The Call Letter - Past and Present


The roots of the Northwest Vintage Radio Society go back to December 1974 when collectors and folks who were fascinated by the art and technology of vintage radios decided to meet with others of similar interests. Many of them were in their retirement years when the society was established in January 1975. Some of them had been working on radio gear since the days of Marconi. And some were just learning about the days before solid state circuits. Quite a few of these men and women were dedicated to the Society and the following stories are about them and how they made the "club" what it is today.

Some of these stories go back 40 years to the time when I edited the Call Letter and some of them are from from Hugh Ranken's "Our People." Some of these stories come from interviews, some from memory  and others from obituaries and memorials. Read and enjoy the history of the Northwest Vintage Radio Society.

By Dick Karman

Remembering Hugh and Virginia Ranken

Recently the Society was contacted to help liquidate the radios in the collection of Virginia Ranken. These radios will be auctioned at the March 2018 meeting. For long-time members, this is a great chance to help a great lady. To younger members they might be asking Virginia Who?

The story goes back to almost the founding days of the society. To make it shorter, Charter Member Pete Young, invited an “old-timer” to come to one of the first meetings. That old radio engineer was Tom James. Tom took on a lot of the responsibilities of the Society once he joined. He picked up many of the pieces when the Bilbies suddenly left. He contributed humor to the newsletter with poetry and whit. And he brought along friends that helped him.

I don’t know the back-story on how Hugh and Virginia Ranken came to membership. I believe their membership started in 1976. I know that they were always there to help and most definitely there to help Tom and the other leaders of the group.  As early as 1978 Hugh had taken on the authorship of a piece in the Call Letter known as OUR PEOPLE. Unlike other historical pieces, or the meeting minutes, Our People told about members in the club and what they did and what they said between meetings. Hugh wove into the piece his interest in radio history and prefaced it with the phrase “remember when. . . .” Hugh wrote this for more than five years.

But that wasn’t the only by-line Hugh had. For two years he accumulated and prepared the “SWAP-SHOP” page, taking information from members and making sure it got into the newsletter. His wonderful wife Virginia took an active role (more than many other wives) in the organization and in the publication. The short story on that subject begins with many fraternal organizations had things like the women’s auxiliary. The NW Vintage Radio Society, knowing radios don’t run by themselves, named our auxiliary the “POWER SUPPLY.”  Virginia wrote the Power Supply pages (once a month) in the Call Letter from 1978 to 1981, as well as helped organize social gatherings, refreshments, picnics, contests, and Christmas gift exchanges.

This wasn’t the only involvement that the Power Supply had. In a shrewd tactical maneuver (so that we could have cheap access to the Club House in Oregon City) our power supply ladies ran for office in the women’s civic club of Oregon City, known as the Buena Vista Club (owners of the Club House).  In 1979 NWVRS women held the office of the Vice President (Bobbi Kibler);  Treasurer (Lorena Leetes);  Secretary (Virginia Ranken) and Dorothy James was on their telephone committee. The only positions not held by an NWVRS woman were the President, and the social chair. The ladies not only held the position, they excelled in their labors and were often recognized as outstanding civic leaders in Oregon City.

Now put this into perspective, Hugh for a few years held the office of NWVRS Recording Secretary (which required pages in the Call Letter every month). Between the two of them they sometimes filled five pages of the Call Letter. And Virginia and Hugh were often called upon to be host and hostess at club house events and public gatherings. They were on-sight greeters for many of the NWVRS special displays. Together with Tom and Dorothy James and Chuck and Bobbi Kibler, they were often the local maintenance and hospitality team for the Buena Vista Club House.

I could write pages on the contributions of Hugh and Virginia. By 1980 Virginia had passed most of the Call Letter Power Supply pages to Bobbi Kibler. Hugh had handed off some of the writing responsibilities to the new president in 1982, but while he was NWVRS secretary he wrote very “newsy” meeting minutes and placed his other writing under the heading Bits and Pieces.  By 1986 Hugh was not in office and they were stepping back from their involvements.

Hugh and Virginia weren’t seen in the newsletter but they were at meetings from late 1986 to mid-1988.  I remember that on September 11, 1988, Hugh was struck down with a heart attack. Our sadness and loss were expressed in the Call Letter, the publication they so richly supported.

A member of the Northwest Vintage Radio Society since 1976, Hugh Ranken has been both a loyal member and a good friend.

He and Virginia endeared themselves too many of us in those days by writing for the Call Letter as memory serves in 1978 and in 79 he wrote the column Our People and Virginia was a contributor to a column entitled the Power Supply. 

Hugh however never left a job go undone.  When there was a broom to push or furniture to move around the clubhouse Hugh was faithful to get the job done.  When nominated to serve as a board member, Hugh was willing, able and always did a flawless job.

Personally I must relate that Hugh never failed to have a good word for the Call Letter when I was the editor.  I would not have called it great during those years, but it has continued to improve through Hugh, Tom James, Jim Mason, and others who have done a job well worth having.

For those who missed the service Hugh passed away on September 11, 1988 of a heart attack at the age of 78.  He was laid to rest on the 16th in Lincoln Memorial Park.  

I seldom recall the time when he was at a meeting that Virginia was not at his side.  I speak on behalf of all who knew him in offering our sincere condolences to Virginia, is loving wife. Our feelings and our grief are with her at this time.

Oregonian Obituary:  September 16, 1988  - Hugh Rhodes Ranken

The funeral for Hugh Rhodes Ranken of Northeast Portland who died Sunday of cardiac arrest at a Portland hospital will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Ross Hollywood Chapel. He was 78.

Hugh was born September 18, 1909 in Troy, New York and moved to Portland with his family. He retired as a retail credit manager of Zales Jewelers in the late 1970s. He had previously worked for Directors Furniture, and prior to that, Powers Furniture Company. A veteran of the US Navy during World War II he served in the Philippines.

He was a life member of the Mount Hood Masonic Lodge 157 and was a member of the Oregon Historical Society and the Troutdale Historical Society. He was a member of the Northwest Fushia Society and the Northwest Vintage Radio Society.

The Last Farewell - Remembering Hugh Ranken


Members of the NWVRS Power Supply or the Ladies Auxiliary from left: Bobbi Kibler, Cathie Hay, Virginia Ranken and Dorothy James at the Buena Vista Club House, circa 1978.


Northwest Vintage Radio Society