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By Bernie Ayr (a.k.a. Hal Fishface)


It was a typical day at the Ayr household. I waited anxiously for the postman to arrive, hoping to receive some long awaited QSLs in the mail. There were some QSls mixed in among the bills. Radio Sahara (Spanish Sahara) on the 22nd follow-up, WCSN (even though I hadn't ever written to them), and a thick envelope from Radio Moscow. Maybe I'll finally get a "Radio Moscow via Uzhgorod" card, I thought to myself. For years I had been one site short of the requirements for the BLANDX "Senior Master Ukrainian SSR DXpert" award.

Carefully I opened the envelope . . . Tula, Simferopol, Tula, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Tula, Armavir, Tula, Moscow, Tula, Habana, Tula, Kiev, Tula, Ivano-Frankovsk, Tula, and Moscow. "This is ridiculous!" I shouted.

I looked one of the 38 "Lenin Library" QSL cards. I had reported 9595 in Bengali to South Asia at 1330 UTC. My card said "via Kiev"!! I was hoping for maybe Irkutsk or Kyzyl. My 9665 at 1500 UTC Farsi reception report was verified as Tula; a week earlier DXer Dillon Hollister verified the same broadcast as Gur'yev! Other DXers had received a Chita QSL for the 1130 UTC Laotian broadcast on 11765. My card said "via Habana"! Why me?

I sat down at my desk and opened up my USSR binder. The list of BLANDX awards I still needed seemed insurmountable: "DXer de Kirgiza", "Moldavian DXpert", "Senior Autonomous Oblast DXer", Lithuanian 49 Meter Band DXer", "USSR Sites that begin with the letter 'K' DXer", and "All Turkmen QRP DXer". I had sent over 250 reports to Radio Moscow and still needed 16 transmitter sites. I was determined to add Dudinka and Kokchetav, no matter what the cost . . .

A week later I found myself applying for a job at Radio Moscow. In order to avoid detection, I had changed my name to Hal Fishface. I was interviewed by a Mr. Wurkov in Personnel.

"So, Mr. Fishface, what are your qualifications?"
"Well, I am fluent in all of the languages that Radio Moscow broadcasts in, with the exception of Khmer, Guarani, Mongolian, and Ukogbanian", I replied.
"Very impressive. Where did you learn so many languages?" asked Mr. Wurkov.
"Mostly from listening to HCJB", I responded.
"I see", said Mr. Wurkov, "but right now Radio Moscow only has an opening for the Guarani language mailbag program."
"That's all right", I responded, "I'm not interested in broadcasting. I would like to work in the mailroom."
"Why didn't you say so?" queried Mr. Wurkov, "Mrs. Stepanova keeps on bugging me for more people to open the mail."
"Mrs. Stepanova?", I asked, feigning ignorance.
"Yes, she's the head of our QSL department."

Later that afternoon, I got to meet the famous Mrs. Stepanova. She had a truly amazing memory. She could not recall receiving any reception reports from "Hal Fishface", but seemed to know the name of every other Canadian listener. I pretended not to know any of the DXers she asked me about, particularly Bernie Ayr. I had to laugh when she told me of a DXer who sent her 20 reception reports a month.

I was led into a huge room with close to 50 work stations. Each desk had a typewriter, stacks of unopened mail, and QSL card dispensers. Ray Framus would have been in heaven! Mrs. Stepanova introduced me to Ivan Sitov, the Assistant Deputy Chairman of the English Reception Report Committee. Ivan was going to "show me the ropes" until I got the hang of filling out the QSLs myself.

"Pleased to meet you, Comrade Fishface", said Ivan.
"Hello Comrade Sitov", I replied.
"Please, call me Ivan . . . let's get to work!"

I sat down next to Ivan at his desk. Ivan pulled out an envelope with Canadian stamps. The return address read Andre Carbonneau. Ivan opened the envelope and pulled out a Radio Moscow reception report form.

"Now the first thing we do is check program details . . . be careful of anyone who listened to 'DX Program' or 'Your Top Tune' . . . Mr. Carbonneau has correct details, so we check the frequencies next."
"Is that ususally a problem?" I asked.
"Occasionally people read our schedule and say they heard us on a frequency we don't use. Mrs. Stepanova likes to put a few phony frequencies on the schedule so we can spot the cheaters."
"Then what happens?"
"We usually don't respond to the report. However, Yuri likes to have fun and will send back a card with 'Radio Moscow via Bethany' " responded Ivan.
"Yuri? . . . Bethany?" I asked.
"Oh . . . most of the DXers that write want to try to verify different transmitter sites that Radio Moscow uses. We will type in the site on the QSL if requested."
"What a wonderful idea!" I exclaimed.
"Not really, Comrade Fishface", responded Ivan.

Ivan led me down the corridor to a room with a huge wall map of the Soviet Union and several computers. Ivan turned on one of the computers and punched in Andre Carbonneau's name. The screen showed that Andre still needed to verify two Radio Moscow sites, Fergana and Anadyr.

"If I was really nice, I could say that Andre's report for 11840 was via Fergana . . . "
"And?" I queried.
"I believe in honesty, so I must type in Havana on his card," replied Ivan.
"That's too bad", I commented.
"Better to be honest than to do what Yuri did last year."
"What was that?"
"Yuri sent a QSL for 7115 khz to an American DXer and said it was via Uralsk . . . this DXer must have told all his friends, because we received 600 reports for 7115 in the next three months . . . meanwhile, Yuri had a friend of his jam the frequency!"
"That's horrible!" I exclaimed.
"Everybody else who reported got an Ivano-Frankovsk QSL, if they could hear anything on 7115."
"Is there anybody else dishonest here?" I asked.
"Well, Vladimir is usually too lazy to check the transmitter sites, so he makes up names, like Karaganda and Andizhan . . . Georgi, on the other hand, likes to type in Tula for all QSLs because that's where he's from." responded Ivan.
"Does Mrs. Stepanova know this?"
"Oh sure . . . she apparently gets a percentage from a North American radio club called SASWA for all the USSR DX awards that are paid for by the club's members . . . She's been encouraging us to invent more transmitter sites, so the DX club will create more awards!" commented Ivan with disgust.
"How many Radio Moscow transmitter sites really exist?" I asked, adding "in the Soviet Union."
"Five . . . Moscow, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Simferopol, Frunze, and Kenga", replied Ivan.

Later that afternoon, I began verifying reception reports. The first report was from American DXer Clay Hastings. Clay was slightly behind me in the SASWA scorebored totals, so I verified all eight of his frequencies for 1230 UTC Guarani broadcast as 'via Kiev'. It then occured to me that maybe I should sneak in a few QSLs of my own. The next sixteen QSLs were all made out to Bernie Ayr for Kyzyl, Irkutsk, Pavlodar, and other choice sites. I was just applying postage to the envelope when Mrs. Stepanova approached.

"And how are we doing, Comrade Fishface?" she asked.
"Just fine", I responded nervously.
"That is a very large envelope you are sending out. Let me see the reception reports please."
"Well, I, ummm, I . . . I threw them out already", I replied.
"A likely story, Comrade Fishface! . . . I don't suppose you know Bernie Ayr, do you?"
"Oh no! Mrs. Stepanova", I pleaded.
"Follow me!", commanded Mrs. Stepanova.
She led me to her office and handed me an old yellowed reception report from 1963. The report was from me, and I had attached my picture to that report.
"I never forget a name . . . or a face! OR a poorly written reception report!, stated Mrs. Stepanova.
"But, but " I stammered.
"And we checked with the Canadian embassy. There is nobody named Hal Fishface living in Moosejaw", Stepanova continued, "the gig is up, Mr. Ayr!"
"I'll tell all the radio clubs that there are really only five Radio Moscow transmitter sites", I exclaimed.
"You'll never get the chance," responded Mrs. Stepanova, aiming a pistol at me . . .

I woke up suddenly with a start. I had fallen asleep while taking details for a Radio Moscow reception report.

"What a horrible dream!" I said to myself. I shut off my receiver and looked up at the QSL card that was lying on top of my WRTH. "Radio Moscow World Service 13645 via Omsk". Was this really a verification of Omsk? I would never know for sure . . .


The above article appeared in the 1988 edition of BLANDX, the DX bulletin parody magazine. More information about BLANDX is available from Don Moore.

What were once vices are now good DXing habits. (BLANDX 1990)


This website is maintained by Don Moore,
Association of North American Radio Clubs
DXer of the Year for 1995

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