By Ray Soifer, W2RS
I began my radio avocation as an SWL. My first receiver of my own was a Hallicrafters S-38C in 1953. When I got my Novice license two years later, I added a Johnson Viking Adventurer transmitter. That was my station until I passed my General and got my first "real" receiver, an SX-96, and a Knight-kit VFO.
I have an S-38C, which I found at a flea market a few years ago and got working. However, the 1946-vintage "original" S-38 in the photo has replaced it in my on-air Novice station. With its tunable BFO and switchable noise limiter, the 6-tube original S-38 is a better receiver than its 5-tube successors. The only problem is its AC/DC design, which requires an isolation transformer (such as Magnetek P-TN-51X from Antique Electronic Supply) for safe operation. With new tubes and alignment, it works surprisingly well.
The Viking Adventurer was brought out by E.F. Johnson in 1954. I've had several, of which the one in the photo, restored by K7NCE, is the best. I also have a Knight VFO, but opted for crystal control. After all, it's supposed to be a Novice station (Novices in the 1950s were required to use crystals) and there should be at least one thing in the station whose frequency doesn't drift!
A Lionel J-38 key (made for the Signal Corps during WW2 by the Lionel train company) and a pair of HS-16A headphones (a Vietnam-era version of the WW2 HS-16), which fit the S-38's tip jacks, complete the station.
My one concession to modern-day operating practices is a Johnson 250-39 automatic transmit-receive switch (not shown), which provides full break-in operation. While historically accurate (it appears in the accessory pages of the Adventurer manual), it was probably too expensive for most 50s-era Novices. My own Novice station used a Dow-Key coax relay. However, this 250-39 came from Bud Brown's junk box, so the price was right!