My life in ham radio
The radio bug bit me hard on Christmas Day, 1963, when I got a yellow
Bakelite 5-tube table radio from Santa Claus and discovered you could hear
stations as far away as San Francisco and Canada. Canada! That was like a
whole other country! Without really knowing it I became a broadcast band
DXer, sometimes scouring the band to see what new stations I could find,
sometimes listening to a favorite for hours at a time.
For Christmas 1965 I got a National NC-57 receiver, and the world of
shortwave radio opened up. I soon discovered that there were people who had
their own radio stations, and from then on nothing would do but getting on
the air myself. To make a long story short, with the help of a Scoutmaster
who taught me Morse code in a way that stuck and the advisor to my school's
radio club, I got my first license in 1968. WN7KPK. Thank you, Scoutmaster
Swallow. Thank you, Aubrey Clayton, W7PTH (SK).
I'm not sure my parents really understood my hobby, but they tolerated it
and even encouraged it, to the point where my father drove me from south
central Washington to Seattle one Friday morning so I could take the General
license test. I passed the code test but didn't find out for several weeks
that I'd failed the written exam. I was heartbroken and wanted to try again.
Some months later my father bought me a bus ticket to Spokane and told me
this time I had to pass, because the next time I was on my own to get to a
test. This was his version of “incentive licensing.” I passed not only the
General exam but the Advanced as well! I was now WA7KDK. Why KDK, I'm not
sure, since it should have just been WA7KPK. I think someone in the FCC
license office couldn't read my writing.
In 1971 we moved to New Jersey when my father got a new job. I notified the
FCC of my new address and they reassigned my call, to WA2CDK. I only made a
few contacts with that call.
Several years later I moved back to the western United States, which meant I
was eligible to once again have a callsign with a “7” in it instead of the 2
for New Jersey. I wrote to the FCC, explained what had happened with my
earlier license, and asked if I could please get WA7KPK reassigned. To my
surprise and delight they did so, and I've been WA7KPK ever since.
I've been a ham now for most of a half century. I was an Old Man at age 13 (all
male hams are properly addressed as “old man”). I've made signals with a
simple straight key and with a computer. I've gotten to meet, however
briefly, people of all ages from many walks of life and every continent.
I've made some very good friends. I've collected awards and certificates and
won high score for my section in an ARRL Sweepstakes. And through all this,
somewhere inside me is still that seven year old boy discovering the magic
of radio for the first time and thinking there's something just incredibly
cool about firing off a beam of electromagnetic energy, not knowing where it
will land, and chewing the rag into the night with whomever it finds.
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