Stray Signals

Longtime South Dakota amateur radio operator signs off – Brookings Register

RAPID CITY (AP) – Sapphire Lane lost its signature radio antenna and tower this month when the neighborhood’s amateur radio operator, Lewis Rohrer, signed off from his longtime hobby.

“It was the landmark of Sapphire Lane,” Rohrer said, chuckling as he recalled that when his neighbors had company, they gave directions “look for that big tower and we live near that.”

For Rohrer, selling his tower and antenna that stretched to 70 feet high, and selling some radio equipment, wraps up a lifelong passion. Radio put him in contact with people around the world. A radio operator from Selby bought Rohrer’s antenna and tower, dismantled them and removed them June 12.

“I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve done my thing,” Rohrer told the Rapid City Journal.

Rohrer was a longtime member, former president and former treasurer for the nonprofit W0BLK Black Hills Amateur Radio Club. Rohrer, known by his call sign K0LEW, was one of between 75 and 80 amateur radio operators in the Black Hills.

Rohrer grew up on a farm in North Dakota during the Depression and World War II. From childhood, Rohrer had a fascination with mechanical things, especially radio.

“My dad always subscribed to ‘Mechanix Illustrated’ and when he wasn’t reading it, I devoured it as a young lad and read articles about radio,” Rohrer said.

“About 1940 or 1941 there was an article about ordering a crystal radio kit. I scrounged what money I had and ordered that and built it. … I wound my own coil and used a (detector called) a cat whisker on a little round piece of galena crystal, and I really ate that up,” he chuckled. “We never did have electricity on the farm. The radio was strictly powered by the airwaves (radio signals).”

Rohrer fondly remembers listening to Bismarck’s KFYR radio station and, late at night, KOA out of Oklahoma City.

“They just boomed in our little farmhouse and it was late at night and I know I’d fall asleep with my earphones on, listening. That’s what really got me into it — building my own radio,” he said.

Rohrer and his family moved from the farm, and in the mid-1940s Rohrer had the opportunity to join the Bismarck amateur (ham) radio club.

“I tried to learn more about radio but I struggled with radio tube theory that you had to (know) to get licensed,” Rohrer said. “In the 1950s, I joined the Air Force and finally did more studying. I

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