Posted by: calloftheandes | May 6, 2011

After 50 Years, Popular Show for Shortwave Radio Listeners to End on Anniversary Date

The “dah-di-dit” code tapping that opens the DX Partyline (DXPL) radio program for shortwave hobbyists will fall silent this month, moving the popular program to history’s pages.

Allen Graham

The program will end with broadcasts the weekend of May 28-29, exactly 50 years after it first aired on Radio Station HCJB in Quito, Ecuador, on May 28, 1961. Program host Allen Graham’s surprise announcement came near the end of his April 30-May 1 show. He cited as one reason HCJB Global’s change of emphasis regarding direct shortwave broadcasts from Pifo, Ecuador, where in 2009 HCJB terminated shortwave broadcasting after nearly 58 years. Three years earlier the station had ceased English-language broadcasts.

Also contributing to the decision was the “global change in our ministry priorities as a mission and my increased involvement and work responsibilities in areas very different to those from when I arrived in Quito as a producer in English Language Service in August 1993,” Graham said.

Ken MacHarg

A former host now retired in Carrollton, Ga., Ken MacHarg referred to DXPL as offering a “beginner’s guide to DXing while at the same time maintaining a loyal audience among hobbyists with years of experience.”

Just after DXPL’s Morse code opening, the booming voice of the late Bob Beukema begins teaching basic principles with, “DX . . . a telegraph term meaning ‘distance.’” Former host Rich McVicar of Navarino, N.Y., considers “getting Bob Beukema to intro the program probably the smartest production thing I’ve ever done! What a voice, eh!”

As humble-start-to-wildly successful goes, DXPL’s beginnings started more humbly than most. The program was conceived to fill a calendar anomaly. At the time, the Party Line show kept missionaries in Ecuador in touch with kin back home in a way that former DXPL host Clayton Howard once characterized as “much like the old-fashioned party-line telephones which used to be popular in rural areas.”

Party Line, aired on Mondays, and when a fifth Monday periodically occurred, it gave Hardy Hayes an opportunity to fill that slot. “His solution was to start a program for DXers,” continued Howard. “There were not many such programs on the air in 1961.”

Created of necessity, the show was soon a hit. As programs go, DXPL offered engineering not elegance, facts not flash, and because HCJB Global is an international evangelical mission, DXPL offered the gospel. Along with a calendar of DX events, new developments and listings (called loggings) of station’s exotic programming to which the listeners themselves had tuned in, “Tips for Real Living” was a key component.

John Beck

Asked about the short evangelistic segment’s contribution to DXPL, former host John Beck replied, “It was the program. Everything else was designed to attract the listener to the spiritual component.” Beck now works as an engineer with the Kansas City-based Bott Radio Network.

“This brief message was the only place where they (listeners) might be touched by the gospel and given an opportunity to respond to the saving message of Jesus Christ,” added MacHarg.

With involvement in DXPL for the last several years, Shelly Cochrane wrote that “from my home in Alaska, I’ve counted it a privilege to offer ‘Tips for Real Living’ to point our listeners to God’s promises for our lives.”

Hardy Hayes headed DXPL just briefly, turning the show over to Clayton Howard and his wife, Helen. The Howards (now both deceased) began what was to become a 20-plus-year stint hosting the show. A continent away, Beck, MacHarg and McVicar were mentored by Howard whose career training and radio work was in engineering.

File photo of Clayton and Helen Howard

“I know that Clayton … helped me with my Christian walk during the years of college,” wrote Beck. “Clayton had been an engineer moving towards radio production; I came as a radio producer moving towards engineering. So I feel that I was able to enhance the production values while depending upon the engineering expertise surrounding us at HCJB.”

Beck fondly recalls a letter from a Puerto Rican television technician who had never understood the subject of impedance (resistance) until it was explained on DXPL. Another letter came from a Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist who listened frequently. A syndicated overnight network program host, Ray Briem, called into DXPL, according to Beck.

McVicar added that there were “some memorable times on the air. A special thrill and challenge for me was scooping other DX programs when new stations came on the air from Latin America, especially Peru…. I would also do a lot of DXing from Quito and air clips of the stations that I could hear.”

It fell to Graham, however, to steer a course through celebrating shortwave radio’s golden past and a sea change of rapidly growing technologies since the Internet’s advent. And as HCJB Global’s emphasis has shifted to local radio and later the Internet, Graham continued providing a forum where DXers could not only listen but participate. E-mailed reports and audio clips became standard fare on the show.

When he set up his Facebook account, Graham soon topped a thousand friends, including some from DX Partyline. Ever fascinated with science, Graham’s interview on his April 30-May 1 program “pushed the envelope” of telecommunications yet again, as Brent Weeks outlined an HCJB-designed paper radio for receiving digital shortwave signals.

Hugely popular worldwide among radio aficionados, the DX Partyline is to join the telegraph and its younger cousin, the telephone party line, in the annals of communications history.

Its presence on the shortwave bands will end; its fond recollections will last and last.

HCJB Australia broadcasts in English on 15400 from 12:30 to 13:00 and from 02:45 to 03:00 UTC. The station also broadcasts on 11750 from Kununurra from07:30 to 09:30 UTC. On 15340, HCJB Australia has programming from 14:45 to 15:30 UTC.

123456. English


  1. […] held its fair share of challenges—communicating with relatives for a start. During the 1960s, Radio Station HCJB aired Party Line which originally featured missionary families sending monthly greetings to their homelands where […]

  2. […] while others cared more about the program content. One wrote, “I was a regular listener to the DX Party Line program. I have a QSL card from February 1976 signed by Sam […]

  3. Sad news. But another reason to say thank you for many happy hours in front of the radio! Best wishes from Salzburg!

  4. Very sorry to hear that DX Partyline is being discontinued after all these years.

    I was a long-time regular listener to HCJBs English language programming via short wave from Quito before it too was discontinued some years ago. I couldn’t receive the Australian broadcasts, so stopped listening to HCJB at that time (although I did listen to podcasts of DXPL).

    Still miss all the great programming and the Musical Mailbag crowd.

    Oh well… It was a lot of fun while it lasted… Thanks guys!

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