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L. J. (Lou) Debenham

Joined in 1931 - Retired in 1968

 
 

 

1968 - L. J. (Lou) Debenham, the first officer-in­charge and subsequently telecommunications area manager at Winnipeg International Airport, has retired, ending 36 years of government service.

 

A native of Sintaluta, Sask., Lou started his career in 1931 as a radio operator with the old Department of Railways and Canals. He was first assigned to Churchill VAP, a marine coast station. On completion of his Churchill assignment in 1937, Lou was assigned to Winnipeg range as OIC when the station was first established. He held this position until his retirement and saw it grow from a three­man station to a complex of more than 70 employees.

 

In the early days of the 30's, Lou recalls, "one would leave Halifax by boat convoy and after several months reach Churchill for a tour of duty."

 

The old VAP marine building was in those days a simple structure having a small transmitter and receiver, bunk beds and eating area, all housed in one room. This luxurious life didn't seem to hamper Lou's health or have any after effects as he retired from D.O.T. without using a single day of his sick leave. Last December, more than 100 friends and colleagues, including W. E. Fenn, regional director of air services at Winnipeg, gathered to honor Mr. and Mrs. Debenham.

 

The guest of honor was presented with a painting portraying his first assignment at Churchill where, at the time, he enscribed his name, the date and the call sign of the station on a prominent rock. After the presentation, Lou presented Mr. Fenn with an electrolytic detector, a device used to detect signals prior to the invention and development of the vacuum tube, and a power meter that was used extensively during the spark transmitter era. The items were taken from the S.S. Alette believed to be a French vessel that ran aground off the west coast of Hudson Bay in the early part of the century. Mr. Debenham asked that the items be donated to the Ottawa museum where they might possibly contribute to the interest in marine telecommunications in Western Canada.

 

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