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Short Takes #11: Ham Hero Story & Thoughts after Hamvention

By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

A Great Historical Event in Ham Radio History

Normally, I reserve Short Takes articles for product reviews. Instead, based on the success of the current "Trials and Errors -- Ham Life with an Amateur" column about radio's broadcast of the 1921 Dempsey-Carpentier fight, I have another interesting historical ham success story to bring to your attention. I first read about this in the excellent book, "The World of Ham Radio 1901-1950" by Richard Bartlett, and have since done some additional research on that day in 1934.

Cape Disappointment is located about halfway between Portland and Seattle on the Pacific Coast. Its name stems from the first English sea captain who approached the Cape (Captain John Meares) who later expressed his disappointment in official reports that access to the Columbia river at this rocky promontory was impossible. Over the years it has been the site of many vessels floundering and lives lost. But on the morning of October 21, 1934, there was something additional added to the normal level of danger . . . in this case, winds of more than 100 miles per hour.

These big winds took the region by surprise. It may have been fun for young boys in Portland and Seattle, as 7AM found the streets filled with kids using umbrellas as sails and reportedly reaching speeds of over 30 mph on their bikes. But the fun didn't last long. Trees, chimneys, and antennas fell victim early on to the wind as by noon it had picked up to the point where anyone with sense remained indoors. Radio antennas were particularly dangerous, and reportedly flew from rooftops all over the region, impaling themselves like spears into the wooden buildings.

Twenty miles South of Cape Disappointment, the lighthouse at Tillamook Rock was really getting battered. There by himself, the assistant lightkeeper was Mr. Henry Jenkins, a ham radio operator (W7DIZ). Henry did not have an amateur radio at the lighthouse, because there was telephone service and a 2-way radio had never been required. An old Atwater-Kent shortwave receiver sat in the lighthouse's kitchen for their amusement, but that's it. And on the early morning of Sunday the 21st, Jenkins found himself in a dangerous situation.

The gale force had reached 109 miles per hour, and boulders as big as 50 lbs or more were crashing through the glass of the lighthouse. It became really dangerous when the rock the station sits on started to crumble away underneath, and floodwaters came in. The telephone service went out and -- even worse -- the light which keeps ships at sea from floundering on the rocks was extinguished. Jenkins had no option but to resort to his ingenuity as a Ham Radio operator.

Henry took what he could find in the station and fashioned a working rig! It was built from parts he took out of the Atwater-Kent, some wax paper from bread loaves, tinfoil, salvaged parts from the now-defunct telephone, a brass doorknob and a piece of spring brass for a key. He got a crude CW signal out of the lighthouse with this contraption that was picked up by local hams and relayed to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard alerted the ships at sea as to the lighthouse condition, and Henry was credited for having saved lives that day.

In my talk at Hamvention, I spoke about the fact that any of us hobbyists could rise to the occasion when needed. We are -- all of us -- innovators. That's the beauty of our hobby. While most of us will never see the extraordinary circumstances that W7DIZ faced, I have no doubt that when called upon we would jump in with both feet to ensure that we did our best to support our community.

Celebrate your hobby by getting out there on Field Day 2023 and showing the world what ham radio is made of -- we're not a collection of nerds, we are truly innovators.

 

Trust and Service Make the Difference in a Company's Success

When I began the rush out the door for Hamvention, I remembered that I had no business cards of any kind for my affiliation with QRZ.com. To be two weeks from a major Ham event and to have no eyeball cards at all for any of the meetings I had set up . . . that was a big mistake. I checked out my options for the purchase of cards and found one with great eHam reviews. I sent my artwork to Randy Dorman KF3IBH, and asked him if he could not only design a nice business card but also get it to me before I left for Hamvention. Not only did Randy promise to make my urgent timing (he delivered on that promise) but he took a variety of special requests from this finicky customer and the cards came out looking wonderful.  After I got home, I ordered some fresh QSL cards from Randy as well.

My experience with Randy's company left me feeling that I can trust him. Trust is a valuable component of the supplier/ham relationship. It is the ingredient of the sale which bonds the relationship; as you start thinking about the components you've purchased for your shack, examine the feeling you get when you think about the brand name.

I have multiple radios, like most hams. When I think of one brand, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling because I love that company's products and I trust that they wouldn't sell me a piece of junk. On another radio, I have no loyalty whatsoever and could care less if the brand dried up and blew away. It's not that I had a lot of bad experiences with that radio, but the (foreign language) instruction manual didn't translate well into English, and the weird things that have happened to me with that radio have taught me that a company can't count on a Google or Facebook user group to solve customer issues. Any company worth your ham investment should have a USA representative who cares, who is helpful, and who isn't so overloaded that they can't respond to a user request within 48 hours.

At the Hamvention meeting, a lot of hams were sitting around talking about their gear as they always do outside the food truck area at a hamfest. I interjected myself into a number of conversations and found out that so much of a person's satisfaction with a purchase has to do with the service provided, not only on the sale, but on the follow-up. One fellow reported a problem on an amplifier and a horrid 3-week response time from the company for a warranty issue. This on a product that costs many thousands of dollars!

Please, someone tell me how it is that a company can be in business today selling a product that requires you to wait three weeks for the first response when it fails under warranty? This is not an offshore cheapy and I hope stories like this are reprinted in reviews of this amp on eHam.net.  It's up to us users to point out to the world where "trust gaps" like this exist, even on well known brand names.

73 for now,

Dave

 

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Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Dave Jensen, W7DGJ, was first licensed in 1966. Originally WN7VDY (and later WA7VDY), Dave operated on 40 and 80 meter CW with a shack that consisted primarily of Heathkit equipment. Dave loved radio so much he went off to college to study broadcasting and came out with a BS in Communications from Ohio University (Athens, OH). He worked his way through a number of audio electronics companies after graduation, including the professional microphone business for Audio-Technica.  He was later licensed as W7DGJ out of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he ran an executive recruitment practice (CareerTrax Inc.) for several decades. Jensen has published articles in magazines dealing with science and engineering. His column “Tooling Up” ran for 20 years in the website of the leading science journal, SCIENCE, and his column called “Managing Your Career” continues to be a popular read each month for the Pharmaceutical and Household Products industries in two journals published by Rodman Publishing.


Articles Written by Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

This page was last updated July 12, 2024 18:17