1963 Riverton Rocks

By John Knight

“DXers will retreat to sandhills at Riverton” read the headline in “The
Southland Daily News” “Men crouching in dimly lit tents, brushing off the
sandflies, listening intently to weak radio signals from the other side of
the world — this will be the scene at Riverton”. So “The Southland Daily
News” pictured the 1963 South Island Convention of the League, held at Riverton from February 23-24th, with the Southland Branch as host. Visitors
to Riverton were Anthony King (Wellington), Graham Shillito and Peter Dierck
(Timaru), George Beardsmore (Dunedin) and John Knight (Rakaia), who joined
with locals Eric Mclntosh, Alex Allan, Sutton Burtenshaw, Arthur Cushen, Paul
Aronsen, Bill Marsh Jr., John Hayes, Merv Branks, Alan Young, Eddie MacAskill
Keith Robinson, Des Frampton, Fred Pidgeon, Michael Daukes, Adam Masterton, Davy Hawkes, Hans Kautz and Ray Crawford. Most of the visitors arrived in Invercargill on the Friday night, and were billeted with those local members still in town – many being out at Riverton, preparing for Saturday. Visitors were presented with an envelope containing pamphlets about Invercargill and Southland, the Convention Issue of the Southland DX Digest, a folder of matches and a membership card in H. & J. Smith’s “820 Club.”

On the Saturday morning, those who had spent the night,in town left the
Invercargill P.O. at 10 a.m., Riverton bound, along the Great North Road,
past the new woolstore of Dalgety & N.Z. Loan (under construction), past the
renowned “White House”, the Alliance Freezing Works, the Nestle Highlander
Milk Factory, the Riverton Racecourse, and ultimately to Riverton and the
Rocks, Lunch was served, and at 2 p.m. President MacAskill welcomed all DXers to the “Home of DX”, John Knight replying on the behalf of the visitors.
Greetings telegrams were read, and this was followed by George Beardsmore’s
interesting and informative talk on North American DX, highlighted by a tape
recording of Radio Bermuda, ZBM-l as heard at Long Beach, which astounded
locals and visitors alike. John Knight was unexpectedly called on to speak
on South American DXing, and was followed by Merv Branks, who gave all some
useful tips on Asian DX.

After afternoon tea and group photographs had been taken, conventionites
were entertained by those hardy southerners who went swimming, then many went round to see the DX site in the sand hills, where Merv Branks renowned 6X3 had been joined by three tents and extra antennas, set up in readiness for
the evening. After an early tea, back to the tents and the 6×3 – and DX.
By this time it had started to rain, and DXers were glad to get to their
alloted listening posts. All sets in use were battery operated, ranging from
transistor models to a vibrator pack operated Hallicrafters. Most junior members made enough loggings at this time to keep themselves busy writing reports for a while, Unfortunately CBJ (1580) was not heard. Undoubtedly the highlight of the evening for those in one of the tents was when the wind and rain
proved too much for the tent which collapsed on its occupants.

By 9.30, virtually all had staggered back to the warmth of the crib and to
supper. During supper (which featured that Southland delicacy, raw oysters (twenty-dozen) the “Modern Sound” from 4ZA was tuned in, and DJ Jim Healey welcomed all to Convention and hoped that some North American listeners were
listening. If they were they might have been surprised, as “Daisy Bell” as
sung by an electronic computer was featured, and identifications from several
Alaskan, Canadian and U.S. stations were played. The part that won most
attention, however, was the contest, and as all had been enrolled in the “820
Club” hopes of winning an LP were high, Merv missed by one! Raffle results
were also announced, prizes going to Hanz Kautz, Eddie McAskill, Bill Marsh & Arthur Cushen.

After supper, some followed the example ofFred, who’d been in bed since 9
others sat around the fire and enthusiasts went back to the sandhills for
some early morning DX. 1550 proved quite profitable at the 6×3 for a while,
but early morning Yanks were poor. A few enthusiasts continued DXing through
the night, but others went to sleep till 4 a.m., when the KNUI greetings to
Convention were due. However, this didn’t seem to be on, and those who’d awoken consoled themselves with logging KUMU 1500, another new Hawaiian. Europeans were present around dawn, but severe static marred reception.

Breakfast was on round 9 a.m., and a check afterwards revealed that about
109 loggings had been made, best of which would be ZBM-1 while WDXR 1560
and AFKN 1360 were other worthwhile logs. John Hayes with 15 loggings out-
ranked all others, After an outstanding Sunday dinner, members started to
return to Invercargill, Anthony King catching the afternoon plane to Wellington. On Sunday evening the local pirate on 1590 was heard at excellent strength, with quite a good musical programme too. Monday saw the departure of those visitors still left on the.express. To Branch President Eddie MacAskill, to Convention Committee, and to all Southland members in general, thank you for a wonderful weekend, made truly memorable by your friendship and hospitality. See you at the next convention!

(From the Peter Grenfell DX Times collection)