Once a Ham Always a Ham

I’m  a Ham.  Not the one you cook. Not the one you have to put up with at a party, but the one who talks to people on the radio.  I’ve been one since 1965, so nearly 50 years now.  However,  I’ve been interested in electronics and communications since I was about seven and living in the Dunbar area of Vancouver.  Dunbar and Point Grey are now referred to as the West Side I believe.

Rogers Majestic radio.  Thanks to Radio Attic's archives for this image.

Rogers Majestic radio. Thanks to Radio Attic’s archives for this image.

So how did I get interested in radio?  We lived on a block where there were some great people and one of them was my friend Ted Percy.  Ted was a few years older than me and he was always interested in anything to do with mechanics and electronics and, because we were friends, he perked my interest too.  Ted always had a bunch of cool stuff to play with like Lionel Train sets and radios that he liked to take apart.  He was a cool guy.  We strung a wire from his house to my house along the lane to setup a morse code system and we built crystal sets out of magnet wire from motors wound on wooden dowels and galena crystals and later germanium diodes.  I got into lots of trouble, as to be expected, when I pulled our family Rogers Majestic radio to pieces one Saturday morning and had it all laid out on the floor when my Dad got up and came into the Dining Room.  I got it all back together, ok and it worked ok, sort of,  but for some reason my backside hurt.

This is the Rocket Radio.  Hugely popular in the middle 50's.

This is the Rocket Radio. Hugely popular in the middle 50’s.

The first radio I had was a Rocket Radio that my parents bought me for Christmas just after Sputnik went up.  For you youngsters out there Sputnik was the first man-made satellite to orbit the earth in late 1957 and you could see it from earth on a clear night as it crossed the sky while in orbit.

Man's first orbiting satellite put into orbit in October 1957 which started the space race.

Man’s first orbiting satellite put into orbit in October 1957 which started the space race.

However I digress.  My interest was perked in radio and it became an all consuming passion for me.  I was kinda the ultimate nerd I guess because I consumed everything I could get on radio in an effort to know more and more.  In fact one day I tried to bring home a technical manual when I was in grade five from the library called the ARRL Handbook and the librarian stopped me and told me that it was above my level.  I was heartbroken and ran home to tell my Mum what had happened.  My aunt was there and had been a teacher for many years and she exploded, ran up to the school and tore a strip off that poor librarian telling her to never restrict another child from any book such as that again.  She came home and had the book with her.  I poured over its contents, even though I didn’t know what it all meant at that time, and probably still don’t.  It did become my career however.  Mostly self taught as well.  I loved looking through that great book and seeing all the neat stuff you could make and started learning my craft which was to serve me for the rest of my life.

My interest in radio continued into my teenage years and I built many radio receivers and small broadcast transmitters when I was growing up and had antenna’s everywhere.  In 1960, as I mentioned in another post, my radio engineering allowed me to design and build a marine radio for the little gill netter I went up the coast on and it worked very well on our little boat.

This is HMCS St. Croix.  The last ship I served on.  I had a Ham Radio station set up on her.

This is HMCS St. Croix. The last ship I served on. I had a Ham Radio station set up on her.

In 1962, I joined the RCN and became a Radioman aboard destroyers and spent a few years learning the rules and code used by naval radio operators all over the world.  I got out of the Navy the first time in 1965 and with my knowledge intact, wrote my Amateur Radio Operator exam and passed. I was on the air with my own station in Vancouver.  A year later I wrote the Advanced Amateur exam and passed again and now I could use phone on all bands and had reached the pinnacle in Canadian amateur radio with unrestricted use of the airwaves.  I was thrilled and when I re-joined the Navy in 1967 I was posted to a destroyer and setup a station aboard the HMCS St. Croix to phone patch calls from sailors on board to home in Canada when we were overseas in Australia and New Zealand.  It was a grand time and I enjoyed my Naval career and how amateur radio could be integrated aboard ship so usefully.

After leaving the Navy I continued in the electronics business and radio was a huge part of it.  I designed and built better and better equipment and talked to people all over the world, some of whom are still great friends to this day.

My station here at home.

My station here at home.

When Maggie and I bought our first house in 1980, I built a huge, 70′ tower with a bunch of beam antennas and even a satellite dish. It was the envy of many of the hams in Lethbridge at the time, but when we moved to San Jose, CA in 1989, I sold it all and bought more modern equipment down there.  During the Loma Prieta Earthquake on October 18th, 1989, I took some of my equipment up to the Santa Cruz mountains and assisted the emergency hams by handling traffic from San Jose to Santa Cruz on that weekend.  It was exciting and emotional for everyone and I’m glad I had the chance to experience it as it’s nothing you will ever forget.

Today I’m still an active Ham and love to talk to old friends and new ones whenever I get a chance to get on the air.  My station is  getting old now, but is still operating perfectly even with some of the equipment built back in the 1950’s.  I mostly use the equipment that I bought way back in 1989 and enjoy the hobby just as much as I did then.

If you’re interested in Amateur Radio here’s a couple of links that will definitely help.  By the way my call sign it VE6ARG and I’m active on all bands.

Radio Amateurs of Canada         American Radio Relay League

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