In 1961, I was in the USAF stationed at Wurtsmith AFB, Oscoda, Michigan, when I was first licensed as WN8GCA, a novice. My first setup was a Heathkit DX60 Transmitter and an HR 10 receiver that I had assembled. I’d sent for the novice test via mail and had asked a USAF Colonel to administer it. I have long ago forgotten his name and call sign but I remember he had some very nice old Collins gear. When I received my license in the mail I tried to make my first contact using an old straight key. I called CQ on the mighty 60 watts and much to my surprise someone in 5 land came back. It scared me so badly I was unable to send or receive any more CW that day.
Then in the dead of winter of ’61, after having hit the books and making many CW contacts and working my code speed up to 13 WPM, I departed Oscoda very early one extremely cold morning, heading for Detroit and the FCC office. After about 4 hours of snow, slick roads, and downtown Detroit traffic, I arrived a nervous wreck at the FCC office and it only got much worse. The testing room had twenty-three folks testing and they started with the CW test, clearing well over half out of the room. Then came the CW sending test that also cleared a few more from the room. Then the written test was passed out and when all tests were finished they were hand graded and if a person had failed they would call his name. Although my name was not called, it was nerve racking. In the end, I, along with seven others, had passed the general test
Two weeks or so later when I received my general call WA8GCA, I had upgraded my receiver to an HQ170Q - a very big step - and I then upgraded from the DX60 to an HT37, which was quite a nice transmitter for the times.
My home of record was Houston, Texas, and when I shipped out from Michigan I applied for a 5-area call and received WA5KMA. In 1963 I purchased a beautiful Vibroplex Presentation Bug SN 230412 gold plate, including the neat carrying case. I still use my Bug as the primary key and have never tried to learn an electronic key, I think because I love to hear the clicking sound my Vibroplex makes.
I very much enjoy CW, and I operate about 90% CW using the old bug. On New Year’s I like to break out the straight key and my SKCC # 5057S. My favorite band is 40 meters
73 .. JIM
6266785 Last modified: 2015-07-16 00:27:44, 3152 bytes
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