Marshall H. Ensor   (1899-1970)


Marshall Ensor with his numerous awards.

Marshall H. Ensor [1899-1970] had a lifelong interest in teaching others. His own education centered on knowledge of tools and their use in creating useful or necessary items of life. His father introduced him to construction tools and methods, and the two of them improved and added to the family farmhouse and built other structures on the farm.

While he was a good student in all of his classes at school, his aptitude for the Industrial Arts, particularly woodworking, was noteworthy. In the spring of 1915, a high school sophomore, he designed and built a handsome kitchen cabinet in one semester. This cabinet was entered into a national competition sponsored by the Simonds Saw Company, and it was judged to be the best woodworked piece in the United States. His prize was a beautiful tool set, worth $35, which is proudly displayed above the work bench in “The Wood Shop” at the Ensor Museum. He became a paid (13 cents / hour) teaching assistant in 1915.

At about that time, Marshall became interested in the growing hobby of wireless communications. He built crystal-receiving sets and soon added a sending set called a spark-gap transmitter. He read books about wireless, which was in the process of becoming known as “Radio.” He studied the Morse Code used for radio communication and had contacts of nearly 20 miles with his 1916 wireless transmitter and receiver.

Marshall become an instructor of Manual Arts at the Olathe High School at age 19, one year after his graduation. That job lasted, with several brief “sabbaticals” to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and to serve three years in the US Navy,  until his retirement in 1965. His thousands of students benefited from the skills they gained that enabled them to quickly find work.

Perhaps the most relevant accomplishment during a life filled with them, had its beginning in December of 1929. By that time Marshall Ensor had trained himself well in the construction of radio transmitters of the latest designs. When he saw a call for volunteers issued by the ARRL printed in the amateur radio magazine QST, he answered the call. The ARRL was seeking experienced operators to use their own equipment to transmit lessons that would help listeners learn the Morse Code, basic electrical theory, and other technical information necessary for them to become licensed radio amateur operators. Along with a few others he replied that he would do just that beginning December of 1929 with 60 nightly 1-hour lessons on a frequency just at the top of the popular broadcast segment of household radios. The signal of W9BSP went out six evenings per week during the months of December and January carrying well-organized lessons; they were received by hundreds of unseen listeners across America.

The Olathe, Kansas, postal service soon found out that a certain address just near the south edge of the city had a noticeable increase in mail from all over, often addressed simply W9BSP Olathe, Kansas. Hundreds of listening students mailed their thanks to W9BSP for preparing them to meet the requirements for a Federal Radio License. Of all those volunteers who, like Marshall, taught radio by radio, The number of people taking his lessons in the 1930’s surpassed other operator’s efforts and went on yearly until December of 1941, when the U.S. Government prohibited amateur activity so that amateurs would not interfere with governmental and military transmission and reception.Paley Award

The American Radio Relay League nominated Marshall H. Ensor for the 1940 Wm. S. Paley Amateur Radio Award. The award was also given to 3 other radio amateurs who performed a particular service of their own desire and for the welfare of our Country. The awards began in 1935. Mr. Ensor received the last Paley Award at a huge ceremony in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Ballroom with many dignitaries attending. His sister, Loretta, too was flown there since she, also a licensed radio operator, helped on occasion to fill in for Marshall so that no evening was omitted during the course of the lessons.