An excellent reception

Lawrence McCraw in the Happy Days Radio Station studio. Photo: supplied
Lawrence McCraw in the Happy Days Radio Station studio. Photo: supplied
Receiving a Citizens Award was proof positive that Lawrence McCraw had been heard. 

The best day of my life was on Monday, September 23, 2019, when I was honoured to receive a Citizen's Award for my many long years of service to the community as a volunteer broadcaster.

That service dates back to the mid 1960s when I started operating my first pirate radio station, broadcasting from Homai College (the then New Zealand Foundation for the Blind school at Manurewa, Auckland); this was just before Radio Hauraki hit the airwaves. The radio station was known as Radio ANX after the annex that was our dormitory and location for our broadcasting activities.

Sections of a new aerial installed for Palmerston's Radio Puketapu are bolted together in 2007....
Sections of a new aerial installed for Palmerston's Radio Puketapu are bolted together in 2007. Lawrence McCraw is in the foreground.
Everything was constructed at Homai College and was very rudimentary, we did not even have a mixing desk, just one antiquated turntable and an old telephone carbon microphone. The first transmitter we made out of an old guitar amplifier that had a faulty output valve that caused it to transmit radio waves. The problem was that it was broadcasting over the entire radio spectrum so we had to shut down for a few weeks. The next transmitter was constructed from an old 1940s vintage valve radio, which we were able to tune to whatever frequency (highly illegal) we wanted.

When it came to school certificate year we were told to close it down.

In the early 1970s, I spearheaded a group in Balclutha with the intention of applying for a broadcasting licence to establish a full-time radio station but a change of government put a stop to that. In 1973 I started operating another pirate station, known as Radio Sunshine, in the Clinton area (which was popular) but was closed down by the then Post Office in 1976 after a tip off. This was big news at the time, over all media of the day.

After this, we ran small volunteer radio stations on temporary licences throughout Otago and Southland in conjunction with various service clubs, raising money for charitable causes. All our equipment was home made.

In the 1980s, I worked for Radio Otago as an announcer on 4XO in Dunedin.

At the start of 1990 I went to Ranfurly and created Classic Gold Radio (now Burn) which, after a lot of hard work, went to air in September 1991 as a full-time station following two month-long broadcasts in 1990 raising funds to restore the old railway station from which we broadcast. On Anzac Day, which was very wet and windy, we made history by broadcasting the Pateoroa Anzac Day service from the local hall - which was no easy task.

In 1995, I shifted to Palmerston and created Puketapu Radio, which after much hard work and many setbacks officially went to air on Wednesday, May 19, 1999.

On July 3, 2017 my own low-powered FM station (Happy Days Radio 88.3 FM) went on air officially, from my house.

Apart from the time I spent on 4XO, my services to radio have all been for love and after all my hard work — including many trials and tribulations along the way — at almost 67 years of age, I am still as passionate about radio as I was when 14 years old. I have come a long way along a path that has been far from straight and much of it up hill.

After reading this you can appreciate why receiving the Citizens Award was the best day of my life.

Lawrence McCraw lives in Palmerston.

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