All Things Wireless & Letterpress

All Things Wireless & Letterpress

Monday, March 27, 2017

DIY Low Profile Gauge Pins for Boxcar Bases.

Those of you who run standard or deep relief bases know that standard gauge pins, such as the Megill adjustables, cannot be used because there isn't enough clearance.  They get crushed.  Most printers either cut their own guides from chip board or thicker card stock.  Some use Henry Adjustable guides which are, essentially, double sided foam, like Tiger Tape or Carpet Tape.  

They all work, of course, but the devil is in the resetting and adjustment of these guides which have one thing in common: adhesive.  Some how they are either taped down or glued down or in some way affixed.  To adjust, the adhesive must be worked loose which tears into the tympan paper, making a rough surface and reducing the ability of the adhesive to adhere for the second, third, and fourth time.

Henrys work great, btw.  But being a foam type pad, the stock does not glide smoothly.  Some talc can take care of that, for a while.  So it was still not the same as using traditional gauge pins.

Trad pins can be used off the base area.  For this reason, some printers either get a smaller base, or they keep their pins in an off base area safe zone, and adjust their print area accordingly.

After enjoying some of these frustrations, I thought I might try to adapt my own low profile gauge pins.  This post is the result of what I came up with.

The Idea

What gave me the idea were my spare Megill standard gauge pin guides.  I had far more than I needed!  They are made from brass so they are easy to cut and to bend.  They had no inherent 'give', save for their native springiness.

I began with the sliding brass Megill sliding tongue itself.  I needed to do something to make it grip the tympan when inserted, and hold, not permitting the fed stock to slide under.
Using flat nosed snipes, I straightened out the slide grips of the brass Megill tongues. This is step one.  Flatten the sides.
Notice that little tab thing in the center of the "T"?  That will come in handy later.  For now, all we need is a straight brass "T".
Next, I used wire clippers to cut the "T" bar edges as shown.  Note the angle.  This is purposeful, to create two gripping points when slid into the tympan paper.
The two sides of the "T" are now bent down.  Note where the bend is.  Also, care is taken to ensure the bend is perpendicular to the main shaft body.
Here is another close-up showing the generally low profile of this pin.  Can you see that even if contact where to be made, the flat of the pin is flexible and will give way.  The sides are spread apart enabling them to flex further outward in case of a miscalculation of depth is experienced although, using a standard relief base, I have yet to make contact with the pins.
The last step is to cut and file or hone the back end of the shaft to a point.  This is what is going in and out of the tympan, securing the pin and enabling adjustment.  These pins adjust like most Megill pins, save for their larger single-slice mounted adjustables.  The point should be sharp indeed..  I used a smallish metal file to make a sort of pointed blade
Here is a mounted low profile pin, the very one shown in the photos above.  Ideally, the entry point should be a few mm's back from that edge... to provide some slip way should the need present itself.  Best to use an Xacto Knife with a pointed blade to create the entry and exit holes for these kinds of pins.  I do that for the standard Megill pins, too.
Here, we see a good comparison between the pin and a 90lb card.  That little lip across the "tee" zone that I pointed out early just covers the edge of the paper, but is surprisingly effective for holding on to the card during the printing process.
A parting shot of the low profile gauge pin.  So far I have completed three print orders using these pins, all with a good results.  Once taped down, they do not budge.  Not a single mark on the Boxcar Base.  
Recently, Ally, printer at 9th Letter Press came to visit. She tried out these pins, and they held firm for the entire run.  We did about four hours of printing on the Open Kluge, double rolling.  each cycle.   The stock slid into place not unlike with the original Megills.  Although low in profile, there is enough room to run even thicker chip board.
Here is a shot of one of the cards coming off the platen.  Looks like it's just laying there with nothing holding it, doesn't it?
To be sure, on occasion I did lose a couple cards which landed in the "basket" behind the Kluge, that also happens on every other gauge guide, quad or pin I've ever used at one point or other.  In all, I'd say "mission accomplished"!
That's it for today's blog entry.  Thanks for joining me.
gary // Paper Wren Press.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ally, Kluge, and QSL cards

Ally, the primary printer at 9th Letter press, the person responsible for their awesome Letterpress impressions, paid us a visit at my invitation recently.  I wanted her to try her hand at one of the rarest letterpresses around, the "Open Kluge".  I have not only what I believe is the only one in Florida, but also very possibly the last one to roll off the ways at Brandtje Kluge.  She was built in 1966.  By letterpress standards, she is a baby, a brand new press for all intents and purposes.  Interestingly, BK foresaw the existence of OSHA, and provided not only full covering of the most dangerous areas of the press, but also provided warning decals, lock down and tag out features.  As far as a Gordon Style platen press goes, she is probably the safest around.

We worked on the red-run of a three colour QSL card order.  The order was for WD4NKA, the station that I maintain directly in the 'Pigeon Hole' print-shop itself.  What Ally printed was the call and address information, in deep red (crimson-process black, 25:1)

The Kluge, affectionately referred to as "Brother John", named after it's former owner, the late John Moran, runs a tad faster than the 1890 era 10x15 C&P used at 9th Letter Press, which required Ally to develop a "feel" for the feeding cadence.  Since we were running some pretty broad areas of colour as far as text goes, we double-rolled each impression.  Of course, with four rollers and two vibrators, the Kluges have one of the finest ink distribution systems in the world of platen 'job presses'.  Some would even place them ahead of Heidelberg Windmills in this regard.

We used the laser cut standard relief polymer dies made by Concord Engraving, which holds up to an approx. .02mm line width, exceeding copper and magnesium!  Polymer dies are something new to me, having incorporated it only within the last couple months.  I also use the standard relief Boxcar Base.  I have been unexpectedly pleased with the results!

Ally is a pro.  But then, she has a lot of experience with heavy iron under her belt.  It took no time at all for her to get the cadence.  Of course, she was a tad bit nervous with me standing there taking photos, so I tried to get out of the way as much as I could.  I could tell she was enjoying working with Brother John.

We used the low profile custom made brass "adjustable" gauge pins, which provide sufficient clearance with the base to enable easy positioning of the stock anywhere on the platen we wanted.  Ally also showed me a technique of positioning the die on the base by placing a bit of tape on the front side of the die so it would hold to the tympan sheet just enough so that when you closed the platen against the type bed, the die would transfer onto the Boxcar base.  This made prepositioning of the gauge pins and stock very accurate, requiring only a very slight horizontal touch up.  Thanks, Ally!  You can teach an old dog new tricks after all!

My hope is to eventually have a brick and mortar location where ALL my presses, my stitch binder and my heavy cutter, the imposing stone, the type cabbies and galleys can all reside together instead of traipsing back and forth between my home shop in Deltona and the "Heavy Equipment" shop in Orange City (Florida).  We'll see how that goes.  I am considering doing a smallish version of what the Arm does up in NYC: give workshops and possibly rent out press time for folks to take advantage of my resources.  Especially, Stetson U., Seminole and Daytona State College arts students.  Who knows, maybe we can find someone with deep pockets willing to invest.... or..... bite the bullet and try a Go Fund Me page.  
You never know....

Ok, so how did the finish product turn out?  Well, considering that these cards ran through the press three times, they came out spot on positioning!  

This card is part of my special series especially designed for Novice Rig Round-up, which I have offered at a special price for members of the group.  It sports the NRR diamond logo in blue-green, a J38 Speed-x hand key silhouette (taken from one of my own keys!  It was hand drawn, it's not clip art!) and QSL date field in black, and my address info and call in red.  Since the green and the red compliment (opposites on the colour wheel), the card itself is a fairly vibrant rendition of a classical QSL card design.

That's about it for this entry in All Things Wireless & Letterpress.   I want to sign off with something special for Ally as a thanks for visiting the Paper Wren.  It's a video I made a few years back.  I told her about it, and I said I would send her a link, but I thought I would do one better, and provide that link right here.

The video's sound track is a homegrown recording written, performed and recorded by myself called "The Printer & His Devil".  It's a song that plays on historical events and the printer's mission to disseminate the news to his community.  I wrote the song to commemorate the home town printer and the important roll he or sometimes she played in the life of their community.  Oh, and just a head's up: a "Devil" is what a printer's apprentice was referred as.

See if you can identify the historic events based on the hints mentioned in the song.  Also, if you can, listen through earbuds or headphones.  Computer speakers tend to have poor fidelity.  My voice is pitchy enough, it needs all the help it can get (sigh).

(tech note: we had to stretch the intro out to about two minutes to cover the whole eight minutes of video.  No professionals, here.  It's all home-grown.) 

The video captures the set-up and printing of a two colour business card on my C&P at the home studio/ shop.  If you go to the YouTube page, I believe there is a link to the lyrics, if anyone is at all interested.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Mission: Berlin, 2017

This is the support letter that I am sending out to certain individuals who have expressed interest an upcoming missions opportunity which I hope to engage in June of this year (2017).  I feel moved to post this letter to this blog as well.  I don't normally do this sort of "advertising" regarding my missionary and ministry activities, so this is rather unusual for me, but I feel led to so do.  Obviously this has nothing to do with wireless OR letterpress.

A little background: along with being a Radio Amateur and Letterpress Printer, owner of Paper Wren Press, I, along with my sweet wife Cindy,  am also a lay minister, sponsoring our Church's College & Career / Young Adults department (Christian and Missionary Alliance/ Deltona Alliance Church).  I also have a burden for people to meet and come to know Jesus, the single most significant person in my life. 

In fact, He IS my life.

To those who know me, and share this Gospel burden, and in particular my burden for die Deutsche Volk, the German People, and as well, those unfortunates seeking asylum in their country, this letter is directed to you.  To wit . . .


I am writing this letter to you because I am stepping outside of my comfort zone and am seeking support for a missions opportunity I hope to participate with in Berlin, Germany.

This mission opportunity involves working with Fl├╝chtlingen, or refugee families who are on a concentrated “holding pattern”, waiting processing and legal admission into Germany. 
The majority of these displaced persons have suffered privation, separation,and mental and physical trauma resulting from a long and on-going civil war ravaging their homeland.  Many families are separated, many have lost touch with other family members, some having seen their loved ones die before their eyes.  As the son of a German mother who herself experienced flight for life during the bombings of WW2, I grew up with the stories of her ordeal. Having lived in Germany myself as a pre-teen with German family, I was surrounded with many such stories.  I saw the places they fled to.  I had a chance to meet those who sheltered them. I am here, because they sheltered my mother.

The trauma of dislocation and fear can create what I came to know as the “Foxhole Effect”, which is, in short, the observation of front-line GIs during WW2:  that there are rarely  atheists in foxholes.  When all protective barriers are stripped away, and people are placed in a very disruptive, vulnerable and desperate situation, they are very frequently open and receptive to the Gospel. It is in such Holy Spirit rendered moments of open-ness through which we seek introduce Jesus.  It may be the one and only opportunity in their lives.

Our CMA missionaries (Christian and Missionary Alliance) have established a missions house “safe zone”, a place of ministry to these refugees.  A place to come for help, for advice, for help in learning the German Language (which is necessary for admission into the Republic), a place to help connect with each other and with services available, a place for the children to be cared for as needed,  where refreshment and other services are offered.  The name of this outreach is “Lichtturm Berlin”, or “Lighthouse Berlin”, which can be found on line at:     

The specific activities we will engage as team members will entail serving alongside our Missionaries in a helping – hands capacity, helping with organizing events, helping serving in the kitchen, helping with special English learning sessions (English is Berlin’s “official” second language, providing additional witness possibilities, as opportunity presents.)

Included in our itinerary is a traditional ministry activity in Berlin, the “Prayer Walk”.  Very often, ministry outreach is predicated by teams of prayer warriors walking the streets in the ministry area, praying as they walk, praying for the residents, praying for protection for the ministry outreach and outreach team, and praying for those who would be recipients of this outreach.  In our case, our prayer walks will take us into some fairly unseemly areas, so prayer for our own protection might also be considered.

We will also be working with refugee youth in a city Fu├čballkamp, or “Soccer Camp”.  This has also been shown to be a successful means of engaging both youth and parents in a positive and neutral environment.

I am also seeking out means and ways of engaging Berlin residents.  As you may already know, Christianity, and indeed, Religion in general, is almost wholly disregarded in Europe in this post-Christian era, and is often met with resentment and hostility.  This is the result of a social “depression” incurred by two devastating wars and their aftermath in the 20th Century. A social upheaval and devastation unknown on our shores, at least, since our own Civil War.

One of the challenges of our ministry is the resultant irrelevant status Christianity and Personal Faith holds with the average German citizen.  Less than one percent of Berliners will identify with any form of Christian denomination, a metric which corresponds with the rest of Germany.  Added to this is the fact that the former communist East Germany had dismantled the war-ravaged Church infrastructure since the Soviet Occupation in 1946, continuing up until the wall came down in 1989.  Two full generations have grown up in a wholly controlled atheistic environment.  When the wall came down after Glasnost,  a sizeable percentage of the East German population flooded the former West Germany – as if the wall would close again – leaving areas of population depletion and abandonment.

Mission activities have entered into East Germany in response to these conditions, re-seeding urban areas with neighborhood home church plants, introducing creative outreach programs, and re-introducing local residents not only to the Gospel, but in so doing, their own legacy and history!  After all, it was in East Germany where the Reformation began five hundred years ago when Dr. Martin Luther nailed his 99 Thesis to the door at Wittenburg October 31, 1517.

The funds I need for support total $1700.00, plus personal expenses. Please prayerfully consider your possible participation in helping me raise this amount by June 1. If the Holy Spirit should so move, funds can be sent to:

Gary Johanson / Berlin Mission
1125 Elgrove Drive
Deltona, FL 32725.

I do accept PayPal, if this is more convenient.  Send to:

I can also be reached by text or voice at 386-490-5160.

In His Grip

Gary Johanson

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Novice Rig Round-Up, 2017.

Another NRR event has come and gone.  A year's worth of organizing, repairing, procuring, designing, redesigning, asking volunteer help, restoring and refurbishing keys, transmitters, receivers.... all climaxed on the air on the third week of February.

For the most part, our activity tended to center around 7100 - 7125 KHz, forty meters, although there was also activity on fifteen and eighty meters as well.  I, myself, am almost entirely forty-meter involved, and rarely stray from there.  As such, I confine my remarks and observations thereunto.

How it all began.

Novice Rig Roundup was started by Bry Carling, AF4K, and myself (WD4NKA) as the result of a conversation we had on two-meter simplex one night.  Bry mused if it might be fun to set up our old Novice stations if that were possible, and try to recapture the magic of our first contacts   Maybe if others thought it might be fun as well, wouldn't it be neat to get a bunch of ops on, say, one of our old Novice watering holes and just share about our rigs.  Maybe even have something like a Novice Sprint!

It certainly wouldn't be an overly technical group. These old classic Novice rigs were not all that involved, what, with xtal control and maybe an S-38 receiver!  Or, in my case, a 6L6G MOPA and a 6SN7 regen.  

Ahh, sweet simplicity.

As our thoughts developed with input from others, it became clear that what we call and picture in our minds as "Novice" was actually only one of several eras of what was, in fact, "Novice" !    

For many years, the original Novice License operating platform established by the FCC (the class of licensure in itself part of a new program introduced by the FCC called "incentive licensing") consisted of xtal control transmission, cw on the HF bands only, limited A3 voice on two meters, and 75 watts plate input to the final amplifier. The license itself had a non-renewable one (later two) year life span.  You could renew in reality, but you had to wait for one year to do so, and retake the test....  which was 25 questions, some multiple choice questions, some questions requiring a written answer, and if you go back to the early 1950s, some drawing of simple circuits.  You had to pass a five word-per-minute international morse code exam, both sending and receiving.  A volunteer examiner could administer the exam provided he or she was a General Class or higher license holder.

As the years rolled by, these rules changed.  The xtal control restriction went away in the mid 1970s, as did the 75 watt power restriction, and voice on two meters went away.  Novices were given a small portion of the new 15 meter band, in addition to their other subband allocations.  By the 1990s, with the repeal of the morse code requirement, the Novice Class all but disappeared,  finally being formally dropped by the FCC into the new millennium.

What exactly is a Novice?

Needless to say, exactly what a "Novice" actually was, or is, all depends upon when one was a Novice.  This meant that to have such a "Roundup"  (a name inspired by the ARRL's "Novice Roundup" of past generations) would require a broad aperture of rigs and even a wider scope of operator "memory".   One ham's "Early Years" may have been a DX-40 and Drake 2A.  Another's may be a crate-built 6V6G power oscillator (PO) and a 6U8A handbook regen.  Still another's may be a Kenwood TS520, or an Icom 746!  We concluded that we would celebrate ALL these rigs, regardless the era, which enabled our first "voice" on the air.

What we are really celebrating is just that.  Our first voice.  It's not just the rig, you see, it's also the fist behind the key.  Aside from morse, we all have one thing in common: we started at some point.  Most of us started out as Novices.   Our rigs, of course, are an integral part of that experience. Like our first car.   It's the celebration of that experience that is the heart and soul of NRR.   And hearing all these familiar rigs on the air is fun.  The slow drifting, the "youp" and chirp, it's all part of what many of us fondly remember.  In fact, ours is the only event on the planet that ever offered a point bonus for an OO report!

NRR begins to organize.

As the basic NRR idea germinated, we set up a FaceBook page and submitted our ideas to several hams on the different boards, lists, reflectors and pages.  So many began showing interest and began requesting membership on the FaceBook page that we realised the need to plan a practical calender set of dates and times,  to hold what we decided would be a week long on-air event.  The event was to be low pressure, enjoyment based, and while we wanted a no-competition-pressure sort of thing, we did want to offer an easy to reach challenge, for those so inclined.  Which, as it turned out, was a majority of our growing number by 2014.

We understood that to have such an event, there needed to be structure and parameters.  We based the metrics upon what most call "Classic Rigs".  Even though all are welcome to join the event, with any rig, points could be scored when contacting a "Classic Era" Novice Station, xtal controlled, 75 watts input.   We later modified this to a varying points system based upon xtal or vfo control, qrp or medium power, or over 75 watts as reported.  During our last NRR event, we modified this to include the participant's own station . . . also first-time-contact multipliers for states and countries. 

Participation Certificates

As a Letterpress Printer, owner of Paper Wren Press, I printed certificates of participation for any who would submit a log.  These certificates were printed from engraved metal plates, wood mounted, printed on a 1936 Chandler & Price Letterpress, then overprinted planographically with the applicant's name, call and points awarded.  These certificates were hand printed one by one in three colours.  I might add that this is the same process used to print Oxford Degree certificates, or "sheepskin".  I believe NRR is the only event to offer this sort of "sheepskin" in living memory.  Of course, prior to WW2, ALL such items were printed this way.

Our first Certificate for the 2015 NRR event.  These images came from the IDE master image

 Our second Certificate, with new text and date backgroud.

Photo of the original Certificate "shell".  Key silhouette is hand drawn from an actual key.

Close up of printed text.  Paper is Neenah Classic Laid Text weight.

This year's event featured some enhancements.  We extended our event a couple days to take in two weekends.  We incorporated an automatic logging system.  We also have a web site, as well as our original FaceBook page.  I already mentioned changes in our scoring system, which can be seen on the web page.


This year I chose to operate xtal control from my rather 1930-ish "station", which sports a Regenerodyne receiver built into a National SRR flip-top "Bud" cabinet, and uses a 6V6 MOPA, xtal controlled at a whopping 15 watts.  My "mill" is parked right next to it.  It is the oldest piece of equipment in my station, a 1910 Remington Model 30, once used to type telegraph copy for the Rail Road.  It is caps only, designed for land line use.  But it works for me.

Left to right: Power supply, Regenerodyne, Mopa, 8-amp key and mill.
Transmitter Close-up.  I call it a "Mini-Bandmaster".  Built into a VTVM cabbie.

This is the Regenerodyne, an original, the second one ever built under that name.  It is a three valve regenerative based single conversion superhet, one of the most reliable receivers I have ever owned.

Chances are, if you contacted me during this past February's NRR, this was the rig you heard.  80% of my score and a surprising (to me!) number of states were contacted by this lash-up.  The antenna is a 33ft. vertical mounted on my roof.  Two xtals were ever used with this station: 7114 and 7123 KHz.  I tuned 5 - 10 KHz side to side of zero beat to catch other xtal controlled stations nearby.  Operating this station is a real throw-back!  You need a spotting oscillator to find your exact frequency, but you often do not actually operate on your "exact" transmit frequency, really.  Unless the other chap happens to have the same frequency xtal.  Also, as a regen receiver, you don't have a modern "sidetone".  In fact, you have NO sidetone.  You have a blocked detector and a bit of common mode hum at key-down.  After a while you get the feel of the straight key and the sound of the blocked detector coming over the 'phones, which serves as a sort-of "sidetone", after a fashion.  It all works.  What is amazing is that I worked twenty-four states with this rig, broad as a barn door, under very noisy conditions fraught with  QSB!

I also had a new addition to WD4NKA: a complete 1961 "Novice Station", which I also used for NRR.  This consists of a Heathkit DX-40, both xtal and vfo controlled by a Hallicrafter HA-5 vfo which the foresightful Novice of course would not have used until the coveted General Class license was secured.  Right?   The receiver is a Drake 2B, simply the finest code receiver ever built in my humble opinion.... and a lot of other ops' as well.

L to R, speaker, Drake 2B, DX40 with SWR bridge on top, and HA5 VFO.

Rounding out my station is another addition, a Hammarlund HQ-129-X, a "red letter" 1946 model that is absolutely awesome on AM, and will actually suppress an opposite sideband to a degree, making cw quite pleasant, and SSB more than tolerable.  Add to this my trusty Yaesu FT-101EX, for a whopping 35 watts of clear-channel AM, all flowing through my Dentron MT-3000A, the station "control head".

WD4NKA, when not totally trashed by layers of overlapping projects!  Usually takes me a week to find the desk.
Screen-shot of my "Logger 2017" entries. 
 Above is a screenshot of my Logger entries.  See those entries marked "xtal"?  Those are all made using the MOPA and Regenerodyne.  4088 points total, and while others made much, much more than that, I, like most of us, was not out to grab max points.  We were out there to get into the mix, say hi, talk a little about our rigs, and just enjoy the contact made with a "novice rig".  Frankly, some of the folks out there did impressively well with some very basic equipment!  I, for my part, ran 70 watts on average from the DX-40, and 12 watts average from the MOPA.  Keys used were my RAF 8-amper and my Bunnell J-36 "Lightning Bug", both from WW2.

Operating Position at WD4NKA
 Here I am, tuning up the DX-40 for a little bit of action.  The Drake 2B performed flawlessly, and despite the removal of a faulty filter choke in the DX-40, it being replaced by an equivalent resistance, with a decreased voltage drop resulting in a higher voltage getting to the 6146 final to the tune of 90 watts input - did not misbehave one bit.  The final and the successive stages seem to be just fine.  I did beef up the PS filtering circuit, however.

Ok, now for a turn of the corner:

NRR Limited Edition QSL Cards.

Paper Wren Press (which is me) has offered to print custom QSL cards for NRR participants, not only for use during NRR proper, but for year round use as a regular station card.  We celebrate our Novice Rigs year round, and these cards illustrate that very point!

QSL card for special event station WN4NRR (AF4K)
 These cards are printed via Letterpress, using three colours: black, blue green, and red.  Notice the top and bottom borders?  Yup, it reads "nrr".  This card is inspired by the symmetrical designs of the 1930s, and are printed on the very same card stock used for such items over the past 80 years.  These days, it's made by Cougar.

QSL card for WN5AIA
 Ronnie's (WN5AIA) card arrived in the mail day before yesterday.  These cards are very striking.  They are printed on a fairly rare beastie, a press known to us in the trade as an "Open Kluge".  Kluge is one of the finest letterpress ever built, and had a production run from around 1919 to about 1965, when these types of presses were replaced by offset presses, and later, digiprinters.  The Open Kluge is especially designed for hand feeding.  These cards are printed one card at a time, one colour at a time.  Takes about a week to do one order of 250.

For those interested in having this card for your own station, details can be obtained by contacting me at:, or

That's about it for this excursion into Wireless and Letterpress.  Thanks for visiting my blog, and listen out for my station, WD4NKA either cw on 7100 - 7125 KHz, or on AM phone on 7290 KHz, or thereabouts. 

Good Providence in all your endeavors!

gary / the Paper Wren.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Rescued by the Past.

This is a story about how a family from the Revolutionary War rescued me from a life of crime.

In 1969, newly arrived in the 'burbs of West Philadelphia, this fifteen year old military brat's life was tipping on a precipice.I had already been expelled from the Tredyffryn-Easttown Township school transit system for assaulting a bus driver, supposedly. Despite becoming interested in printing and even beginning apprenticeship through my school,  I had already joined a gang for self protection.  Thus, having already been pegged as a delinquent, for the rest of the year I walked the Penn Central tracks from where I lived behind the Devon Horse Show, to Conestoga HS, Berwyn, a distance of some eight miles. Looking back, it was actually quite an interesting experience walking the rails.

I wasn't your typical gang punk. But I was indeed a punk. It was a persona I put on to mask a lot of fear. Getting caught up in a turf war taught me that I needed protection. which was why I joined a gang to begin with. But I was a bit different from the other guys.  I had just came from Germany as an Army Brat. I spoke two languages and had a slight Euro/ Brit accent.  I had no home town, so I didn't really come from anywhere; I was forever the "New Guy".  In 1960s Philadelphia, living on the bad side of town, you didn't want to be the "new kid". No sir.
This punk collected stamps instead of knives, loved Prokofiev instead of Iron Butterfly, read history instead of the Furry Freak Brothers, played harp and guitar and was at the tender age of 15 already doing lettering and letterpress jobs for pay (through Conestoga High School.). Not a lot, but it was something.

One thing for certain: my peers didn't know what to make of me.  Except I was smaller than most guys my age....and that dynamic was fully exploited.

Walking the commuter rail tracks home home from school one day, I happened upon an antique store. Since I had developed an interest in old books while living in Germany,  I thought I might inquire, to find if they may have perhaps one or two old volumes. I was thinking in terms of maybe 1860 or so. I was directed downstairs to the basement, where racks of books stood side by side. To my astonishment, most of these books dated to the eighteenth century!  I had some money, so I bought a 1735 Baileys Etymology, and a Bible, printed by W. Young of Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 1782 for a buck and a half each.

Now, this was no ordinary "Polyglot" bible. In it I discovered a handwritten Genealogy of the Leamy Family, starting with John Leamy who married Mary, his wife in 1765. Apparently when John bought the bible, he entered the date of his marriage to Mary. His was a handwriting that I would die for. Turning the pages, I read with fascination each birth, each marriage, each death, following sons and daughters to grand children, to great grand children. Over the years, the Bible went from daughter to daughter, apparently because every forty years or so the name changed, from Leamy to Jenkins to Norts. The handwriting and shade of ink would change, from black to ochre to turquoise (one 1830s entry was a lovely shade of teal!) - to blue. I would follow the thicks and thins of the quill strokes. The swirls encircling the "J"s, the "I"s, the "T"s, as I have never before or since have seen them inscribed. The last entry was dated 1870.  One hundred years of family.

I was captured by the handwriting.  I was fascinated by the personalities.  I found myself going to the library instead of breaking into apartments, which did not endear me to the gang.  I had to know about these people, what were they like?  What did they do?  What occupied their thoughts? How much of a role in their lives did this Bible play?  How were they affected by the British Occupation of Philadelphia?  Did they know the Anthony Waynes?  Could they have met Baron Von Steuben or Washington himself?  Or did they, as many of their neighbours, lean to the Crown?  St. Davids Church was after all, in their day, the Church of England

I located, in time, their graves at the St. Davids Church Cemetery.  Consequently, all through the summer of 1970, I spent my time hiding out from the gang in the peaceful shade and pleasant properties of  St. Davids Church. A stream passed by the grave yard, and a stone foot bridge traversed it's banks. With paper and pencil and the Leamy Bible in hand, I would copy, and copy, and copy and copy those remarkable pen strokes.  There were several places around the old church property to sit and concentrate.  By the foot bridge.  On one of the many boulders that projected from the slants of the surrounding hills.  On one of the benches by the church's stone walls. Alternately, I would stroll the cemetery itself, and, memorize the epitaphs inscribed upon the old stones.  They were like pleasant conversation, each inscription revealing a little about the person being memorialized. I recognize now, as a Believer in Jesus, that what I was reading were their life verses and testimonies, all pointing to a living Hope in Him.  I missed that then, but I got it now.  I think God knew that someday I would remember them, and the words from the Talking Stones.

On one of the rocks near the St. David's Cemetery.

The entries in my bible metered much like those inscriptions on the grave stones: 
"Sacred to the Memory of Mary Leamy, wife of John Leamy, who departed this life on the twenty-siscth (and 'x' was formed by backing an 's' against a 'c'.) of November, 1789, aged forty-nine years, sisc months and twelve days, being eight o'clock Sunday morning."

"Suzanna, daughter of John Leamy and Mary, his wife, was born on the thirtieth day of March, 1779, it being one o'clock Tuesday afternoon".

"Lydia Leamy, daughter of Robert Leamy and Abigale his wife, was born on the 10th of May, 1830, being about seven o'clock Friday morning."

The Rector of St. Davids noticed me there, day after day, and invited me into the old sanctuary, built in 1715. He showed me the graves beneath the pews. He showed me the church's mini-museum, with artifacts found on the property going as far back as the 1600s. There were even a few newspapers, the Philadelphia Enquirer, printed by Ben Franklin at Hall & Sellers!  One article told of a pastor, from this church, who covered several churches in the area.  They found him and his horse frozen to death under a tree one particularly bad winter, while en route from one church to the next.

Over time, I picked up still more books from that little store in Berwyn on the Main Line. One was Lydia Leamy's confirmation Prayer book, given to her, according to the inscription on the now all too familiar handwriting, at "Radnor Church, 1845". I already knew her well from the genealogy. I knew her parents. I located their graves. The children's graves, all buried at St. Davids...which prior to the Civil War was indeed called "Radnor Church".

The Old Rectory, St. Davids Church, Radnor PA.

All this time spent in the peace and quiet of St. David's church, learning how to write in that beautiful hand that was apparently handed down from father to son, according to the Rector, all that time finding and reading 180 - 230 year old Colonial books, all that time tracking and locating the graves, riding daily between the Devon Horse Show where I lived, and down Sugartown Road to Dorset Road, past the old colonial homes and properties, down Darby Paoli Road, reading the stones, talking to the Rector.....I became very conversant with a family long departed, yet loomed so importantly in my life. The guys around where I lived wondered where I was, I had stopped "hanging out".  

The more I spent time practicing my handwriting, copying the Leamy Family Bible, and the more time I spent riding past the old colonial homes and farms on the way to St. Davids, the more time I spent in the St. Davids museum, the more time I spent talking to the Parish Priest and the Rector, the less time I spent getting into scuffs with the law.  Correspondingly, the more familiar I became with the Welsh and German people who lived in the area, and whose graves I would read and re-read:

Here Lyeth the Body of Elizabeth Wayne,
amiable consort to Gen'l Anthony Wayne. 
"Friends for me, lay doon and weep,
I am not dead but goon to sleep
In the dust I must stay
Until the Resurrection Day,
Beneath this stone I shall remain
Till Christ shall rise me up again!"

The Old Stones spoke to me of a Faith in a Saviour which these people of the Delaware Valley possessed, a Faith that they lived . . . and died by.  Death was very close, every day.  But so was their Joy, as expressed in their hymnology, the hope inscribed upon their stones, and assurance of their future in Christ, where we read:

Beneath this stone a loving form
is laid in silent dust to rest
his gentle Body neatly borne
to Jesus' Home among the blessed.

A mother's love could not him save
from that long cold and dreamless sleep
He's won a vict'ry o'er the Grave
and now he plays 
at Jesus' feet.
 At the intersection of two paved foot-paths through the cemetery is probably the oldest stone in the yard...  A fellow named Isaacs is buried there.  His stone calls to passers by:

Behold, oh Man
as you pass by,
as you are now so once was I,
as I am now, so Thou shalt be:
Prepare therefore, 

My friend, George Hansel, posing by a stone in front of the entrance to the old sanctuary, which was built in 1715.  The old Isaacs grave is straight ahead, and off to the left, at the footpath intersection.

My eighteenth century books became like time capsules to me.  The Bailey's Etymology, printed in London in 1732, and inscribed "J.B", 1735, was my portal.  Learning to handle the language as an 18th century English Speaker proved quite helpful when researching period publications..  Researching William Young, the printer of that Bible, and it's retailer, was another point of interest.  Philadelphia was the printing capitol of the Revolutionary War era, with the likes of Ben Franklin, Hall & Sellers, Dunlap and his Pennsylvania Packet, Kristof Sauer and his German publications, printed from out of what is now called "German town".  The 1700s seemed very near, walking where they walked, reading the literature that informed them, visiting the homes left so close to the way they were, that whole neighborhoods will tell you that George Washington himself could ride up on his charger, and have reasonable expectation to find a familiar face coming to greet him.

As for me, all this activity  kept me off the streets!  It weaned me from the gang,  You could say that the Leamy Family kept me from getting into trouble.  I attended Conestoga High School for about one year, whereupon my father decided to relocate us to Florida by 1971.  But it was my interest in the 18th Century and the books I had collected and poured over that sparked a complimentary interest in Letterpress, which was taught in Conestoga, courtesy the Northern Chester County Technical School. I have been printing ever since.

Alas!  My move to Florida resulted in the loss of my beloved books.  My Baileys Dictionary was destroyed by vandalism.  My Bible was stolen, along with several other books.  All I had left was the Prayer book given to Lydia Leamy, who was confirmed at Radnor Church (St. David's Church) in 1854.  That little book was re-united with the Leamy Family in 1998, when I met Don Leamy on GenWeb.  When I discovered that his was the originating family, I had to send it to him.  

I love to think back on those days at St. David's.  And the amazing connection that we who are in Christ now, can connect so personally with believers who were, but are not now, but one day soon will be - in our presence at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.  I want a seat next to the Leamys.

Thanks for keeping me out of trouble.  Two hundred year time lag notwithstanding.

gary / the Paper Wren.