(formerly WN6PNB, 1965)
In my own case the novice exam was administered at Scott Radio Supply in Long Beach. A few weeks later, in May, 1965, WN6PNB arrived. My electronics instructor in High School, Mr. McClenathan, gave me a Hammarlund SuperPro receiver (war surplus). I found a schematic of it at the main library in downtown Long Beach, determined its power requirements, and built a power supply for it. My transmitter was built from the 1964 ARRL handbook; 75 watts using a 6DQ5. Over 90% of the components came from an old TV that I canibalized; meters, chassis, crystal & socket, etc. had to be purchased. I was a novice three months before I passed the general exam. In that time I worked 25 states and a very few countries. Then with a pair of 813s from my instructor I built a 1-kW amplifier (another handbook design) with parts mostly from J.J. Glass surplus. So I had a crystal-controlled kW for some months (usually 7010 or 14020 kHz).
In those days most TV repairmen were hams. If you dropped by a broadcast station the chief engineer and many of the technicians were amateurs. Ditto for electronics instructors. So there was a large support group around available for ideas, technical advice, etc.
In my senior year I built the Heathkit SB-300 receiver and SB-400 transmitter. Then I gave the SuperPro back to my instructor. When I built a 4CX1000A linear amplifier I gave the 813s back also.