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Not just a regular Sunday ...

His name was Quentin Melvin Johnson. But most people knew him as "QM." Or as "Quent." Or, to his fellow amateur radio operators, as "W9RWJ." Quent was a radio guy even when he was a teen. In fact, when he was 20, he helped construct a transmitter...

Gene Johnson

His name was Quentin Melvin Johnson. But most people knew him as "QM." Or as "Quent." Or, to his fellow amateur radio operators, as "W9RWJ."

Quent was a radio guy even when he was a teen. In fact, when he was 20, he helped construct a transmitter for the new radio station WDAY.

His son, Gene P. Johnson, Fargo, well remembers his father's fascination with radio. He recalls the big 4-foot tall wooden cabinet radio his dad acquired in the early 1940s and the portable radio he bought in the 1950s that required huge batteries and that brought in both commercial radio stations and shortwave bands.

Quent got his son interested in radio, too; Gene had a crystal radio set, with the antenna strung out the window and into the trees.

Quent was an electrical contractor and the founder of Johnson Electric Service, Fargo; his ads read, "You phone for us, we wire for you."


But earlier, Quent and his family lived in Velva, N.D. It was there that the story Gene reports occurred.

A normal Sunday

It was a routine Sunday morning in the Johnson household. The family got up, went to Mass, came home for breakfast. Then Quent went down to his shack, which he had set up over the cistern to house his Hallicrafters shortwave radio.

While his dad was making ham radio contact with people near and far, young Gene was rollerskating. Since it was cold, he couldn't do it outside, so he skated in a circle around the big coal furnace.

But then Quent came out of the shack and yelled at Gene to quit skating so he could hear better.

It was 11:55 a.m., and Quent had just heard another radio ham say abruptly, "Just a minute, I'll be back."

He soon came back on the air and said, "We're being bombed by the Japanese."

He was talking from Pearl Harbor, and it was Dec. 7, 1941.


The man told Quent, "Wait a minute; I'll be back." But Quent never heard him again.

Quent went upstairs and told his wife, Marie, about it, then turned on that big wooden cabinet radio in the living room and kept it on for hours.

It was about 4 p.m. when commercial radio stations interrupted their broadcasts to report the attack. That was four hours after Quent had learned about it from his fellow ham radio operator.

The sound system

Quent remained a radio man the rest of his life, Gene says. In fact, he worked on what would be Fargo's first sound system in 1958.

He built a big cabinet for speakers in the living room of his house and put in more speakers in the basement family room. Being a master electrician, he knew how to conceal wires in the wall throughout the house.

But before he could finish the project, Quent was in the only car accident he ever had, and he died from his injuries a few hours later. That was 50 years ago next Jan. 9. He was 52.

Gene still has his dad's old Hallicrafters radio. And he has many fond thoughts of him, including this: That 66 years ago Friday, Quentin Johnson, in Velva, may have been the first person in the United States to learn of the attack on Pearl Harbor.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com

Not just a regular Sunday ... Bob Lind 20071202

Gene Johnson

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