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     The story that follows is true!  As a child I kept a rather detailed journal of events. Actually, I had a rather traumatic childhood, and that having been said, my memories from those precious few years of being a novice as a child were relatively speaking the most innocent and carefree years of my troubled youth.  After the death of my parents, I was going through the estate's property and happened to come across these old journals of mine that had long been forgotten and stuffed into a box that was neatly tucked away deep inside the estate's attic.  Much of the chronological timeline text is directly from the journal.  I was a very annoying, independant child and definitely had a chip on my shoulder thinking most people were morons.  As a child I was heavy into science like many kids my age.  Unlike many kids though, by the time I was 11 years old, I was studying freshman college level chemistry, physics and some electronics. I was constantly getting into trouble pulling stunts like fumigating the entire house with chlorine gas, Hydrogen + Oxygen explosions due to experiments gone wrong, making bombs with a large enough bang to blow the man hole covers off the sewers, making invisible ink that would eat holes in people's clothing, things that in today's world I would be labelled a terrorist for doing.  Not only that, I was a terrorizing extortionist.  My sister who is almost 7 years older than I, had boyfriends that had to pay me off in cash in order to get me to stop pestering them.  'I can let you two alone in peace for 5 bucks' and the boyfriend would pay it!  Got to where all I had to do was just hold out my golden hand and get paid hush money.  'If I tell my daddy you've been kissing my sister, he's gonna kick your ass! For 5 bucks I can forget I saw anything!' Hey! My experiments needed funding!  As smart as I seemed to be, I couldn't manage to take even a simple exam without being filled with complete terror and anxiety.  This handicap followed me into adulthood, even though I was able to get a handle on it, I was never fully able to shake those old fears, even on subject matters I had an absolute rigorous understanding of. Old established habits are indeed hard to break.  

 

     When I was 12 years old, I was a novice amateur radio operator. Before I could get on the air I had to learn CW.  At the age of  10,  I built a 3 tube autodyne receiver from a 1940 Radio Handbook. I could not afford a battery, but I had the parts to build a power supply.  So I  built one that used a tube for a voltage regulator.  I didn't have anyone to help me, and spent almost the entire summer of 1968 trying to get both radio and power supply working.  I finally did and learned a lot. Of course I did this in a completely clandestine and stealthy manner.  My parents would have been horrified had they known I was building things like power supplies and radios using 110 VAC.   I had no VTVM or VOM so I had to devise a crude way of measuring voltages using lamps and resistors.  

     I taught myself CW by listening to commercial ship to shore traffic as well as amateur radio operators in the CW bands.   I listened to stations such as KPH, WCC and WLO. I remember listening into the wee hours of the morning, enduring the summer static crashes listening to Radio South Africa, Radio Uganda and HCJB in Quito Ecuador while thumbing through Heathkit, Knightkit and Radio Shack catalogues dreaming of what my ham radio station would be like if I had the money.  Such carefree and naive days and I lived through them with reckless abandon thinking I would never grow up!  That old receiver served me well until my dad bought me a Heathkit HR-10B receiver on my 12th birthday, which by then my CW skills were at almost 13 wpm!  I took my time with the kit and made sure every component was perfectly placed and soldered to perfection.

     I finally passed my novice license later that fall after having earlier passed the CW element and flunking the written!  I was terrified at taking 'tests' and promptly forgot everything I knew about electronics!   My father took me to Madison Electronics on McKinney St in downtown Houston and bought me a used Heathkit DX-60B - the matching transmitter to the Heathkit HR-10B receiver. The rig came with one crystal: 7.042 Mhz and that was used as a 3rd fundamental on 15 meters putting my signal on 21.126 Mhz.  In those days novices were what was called rock bound meaning a novice could use crystals only and no VFO!

   

     A homebrew ground plane for 15 meters complete with about 75 feet of coax was donated to me by my school's assistant principal.   He was nice enough to give me the novice exam to begin with and then come over to my house and give me step by step instructions on how to setup the antenna, load the transmitter and check the SWR.   I was ready to Rock N Roll!  All I needed was for the Federal Candy Company to send the license and the post office to deliver it!

     

     I had to wait almost 9 weeks for my license to arrive.  It was pure torture.  I was convinced the post office had lost my FCC license.  Each day after school I would head straight to the mailbox; only to be disappointed!  I was wondering what was so hard about an amateur radio license application that it took weeks  upon weeks to process it, print the license, stuff it in an envelope and mail it out.  My first experience with govermental beauracracy in action!  Idiots! You've got to be kidding me right?

     Here is the chronological timeline of what happened:

Day 1 Wednesday:

9 horrible weeks of  waiting have finally come to an end today when like every day I come home from school and run to the mailbox to see if my license has arrived!  Upon seeing the envelope that clearly had Federal Communications Commission on it, I was somewhat stunned and stood there like a moron just looking at it as if in some hypnotic daze.  Finally, snapping out  of it, I tore open the envelope and memorized my call and then ran at top speed towards my bedroom where of course my radio station is all setup and ready to go!  I was in such a hurry, I tripped and fell.  Skinned my knee, hit my head  so hard it almost knocked me out. Got blood on my brand new license!  Is this a bad omen? [apparently it was - editor] Mom upon seeing this horrifying event, was there in a split second, bandages in hand and an ice pack for my head.  She patiently bandaged my knee and gave me her motherly tender loving care. Annoying actually.  Especially when she talks to me as if I was a baby.  Oh you poor little dear! Oh my God! Don't start that! Thank God there was no one else around to hear that!   Attempting to get up, she tells me don't even think about moving for the next hour!  Unbelievable!  I don't even think about disobeying her!  Not even! [Oh of course you wouldn't you little liar - editor]  The passage of time then seemed to stand still as if frozen. I began wondering if Einstein had accounted for this particular scenero when he came up with the theory of relativity!  Finally, after an entire  hour,  which  every second just seemed to stop dead in it's tracks, mom finally allows me to walk to my bedroom where my radio station is impatiently waiting for me to make my first contact. My time in the sun has finally arrived! I am officially an amateur radio operator and I am going to rule the world!  I can't help but have a huge smile on my face despite the dull headache and the horribly skinned knee from my earlier mishap.  I'm such an idiot!

After turning on the Heathkits and waiting for what seemed like forever for the receiver to heat up to operating temperature, I realize that I'm shaking from excitement - and then later on out right fear.  More on that in a minute.  I quickly tuned the 15 meter band for activity.   Dead it was. Just dead! Never mind that!  I've got to get my transmitter tuned up!  I nervously pull out my DX-60B manual and find the page that describes how to tune up the transmitter:

  • Crystal switch in X1 position... CHECK
  • Key is unplugged from key jack... CHECK
  • Meter switch in Grid position... CHECK
  • Drive Level control to 1 or 2... CHECK
  • Band switch to 15 meters... CHECK
  • Final Tuning control to the desired band area on front panel... CHECK
  • Final loading control fully counter clockwise... CHECK
  • Function switch to tune... CHECK
  • Rotate Drive Tune control for max grid current reading... CHECK
  • Adjust the Drive Level control to 2.5 ma of grid current... CHECK
  • Change Meter switch to Plate... CHECK
  • Turn function switch to AM and rotate Final Tuning control for minimum plate current... CHECK
  • Turn function switch to CW... CHECK
  • Adjust Final Loading control until plate current is 100 ma... CHECK.
  • Adjust Final Tuning control for a dip in plate current... CHECK
  • Continue adjusting Final Loading control for 100 ma plate current while using the Final Tuning control to get a dip... CHECK
  • Contine the above steps until the Final Tuning control dips to 100 ma.  This is 75 Watts!... CHECK
  • Turn meter switch to grid and check that grid current is set to 2.5 ma... CHECK
  • Return Function switch to STDBY... CHECK
  • Set Meter switch to PLATE... CHECK
  • Plug key into key jack... CHECK
  • Turn the Function switch to CW... CHECK
  • DONE!

Oh my God this is painful but everything goes according to the instructions and well this is not my first time in tuning the transmitter after all!  Well, all I need to do is call CQ!  All of a sudden I am terror stricken!  I think I have forgot how to send code!  Calm down a bit and the rest is just too painful for me to go into detail here.  I'd rather forget it!  In a nutshell though:

Called CQ on 21.126 Mhz repeatedly.  Listen.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Check transmitter tuning again. CQ.  Listen.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  15 meters was dead, dead, dead!  No QSO.  It's dark outside now.  I know from past experience in listening to 15 meters that rarely I ever receive anything but static after dark.  This has got to be the worse day ever!  You've got to be kidding me right?

     Day 2 Thursday:

I wake up at the usual time this morning and decide to try and exploit the accident from yesterday as an excuse to stay home from school.  Mom doesn't fall for it for a second.  I'm not even out of bed yet and I can already tell it is going to be an excruciatingly slow and painful day at school.  The longest day ever!   School sucks!  Idiots!  I want to stay home and play on my ham radio!  No time to check the band conditions on 15 sucks meters.  I already know it will be dead this time of morning anyway!  This afternoon I'm finally home and am mindful to not trip and fall before I get to my bedroom.  Turn on the rigs, tune around and listen.  Nothing! I finally let out a CQ.  Listen.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.... NOT AGAIN!!!  You've got to be kidding me right? 15 sucks meters! 15 sucks meters! 

Day 3 Friday:

Time stands still.  I am the only thing in my time realm that appears to be moving.  Everything else relatively speaking is as if it were frozen still in time, as if time itself were laughing at me - mocking me!  The time it took to get home was the most annoying ever. It was just awful!  Mom seemed to be driving slow on purpose.  Everyone was conspiring against me and surely were driving slow on purpose!  Where did all this traffic come from?  Just who in the hell do these people think they are anyway?  Finally, after putting myself and poor mamma into a frenzy, I'm home at last and let out a CQ on 21.126 Mhz.  Listen.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.   Nothing!  It's almost dark outside now.  Need to run outside to check my antenna connections.  But the transmitter tunes OK.  Baloney!  That DX-60 will tune up into a wet noodle!  I need to make sure everything is connected correctly. No flashlight! Damn it all to hell! Something's wrong.  Pitch dark outside now. Try CQ again.   Listen.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  CQ.  Listen.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Nothing!   I go to bed about 10 PM.  Exhausted!  Frustrated!  Heart broken!  My sleep was traumatic. Troubled. Restless.  All night long it's the same thing in my sleep:  CQ.  Listen.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Over and over again and again.  CQ.  Listen.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  STOP  IT ALREADY!  You've got to be kidding me right? 

Day 4 Saturday:

No school!  But after 3 days of failure I'm heart broken and discouraged to say the least.   Woke up about 8 AM absolutely exhausted.  A zombie!  Past experience in listening on 15 sucks meters remind me the band is rarely open this early in the morning, and historically I had never heard anything earlier than 9 AM.  But I get up and turn on the equipment anyway.  Quite frankly, I'm not really all that excited to fail yet again  so I decide to eat breakfast and devise a plan.  I have difficulty staying awake but manage to wing it.  Then it's outside to double check my antenna connections being that it was too dark to check them last night.  I decide to just take all the connections apart and redo the whole thing.  Maybe there is a bad connection on the aluminum L bracket due to oxidation.  Maybe there is water in the coax connector. Whatever!  I don't care if I have to tie together two tin cans with some string.  One way or another this has just got to work!  I took the entire antenna down and apart and spent  almost an hour sanding, soldering, recrimping and finally finish up and come back inside at around 9:30 AM or so.  Turn up the volume. The 15 sucks meters band was hopping alive with signals!!!  Oh this must be 40 meters!  No.  It's 15 sucks   meters alright!  I am so excited at this point that many of the details are now just a blur.  Had to retune the DX-60 again.  Looks like I had an antenna problem? Or did the band just happen to open up? Don't care!  Let out a CQ on 21.126 Mhz.  Boom!  Someone answers on the first try!   Unbelievable! After that, I manage to make a zillion QSO's today and was given outstanding signal reports!  There was a big pile up on 21.126 Mhz with everybody trying to work me!  Unbelievably good day!  I had a blast!  My CW QSO's went something like this:

TU FER CALL OM UR RST 599 599 IN HOUSTON, TX NAME IS RON  UR MY nth QSO  AGE IS 12 YRS OLD = BTU OM 

In the back of my mind I wonder if this qualified me as being a contester?  You've got to be kidding me right!?  The old timers are very welcoming and make me feel special!  My first real day on ham radio and it was just so awesome!  Hard to tell who was having the most fun.  Me or the old timers working me.  It's a wash and now I'm hooked!  I was having QSO's  almost non stop until well after 1 AM!  I spent from about 1:30 AM to about 3:30 AM  attempting to deciper my notes and write all my QSO's of the day into my logbook.  This just sucks!  There is no excuse for not being more organized!  What if the FCC asks to see my logbook?  Oh please banish any thoughts of that!  I finally get all  42 QSO's into the logbook! Unbelievable!  The best day ever!  I finally laid down to bed at about 4:00 AM exhausted but very excited! [To this day I do not know why I did not make a note of who and where my first QSO was.  That remains a mystery. -editor]

Day 5 Sunday:

Get up 10:30 AM. Overslept!   Run to the receiver and turn up volume as I had left it on all night.  Right on queue the 15 sucks meters band was dead,dead, dead!  I lost it!  #$###, ##@#@#@#@!!!!, 15 SUCKS METERS!!!!,  15 SUCKS METERS!!!! [I learned how to cuss from my friend Jerry who lived the next street over from me -editor] Dad  happens to be walking by my bedrdoom and hears me cursing because of the bad band conditions.  I'm grounded for the rest of the day.  You've got to be kidding me right?  Nope.  He means business! I don't even think about disobeying him.  Not even! [I was as pure as the driven snow; NOT -editor] Make a mental note to close the #!$%^&@! bedroom door next time.  Start making plans to do what ever it takes to get a $%&!^#@*^!! signal on 40 meters. The worse day ever! 15 sucks meters!  15 sucks meters

 

Aftermath:

Oh the trials and troubles of a 12 year old  knew no bounds!  In the days and weeks that followed, my troubles were only just beginning!  How does one spell  T-R-O-U-B-L-E?   It's Saturday and the band is wide open and hopping with DX!  But your mother is like totally PO'ed because that RADIO THING is INTERFERING with her favorite TV program!  You turn that @^%#$%   #!%&*~!  OFF and I mean NOW!  You've got to be kidding me right? No.  Mamma's not kidding!  I don't even think about disobeying her.  Not even! [Of course I was the perfect kid! NOT -editor] An hour later mom tells me thanks and gives me permission to have at it again!  Thanks mom! 15 sucks meters is just unbelievably fantastic this particular day!   

The most memorable time was when there was a CB'er running some power who was mobile and happend to be parked across the street from our house. This individual was just cussing and talking all kinds of filthy talk and his very distorted audio made its way into the family TV set's audio.  My parents were just not amused at all!  They thought it was me!   I was in my bedroom as usual logging in some radio time when I was the unfortunate receipent of my fathers very large leather belt on my backside without much of a comment or question one about the matter.  It all happened so fast that all I remember was being QRM'd by dad's belt in mid QSO!  Uh Oh! My dad is on the warpath, must QRT. 73 CL CL was all I managed to send out before the first sting of pain from my dad's huge leather belt was felt on my backside.   In my family, all kids (me) was guilty until otherwise proven innocent!

In all fairness, it should be pointed out that in the early 1970's, parents actually had the parental rights to discipline their children in any reasonable manner they saw fit.  So a child getting their tail whipped with a switch or a belt was a very common occurance in the home as well as at school.  Yes, the school principals had menacing paddles that had holes drilled into them so as to not suffer from air resistance! The paddle was considered a good incentive to keep out of troubles way believe me! Getting swats from the coaches was the absolute worse though.  The principals were far more civilized about it!

It worked out OK in the end though.  I was unexpectedly exonerated after the 5th or 6th  leather to tender young flesh contact when the TV came alive again with the most foul, filthy, vulgar language I had ever heard.  OOPSE!  My dad's like  you've got to be kidding me right?  My parents felt really bad (and so did I!).  In the end,  I ended  up with some coax cable, connectors and antenna wire for my 40 meter dipole as well as a new crystal for the 40 meter novice band!  Sweet!  For the insulators I cut pieces of pine and soak them in paraffin wax.  I also manage to get a few get out of trouble with the 'rents free cards to boot, so the pain was worth it!   Thank you Mr. CB'er who ever you were!  Best haul ever! [Of course it was, you little blackmailing extortionist! -editor] I never heard a single complaint about TVI from my parents again although I was later on more experienced and was able to eliminate TVI on all channels except CH 2!  Oh how I hated CH 2!

 

     Next up:  How a 12 year old novice gets on 40 meters and manages to get in trouble with the FCC.  

 

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8137795 Last modified: 2017-06-04 18:41:12, 93657 bytes

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