welcome to my QRZ.com page - here I'm visiting station W6RO in
the radio room aboard the ship HMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA
Back in 1968 - Kingsburg High School, Harold Strand Memorial Club Station W6HKV,
that's me in front, 16-year-old WB6YMO, Robert WB6PPT middle, Rick WB6WKR rear
My antenna system, 14 bands 1.8 - 432 Mc, one tower, 13 bands rotatable
Shunt-fed tower vertical on 80/160, vacuum-variable feed caps, 16 elevated radials
Workroom where I build stuff and restore vintage gear
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AD6W, 1977 FCC-tested Amateur Extra, 20-wpm code
ex WN6YMO Novice 1967-68, ex WB6YMO General and Advanced 1968-77
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A1 Operators Club - American Radio Relay League - Central California DX Club - San Joaquin Net 3918 Kc - Strand Memorial Amateur Radio Club W6HKV
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My awards are based only on CW/SSB contacts made from my home in Kingsburg, California, USA -
no internet remotes, no trips around the country, just real Ham Radio from antennas in my own back yard
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DXCC MIXED #32,484 - HONOR ROLL
DXCC CW #6,205 - HONOR ROLL
DXCC PHONE #20,574 - HONOR ROLL
5-BAND DXCC #4,466 - ENDORSED 30, 17, 12
160-METER DXCC #2,275
DXCC CHALLENGE, 2511 WORKED / 2452 CONFIRMED
WORKED ALL ZONES #7,797
IOTA ISLANDS ON THE AIR, 881 WORKED / 854 CONFIRMED
5-BAND WORKED ALL STATES #2,552
ANTARCTIC BASES, 31 WORKED / 31 CONFIRMED
AMATEUR RADIO LIGHTHOUSE SOCIETY LIGHTHOUSES, 97 WORKED / 94 CONFIRMED
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LOCATION - Kingsburg is my birthplace, a small farming community in California's San Joaquin Valley. It's located on the banks of the Kings River, quiet, serene, and nothing like the crowded cities of Los Angeles or San Franscisco. Originally named Kings River Switch, it was created by the Central Pacific Railroad in 1872 when it built the San Joaquin Valley Rail Line connecting Sacramento and Los Angeles. Kingsburg enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine a year in a rural environment with low population density and no traffic jams. In 1900 the population was 94% Swedish immigrants, and that heritage is still evident in the beauty of the women and neatness of the town. Kingsburg is 200 miles north of Los Angeles, 200 miles southeast of San Francisco, 96 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and 14 miles from the Sierra Nevada Mountains that include Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park. With Pacific beaches a short drive away and three national parks on our doorstep we enjoy an incredible array of recreational opportunities. The San Joaquin Valley is 27,000 square miles of the most productive agricultural land in the world, producing 40% of the food and 80% of the fresh fruit consumed in America, and several billion dollars in annual food exports. Kingsburg is home to Sunmaid Raisins, known worldwide for red boxes of juicy raisins. Raisins are grapes dried in the California sun. Grapes and raisins are major crops grown here, along with lemons, oranges, apples, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, almonds, pistachios, tomatoes and other vegetables. There are also many large dairy farms and companies producing milk, cheese and ice cream. The sale of San Joaquin Valley food products is the stable foundation of California's economy.
EQUIPMENT - I'm active CW/SSB on all bands 1.8 - 432 Mc. CW is my favorite mode. I enjoy restoring and operating a collection of classic vacuum-tube radios. My everyday rig is an Elecraft K3 with transverters for 144, 220 and 432 Mc. Having achieved most of my operating goals on HF, I'm currently becoming more active on the VHF/UHF bands and building transverters, amplifiers and antennas for the 902 and 1296 Mc bands.
ANTENNAS - I live on a small city lot, but my antenna farm works well on all 14 bands 1.8 - 432 Mc. A modified 7-element Mosley PRO-67C multiband Yagi covers all 9 HF bands 10-80 meters on one feedline. It's modified to work as a rotatable dipole on 80, 60 and 30 meters and a 3-element Yagi on 40, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meters. Using this antenna I've worked more than 2,500 band-countries in the DXCC Challenge. I use a 6-element Hygain Yagi on 6 meters, and stacked arrays of M2 Yagis on 2 meters, 1-1/4 meters, and 70 centimeters. On 80 and 160 meters I shunt-feed the tower plus antennas as a vertical radiator against 16 elevated radials. The metal yagis on the tower act as a large capacity hat and make the structure an effective low-band radiator.
When I became a Ham in the 1960's there were no home computers, internet, email, websites, DX alerts, cell phones, handhelds, or solid-state gear. Radios used vacuum tubes operating at high voltages, repeaters were in their infancy, and FM mobile gear using vacuum tubes took up most of a car's trunk. Many people built Ham gear from magazine articles, Handbook plans or kits. Most Hams used separate transmitters and receivers that did not transceive. It generally took a lot of work to put a station on the air and keep it operating reliably. Only wealthy Hams or those with high-paying jobs could afford new factory-built equipment. My young friends and I used homebrew gear, old gear, WW2 surplus, or kit radios from Allied Radio, Heathkit and Lafayette. There were 5 classes of license: Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra. All classes required sending and receiving proficiency in International Morse Code. All Novice (beginner) operation on HF was limited to CW, 75 watts input (40-45 watts output), and crystal-control (no VFO allowed). For any license above Novice, FCC engineers tested you personally at a Federal Building. Test sessions were scheduled by the FCC, usually four times a year in most locations. Theory tests required knowledge of higher math, components and specific circuits. Tests for CW proficiency covered sending and receiving, and copy had to be perfect over a 2-minute period to pass. Failure of either code or theory test elements meant you took everything over again (no credit vouchers) after a 90-day wait for the next scheduled test session. This was a challenge that attracted me as a young boy to Amateur Radio, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I passed my General code and theory exams. I began attending radio club meetings, and I met old timers who had become Hams in the teens, 1920s and 1930s. I cherish the stories they told me about Spark, the first vacuum tubes, and the development of CW and voice Radio. They mentored me in the original ways of Ham Radio and invited me into the Ham fraternity. They are gone now, but I'm privileged to have known them and to have their QSLs on my wall.
I've loved Radio since I was a small boy in the 1950s listening to the GE floor console at my grandmother's house. I love what Radio does and how it works. It's magical to me that something I can assemble out of parts right on my workbench can come to life and bring me code, voices and music from all over the world. Electromagnetic waves fascinate me. When I'm calling CQ on a quiet band late at night I often imagine myself riding on my radio waves as they leave my antenna and traverse the ether, moving silently across vast oceans, passing over high mountains, traveling on into space. God created electromagnetic waves with all other visible and invisible phenomena at the beginning of the universe, but they lay undiscovered through the vast stretch of history and only found use in the recent past. Most people today take electromagnetic waves for granted, but they're a continuing source of wonder to me. The Bible talks about signs, wonders, and miracles. Wonders are phenomena including electromagnetic waves that lie undiscovered until mankind finally develops an ability to detect, understand and use them. It's my opinion there are many wonders yet to be discovered. Every time mankind thinks everything has been discovered, someone comes along and dumps the world on its ear.
My interest in electricity began early. I was a toddler when I stuck a screwdriver into the side of an ac outlet box with no cover plate, and after a bright flash of light and a puff of smoke, I turned what was left of that screwdriver towards my father and yelled, "Hot burnie!" I've been fascinated by the invisible force of electricity ever since. My interest in shortwave radio began when I was 9 years old and heard strange sounds coming from our neighbor's garage. Mr. Long was seated at his workbench turning knobs on a small black box. He was a teacher at my school, and he invited me to sit down and listen to his "shortwave." I now know the black box he was using was a ARC-5 command set originally installed in a WW2 military aircraft. I had such a good time tuning signals on that receiver I got hooked on shortwave radio. Every time i went to see Mr. Long I spent time tuning his shortwave, and I hoped I would one day have one of my own.
When I was 11 years old I set up a telegraph system between the main and guest houses on our family farm. My brother and I tapped out messages back and forth using the code chart in the boy scout handbook. On my 12th Christmas my parents gave me a Knight-Kit Star Roamer Receiver kit, and it changed my life. It led me into electronics and SWL radio, then into Ham Radio, and ultimately into a career as a technician and engineer. The old Star Roamer still occupies an honored position in my Shack. One night when I was 13 I made a discovery at a place on the dial marked "1.8 mc," and the people I heard talking there called themselves Hams. I went to the library and checked out every book i could find about Hams so I could become one.
It was about this time that my friend Rick got his novice license and the call WN6WKR. He and I always talked Ham Radio on the school bus, and he invited me to his house to see his Ameco transmitter and Lafayette receiver in action. Seeing his station in action caused me to redouble my efforts to become a Ham with my own station and callsign. Rick also introduced me to Charlie Heilman WB6GJG, a local ham that soon became a second father to me.
Charlie taught us about Radio and let us use his tools and huge junk box of parts. He had time to help kids like us, and eventually helped 22 kids become Hams. Charlie had a conditional license and could not administer my novice test, so he introduced me to our small-town mayor, Harold Strand W6HKV. Harold also treated me very kindly and worked with me until I passed the novice code test. Things seemed to be going well, but Harold suffered a brain aneurysm and died a few weeks before my novice written test came in the mail. I was devastated, but Charlie introduced me to Bob Henry, WB6DAZ, who gave me the novice written test, and after waiting 2 months I finally received my license in the mail with my first call, WN6YMO. Charlie bought a battered old Johnson Viking 1 transmitter from under a table at the Fresno hamfest, showed me how to repair it, and let me mow his lawn all summer to pay for it. He was a fan of Heathkits, so he painted the battered old Johnson Heathkit green. I grew to know that old Viking 1 very well during my Novice career. Sadly, I later sold it to a student at Cal Poly University. If you ever find a green Johnson Viking 1, I would really like to buy it back.
In my Novice life Ham Radio was CW. I worked all summer to buy my Novice CW station: the old Viking, a couple crystals, a military surplus hand key, and a Knight R100A receiver. I often stayed up all night rag chewing with Rick and working the occasional state that came by on the 40 meter novice band. My only antenna was a 40 meter dipole 20 feet high. My first DX was KG6AAY on the island of Guam, and I caught the DX bug. Charlie helped me build a 15 meter beam, and I eventually worked another 80 countries on the 15 meter Novice band. The Viking 1 was made in 1951, the year I was born, and weighed 80 pounds. I had to throw 3 switches and adjust 5 knobs just to tune it up. It was crystal-controlled on one frequency in each Novice band with 75 watts input power to the 4D32 final tube. I still have a scar on my wrist from an RF burn I got when I forgot to kill the plate voltage before opening the lid and sticking in my hand, bumping my key in the process. I was a novice when transmitters could kill you, and I have the scar to prove it! Every time I hit the key, the Viking sagged the line power so much it shrunk the picture on the TV set in my parent's bedroom. My father had to wire a separate circuit from the main panel to my room to supply MORE POWER. The Knight R100A receiver drifted so badly I put it on a timer so it would come on several hours before I got home from school. I later borrowed a National NC-270 receiver that was a much better performer (the first piece of factory-assembled gear I ever used).
In retrospect, I was fortunate to become a Novice Ham when I had to have the help of a local Ham to get a license. It brought me great mentors and friends. The Hams I heard on 160 meter AM before I was licensed were gentlemen and a real pleasure to listen to. The mentors who helped me into Ham Radio were WW II veterans who had been to hell and back, but they also behaved as gentlemen. They taught me that real Hams are a special fraternity of people that respect each other and follow the Amateur's Code.
The Novice License expired in 12 months, so pressure to upgrade was intense. 10 months after becoming a Novice I passed the General code and theory tests at the FCC office in Fresno and received the callsign WB6YMO. I bought a Heathkit VFO to make the Viking 1 frequency agile, and Charlie helped my build a homebrew amplifier with four 811A tubes. I hit 15 CW with 800 watts into my 4-element homebrew beam and worked lots of DX, some of it very rare. My new Vibroplex Lightning bug was my pride and joy, and my teenage life revolved around Ham Radio, Ham Radio club meetings, and Ham Radio friends. Rick and I (by now he was WB6WKR, I was WB6YMO) had many misadventures in high school, but Ham Radio tended to keep us out of any real trouble. Even so, we managed to roll his mother's car onto the side once, and I managed to wreck my 1950 Chevy before I was 17. Fortunately Rick had a motorcycle he was willing to share, and I spent a lot of time on the back of it my 16th summer.
In my senior year I was elected president of our radio club at Kingsburg High School. Charlie was the station trustee, and we had the backing of our vice-principal, an avid SWL. Our club call was W6HKV, Harold Strand's old call, and the name of the club was the Strand Memorial ARC. Harold's widow had donated all of his equipment including his tower, beam, Galaxy V Transceiver, Gonset GSB100 transmitter, Hammarlund HQ180AC receiver, and his six-foot homebrew kilowatt. This was far more commercial gear than any of us had ever seen, and we had a great time putting it all on the air. Our school offered an excellent six-semester vocational electronics course, so by the time I graduated I had a solid electronics education.
The next year I began college, and another friend, Bob Dahlquist WB6KGF, was working the night shift as a broadcast engineer at KFRE-AM 940, a 50,000 watt station out of Fresno. He would soon be drafted into the Army and living "Hello, Vietnam" for real as engineer in charge of a broadcast station in Saigon. Bob's duty at the remote KFRE transmitter site was lonely, and he invited me out to visit him there anytime during the night. I often drove out in the wee hours of the morning while fog blanketed the landscape. The site was near the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The 50,000 watt KFRE transmitter fed a 4-tower array in a large pasture, and miles of radial wire lay unburied in the grass. Elevated wooden walkways went out from the transmitter building to tuning houses at each of the towers. Walking the elevated pathways over the radials at night in the fog was a spooky experience. The walkways disappeared into the fog a few feet in front and behind you, and the radials sang with rectified program audio in a ghostly, tinny voice. The big blue 1940's GE transmitter was a formidable machine that took up most of the building. Bob kept the beauty humming and well-polished. The power supply components were 6 feet tall and occupied a room by themselves. Everything was cooled by a huge blower that pressurized tunnels in the floor to deliver air into all sections of the transmitter. The moving air made a beautiful low whistle throughout the building, a sound I will never forget. I used to sit at the main operator's console in front of this transmitter doing my college homework, with that deep whistle in the background and top 40 program audio coming from a monitor speaker high on the wall. It was a great study environment for a young Ham, and I'm still awed by the memory of that transmitter. I didn't know it then, but it was very near the end of the golden age of Radio broadcasting, a time when real engineers attended transmitters in shifts 24/7/365. Sadly, like the great steam railroad locomotives of an earlier age, the time of the vacuum-tube broadcast transmitter had nearly passed. I'm glad I was there to experience both of these marvels before technology made them obsolete. Modern broadcast transmitters look like filing cabinets. Diesel locomotives have no charm compared to steam locomotives, whistles wailing in the night.
In 1972 I married my high school sweetheart. She is a jewel, and we've been going steady 45 years now. Our 3 children had all arrived by 1978, and there was not much Ham Radio during this period as we were busy establishing our home, family, and careers, but in 1977 I was able to pass the Amateur Extra 20wpm code and theory tests at the FCC office in Fresno, and received my current call AD6W. I was going to school nights and working days as an engineering tech for Sperry, and I taught Ham Radio classes at my workplace. Several coworkers became Hams, and I still enjoy talking to these former students on the air. Later I helped my wife and daughter become Hams. Helping others is something I do to honor the mentors that helped me. After Sperry I worked as an engineer at a startup electronics company, then a hardware designer at a Silicon Valley computer company, and finally 25 years in Information Technology for several school districts. I semi-retired in 2011 but still do IT with school districts on a contract basis.
Today I still enjoy working DX and talking with Ham friends around the world. Ham Radio lets me converse directly with people in other countries without governments or news media filtering what I learn. I also enjoy chasing islands, and I like to restore and operate old vacuum-tube gear.
I also like to build and drive hotrod cars and trucks. I have a lot of fun working in my garage when the Ham bands are dead, and I like to take sightseeing trips in my antique cars and trucks. Some of my projects include a Flathead V8 powered 1928 Ford roadster, a Chrysler Hemi-powered 1931 Ford highboy coupe, and a 1951 Ford pickup. I'm certified on most welding processes, and I can use most machine tools.
I've served my community, doing 6 years of service on the Kingsburg city council, and four times as president of my Kiwanis Club. I'm also founder and president of Friends of the Historic Kingsburg Depot, an educational non-profit corporation with more than 100 members who are restoring the 1878 Kingsburg Southern Pacific Railroad Depot as a living museum of California and San Joaquin Valley history.
I accepted Christ as my savior when I was 18 and experienced the thrill of God coming into my life. Since then I've served Him, the past 25 years as an Elder and Bible teacher at the Orchard Bible Fellowship Church in Kingsburg CA.
Best regards, and hope to hear you on the air!
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