Memories of My Early Ham Radio Years

  My Novice license arrived on my birthday December 6, 1956. With shaking hands and afraid to breathe I fired up my Hallicrafters S-38D receiver and warmed up the Heath DX-20 I had assembled in the preceeding weeks. Tuning in the 80 meter novice band I keyed the transmitter's oscillator and located the signal on 3712, my only crystal. Lots of strong signals in my headphones that clear December night. There was KN7BUY right on my frequency calling CQ.
Bravely, I threw the big DPDT knife switch, transferring my dipole antenna to the transmitter. This was the big moment! I moved the slide switch of the DX-20 to Transmit. My heart pounded as I tapped out KN7BUY de KN7BUC k, and quickly returned the switches to receive. Oh, my gawsh!!! He answered me. With shaking hands I completed a nice QSO with Lon Woodbury in Idaho. A few more contacts, and I was feeling confident, the fear had begun to subside, I was becoming a vetran at this now.
A few nights later I heard a very loud signal near my frequency. "CQ CQ CQ de K7ABO". I replied, and thus began a friendship with Joan Lawson. Joan was a whiz at CW, and would eventually, along with Donna, K7LPZ, become one of the fastest CW ops in the Northwest. Once Donna joined the group, she and Joan would chat on CW for hours at 40-50 wpm, fast enough that most of the boys couldn't understand what they were saying. My code speed really increased during that period, and I did get most of what they were saying...sorry girls.

In about 1959 I picked up a Hallicrafters SX-28, and started building my "big rig" 304-TL transmitter. My DX-20 had been replaced by a matched pair of Hallicrafters HT-9 transmitters. The HT-9 AM transmitters used an RCA 814 tube in the final, and put out around 100 watts. I ran them as a doherty amplifier, (phased in parallel) to get about 170 watts output. Once the big rig was completed, I concentrated on getting the most from the 304-TL. It ran very cool on CW, 1000 watts input was no problem, and would do 3000 watts input at full loading on the high-voltage transformer position. Typically, I ran about 900 watts input, so the plates would glow a weak orange, nice and cool. I ended up using it mostly in linear mode, letting one of the HT-9's do the modulation.

By that time I was quite involved in several nets which I checked into on a nightly basis. Donna K7LPZ and Howard K7HSM had a great signal from Twisp with their Heathkit DX-100. For some reason Joan K7ABO was usually very loud at Coulee Dam, probably the skip distance to Spokane was just right. Now and then Sally K7DGK from Davenport would show up, but mostly she was too busy with school activities to spend much time on the air.
In Junior High School my best friends were Willis and Lauri. Lauri Hakola moved to East Wenatchee and became K7LXH. Lauri introduced me to a friend I had talked to on the air many times, Dennis, K7OGW. Dennis and I became good friends, and in the 60's started a business together. While building my big transmitter, I got acquainted with Dick (Dave Whiting) K7COC, an electronics genius who lived in the Seattle area. Dave helped me obtain a giant plate transformer for my project. He and I were both broadcast radio engineers and announcers, so we had much to chat about on the air. I've always admired Dave's technical abilities and sense of humor. He is still one of my best friends.
I began working at KFDR in Grand Coulee in 1959 as an announcer. In 1961 I got my First Class Radiotelephone license and became Chief Engineer. Broadcast Radio sure did beat delivering papers, and gave me some gas money for my 1951 Chevrolet.
What a car! I had installed an ARC-5 transmitter and receiver in that car, and had replaced the clock in the dash with the plate current meter. The trunk was full of dynamotors. There were two antennas, one standard whip with spring mount, and the other was a military "tank" antenna bolted to the bumper and the car frame! The mount weighed about 75 lbs, and had a huge spring. The 5 section whip screwed together in 3 foot sections. I usually used only 4 of the sections, as it would not clear the bridges in Spokane otherwise. From the car I operated mostly CW. I had a big Air Force telegraph key that made it easy to grip on bumpy roads.
We had some fun "polyhumanoid eyeball qso's" (known by humans as a party).
Some who were present at various gatherings:
Wanda (now K7OGW's lovely wife)
Donna's sister
W7GTJ - Sig from Electric City (deceased)
Doc Harmon from Hartline, WA. (can't remember call) (deceased)

K7OXM transported me to some of those parties his 1957 VW. What a fun car! Kopey, W2??? (Isadore Kopels) who now lives in Las Vegas and Yogi (James Darwood) K7PTW (deceased) were regulars, both on the air and at ham events. Yogi and his wife Marg were close friends for years. In about 1964 Kopey, Yogi & I worked for competitor TV stations in the Tri-Cites.
In my own town of Coulee Dam, two good friends were briefly involved in ESN, Lee Grimes K7INU and Jerry Kieffer K7MBW. As musicians we played jazz at high-school events. Lee currently lives in Battleground, WA. and last I heard Jerry was living in the Wenatchee area.
Some of my on-the-air buddies I talked with regularly during the early years were Jim W7DPH in Sagle, Idaho; Al K7KBX also Sagle, Idaho (deceased); W7FBL at Gibbonsville, Idaho (deceased).

One evening after I had shut down KFDR, the radio station where I worked in Grand Coulee, I climbed up the tower to check the feedpoint connection. While I was up there I noticed a car had parked at the base of the tower, some folks had gotten out and were looking up at me. I climbed down to where I could hear them, and was greeted by Howard K7HSM and Donna K7LPZ.

Those times were some of the best. Talking to my friends on the radio probably kept me out of mischief better than anything else could have. Yes, we were geeks, but we sure had fun.
It is unfortunate that some have passed away, indeed many of my best friends have gone. We are fortunate to have known them, though briefly.

The NSN was born. The Northwest Slow Speed Net (now called The West Coast Slow Speed Net or WCN) was created so that average CW operators could learn to handle traffic. I became a charter member of that net relaying for weaker stations, since I had the biggest signal on that net.
From the moment my Conditional class license arrived I had been checking into various nets.

Nets I regularly checked into:
PTAN (Pacific Teenagers Net)
WARTS (Washington Amateur Radio Traffic System)
Idaho Farm Net
NSN (Northwest Slow Speed Net)
ESN (Evergreen State Net)
Columbia Basin Net

Later Ham Radio Adventures

Ham radio has been a significant factor in my life, although there have been long periods of inactivity.
While working as a musician in Hollywood, CA I became interested in 2 meters, and spent a great deal of time on the various Los Angeles area repeaters.
Moving back to Phoenix where I have lived most of my life I worked RTTY, AMTOR, and PACKET extensively.
Some of my AMTOR friends were Chuck K0KXR (deceased), Dave K7COC, Phil VE7BPH, Alvaro TI2ALG, George TI3DJT, Armando TI2AEB, Vic W5SMM, and Mike N5EDH (my brother-in-law). On PACKET: Joe WB7BNI, Ric NY7H, John NW7W, and Wes K7PYK (deceased).
From 1982 to mid-1995 I ran both packet-radio and amtor BBS systems, both on HF an VHF. At one time I had about 2500 users, from all over the world.
In 1995 I move from Phoenix to my current location, shutting down the BBS systems.

I'm again active on the air as of April 2005.
Current Station Equipment:
Yaesu FT-900 tranceiver with Timewave DSP-59+ digital filter.
Alpha PA-77 amp.
Antenna currently a 275 ft. longwire with lots of radials.
I have a beam and tower waiting to go up in the next few months.
Most of my operation is DX-ing. Radio is still fun, and CW is still relaxing to me. My "fist" is awful, but can still copy at a reasonable rate.
Ham radio has led to nearly all my jobs in some way, and has allowed me to meet some great people.