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My Brother, the Communist

When we were kids we had a couple of old short wave radios in our house. These radios worked fine, but also looked cool. One of them, as I recall, was made of metal and looked vaguely military, as if it dated from World War II or the Korean War. The other one was bulky, mostly plastic, but streamlined and stylish, like an automobile from the late fifties.

I remember listening to broadcasts in languages I couldn't understand; the rat-a-tat-tat of Spanish which at the time sounded to me like gibberish.

My brother took to listening as a hobby and would write away for QSL cards. In time he collected cards from Radio South Africa, Radio Canada, and a powerful Christian station broadcasting from Quito, Ecuador (which I think I visited when I went to Ecuador as an interpreter with a group of doctors and missionaries in 2007 or so). I asked him if he still had the cards, and he does, packed away somewhere.

He even got a card from Radio Havana Cuba. This would have been the early seventies; he couldn't have been much older than ten. One day he got a call from the FBI, who wondered why he was corresponding with the communists. (It would be years before the Cold War was over.) My dad explained that he was just a kid collecting QSL cards.

Or maybe he didn't get a call from the FBI ... Perhaps the story is apocryphal. My dad had a peculiar sense of humor. When he was teasing you, he never added "just kidding" at the end, and always said things in a deadpan way. I recall, before I learned to read, asking him what the writing said on a toothpaste box. He made up a bunch of nonsense, and of course I believed him. One day he described flying over a hurricane when he was in the Navy, and looking down into the eye, where he could see a ship, and the sailors lying down on their backs on the deck, basking in the sun and relaxing with their hands behind their heads. I believed him. Don't underestimate the gullibility of a child ... or an adult, for that matter.

I always believed that the story about getting a call from the FBI was true. Only after talking with my brother, the communist, on the phone yesterday evening did I begin to question its veracity.

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sledding

December 2017

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