My friend and I studied for the Novice test, built our Morse-code practice audio oscillators, and when we were ready (which I don’t remember taking very long) his parents drove us up to an FCC office in Chicago. We both passed, I got WN9HJW and he got WN9HJX.
I picked up a used Globe Scout 65A from a local ham for $15. Somehow, I managed to get it home balanced on the handlebars of my bicycle! My first receiver was a Radio Shack shortwave regenerative receiver kit. Later, somehow we found some guy out in the country who had a basement full of old radio gear he was trying to get rid of, and he let us take for free whatever we could haul away. I came away with a straight key and some huge, heavy old receiver (I don’t remember for sure what it was). I wish I could remember the guy’s callsign or name. The receiver was pretty beat up but actually worked, at least better than the Radio Shack kit receiver. Later I got ahold of a used Hammarlund HQ-110 for a short while.
My antenna was a “folded dipole” made of 300 ohm TV twinlead, stapled to the underside of the eaves of the house. My parents didn’t want the neighbors to see anything. Probably only 10 feet off the ground. Tuned just fine directly into the Globe Scout. I don’t remember ever thinking I needed an “antenna tuner”.
I remember my very first QSO was with a ham in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Over the two year license term, I made about 400 contacts, mostly on 40 meters, a few on 80 meters and one contact on 15 meters. I think I had two 40m crystals and one 80m crystal. Unfortunately, over the years my old logbooks and QSL cards went missing.
Near the end of the license term, which I believe was two years at that time, I received an OO card, complaining of "chirp" on my transmitted signal. I could not figure out how to fix it, and the thought that I was in violation of some FCC rules scared me, so I never got on the air again until my license expired after getting that card. By then I also was getting busy with other things in life - high school, then college, and basically forgot about the hobby for the next 30 years.
I got back into ham radio in 2001, and went through several sequential callsigns and a vanity, but then in June 2011, I got a case of nostalgia, and got WN9HJW back as a vanity.