Here's you chance to write down some Ham memories you have experienced. It
can be about anything Ham related. A few examples might be, Your mentor, Your first contact (this is a good one),
Funny happenings, How becoming a Ham has changed your life. Any of a multitude of experiences just sit down and write.
Send your experience via email to Web Master Jack W7PON via the link listed at the bottom of
Neal Chamberlain N7MSH submitted this story.
HOW I BECOME A HAM OR “ I CAN DO THIS IN MY
Well it kind of happened that way, Honestly. I guess
it really started back in 1976 when I wound up in the Long Beach VA hospital for some surgery I my posterior. In 1974 I broke my neck at the c6/7 level in a motorcycle accident. In “76”
I required some surgery which left me laid up in the LB VA for 3 months. I was
confined to what they call a push gurney ( a gurney you lay on your stomach and it has regular wheelchair wheels on the front
so you can push it). During this time I was very bored so was told there was a CB room down in the basement. I being a avid CB’er at the time pushed on down there and sure enough there was a room filled with
radio stuff along 2 of it’s 4 walls. These radios were however not CB’s
but instead it was the Long Beach VA Amateur Radio Station. There was also however
on lonely little Johnson White face CB stuck over in the corner. The ams that were in there at the time were very cordial fellows
in there were very cordial and give me a tour of the radios and when I ask about playing with the old white face it soon become
apparent by some comments that that was not there by choice (seemed a very influential vet donated it and there it was going
to stay. At any rate I got the picture that it was like an unwanted red headed
step child so I wandered back up to my ward rather discusted with the attitude they had about the CB. For the next 10 years I continued to do the CB thing and one needs to remember the solar cycle was very high and 27/28 MHZ was open pretty much world wide at times.
I 10-4ed, roger rogered, wall to walled with the best of them to parts all over from my home-20 (remember I was a CBer,
ya got to know there slang….roger?).
In 1986, 10 years later I again found myself back in the Long Beach Va
with again another surgery of the same type so here we go again. I once again
made my way down to the radio room hoping for a more positive encounter and as I found that all the radios were different
and NO CB at all. I did however get interested in one of the operators
who was talking on a HF rig and again was given a tour of the station and was explained all the radios and a c-64 computer
hooked to a radio which printed a weird noise out on the screen. I didn’t
know HF from VHF from Packet or CW or RTTY but it all sounded pretty interesting. As
I left it was explained about the license and how to get on and if I was interested they would help.
A couple days later being bored as usual I thought I might as well check
into it. Not sure about that morse code though.
At that period in the Ham time line there were 5 classes Novice class( required 5
wpm code and a written test,), Tech class ( required more written test but no more code), General class ( required 13 wpm
code and more extensive written test), Advanced class ( more written test and finally the top banana Extra Class Amateur Operator
( 21 wpm plus more written test ) . And one MUST start at the Novice class.
I addressed the group in the “shack” that I would like to give it a try and I was sent back up stairs with
a book and a cassette by a fell named Gordon West. Ole “Gordo” and
I started matching wits. I figured I would try to learn the code first, no sense
in wasting time ( like I had such a busy schedule, wake up, eat , go out lay in the Southern Cal sun, nap, eat, nap eat and
go to bed and sleep). Well here is where the “ do it in my sleep”
comes in. I bought me an auto reverse cassette player down at the hospital store
to listen to Gordo. About 3 nights in a row I went to sleep with him dit da-ing
in my ear and the tape run from one end to the other and started all over again and on and on until the battery’s went
dead and I woke up in the morning with dit’s and da’s bouncing back and forth and a sore right ear. I litteraly learned 5 wpm code in a week, no lie.
Having some basic knowledge of how “radios” work the novice written was fairly straight forward for me
and other than the frequency allocations I cruised right through it.
I happen to be down talking to a guy named Roger ( can’t recall his callsign ) just outside the door to the radio
room and another student was preparing to take his 5 wpm test so Roger and I went just out the door and shut it. Of course the code was clear as a bell out there and Roger suggested I try to copy it for practice so he
could give me some tips and coaching. Well due to my disability I have to write
and or type with a brace or writing cuff. They started the test and I hung in
there pretty good. After it was over I did the “wheel-of-fortune”
technique and filled in all the missed spots. Roger took the paper
and went in the room and soon come back out and said “ congratulations, you just passed your 5wpm” Needless to
say if I hadn’t already been laying belly down I would have promptly been that way only on the floor. Seems the only thing I missed was the number in the calling stations callsign ( hey 4 ….- AND - -
- - .9 WAS COINFUSING..). Later that day I took the written and passed with no
problem..YA HOOO I am a new Novice class amateur radio operator. Now what do I do.
Well two minor problems, first I don’t even have a callsign yet and second I have no radio. Oddly enough shortly after I returned to my ward ( of which there were 4 beds per
cubical and 6 cubicles per ward) I was proudly announcing I had passed my Amateur radio test
when one of the guys in the next cubical over heard me and ask if I wanted to buy a ham radio.
Of course I was interested and went over to talk to him. As it turned
out he was a “super CB’er” and he and a friend had bought some ham stuff
to have 100 watts on CB and he had opted for a Kenwood 820s only to find out that the 820s did not have AM mode on it so he
stuck it aside and got a Yeasu ft 101 ( I think). I knew nothing about ham equipment
so I ask him questions which because of my lack of knowledge some of the answers made no sense. I ask how much and he said he would let me have it for $125. Again
not knowing much about it I hustled back down stairs and ask the guys down there what they thought. There reply was “if its in any kind of shape at all buy it” so back up I went and after he
assured me it worked fine I agreed to buy it. Man what a deal, the radio had
never been transmitted on, it still had plastic over the readout and didn’t even have a mic for it. Basically I stole it. A few days later he had his friend bring
the radio in and it was in perfect condition with book and all. The guys down stairs was impressed.
A couple weeks later I finally got to get back in my wheelchair and I was headed home to Arizona. Back in “the day” you had to wait for the FCC to send you the license
and it took forever it seemed but it finally got there and by that time I had the radio hooked up and a 10-40 m dipole set
up . I knew no other Hams in my town ( although there were 3 others I was unaware of at the time) so between me and a helper
we figured out how to get the radio going on cw ( only mode I could use) and the antenna up.
With ticket in hand I finally got the nerve one day to pound out cq on a speed-x straight key and waited, again called
cq then about the 3rd time someone answered me and I freaked out,
literally stared at the radio and did nothing, the station called again at which I then flipped the radio off and left the
room, scared me to death. I eventually made my first cw contact with WB6UAN and
from then on it there was no looking back.
Although my hands are paralyzed I sent with a straight key and although slow ( still am) I enjoyed it. In June of 1987 ( if I recall) they passed the “Novice enhancement” which opened 28.3 to 28.5
in the 10m band for voice operation for the Novice.
The cycle was hot and the 820 got a workout from then on.
The next step was tech then general. My general code was a trip because
as I explained before I have to write with a brace or cuff with a pen stuck in it. Writing
fast enough to copy 13 wpm was an impossibility so the testing group had me say the letters out loud and 2 of them copied
what I said ( so there would be no fudging). Try that on for size, say each letter
at 13 wpm for 5 minutes or whatever the length of the test was, my lips felt like big dry pancakes when I got done. But I
made it and eventually got my Advanced Class ( which I am still). Ham radio
has been a big part of my life since then and I still enjoy just rag chewing on the radio. I have ventured into most the older
digital modes, rtty, amtor, pactor, psk., sstv, and was real heavy into packet radio in the late 80’s and early 90’s
and chased RS 10/11/12 and 15, and Mir before they all died . Still work some cw and of course ssb. 6m, 10m, 15m and 17
are my favorite bands My biggest problem is that I like to sell, trade
and buy new and different gear. I have kept track of all the radios I have owned
and the count is close to 70 hf, vhf, uhf, and short wave receivers. I transmit
therefore I am.
Neal - - N7MSH
website with all my hobbies and ham radio pics)
Sixty years of hamming memories
By Graham Hicks, W4PJS
I promised Jack I’d
put together a few memories from my younger days around the world of ham radio. All
of you have wonderful, warm memories of your first contact (pun intended) with hamming, and mine just happen to have started
back about 1946.
My dad, Graham Hicks, Sr., got his license in 1939. It
was called at that time a “Class B License,” and the class of your license, as now, gave you certain operating
privileges. I remember watching him study relentlessly and take the long trip
down to the FCC office in New Orleans to take his Class A test. He failed it
the first time, but nailed it the next.
Though licensed in 1939, he had not the time nor the money to collect parts for a rig. By the time he could have started, WWII broke out and the government closed down all ham bands.
But shortly after the peace treaty was signed, the bands were reopened and there was quite a rush to
get a solid AM signal on the air. My first memories were of Dad bringing home
several metal chassis for the power supply, modulator, and exciter portions of his rig-to-be.
He had found a schematic somewhere and learned to solder well. He taught
me to heat up the joint fully with the big electric soldering iron, then gently feed the solder onto it and let it flow through
the joint. He let me solder many of the big joints in the power supply, because
they were the ones that really had to be solid. I watched him measure carefully
for socket holes, then use one of several chassis punches to put a clean hole in for an octal socket. He often took me on shopping runs downtown Jackson, Mississippi, to Cabell’s Electric to get standoff
and feedthrough insulators and copper and silver wire for coils. It was fun to
see him tie one end of a 30-foot heavy copper wire to a tree trunk and the other end to his car bumper and very gently back
the car until the wire stretched just a bit and was straight as an arrow. Then
he’d cut the wire end and wind the coil with perfectly straight wire. As
a 10-year-old, I became the local expert with my schoolmates who would often come home with me to see the project that was
actually going to put a radio signal on the air.
Parts gradually accumulated, and we were ready for an antenna.
This rig was on the 75 meter phone band, so there was no need for anything but a dipole. Dad bought a reel of new green and yellow cloth-covered lamp cord and put together a folded dipole. It was a thrill for me to get up on the house roof with him and help string it between
two wooden posts we screwed to the fascia boards. The feed line was made of the
same stuff, and came down to a manual DPDT knife switch just inside the shack window.
This switch threw the antenna from the receiver to the transmitter, and had to be operated by hand to make sure you
didn’t throw a 50-watt rf signal straight into your receiver! There was
another DPDT knife switch in series with this one outside – this one threw the antenna straight to a ground rod and
was left in the grounded position when he was not operating to protect against lightning.
Came the big day when we gave ‘er the “smoke test.”
Dad plugged in everything, then turned on the power supply switch, and we watched the filaments light up like Christmas
tree lights. Making sure the antenna switches were in the right positions, he
turned on the modulator and we saw those tubes light up. Finally he put the power
to the exciter and what a thrill to see everything glowing! The mercury vapor
in the power supply tubes glowed eerily blue and gave the feeling of massive power!
Dad had saved his money up and, in the middle of building the transmitter had ordered a Hammarlund
HQ-129 – one of the finest commercial receivers available. As I recall,
it covered only the ham bands, so we had no general coverage then. (It was later
that he got hold of a Navy surplus Hallicrafters Super-Pro, and he was the envy of all the hams around.)
Once he was satisfied that there were no short circuits and that the rig was tuning properly, he took
a deep breath and called his first “CQ, CQ, CQ. This is W5IHP, W5 Ida Henry
Peter, in Jackson, Mississippi, calling CQ and standing by.” Imagine our
delight when there came back, crackling in the little speaker, “W5IHP, this is W4IIW, Harold, in Jacksonville, Florida. How do you copy, old man?”
Wow!!! The rig really worked. We talked to Harold for ten or fifteen minutes and then I think we shut her down and went down to the Seale-Lily
place and got some ice cream to celebrate! I went to school the next day with
the news, and I think about half my class followed me home to see the new radio. I
was like a circus barker, telling all what the power supply and the modulator and the exciter did, and reveling in my glory!
A year or so later we moved to Brookhaven Mississippi, about fifty miles south. Dad set up his rig in a back room and, flushed with success, started building a real powerhouse –
a new AM rig that would run a full 300 watts. As before, I was his chief mechanic
and gofer and drilled holes and punched chassis until I could do them in my sleep. But
this rig had another trick up its sleeve – it could operate on ten meters, too.
This meant another antenna.
Dad started talking one night about building a “beam.”
Well now, I thought, a beam is something a flashlight throws, and how in the dickens does this relate to ham radio? I found out soon enough when he drew me a very simple diagram of a beam antenna, showing
how the driven element put a signal out, the director “sucked” the signal toward it, and the reflector “reflected”
the signal back forward again, all to the purpose of making more rf go out the “front” of the antenna than the
back. Of course, this was long before Moseley TA-33s and Cushcraft A-3s and so
on. So he brought home one day a pickup bed load of electrician’s conduit
of several different sizes, along with some hose clamps. Out in the back yard,
we cut the conduit to rough lengths for ten meter elements and then spaced the
elements out on a larger pipe boom. It was fed with a gamma match, which we made
with extra pieces of conduit, clamped onto the driven element. We did not have
an SWR bridge then, so the antenna was adjusted using a field strength meter and measuring front-to-back ratio at a low rf
output level. It worked! Dad built
a wooden tower that got the beam up about 30 feet, and I can remember stations waxing and waning as we turned the beam to
I’ll close with a story that has always typified to me the spirit of ham radio. One evening Dad was chatting with some fellows around south Mississippi on 75 meters. He was planning to build a yet more powerful rig that would have the capability to change power levels
from a few watts to about 500. But to do this he needed a Variac, a variable
AC transformer that would convert 115vac down to almost zero volts or any level in between.
They were fairly expensive, and as a new lawyer with the California Oil Company, he was not rolling in cash. He mentioned that some day he’d like to have one of these, and a while later they signed off the
The next morning, as Dad left the front door to go to work, he almost stumbled over something on the
front step. Looking down, it was an almost-new Variac, in the box. He could not imagine where it had come from; no one in his QSO the night before had offered one. It was not until several months later that he learned from one of his friends that another ham, not in
the QSO but “reading the mail” in McComb, Mississippi, about 30 miles down the road, had heard his wish, gotten
in his car, and driven up to our house, leaving the Variac on our doorstep without a word as to who he was.
This spirit of sharing has lasted with me for over 60 years.
I have tried a few times to do something as generous as that, but have fallen far short. Maybe my day is yet to come. Anybody need a Variac?
Here is a short funny story, I'll call it "Hot Pocket" by W7SAV - Steve
I had a friend I met at work at J.R. Simplot Co. who very quickly became interested in Ham Radio. I will only ID
him as Jeff to not embarrass him.
He had a couple young kids that where often exposed to foul language etc.
from his chicken band radios. After
hearing contacts using 2 meter repeaters covering much of the North West, the clarity of signal and the decorum of operators
sold him on becoming a Ham. We were both Hyster Drivers, we would practice CW at work by using our foot activated horn buttons
tapping out CW. What we said sometimes were not praising of bosses. hi hi....
But they never knew, they just thought we were very safety minded using our horns so much to warn foot traffic of our
Any way Jeff got his license and bought an old 2 meter mobile. Our group HARC (Hermiston
Amateur Radio Club) would provide communications for the Irrigon Watermelon Festival Parade each year. One Ham would ride in the lead Police car and others would be strung along the route to let the lead
car know whether the parade was getting strung out or bunched up. Jeff was not happy about setting in a hot car to use his radio. The next year Jeff bought an old 2 meter handheld and was looking
forward to being a spotter at this function.
His radio however would not hold a charge for long. So he decided to build his own
battery pack and put it in his pocket with the radio and have his speaker Mic on his shirt, he was so excited at building
something. Now I got to say I had some reservations about his ability to solder after seeing his 300 ohm TV twin lead J-pole
project. He always had shaky hands, don't know why and he
never said. Anyway the parade day came. Jeff showed me his
battery pack, hmmm, looked like he used scotch tape to insulate the solder joints but it looked well covered. Any way the
parade went on, I was one block away from Jeff on a corner. I heard a scream that punched right through the sound of festivities
going on. when I looked up the street I saw Jeff running up the street behind some parade participants, right hind pocket
smoking like the Devil, Jeff was dragging his speaker Mic on the pavement
behind him and trying to get the radio and battery pack out of his pocket while jumping and running around in the middle of
the street, evidently it was to hot to handle because he would pull his hand out and swat at his bum with a vengeance. First
there was silence from that part of the parade route, then laughter broke
out, some people jumped in to help poor ole Jeff and I could no longer see what they did to solve the "HOT POCKET".. He did take it very well once he discovered the radio was OK, his damage totaled
a scared up speaker Mic a useless lump of burnt battery pack and a burnt bum and levies.
He was recognized by many spectators for the rest of the day. He was a Celebrity..
He was a HAM...