By late winter I was ready to take the exam so I was given a ride to Lewiston, Maine where I met George Nichols, W1MFJ, proprietor of the “Down East Ham Shack.” In addition to selling amateur radio gear, George ran a general electronics repair shop. Equipment was everywhere; an organized mess. George was dressed in a green work shirt and pants held up with suspenders with a pocket protector stuffed full with pens, pencils and a few tools. Chewing a cigar, he welcomed me in to his shop and set me down at his work bench. “Well sonny. Whatcha here for?” he said in his wonderful Maine accent.
First up was the code exam and I had to send a minute of code to this man I had just met. I was scared to death and shaking like a leaf. As I started to send, I was sloppy and missing characters…….at five words a minute. After what seemed like an hour, George stopped me and said that was a practice run and now we were going to do the test. He also put me at ease by saying he knew I “knew” the code and to calm down and act like I was in a conversation. I started again and sent without any more issues. The transmitting out of the way, now it was time to do the receiving test. George sent me one minute of code at about five words a minute and I copied it with only a few small glitches. After we were done, he congratulated me and said I had passed and that he would send my paperwork to the FCC in Gettysburg and give the school a call when my written test arrived.
In April, George called the school to tell them the exam had arrived and that we should make an appointment for taking the written exam. A date was made and I finished my studies with Dennis and Richard. This time I was nowhere near as nervous when I arrived as George greeted me with a warm handshake and smile and asked if I was ready. “Yes” I said and sat down at the workbench to take the exam while George attended to some customers. After about an hour, I had checked and rechecked the exam to make sure the answers were correct. George took the exam and gave it a quick glance even though he was not supposed to and said it “looked” like I had passed but that would be determined by the FCC staff. And now the wait………..began. Every day I walked to the mail box to see if there was an envelope from the FCC. Day after disappointing day passed with no license. The day finally came in late July and ran back to the house as excited as if I just had my first kiss! I tore the envelope open to see my new call, WN1IGG. I ran upstairs, locked my door and turned my radios on.
I installed a crystal in my Johnson Adventurer and tuned the 80 meter Novice band looking for a CQ in close proximity. A few minutes later I heard a station calling CQ and with fingers trembling, I tapped out WN1XXX de WN1IGG K and anxiously waited for a response. After several tries he came back. I was on the air. I had made my first contact. I was sixteen and that contact meant more to me than getting my driver’s license.
Forty four years later I am still a ham and enjoy it as much as I did as a Novice. I have mixed a vocation with an avocation for my working career but that is another story.