We listened to these guys talking for a few minutes and then some others. I had an old AM radio in my upstairs bedroom that I had listened to faraway broadcast stations late at night, but the idea of talking on a radio to other people just fascinated me... I had to find out how I could do this!
I do not remember how I actually found out about ham radio but probably stumbled across adds in the back of Popular Science or maybe the library had some ARRL books? There were no hams in our little farm community, but there was a teacher in the town 6-miles north of us who was (probably my Dad discovered this knowing my interest and he being a high school teacher in our town).
The next year I saved my allowance all spring and summer to buy a Knight 3-tube "Ocean Hopper" shortwave receiver. It was a whopping $19.95 so it took some time saving my $2 per month allowance! It was a kit, so for my birthday I received a brand new Wen soldering iron (my Dad, again) and I proceeded to learn how to solder on my first electronic project. I got it assembled and turned on the power but only got hissing noise. I fiddled a lot and looked at my wiring and could not find the problem. So I sent it back to Allied Radio, in Chicago with $6.75 to have them repair it! They fixed it quick and back it came. I had cut one wire too short so soldered two wires together to make a connection ... yep, a cold solder joint!
Now I had my working shortwave radio in the fall of 1957. I made from TV twinlead a 40m folded dipole and strung it between the trees and ran it into my upstairs bedroom window to the radio. Now I was listening. That was just in time to hear Sputnik that was launched in October. I was already a science fiction "buff" so it was real neat to hear a real life "space satellite"! I was so angry that our gov't guys got beat by those Russians! Later my childhood hero Werner Von Braun and his german rocket engineers who fled germany after WWII finally got our first satellite launched after many embarrassing failures by the Vanguard rocket bunch!
How lucky to have a new shortwave radio in the sunspot peak of 1957-58! I could listen to stations around the world. Lucky for me that school teacher ham held some amateur radio classes. My Dad drove me up to the next town for six weeks so I could attend. In fall of 1958 I passed my Novice exam and November 11, 1958 my FCC license arrived...KN8MWA. My Dad surprized me again!
He arranged with Chuck, the ham teacher, to buy his Heath DX-35 for $35. Chuck wanted to get a DX-100 so that worked out well for everyone. Holy cow! I was on the air. My very first contact was on 40m cw with a ham in Texas and here I was this 14-year old kid in rural Michigan...yahoo!
About three years ago my parents sold their farm and moved into a new home they built on a corner parcel that they retained. My mother mailed me a bunch of old papers, school albums, and photos that she came upon in the process of sorting thru the accumulation of near 40-years of living in the old house. In there were some old photos of my first ham station and activities. I'll share a couple here [1958 Ocean Hopper/DX-35, 1959 HQ-100/DX-35, my Elmer