(formerly WN5BDU, 1962)
It started sometime during the school year in 7th grade, 1961. Our pastor visited our class at St. Benedict's and held up strange parts with exotic names like capacitor and inductor. He was building an HT-40 transmitter from a kit for his ham station. He plugged in an S-40 receiver with green lighted dials and tuned in the beeps of Morse code. Father Andrew then let on that he could teach interested students how to get started with ham radio.
So I studied the various license manuals and old QSTs and whatever else I could find, listening the hiss of Morse on an old wooden box shortwave receiver with "magic eye" tuning, and trying to send with a straight key (no tone oscillator). Finally had the Novice test proxied by a ham in Paris, Arkansas. It took forever to get the results in those days. But the license arrived in January, 1962 when I was 13. Unfortunately, I didn’t yet have a station.
Dad had a friend build a shelf in the store room of his tavern for my rig. You can see the S-119 Sky Buddy II 3-tube receiver and the single tube (6146) 80 and 40 meter transmitter both built from the 1957 Handbook by Father Andrew (K5IVT). The antenna was a random wire about 20 feet above ground and 75 feet long. The little white thing near my wrist in the photo was a plastic base with letters WN5BDU inserted. It arrived as a free promotion from World Radio Labs along with their catalog. The numerous ham catalogs I received after getting my license were a source of endless daydreams of great ham rigs.
The set up was a little less than optimum and I made a total of seven (7) QSOs in my novice "year", half of one page of a log book. I didn’t have a complete station until May, 1962 and I received my “conditional” ticket in early November. But in my mind, my “novice year” continued for another year or so as I was still rock bound in the novice bands and QSOs were hard to come by. Then in late 1963, things started happening. I borrowed a friend’s DX-40 and started making QSOs every day, although still with some effort. Then I put up my first dipole and my QSO rate skyrocketed. It was a folded dipole made of TV twin lead, since I couldn’t yet find or afford coax.
I noted “VF-1” in my log on 12/30/63 and the next day I QSO’d W0GZC with the note “first out of novice band”. This was almost two full years after the issuance of my novice license. So maybe this ends what I think of as my novice “year”. Having a VFO gives a former novice the kind of freedom that a driver’s license gives a 16 year old. Well, almost. I was off and running in ham radio at last!
I kept a fondness for novice operations even as my CW speed increased and I ventured into other ham activities. I’d still go back and work the “novice roundup” contest. And even into the 1970s, I’d occasionally turn the speed down and go into the novice band for a couple QSOs. I miss the squeals, chirps, clicks, and varying degrees of Morse competence and confidence in the novice bands.
Unlike most of my friends, I’ve remained sentimental about my old call sign and the only change in 48 years has been moving from WN5BDU to WA5BDU. Yeah, a lousy call for a contester, but at least I can remember it.
Effects on my life? I decided to try electrical engineering as a career, received my BSEE from the University of Arkansas in 1971 and retired in 2010 after 38 years in the nuclear power business as an electrical engineer.