Morse Day slated Saturday

Posted: April 26, 2013

The Winchester Star

Mike Cizek, a member of the Morse Telegraph Club, will take part in Saturday’s celebation of Morse Day in Boyce. Admission is free and open to the public.

Winchester — Some of the fastest texters in history never saw a phone, much less a smart one.

The original texting experts — telegraph operators in the 1800s — could send 25 to 40 words per minute. And although their messages didn’t travel the globe with as much speed as today, they connected the world in a way it had never seen before.

“They could use them faster than somebody can sending a text message with their thumbs,” said Frank Scheer of Alexandria, a member of the Morse Telegraph Club.

The club will honor that achievement and the man whose communication technique, Morse Code, helped make it possible, he said. Morse Day will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday to mark the birth of Samuel Morse and celebrate one of his most long-lasting inventions.

The event will feature a cookout, tours and demonstrations at the former Norfolk & Western Railway Boyce Depot, 117 E. Main St., Boyce. The depot, which Scheer owns, is also the site of the Railway Mail Service Library. He is president and curator of the library.

The event is free and open to the public.

The Morse Telegraph Club is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the knowledge and traditions of telegraphy, said Mike Cizek, one of its members.

The Boyce Morse Day celebration will be one of many going on nationwide Saturday, which would be the 222nd birthday of Morse.

Organizers will have an authentic telegraph office running for the day so people can see how the machinery worked, he said.

Operators will actually be sending messages to people at other Morse Day celebrations, although they will go out over the Internet, not wires, which are long gone, said Cizek of Severn, Md. The club members connect on the Internet through a server in Washington, D.C.

“We will have some people sitting there working the telegraph station and talking in Morse Code with people throughout the country,” he said.

One feature of the software they use is that onlookers will see a transcription of the messages on a computer screen, Scheer said.

Some of the members coming from near and far include former railroad telegraphers and a historian, J. Chris Hausler, who can answer questions about the telegraph and how they were used.

The official purpose of the club is to keep telegraph history alive, he said.

“Our goal is to have people using telegraphs so folks can see how it was used 100 years ago and to keep the art and skill of telegraphy alive,” he said.

A cookout will be held throughout the afternoon with hamburgers, hot dogs and sodas. Visitors are welcome to bring side dishes, desserts and beverages to share.

Anyone who wants to display railroadiana (memorabilia) for show or sale is welcome to tailgate.

In addition to the telegraph station, Scheer has set up the agent’s office in the depot to focus on how the railroad agent and telegraph operator of the train station used to conduct business.

The office is furnished with original Norfolk & Western Railway furniture, which was made special in its carpentry shop and was not commercially available.

“When somebody looks at this, they will be looking at the way a telegraph office looked during the 1920s to ’30s at Boyce,” he said.

Information

The Morse Telegraph Club will celebrate the birth of American inventor Samuel Morse with a Morse Day event from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the former N&W Railway Boyce Depot, 117 E. Main St., Boyce. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, go to morsetelegraphclub.org.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com