First of all, with the spring of 2017 upon us, it's time to reflect on how I got started in ham radio some 30 + years ago. Actually, it goes back earlier to my Dad when I was 8. He lent me his Zenith Transoceanic rcvr and I listened to shortwave broadcasts from BBC, HCJB, Radio Netherlands, Israel Radio, VOA, RCI and others.It was very frustrating when they gave out their QSL info while fading...Pse write your reception report and time in GMT and send to Box 145, crackle, crackle, noise and... then you'll get our beautiful full colour QSL for your collection...
And then my first Elmer, Bill Still, W2GJR/VE2 (SK- RIP). Bill was a friendly guy on my street back in Dollard des Ormeaux (DDO). He had a zillion antennas on his roof--yagis, loops, verticals, dishes, eggbeaters--and more.
He was a kindly man in the neighbourhood. He fixed people's radios,TVs, tape-recorders, and walkie-talkies for the Police and Firemen. He had movie night in his garage/driveway for all the kids nearby every other Friday in the summer--and it was FREE!!! All you had to do was show up with a lawnchair and enjoy. And of course, it didn't hurt to get there a little before 7/1900 for a good place to put your chair. He even supplied the popcorn!
From those humble beginnings, a friendship ensued and I became Bill's helper. He was divorced with no kids and had lots of errands and chores to do and lived alone in a big house. He gave me a few bucks to help him out. One day, he needed some help cleaning up the basement. When we went downstairs, I saw that it was filled with radios. I mean, it was like being in an airplane cockpit--radios wall-to-wall. I was just 10 years old and was instantly fascinated with the lights, dials and sounds coming from his Collins, Drake, Swan, SBE, Pye, National, Heathkit/Griefkit, Hammarlund and Hallicrafters rigs. He also made a lot of his gear built to his specs. He used to say, if you want it to be rugged and durable, then build it yourself. So, he had lots of homebrew amps, receivers and xmitters that filled the basement and within easy reach from his work bench filled with scopes, meters and operating desk.
While I was sweeping the floor and emptying boxes, he turned on his minty Collins 51J4 with matching speaker (I found a minty one with matching spkr and grabbed it!!!) and I heard my first sounds of cw. I was hooked after that and did as many odd jobs for Bill just to get a listen here and there to those melodious sounds of cw. After a few weeks, he saw that I was keenly interested in cw and began to teach me code and electronics. And of course, he gave me odd jobs to do-- but only after I listened to the Collins 51J4 and read back to him what I copied from W1AW. I got better and better at my cw and made a few bucks here and there to get tools and supplies to make go-karts-- but none of this would have happened without him nurturing, encouraging and cultivating my interest in cw and electronics. None of this would have happened without his patience, understanding, sensitivity, encouragement and support. Nada, zip. zilch and squat.
I was lucky to have an another Elmer who was a senior engineer for Radio Canada International (RCI) and did work on their xmitters in Sackville, New Brunswick and relay xmitters in the Caribbean and Middle East, my dear friend, Don, ve3rm, SK-RIP. He lived just across the border in Ontario on a lovely spread out in the country with no pesky neighbours nearby. He had some nice antennas out back and a classic oldie, but goodie, an Alpha 87A. Don taught me electronics at what was then Westhill High School in the evenings, as part of the Montreal Amateur Radio Club's ham radio classes. Together with Ron, ve2kw (SK-RIP) who taught me cw, I was able to get my first ticket, then my advanced soon after. I was also a member of the West Island Club (ve2cwi) and some guys in the Club lent rigs to new hams, so I was able to get a rig and get on hf quickly. My first rig was a Heathkit or fondly known as Griefkit, dx-60/hr-10b and then advanced to Heathkit hw-100. I had several paper routes at the time to earn some bux. After several months of saving (my Dad didn't believe in allowances!), I got a Heathkit sb-300/400 combo. I experiented with several old boat anchors and tried many different radios--all tubes of course.
I had 3 paper routes with about 125 subscribers and delivered papers 6 days a week. Wednesday and Saturday were the killers bcuz they added extra ads and magazines and the comics. I started carring a canvas bag and graduated to a wagon and bike. That was quite a relief off my shoulders and back! Xmas and Easter were my biggest pay days when subscribers gave me a few bux in tips. Some doctors, lawyers, dentists, surgeons and judges gave me 10 bux each!
My first commercially made rig that I bought was a Yaesu ft-101ex, which was barebones, no options. After trying that I waited until one of the Clubs had a deal with a wholesaler in Texas at the time and we kids were able to get a new ts-520s and SWL Kenwood r-1000 rcvr for a bargain price. That was 6-8 months of savings and tips from 3 paper routes! That was my greatest rig combo for several years! Then I upgraded to the ts-530s, when the warc bands became assigned to hams. I also remember my pals, ve2egq, Aaron, Mal, ve2ewh, Jim, ve2dkk, Alex, ve2dku, Mitch, ve2bab and Chuck, JH3OII a student of chemical engineering at McGill. Chuck was a super cw op bar none. Mal and I became instant friends and he operated from my shack many times and I went to his shack when he got a ts-520. I made him a 20m dipole and strung it on the roof for him. He and I worked lots of dx on 20m and couldn't wait to compare notes the next day or two...We worked mostly cw and got all the rare ones--ZK, A35, A71, HK0, KZ5, H44, P29, VP6, HK0, 3D2, 5W, KH8, ZA, 3A, etc.It was a big thrill to visit Chuck, JH3OII at McGill, VE2UN Club Station and use the Collins S Line and Alpha 77sx and monoband beams! The pile ups of stations calling us (Maybe they thought we were part of the United Nations) were tremendous!!! That will remain a fond and wonderful memory. Chuck and I had a sort of reunion not long ago. It was wonderful to touch base with him!
About my Elmer DON: Don was a dear friend right up until the end and remains a constant inspiration and a role model as I journey through work, life and more studies--I tried to visit him as much as I could to listen to his life experiences, vast knowledge of electronics and wisdom. He had a lovely Calico cat that jumped up on the desk near the computer when he wanted food or to be stroked on his silky, smooth coat. This kitty opened doors with his paws! He even went out in the rain and snow! Most cats dread rain or snow and avoid them like the plague... He was certainly a different cat than all others, and much smarter and curious. He was very unique. What do they say about cats and their owners? That they often have similar character traits of their owners.
I raise a glass to you, Bill, W2GJR/VE2 (SK-RIP) for inspiring me to study and get my ticket, Don, ve3rm (SK-RIP) who taught me electronics and made learning fun and Ron, ve2kw (SK-RIP) who taught me cw. Cheers buddies! You are all smiling and watching over me from above. You are always in my heart, thoughts and prayers. (This winter, I will be active from Belize as V31xb or Dominca as J79xb as a tribute to Don, ve3rm.)
I lucked out with Ron, ve2kw now (SK-RIP) who taught me cw and really prepared me well for the Industry Canada exams. He used lots of exercises to make learning cw faster, easier and more fun. One exercise was to say out loud the word or number in cw every time I saw a street sign. It worked. I aced both cw exams and the electronic theory exams too! The examiners were surprised this little kid could do so well. I remember seeing their jaws drop!
I lost another Elmer and dear friend not long ago, wa2bah, Stan (SK-RIP.) He was a really kind, generous and self-less ham who taught others to become hams. Stan will be greatly missed but not forgotten.
God bless all the Elmers out there! You may not realize how much of a difference you make in people's lives. You inspire the next generation of hams!
I also want to say thanks to Greta and Brad who are dear friends in lovely Vermont. Brad and his sister Karie run Grandpa Grunts lodge in Vt. It`s quite a hoot!
Greta is a lovely, wonderful, person and friend that I have known many years. She acts as my defacto personal assistant when I travel.
And I will see W2IR and W1KOO this year for Field Day.
73, dx, good health, happy, safe and healthy holidays! and god bless,
Mike, ve2xb (Catch you in the pileups...)
RIP: Al Jarreau died on 12 February, aged 76.
RIP: Actor John Hurt died on 25 January, aged 77.
RIP: American actress Mary Tyler Moore died on 25 January at the age of 80.
I do qsl dierct and thru the buro (but pse be very patient) for ve2xb/w1, V31xb, ve2xb/VY0, VY0BRR, J79XB, VP2MXB, and recently active as FP/ve2xb. Just send a self addressed envelope with CDN stamps or 3 IRCs or 3 greenbacks. I am NOT qsl mgr for any other calls!!! Planning a trip to , V31xb, J79xb, J8 and TI5/Ve2xb soon. Thanks a lot/Merci bien/Taima/Gracias.
8036067 Last modified: 2017-04-16 15:21:54, 10428 bytes
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