Roscoe Walther’s familiar “CQ” coming from his ham radio station, W9FNE, has become a Midwest tradition since he started transmitting from here in the mid 1910's. Though amateur radio was new to the community at that time, it was already an old standby with Mr. Walther, who had been operating the station since 1907, five years before the Federal communications Commission required operators to be licensed.
Young Walther’s start in the radio field came in rural Missouri where he was born in 1888. He decided to find a fast way to talk to a hunting buddy who lived several miles away. He took his mother’s spinning wheel and wrapped wire from an old Telephone Coil. Ingenious as this first accomplishment in the radio business was, the maximum distance achieved with the homemade set was only a quarter mile.
A Crosley Arbophone was his first radio-a battery powered crystal set. The modern hydrofluoric acid etching process being unknown then, he made many crystals himself, both for himself and for sale. These were made of Brazilian quartz, which is almost as hard as diamond. Having to achieve the utmost precision with his painstaking home process, he could not make any money even at $5.00 each, a big sum then.
Of course it was not long until Roscoe’s Hobby turned into a full time business. He set up a radio sales and service shop, which he and his son, Hays, still operate. He has written books and catalogues on radio equipment as early as 1910, and around 1925 he manufactured a large number of radios, many of which are still in existence. They were named, the “Waltherola .”
Not only has the amateur radio station resulted in many warm, life long friendships, but it has been invaluable to the Government and community during emergencies. In the winter of 1949, Walther assisted in directing rescue efforts and establishing communication during a sleet and ice storm. For this he later received two Public Service Certificates from the American Relay League, Inc., for effecting communications in emergencies, for co-operating with the public and for noteworthy achievement in receiving and reporting.
To pass on his knowledge and interest in the radio field, Walther and an operator friend, Patsy Hardin of Beverly, Ill. Taught a class in Pike County last winter on the “Code and theory” of amateur Radio.
Although it is his major accomplishment, Radio is far from being the only one of Roscoe’s varied carriers. When he came to Barry in 1911, he became established as an automobile mechanic in the area.
Roscoe also played a major part in bringing the first airplane to Barry. He and another partner purchased a surplus Curtiss JN4D,”Jenny,” for $2000 at the end of WW1. The chief pilot of the concern was Lt. Gene Berglund, with whom Roscoe made many barnstorming trips.
Another first was a homemade motorized sleigh. Roscoe put a four-cylinder Hudson motor in a homemade frame on a sleigh and added a hand-tooled propeller. When he cruised down the snow-covered streets for the first time in his unique vehicle the citizens of Barry blinked their eyes more than once.
Recently he installed and retailed the first FM radio in the community and also the first TV set, in the summer the loud speaker attached to the Bendix radio set practically turned the shop into a community center each evening as St Louis Cardinals fans listened to the baseball games.
Article Courtesy of Roscoe's Grandson Joseph Walther