WASHINGTON ISLAND — George Ulm is a talker. Once he gets started on his favorite subject, he could go on forever.
That’s not surprising, since his favorite subject is all about communicating daily with people all around the world. Ulm, 86, has been a licensed amateur radio operator for nearly 80 years and claims he has the world’s largest collection of transmitters, receivers, transceivers and amplifiers in the world. It is all housed in a couple of buildings on the far north shore of Washington Island off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula.
Ulm, who was born in 1930 in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), remembers being exposed to amateur radio, or “ham” radio, at 3 or 4 years old in his parents’ home.
“My mother’s side of the family had a number of amateur radio operators at that time that were friends, and there was even in that house a radio station,” Ulm said.
One of the relatives by marriage was Karl Hassel, who was one of the pioneers of early ham radio.
According to the book, “Zenith Radio: The Early Years, 1919-1935,” the U.S. Navy dismantled most broadcast stations at the outbreak of World War I but retained the University of Pittsburgh station, where Hassel was an operator, to act as a government broadcast station. Hassel joined the Navy and taught Morse code for the service. After the war, he moved to the Midwest where he and fellow Navy radio operator Ralph Mathews set up a radio equipment business called Chicago Radio Laboratories.
“He and (his partner) were the first people who sold radios. They sold amateur transmitters, amateur receivers and general receivers that covered the broadcast band,” Ulm said. “Karl did the whole thing. He designed them, he ordered the parts or made the parts, he put them all together and hand-made instruction manuals, because they couldn’t afford a copier.”
Their tiny workshop also housed radio station 9ZN, so when the partners…