The forty meter CW Novice band were extremely busy in those days. I have more CQs logged than QSOs and more QSOs with ‘LOST' in the remarks column of the log than without. Those were the worst of times. But I learned to copy CW in adverse conditions, which put me in good stead for later DX operations. I cherish every QSO I made and was a 20 wpm plus straight key novice before I upgraded.
My first non-scheduled QSO was with Stephen, KN0OXJ, in Kennett, MO, about 100 miles away. Years later, while operating from Antigua as K4ZLE/V2A, my first QSO, also unscheduled, was with the same guy, but his call was now KM0L. [Today he is K0OU.] I could list the many friends and acquaintances I have made through this hobby, but the list would be enormous. From the novice days I have to mention K(N)4RCZ, who moved in across the street from me and inspired me to get my license. After all, "If Ray can learn that stuff, so can I!" The other is K(N)4BMO. Bill moved in two houses down the street from me and was (and still is) a mentor in many ways. What a crazy time the three of us had having working each other on 40 m CW when we could have opened our windows and yelled at each other!
Once I graduated from high school I went into the Marine Corps and was trained as an aviation electronics technician. When I graduated from the Naval Academy, I went back into the Marine Corps and became an aviation electronics warfare officer. Obviously my early experiences as a novice carried over into my adult life and had a major impact on the direction my life took. Those were the best of times.