dropped - what a relief.
In 1956 I returned to Winnipeg. One year later I moved to Ottawa to work with Frank Foster in broadcast licence processing. This was very interesting work but I found the working conditions in headquarters very difficult and demanding.
In 1961 I finally reached my long term goal of being appointed Regional Superintendent of Radio Regulations in Edmonton. This was certainly the highlight of my career and I enjoyed being in the swim of things at a time when many changes came about.
We left D.O.T. and became part of the new Department of Communications. We opened a second monitoring station at Fort Smith, NWT and started a new radio inspection office at Whitehorse, Yukon. This made our empire rather impressive with four inspection offices and two monitoring stations and a staff of more than 50.
In 1971 a reorganization of radio regulations resulted in the closing of the Edmonton regional office. At this point I elected to take early retirement rather than submit to a move to Winnipeg so close to the end of my career.
In late 1971 we sold our house in Edmonton and moved to Kaleden, B.C. where we owned a piece of property.
After two years of house building we enjoyed a happy retirement.
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