The man, Henry WB2GMN welcomed me in and took me down his basement. I was immediately awestruck with walls filled with radio apparatus! He sat me down by his side, proceeded to flip some switches turned some knobs and waited for the tubes to warm up. I remember the sounds and smells of those radios. This place looked like a cross of Frankenstein’s lab and mission control. I was immediately hooked!
Then he rang out a call, CQ CQ CQ THIS IS WB2GMN... WB2GMN CALLING CQ... We waited and then he did it again Then through the speakers came a call from Canada! WOW! THIS IS SO COOL!
Henry gave me some books and handed me an old Hallicrafters receiver. I spent many a Saturday afternoon there at Henry's home and all I wanted to do was be a HAM... Unfortunately I had a hard time understanding all the technical electronic stuff and learning Morse code was to me an impossibility! So I became a SWL and eventually lost interest then came girls and cars...
Some years had passed ... Now married and settled into my new home, one day while looking out my back yard it occurred to me that a radio signal would get out real well from here! I had a 360 degree horizontal view on top of a mountain! So I did some thinking and decided that I would try Ham radio again! So in 1986, I contacted the ARRL, got all the books and code tapes ( no computers back than) and studied my little behind off.
I studied for about 3 months. Taking practice test and learning the code. I read that there was a HAM FEST coming in my area so I decided to go for it. They were advertising testing on site. I remember like it was an hour ago, my knees were shaking and I was never so nervous.
The first part of the test was the written, I read every question 2 or 3 times over and made my best choice! I handed it in and waited... One of the examiners came up to me and asked me to step into another room to take the code test. Again my knees were shaking so bad I could hardly walk! I sat down and put on the head phones. The code tape started and I did the best I could!
I reviewed my answer sheet and to my surprise it actually made some sense! I handed it in and waited again. I know this is only a hobby but for some reason it meant so much for me to get this license! I always wanted to be a ham! Then the moment of truth, The man called my name and asked me to walk up to the table. As I approached him he had his hand out, CONGRATULATIONS YOU PASSED BOTH TEST!
My heart was filled with joy! At that moment, I was finally a member of that elite group of RADIO AMATEURS... So happy was I. I took that paper and went strolling the Ham Fest... I did not expect to pass both tests. But having done so I was ready to shop for equipment...
I still had that Hallicrafters receiver that Henry gave me and was anxious to get a station up and running. Back then it took several months to get your license so I had plenty of time. As I was strolling through the ham fest I came across an old EICO 723 60 watt CW transmitter. The guy was selling it for $25.00 All I had on me was about $20 so I asked him if this transmitter was working and he told me honestly that he did not know for sure? So I offered him $12.00 and he said OK! Long story short ;the transmitter did not work and that is another story...
Being that I was now licensed, I decided to treat myself to a new rig so I purchased a new ICOM 745. I was never a fan of CW so I did not really enjoy operating that much. Fortunately only about 6 months later they (the FCC) gave phone privileges to NOVICES on the 10 meter band and that was when the solar cycle was at maximum. I was working the world...
That was over 20 years ago. Henry is now a silent key and I have since upgraded to AMATEUR EXTRA... My station had grown to multiple HF transceivers, 2 meter and 70 cm rigs.By the way, I still have that EICO 723 transmitter and it is working fine. I get on the air with it for the nostalgia and sentiment of that glorious day I became a Novice. Also CW has become my most used mode! Never thought that I would come to love CW as I do now!
One final note: As that I have worked my way up the ranks of the Amateur Radio license, I have always kept my NOVICE CALL, KB2DHG, for that call is to me the most rewarding call I could ever behold. Not even passing the EXTRA CLASS was as rewarding as that first test of the NOVICE EXAM.
I have since moved from that home and am now living in an apartment. Apartment Hamming is truly a challenge but I am still on the air and will be till the key can’t be pressed anymore!
I kind of wish they never did away with the NOVICE CLASS. To me it was very special.So look for me in the NOVICE portions of the bands... 73 DE: KB2DHG