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Seems that I was always interested in radios and electronics, especially as a Boy Scout. Among my collection of merit badges are electricity and morse code. As a kid I remember listening to the tugs and barges operating on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers (when they would use AM). When they gave their location I would track them on the river maps. Other times I would sit up at night and listen for DX on my parents AM radio. For a while I could listen to the Milwaukee PD transmitting just above the AM band (one-way to motorcycles). An old SW radio, which my Dad found one day, really sparked my interest in radios and SWLing. About the same time my Dad also became interested in electronics. We built crystal sets and tube radios, improving on them and repairing TV's as we went along. I remember well the day that Sputnik was launched into orbit. The thrill of listening to it was something that I'll never forget. Later, my dad and I followed Voyager as it flew around the world, using HF ham radio for communications.

When I was 14 years old (1957) I started out in ham radio as KN9KBE, then upgraded to GENERAL one year later dropping my "N". My "Elmer", Walt Sawhill, W9MBH (SK) opened up a whole new world to me when he demonstrated ham radio at a grade school hobby fair in 1956; later he gave me my novice exam. Who would have thought that 60 years later I would still be active and back on CW! Looking back I don't think I ever really thanked him enough for all of his help - thanks Walt for all you did for me.

Growing up I was lucky to have parents that supported the hobby, helping me to purchase my first setup (Globe Scout and a Hallicrafters S-40A - see below) and allowing antennas (80-10 meter trap dipole and a ten meter beam) around our small Milwaukee lot. Next in line was a Johnson Viking Ranger and a Hallicrafter SX-71, followed by a BC-610e transmitter. There is nothing like the tube glow of a 250TH and twin 100TH modulators, not to mention the heat!

That BC-610e was a producer of mucho interference, to TV's, telephones, radios, stereo systems and even plumbing. I'm, told that my voice came through my neighbor's toilet bowl when I was running full power.

BTW, I wanted a Viking Ranger so bad that I could almost taste it, but I needed financial help from my folks. I left brochures laying around the house, verbal suggestions and even went so far as to tape a photo of the Viking Ranger on my parent's bedroom ceiling, directly above their bed. I was desperate!

My ham shack was located in a small corner of the basement (the work bench is still in service, but now in my pole barn). The BC-610e was too heavy for any other location and we had to slide it down a ladder on the basement steps. BTW, the BC-610e is now on display at the USAF museum at Robins AFB, GA. Send me an e-mail if you ever visit the museum and view the "beast". And take some pictures. I'm interested to know if it still is in one piece! More on the BC-610e at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BC-610

Even my high school had a radio club and a ham shack, at that time W9KQY (I didn't get much studying done, but it sure was fun hamming instead). However, I had to be careful when I was on the air because the Johnson Viking II transmitter interfered with the audio system in the next door German language classroom. I think that I drove the teacher nuts (but, to be fair, she was already missing a few of her marbles)!

Since my marriage in 1969 my bride "BJ" continues to provide mucho support for ham radio, helping me put up antennas, installing equipment and burying radials/cables. She even climbs my tower like a squirrel. Injuries from a  motorcycle crash prevent me from any more climbing.

BJ and I have an informal agreement that allows antennas but no towers with guy wires! My present tower was once over 40 feet up, braced on the house, but a strong storm knocked off about 10 feet. Couldn't ask for a better XYL, but I can't talk her into allowing a ham rig in her car! I'm fortunate that I can bring a HT along with me.

After high school I gave college (UW-Milwaukee) a try, but I wasn't really prepared for it. However, my one year of ROTC tweaked my interested in the military. I later completed advanced electronics training (associate degree in broadcast engineering) at the Milwaukee Institute of Technology (now the Milwaukee Area Technical College, but MIT sounds better). Following in my dad's foot steps I also took some night classes at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Upon graduation from MIT in 1964 I enlisted in the USAF. About two weeks later my draft papers arrived...that's cutting it close!

After basic training at Lackland AFB, TX and electronics training at Keesler AFB, MS. I was sent out as an avionics technician (along with my 7-level screw driver) working with F-105's (TAC - Rolling Thunder), B-52's (SAC) and KC-135's (SAC), being stationed at; McConnell AFB, KS, Korat RTAFB, Thailand, Kadina AFB, Okinawa, Takhli RTAFB, Thailand and finishing up active duty at Castle AFB, CA.

While I was stationed at Korat, Thailand I was able to purchase my dream SW radio, which I wanted since I read National Geographic as a kid; a Zenth Trans-Oceanic. Man, I was in ham heaven. Now I could listen to AM ham radio, English news, weather and music. Radio Peking and Radio Hanoi's version of the war news was interesting to say the least. Their take on the war was not the same as ours, as you might imagine! I still have the radio and it was my faithful friend throughout almost four years of active duty and 21 years of guard/reserve time.

In Korat, Thailand I had befriended a Thai grade school teacher who was an interpreter on the base. We hit it off as friends and he took me on bike tours of the local area. I also spent some time at his school and helped the Thai students with their English. I was introduced to his grandfather and we spent time "conversing" back-and forth, with the grandson interpreting. The old gentleman loved American pipe tobacco and I left him with a supply of our best!

On my next R&R we took a train to Bangkok and I spent three days with his family as an honored guest. I slept on a mat in their living quarters above their shop, and ate Thai food with the family (to this day I still love rice). At night we took in a local Chinese opera and a traditional dance a few blocks away. To this day I'm amazed that they took into their home an unknown American GI as a house guest and allowed him to share their home and meals. The Thai people are warm and friendly and I have nothing but total respect and love for them.

While in Thailand I was lucky to attend a performance by Bob Hope. For a young airman this one of the highlights of my time in Southeast Asia. Bob Hope is certainly a hero of American GI's and I was no exception. I feel honored that I was able to join thousands of other GI's over the years in watching his show. When he died tears came to my eyes.

While TDY on Kadina AFB, Okinawa I was able to call home to my brother in Milwaukee via MARS radio. I believe that the phone patch was run through the Barry Goldwater station in Arizona, but I'm not sure.

The photo below was taken outside of my hootch at Korat RTAFB in Thailand. The area behind me (and the fence) was cleared of foliage with what was later believed to be agent orange. Yes I know, my top right shirt pocket is unbuttoned..so gig me!

Best part of my job at Castle AFB, CA. was flying in B-52's and KC-135's to troubleshoot in-fight avionics problems. I remember well the pilot (O-6) of a B-52 who wrote up an inoperative ILS (Instrument Landing System) four times. We never were able to locate a problem, either on the aircraft or in the shop. He even threatened to take action against the A&E (avionics) shop. I flew on the next mission and after a 14 hour flight (with mid-air refueling) we returned to Castle and set up the ILS for final approach. The angry pilot again started complaining about the ILS being inoperative, but quickly shut up when I diplomatically pointed out that he was on the wrong frequency, as he was with his previous writeups! He never did offer a word of apology or thanks (just a snort). I felt that a case of beer for the avionics shop would have been appropriate!

On another occasion I was assigned to repair a cross country T-33 aircraft that had a VOR (navigation) problem. The pilot had stopped at two or three other bases while coming from the east coast but the technicians could not locate the problem. All that they did was R&R system components. With it's repair history in mind, and my amateur radio skills, I quickly trouble-shot the problem to a single strand of coax shield wire that was shorting out at the antenna connector. The pilot was so thankful (VOR was needed that night) that he took me out on the nights mission, where we flew over San Francisco, then out over the Pacific Ocean, where we played the role of an unidentified incoming aircraft. It's a weird feeling see a fighter coming at you over the Pacific Ocean at a closing speed of about 900 to 1000 mph.

I was honorably discharged from active duty at Castle AFB, CA in May, 1968, and drove back to a job that was waiting for me in Wisconsin.

After the USAF I joined the Wisconsin State Patrol (WSP) as a trooper on US 41 (now I-41) north of Milwaukee, with additional duties as an instructor at the WSP Academy, police photographer, public/high school speaker and in the early years an EMT/crew member of a new helicopter program, called "Friend-in-the Sky".

The WSP recognized the value of ham radio and allowed me to install a VHF/UHF ham rig in my cruiser. Later the radio shop mounted the rig and antenna for me. It came in handy for hams to report drunk drivers, along with communications at several natural disasters.

All of our cruisers had CB radios installed, which came in handy numerous times. I lost count on the number of drunk drivers I got off the road as a result of the CB radio. Once I answered an emergency call on channel 9 from a trucker reporting a traffic crash in Alabama. It seems that the reporting trucker couldn't contact any local stations; I, in turn, relayed that information through my dispatcher in Wisconsin, who forwarded it to Alabama.

One of the things I enjoyed the most as a trooper was working with Explorer Scouts through the Boy Scouts of America. These were high school boys and girls that wanted to enter law enforcement as a chosen profession. Local and state law enforcement officers in my area sponsored a formal learning program and when qualified the students rode along with volunteer officers for "on-the-job training" and experience. I gained a lot from the young adults that rode with me and I hope that it was same for them. Some continued on as police officers, while another rose to chief of a small police agency. Another joined my unit of the USAF Reserve in Milwaukee. More information on the WSP can be found at: http://en.wikipedia./wiki/Wisconsin_State_Patrol

I retired after 32 years and was then employed for eight years as a safety coordinator/trainer for Kreilkamp Trucking, Inc. in Allenton, WI. They allowed me to monitor the local repeater (146.73) for emergencies.

But I'm getting ahead of myself; missing the military, in 1977 I joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard for three years (UH-1 and OH-58 helicopters, plus one Beaver fix-wing), then finished my 25 year military career with the USAF Reserve (18 years with C-130's; A and H models), serving in Volant Oak (Panama), Desert Shield and numerous TDY's around the world.

In May 1992 I was presented with the Richard I. Bong Award "for patriotic service to our country and devotion to it's ideals" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bong). Major Bong was from Wisconsin and is buried in the NW corner of the state. BJ and I visited his simple grave one summer and saluted the WW2 hero.

On 27 October, 1996 I received the annual Lance I. Sijan Memorial Award. Captain Sijan received the Medal of Honor for his actions as a POW by the North Vietnamese (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lance_Sijan). Captain Sijan was from Milwaukee and his parents were very active with local military activities. I was very very proud to receive both awards.

.....,.In 1979 I started daily 10 meter skeds with ZS6AFA (Africa's Friendly Amateur) near Johannesburg. Through 1979 and most of 1980 he regularly invited me to visit him in South Africa, which I finally did in October 1980. My flight over was scarred because of an engine fire over the Atlantic Ocean, which caused the pilot to dump fuel and set down on the Cape Verde Islands, where we spend 24 hours cramped inside a packed and stinky 747. The toilets clogged and we ran out of food. Trying to sleep in those seats took a toll on my back and I didn't smell so good!

The big problem was that at first nobody knew where we were, including the airline! BJ and ZS6AFA (Ernie) thought that we were down somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean; as passengers we had no communications (no cell phones then). Because I was in the military, a ground crew member later took me up into the cockpit where I was hoping to use the HF radio on 20 meters...no such luck. The bands were dead.

The aircraft was surrounded by Cape Verde army troops (armed with with AK-47's) who only allowed us to exit the plane on rare occasions. We couldn't even take pictures! Maybe they thought we were going to steal their island!

When I finally arrived in South Africa I stayed with Ernie and his family at his home. When traveling we took in many of the national parks and local sites, including police departments, schools and churches.

In 1982 I returned to South Africa and toured the country, staying with numerous law enforcement officers across the country and was treated like royalty. A local business organization paid for my air fares around their beautiful country. I also flew with several traffic helicopters and had the opportunity to meet a popular South African singer. I even brought my two meter HT with me this time and worked local hams. While operating as K9KBE/ZS6 on HF I learned what it was like to be a DX station!

Right now I'm fully retired and my wife refers to me as being "totally useless" (before that I was just "useless"). She should know! Ham radio, fine music and reading are my three favorite activities and I rarely pass up an afternoon nap. I can spend hours in a book store or library. As a retiree, WORK is a nasty four-letter word.

Most of my ham gear isn't new, but it works just great; Yaesu FTdx3000, two Drake TR-7's, a Kenwood TS-520s and an Atlas 210x, along with various antenna tuners. Multiple VHF/UHF FM rigs and antennas for base, mobile and HT. I do some of my shortwave listening in the basement with a R-390A receiver and a long wire antenna.

HF antennas are: 1) 40/80 meter dipole, 2) 80-6 meter OCF inverted Vee, 3) 17 meter dipole, 4) long wire, and 5) a five-band beam up about 35 feet.  My favorite HF locations are the SKCC calling frequencies on 10, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40 and 80 meters, but I can operate on all HF bands (including 60 meters). I can also be found on EchoLink and the local repeater on 146.97 (127.3), in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

I'm rediscovering the joys of CW operation, working to regain my previous steady speed of about 18 wpm (comfortable at 16-17 wpm). Right now I can just "touch" 22 wpm but with errors. Using two J-38 straight keys (WW2), a Wilson key straight key (Canadian - WW2),  Bencher RJ-1 straight key, Bencher BY-1 iambic, Kent SK-1 straight key, Kent KT-1 straight key, Kent TP-1 iambic and a Vibroplex straight key. The J-38s were the same ones I used as a novice in 1957 (see novice photo).

BTW, you should know that I frequently have a problem with my CW. In 2005 I was involved in a serious motorcycle crash and I suffered mucho injuries; broken right foot, smashed pelvis (resulting in plates, pins and bolts), four broken ribs, concussion, cracked spine in four places, nerve damage and inner-ear balance problems (vertigo). Luckily I was wearing my helmet (saved my life) and sturdy clothing. I'm still feeling the negative effects of the crash. And no, I don't ride anymore. I may be crazy but I'm not nuts.

Among the injuries was a smashed right wrist (and I mean "smashed"). I'll always have pain and loss of movement despite the repair and pins. The doctor never could get it to work the way it was before the crash. If you hear me make stupid mistakes and get sloppy on CW I hope that you'll understand. An iambic key allows me to overcome most of the pain and stiffness. On a positive note, I can also predict weather changes! Local TV/radio stations call me for the latest weather predictions!

Life time member of the ARRL and the Air Force Association. I also subscribe to, and a member of, The National Museum of the USAF and the National Rifle Association. I'm also a member of the Ozaukee Radio Club.

SKCC number of 9099. Active on EchoLink and VHF/UHF FM. E-mail at: K 9 K B E  @ A R R L . N E T (no spaces).

I return all  QSL's when I receive one, but I enjoy using the postal system. Maybe I'm old fashion, but to me a QSL card is the proper way to complete a QSO. And please, no green stamps, postage stamps or SASE required; I'll only return them. I'm also OK through the ARRL "9" QSL Bureau:  http://qsl.nidxa.org/ , eQSL and the SKCC bureau: http://www.skccgroup.com/member_services/qsl_buro

You might also consider sending a QSL to me as an e-mail attachment, as I'm doing more-and-more. This way I can QSL almost everyone I work. Presently I'm using QSL programs in several formats (SKCC and Radio QTH), but a photo of your QSL will also do the trick (I don't do awards). Overseas mail is expensive, especially for most DX hams. But what surprises me is the number of hams out there (especially state-side), who fail to return any QSLat all! I was taught in my early years of ham radio that a QSL card (w/o a SASE) is the final courtesy of a QSO.

If you "zero-in" on my home on the satellite view you'll be looking down the top of my house. I live in the country, just NW of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Stop in if you're ever in Germantown, WI, because BJ and I are always good for a cup of coffee, and if you're lucky a piece of BJ's home made cake. We're only four miles east of I-41 on STH 145. We usually monitor the 146.97 (127.3) repeater. Yes, we have enough space to park a camper, with electricity, but no sewer hookup.

I do not sell gear over the Internet; AT ALL.

If my call / name is listed as a seller then some body is screwing with you.

BTW, the tractor I'm standing next to in the top photo is not mine. The picture was taken at the Washington County (Wisconsin) Fair. However, my XYL was born and raised on a farm. She can out-drive me on a tractor without raising a sweat (I'm a city kid), but we both love farm tractors. For one of her birthdays I gave her a Simplicity lawn/garden tractor so she can continue her farming traditions; this time cutting our lawn. And, I should point out that she also has her own push lawn mower, chain saw, snow-blower, hedge trimmer and snow-shovel. What a guy I am!

God Bless,

Dave K9KBE


7845121 Last modified: 2017-01-20 22:55:55, 21786 bytes

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