On Saturday morning, my father told me over breakfast, “Rol, I’m going to take you to meet a real ham today, a man I know through work”. This gentleman was Jim Braley, WA5OQC ( sk ). Jim was very cordial and showed me my first real ham station. It was a Galaxy GT-550, plus he had his old AM station off to one side, if I remember correctly it was a DX-100 and a HRO-50.
Jim told me “your dad says you have been studying the code, here, let me sent you a little bit”. He did, I copied it down and he looked it over then pushed the key over to me and told me to send him a couple of paragraphs out of a QST he had there. I did this and he looked at me and said “well guess what son, you just passed your novice code test”. You could have knocked me over with a feather, because I had no idea he and my dad had planned this!
Jim sent off for my Novice test, it finally arrived in the late summer of 1969 and I took it. Jim told me that I had passed it. I was simply delighted. Weeks passed as I waited for license to arrive by a travois pulled by an Indian poney (or so I thought, cuz it was so long in coming!). In the mean time, my father showed up one afternoon with a Drake 2B and 2BQ as well as a Eico 720 transmitter. We were fairly poor in those days and I shudder to think of the sacrifice my mother and father must have gone through to be able to afford that gear. They never told me how much they paid for it.
I spent weeks sharpening my listening skills with that 2b,and learned how to eliminate adjacent stations with the 2bq. I tuned that old 720 up on my 40m dipole time after time, and had that down. But still no license. I only had one crystal, it was 7175.
I came home from school one day and we all loaded up the car and headed out to Ft. Worth, TX to have an early Thanksgiving with my cousins family, as one of my cousins was leaving on Thanksgiving eve to ship off in the general direction of Vietnam. When we were safely on the road my father says, “Rol, something came in the mail for you today” and handed an envelope over the back seat. It was, of course, my license. I was WN5AIA! You can imagine the ants I had in my pants for the 3 days we were in Ft. Worth. We finally went home and I couldn’t wait to run upstairs and crank out that first CQ!
So I go up and begin to tune up the 720 and of course, just had to give it too much grid drive and blew my 6146! DANGIT!! So, the next day, my dad takes me down to B&S Electronics in Shreveport and Troy Ballard, WA5CHZ (now W5AU) sold me a tube. We got home, installed the tube and I sent that very first CQ. OH MY GOD!! Someone answered me! I threw the headphones off and ran downstairs in fright! My dad had to almost beat me to go back upstairs and try again.
With shaky hands and white knuckles (remember that first time? ) I once again sent out a CQ and was answered my WN8AAD up in Ohio. I answered him, and so it began. That was the night of November 24th 1969. I know you all know the rest of the story. Get home from school, do your homework, then get on the air. It was my life from then on. I rarely dated, didn’t run around much with non ham buddies, all I wanted to do was get on the air.
I was given a shoebox full of crystals by an old timer, and my dad built me the rotatable 15M dipole out of the handbook, and I discovered DX on 15. Soon I had a TA33jr and rotator given to me by Eddy Shell, W5ZBC (SK) That fall and winter, and through the following year, I tore the air waves up with that old 720! My dad gave me a vibroplex ( I still have it and use it ) for my birthday on Feb. 4th 1970 and my cw skills got really sharp.
Finally one day I rode the bus to Dallas Texas (alone, kids could do that back then, I was 15) and took my general test and passed it. Walked back to the bus station on cloud nine and rode home dreaming of Phone operation and all the new bands. When my license finally arrived I was WB5AIA. I bought a old Johnson Ranger from Roger Hoskins W5QEP and discovered there was still AM operation on ten meters. My very first phone contact was with Roger, my second was with Grace Dunlap W5MRU who introduced me to Ten Ten International.
My interest in Radio and Electronics took me into a vocation of Electronics. Today, I’m still employed in the Radio Field, being a Radio Technician for Comet Industries, doing general communications and microwave work for Kansas City Southern Railroad.
I’m sorry this went so long. My novice days were perhaps the best I have had in my 41 years of amateur radio!
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Ronnie Hull W5SUM
ex WN5AIA and WB5AIA