My Ham Radio History (Continued)
I made a lot of light bulbs turn on and off with the J-38. After
awhile, my interest dwindled and I was taken with rockets. I read any
book I could find at that age that explained rockets. I also read a lot
of science fiction too at the time. (I was also into baseball, riding
bikes, and doing normal things a kid that age would do.) I love Andre
Norton (who I later found out was a woman), Robert Heinline, Arthur C.
Clark and a host of others.
My friends and I got pretty heavy into rocketry with Estes and Centauri rocket products. We launched a lot of rockets and got our picture in the Newton Kansan when we launched a mouse. The second stage failed to ignite so the rocket landed nose down on the street. Wilbur, the mouse, was killed.
I then got into cars and started to become a gear-head because all my other friends were doing the same. Dad was a mechanic and taught be a lot about engines. When I was 14 years old, Dad read that there was going to be a ham radio class taught by the Newton Amateur Radio Club (Newton, Kansas). He asked me if I would like to go and I said yes. Dad drove me each Tuesday and Thursday nights to the house of Ray Polly, K0JDB.
Ray was a cool old guy. Look, I was 14-15 years old in '65 and you were hearing that you could not trust anyone over the age of 30. Ray was in his 40s at the time. His basement was full of ham radio stuff. I remember he had a Skyrider receiver and a DX-100. He had a microphone and a Vibroplex bug. Ray was an old Navy hand and worked as a telegrapher for the Santa Fe Railroad. He knew International and American Morse. He also had a typewriter by the rig and copied a lot of press for fun. He was an amazing CW enthusiast. He also did a lot of electronics and built a double side band rig from scratch. I never really looked at his antennas, but I don't think he had a beam.
There were not that many people in the class, but I know there was an Eddie and a Bob. Bob is now W0BH and I am not sure what happened to Eddie. Well, after a few months we all got our Novice calls. The code was hard for me, but I took to the electronics like fish to water. Bob was licensed as WN0OUS and I got WN0OWN. Bob is a few years younger than me. He is one smart guy…still is too.
My Novice year started in 1965 and I had no money to buy anything and Mom and Dad were not going to help. Money was tight, but I found ways of getting equipment. Bob got some equipment first and I spent a lot of time over at Bob's house. The Newton ARC had a bunch of Heathkit Twoers and we spend a lot of time talking on 145.35 AM. I did get a KnightKit Ocean Hopper receiver and a T-60 after a couple of months. I never could get the hang of the Ocean Hopper. Ray loaded me this BIG receiver that was a Navy ROA2 or a National 120. It was a World War II surplus receiver. There were no filters so you had to pick out your QSO by the tone. A person could have as many as 5 to 6 signals in the band pass at the same time. The receiver was big and heavy on my desk. It took up much of the operating postion. We've come a long way. So, I was finally on the air after about 3 months. Meanwhile, Bob was cranking out QSOs all the time.
The T-60 was a nasty radio. I got two FCC Pink Slips for transmitting a harmonic on 20 meters. My Mom and Dad were so scared I would go to jail that Dad said to put it away. So, K0JDB came through again and I borrowed a Viking Ranger. Nice transmitter. No more Pink Slips. I had three crystals…80, 40 and 15 meters. I put up a dipole around the house under the eves. That is what my Dad would allow me to put up. That did not work at all. So, one day when he was at work, I climbed a tree and put up a longwire from the tree to the power pole in the back yard. I took his 16 foot ladder and climbed up the power pole and put it up. He never saw it from a month. Meanwhile, I was making QSOs with my J-38 on the longwire with a simple earth ground outside the window. Mom and Dad's Zenith TV was completely worthless when I was on, but Dad did not say much because at the age of 16 he knew I could be running around town in my hot rod or hamming in the bedroom. He preferred to know where I was.
Well, the year was almost up and I was preparing for the General Class test. Well, the electronics was not a problem. I had that down cold. The code was something else. I was having trouble getting code going at 13 words per minute. Bob passed the code and the written very easy. I waited till the FCC came to Wichita (that happened two times a year) and took the code test. I put on the cans and waited. Nervous. More that nervous, I was down right scared. The code started and I started to copy. I remember sweating a lot. The cans fell off my head because of the sweat. That rattled me and I flunked the code. Oh my, I was doomed!
Well, the Novice year ran out and I was still struggling with code. I practiced and practiced waiting for the FCC to come back to Wichita. Dad understood what was going on and asked me if I could take the test in Kansas City. I said sure, but my hot rod would not get there and Dad was not going to let me go the three hours to KC anyway. My hot rod was not all that hot and the tires were bald because of two things: no money to get different tires and to much drag racing. Dad and Mom took a day off and took me to the Federal Building in KC, Mo. Here I am in the back of my parent's 1957 Chevrolet Biscayne at the age of 16 going to KC to take an FCC General Exam.
The Federal Building was one of the biggest buildings in downtown KC. Now, we are from a rural town in Kansas (15,000 pop. at the time) and this was big deal. Dad had to feed a meter to park which was something new. We had to walk about three blocks to get there. I was wobbly the whole time although I was trying to act cool. The elevator ride was long as we went to the "umpteenth" floor. The elevator opened and there was the FCC office with a lot of other victims milling around in the hall. I got signed in and Mom and Dad disappeared. Oh crap!
The door opened and we all streamed in. There was a lady there that had to be the sister of the witch in the Wizard of Oz, and she talked like her too. "Helloooooo, my sweeties." She barked out orders that seemed to be coming from a Marine Drill Instructor. We were given instructions, pencils, and a stern warning that cheating is a federal offense. I was quaking in my Keds.
The code started and I started concentrating. Now or never
I thought. Mom and Dad sacrificed a day of vacation for me and I had to
get this done. The code test ended. I thought, "If I pass this, I
will be totally surprised." They checked the tests for what seemed
to be a millennium. My name was called, "Leroy Butler."
Well, my name is "Buller" but a lot of people get it wrong. I did not answer. The lady called again, "LEROY BUTLER!" I raided my hand and said I was Leroy Buller. She scowled at me like I was a mad dog. She said, "Come get your written exam!"
Hallelujah! That mean I had passed the code! I had passed 13 by-gum and by-gosh words per minute code. I never looked backed, just took the test and started answering questions. I worked on the test for about 30 minutes and felt good about it. I took it to the grader, an older man who seemed to be the brother of the Oz lady. He looked at me as if I had fallen off the turnip truck that morning because I was the first one to bring him a completed test. He refused to take it and told me to go back and check my work. So, I did. About 20 minutes later one of the older victims got up and had his test checked. He seemed to have passed. The test checker said nothing just took a stamp and inked it up on the pad and smacked it down on the paper. He never said a word to the older victim. But, the guy knew he had passed because he was reading the word "PASS" upside down. He strode out of the room a very happy guy. I took my test back to the test checker. He "hrumphed" and took my test paper and put it in the key. I started counting along with him. The count was zero wrong. He "hrumphed" again and slammed the "PASS" stamp down on the paper and put it away. He never looked at me the whole time. I floated out of the room.
Mom and Dad and magically reappeared and were sitting in the hallway. They both knew I had passed from the look on my face. Mom said, "Well, lets get a hamburger for a celebration." I was famished! I ate two at a Diner on the way back to the car and a full plate of french fries.
The trip home was great! I started thinking about throwing away the J-38 and getting a microphone. Wow, I was a General. Little did I know, that economics would dictate my mode of ham radio operations.
Well, I waited six very long weeks to get my license. Meanwhile, Bob got WA0OUS in the mail and was up on 20 meters DXing. I was amazed at what Bob was working on 20 meters. The day came that I went to the mailbox at the end of the lane and there was the FCC license envelope. Oh my! I sprinted the 200 yards home down the lane. My football coach would have been amazed at the speed. You see, I was a big kid and played on the line - some offense and defense. I have two speeds - slow and stop. Now, I just have stop. But I digress.
I burst in on Mom and Dad who were home for lunch. I opened the envelope and there it was my new call. WA0SWC. What? Where was WA0OWN? Then I realized that I had missed the deadline with my Novice and I would not get my Novice call moved to General. Oh well, at least I was a General in 1966.
That night I went over the Ray's house and told him the big news. Now, I am somewhat of an enthusiastic person. The words ebullient and gregarious are good words to pin on me. My Dad called me a "stem-winder." I've never been shy or with out words. I would try just about anything and my personality could be called "BIG." Ray looked at the call…thought about it…the called me W-A-0-SHORT-WAVE-CATASTROPHE. It stuck for the rest of the time I owned that call.
So, now I was a General with phone privileges. But, I had no phone equipment in 1966. I moped around for a couple of weeks trying to figure out how to get some better equipment. I spent a lot of time at Don's Amateur Radio Supply in Wichita, but all his equipment was way to expensive. I did bring home a Heathkit Apache but the transmitter took up my whole operating space. It was BIG. Then I heard Gary, K0SFU, was returning home from four years in the Air Force and he might have some radios to sell. I had never met Gary. Being the bold person I was and walked up to Gary's parents house and knocked. Gary was there and I introduced myself and asked if he had anything to sell. He was going to sell in DX-40 and VF-1 VFO. How much? $50.00. Now, I had been working that summer saving money for a new something, so I forked over the $50 and I was the proud owner of a DX-40 and a VF-1. I see Gary from time to time and we are good friends today. Ham radio does that!
I still had the National 120 receiver that was pretty poor and that needed to be changed out as well. I installed the DX-40 and the VF-1 fairly easily. I used a knife switch for an antenna change over between transmit and receive and turned down the RF gain the receiver manually. It was clunky, but the procedure worked OK. I was talking to one of the girls at church, a Ms. Heibert if I remember right, and she said her Father had a shortwave receiver they used in Africa when they were there as missionaries. I went straight away to talk with her Dad and he invited me over to see the unit. It was National NC-57. Heck, I didn't know sickum about receivers but it sounded good to me. I asked him how much he wanted thinking it would be around $100. He said $25 and he even had the manual. I put it in the back of my 57 Chevy and floored it home! The 283 cubic inch engine cruised home in record time (The car got me in a lot of trouble too, but that is another story).
I had the NC-57 in line and ready to go. I was cooking with gas now and all for $75.00. The antennas were a longwire, a 40-meter dipole, and a newly struck up 20-meter dipole. I used the 40-meter dipole on 15 meters. The VF-1 was plugged into the DX-40 and I was ready to go…except for a bad chirp. Bad CW chirp. I eventually found out that 6CL6 tubes can chirp if they go bad. I could not stand the chirp and didn't know what to do. So, I talked to Ray, K0JDB, my Elmer. Remember, I am 16 years old in 1966.
He said there was a voltage drop and I needed to regulate the B+ going to the VF-1. So, I dug out the Handbook and started reading about regulation tubes like the OB2. Now, all through the last two years, I had been taking apart TV sets and scavenging parts. I decided, with help from Ray, to build an external power supply that was regulated and run the VF-1 continuously while in transmit mode. That way there could be NO chirp. So, I got the transformer together, the 5U4 rectifier, switches, fuses, connectors and chassis together and put together a nice power supply. I then mounted two OB2 tubes on the VF-1 chassis in series with each other to get the appropriate specs. The VF-1 already had a regulator for the screen of the 6CL6 oscillator. Voila! It worked and there was no more chirping. The VF-1 was pretty stable if I let it warm up for an hour. Later on, I just left the VF-1 on all the time. But, I had to figure out away to switch the antenna, mute the receiver and start the VF-1 oscillating before I started transmitting.
Enter the wonderful world of relays. Ray also gave me some nice WWII relays that where in sealed cans. I figured out how to control all those devices through relays and soon I had put together a black box with a switch. Out of that box, the antenna was changed over, the receiver muted and the VF-1 was started. I later on moved a switch to the front of the DX-40 (I drilled very carefully too). Wow, it worked.
During that time, Ray introduced me to traffic handling through the National Traffic System. Both Bob and I were involved in NTS through the Kansas CW Net called QKS. QKS had two sessions at 7 pm and 10 pm local time. Between those times, a liaison station would go to Tenth Region Net. The Tenth Region Net would send a liaison to Central Area Net which would come back down to Tenth Region Net second session and then back to QKS at 10 pm. Lots of traffic was passed this way back in the late 60s.
Well, I was over at Bob's (WA0OUS, now W0BH) and he checked in to QSK for the first time. Since I did not have a rig (this was before the DX-40), I checked in also using his rig. Dave (WA0MLE, now N0IN) was the net control. Two new stations had shown up on QKS. So, we was going to explain a few things to us (remember, all this was done on CW). He sent Bob up 5 Khz and sent me down 5 Khz. Bob and I looked at each other and started laughing and going into a panic at the same time. Dave soon was sending "HI HI HI" and told us to wait. After he released the net he got our information and who we are. Dave, Bob and I still chuckle about that to this day. Dr. Dave is a superb CW op and brilliant enginner now. We both went to K-State but a different times. Again, a life long friend because of ham radio. I still have Dave's Vibroplex single lever paddle he sold me sometime in the 70s.
Well, once I had my station up and running I was a NTS-QKS fiend. I did not miss a net session and copied the net from beginning to end. I passed a lot of traffic for about a year. I was even on QKS in Friday and Saturday evenings when most 16-17 year olds were out dragging Main. I did do that, but I was home for net sessions. Bob and I did some net control duties as well. If I remember right, for a year I had Thursday net control. I even went to Tenth Region Net many times and about a dozen times to Central Area Net. You were playing with the big boys there.
One day Ray asked me if I had been on 10 meters yet. I said no because I had never heard anything on 10 meters. Now this was 1966-67-68…the Sun was going nuts. Ray explained to me about sunspots and that I should take a look on 10 meters. So, I went to 10-meters and called CQ on CW thinking I would get a contact in the states. Wow! I had called CQ when I had finished Supper around 6:30 pm and all I heard was a crowd of JA's calling me. AT first I thought they were North American stations that could not get the "W" right, but then I realized they were Japanese stations. Well, you can imagine what happened for the next several years.
Now, all this time I knew the DX-40 would run carrier controlled AM. I had done quite a bit of that on 40 meters at Noon checking into the Hambutchers Net. Why they called it that, I am not sure. The VF-1 was so stable that I could zero beat the net control and he did not know I was on AM. There was one gentleman who checked in from Ark City for years, W0QQT. This guy ran a kilowatt on AM. He had the sweetest audio and a big base voice to match. He was sweet when he came on, but you could hear the relays kicking when in put that gallon on the air.
Well, I fired up the old DX-40 on 10-meter AM and was I in for a surprise. I worked so many people and so many DX stations that I filled up several log books. What fun that was. I was on the radio every waking moment and when I was not in school. It was a great time to be on the air with any kind of signal.
I still wanted to get on SSB. So, I started reading about
SSB which was pure goble-de-gook to me at the time. I did find an ad for
a Heathkit SB-10. I started reading about the SB-10 and started asking
questions on how one would use it with the DX-40. I was told, not possible.
You could not run SSB with a Class C amplifier. Yes, I knew that, but
why not change the amp to Class AB1.
Well, time went on and I found myself graduated from High School and waiting to go to college. I was going to be an Electrical Engineer who was mathematically challenged. I graduated from High School and a month later I turned 18 years old. Ray, my Elmer, called me up and said to come on over. So, I knew Ray had a new toy and wanted to show it off. I knocked on the back door and instead of going to the basement he ushered me into his dining room. I had never been upstairs in the house. There on a polished Walnut dinner table was Ray's Vibroplex Champion Bug. Ray said this is your High School graduation present. I was shocked, honored, and scared to accept such a fine piece of work. I had drooled over that key every time I had operated at Ray's station and he was giving it to me! Then he gave me another present for my 18th birthday. He opened a bottle of his homebrew beer. Now, if you grew up in Newton, Kansas in the late 60s you knew a lot about beer. You knew a lot about Coors, Old Milwaukee, Pabst, Busch, Schlitz, Triumph, Miller and of course Budweiser. (Have you ever noticed how "i" comes before "e" except after "c" and except in Budweiser?) Well, that beer was homemade and very stout. It was cold and I was sitting at my Elmer's dining room table drinking a beer and looking at your new Champion Vibroplex Bug! You can't get any better than that at that age.
The bug went home and was on the air that night. Little did I know that that bug would cause me a lot of ribbing from future ham radio pals because it was hard to control the dash to dot ration. I had a slow dash and a fast dot. I still take some heat from my good friend Tim, AB0S, about that bug. I still have that bug today, some 40 years later as of this writing.
Well, my life went on like this for the next year, but I did not do well in college. Algebra is hard for me. So, I flunked out of Wichita State University. Being a draft eligible guy, I enrolled in a trade school in Oklahoma City. I took all the rigs down there, but never got the station together. Move back home around December of 1969 and re-enrolled at Wichita State with a new perspective. That year was a water-shed year for me and I grew up a lot and got a lot straightened out in my brain. It is a personal thing and if you ask I will tell you all about it.
I was sick of having all this equipment around and wanted to get a transceiver. Heath had just come out with the HW-100 and I wanted one, but had no money. One day, I mentioned the rig to my Maternal Grandfather, Frank. Frank was the coolest old guy I ever met. He was an accomplished carpenter of the old style (hand tools) and smoke bad stinky cigars. He said he would load be the money to buy one. I put in an order for a HW-100, the power supply, and the 500 Hz filter. I think the whole price was less than $400.
Well, the next several weeks I put the rig together using a 140 watt Weller Solder gun. You could do that back then, but I would not recommend it now. I had a little problem getting the 5 Mhz VFO to run. I think I fried the MOSFET with the soldering gun. Heath bailed me out and I was on SSB. Man, was that fun! Guess what I did? I checked into the CW nets, rag chewed on 40 meters CW, and hardly worked SSB except to check into the Kansas Side Band Net and the Kansas Weather Net. I was hopelessly in love with CW. Go figure! Yea, worked on SSB, but looking back at the logs, CW ruled.
The only thing I was missing was a beam. I had seen some beams in Wichita but never thought about owning one. Well, for years I knew were one was in Newton and it had not rotated since I was alive. The beam was on Morningside Drive which was also known as Snob Hill. Being the kind of guy I am, I went up to the door of the house and knocked. A man answered and asked if he was a ham. He said no. I asked him if he wanted to sell the antenna on his tower in the back yard. He said how much would I give for it. I said $25. He said it is yours for that.
Well, I went around to the back of the house and saw what
I was getting into. The tower was homemade out of wrought iron. It was
almost not climbable. Now, I am not a fan of heights so I needed some
help. Ok, I am a chicken of heights. So, I was telling my Dad about this
and he said he wasn't afraid of heights. He pulled out a picture of him
as a young man on top of the windmill on the farm. So, Dad and I took
the truck and some tools and off we went to survey the antenna and get
it down. Dad climbed up the tower and tied himself on the tower with rope.
(Yes, I did not know what we were doing at the time and we should all
be dead). The tower had a prop pitch motor which we did get out but I
tossed because it was old and I did not know what it was. The mast was
steel and was leaded solid with plumbers lead. Dad rigged up a gin pole
although we did know it was a gin pole and hack-sawed through the mast.
The beam came down off the tower and into the back yard. We took it apart
and transported it home.
Dad found an old wind generator "quad-pod" from the 30s from some farmer east of Newton and we mounted a scavenged TV rotator on it and mounted the quad-pod on the roof of the garage. I would say that the total height of the beam was about 30 feet or so. We guyed the quad-pod as well and the beam was up there until 1978 when I took it down some 9 years later.
The antenna worked just fine. I had cleaned up the elements and shined things up and did not know anything about putting it together. I just put it back to where the original owner had used it. It was set to phone, but the old tube rigs didn't mind high SWR. I worked a lot of DX with that beam. But, the rotor was bad and broke about the first day. So, I threw a rope around the Director and used that to change directions. The rope was tied of to the air conditioner unit for years because by doing so the beam was pointed to Europe. No, we were in Kansas…not Arkansas.
Well, from 1970 to 1972 I had some obligations. I moved to Topeka, Kansas and took the HW-100 with me and a 80 meter dipole. For the next two years, I was mostly on 80 meters or not on at all. Yes, I kind of got off the air during that time. Other things took precedence.
Around 1969-1970, I dated a girl named Rosanne. She was pretty special at the time, but I met her friend Ruby who was a 6-foot tall, blonde, leggy, Nordic Swede from Lindsborg, Kansas. Ruby was (is) stunning. You know, one of those beautiful girls that even a die-hard ham radio operator would say, "Wow!" In February 1970, I had a chance to have a "Coke" with Ruby without the knowledge of Rosanne. I did my level best to sweep her off her feet during that "Coke" date…and it worked! That weekend I broke it off with Rosanne who was making wedding plans and Ruby dumped "what's-his-name." We were an item from then on and still are. If anything can excite my amplifier, it's Ruby. I married Ruby in 1972 with the understanding of what Ham Radio was all about. She was fully informed before she took the engagement rig and said, "I do."
This is how I introduced her to ham radio. I invited Ruby to my bedroom. Yep, I was going to show her my Ham Radio station. She thought I was going to show her something different. She asked me, "Don't you live at home with your Mom and Dad?" I said, "Yes, what about it." She expressed her reluctance to the invitation. I then realized the "gaff" and told her that is where my ham radio station was located. We laugh about that now, but it was serious business then…Ruby was not that type of girl (although I tried several times being the "red-blooded" American boy I was at the time). Well, I got her to the bedroom (my Dad was watching TV at the time in the living room) and heard a guy calling CQ and he signing Maritime Mobil. Well, I called and he answered me saying he was on a Navy Destroyer off the coast of Florida waiting for the lift off of one of the Apollo Moon shots. We chatted a few minutes and signed off. Ruby was amazed and told all her friends, her siblings, and her parents about the event. She even said we were in my bedroom, which got a lot of mileage from people. It was a funny experience. By the way, Ruby and I have two children…Sara and Dan. Mission Accomplished!
After my two year obligation was over, I moved the Manhattan, Kansas where Ruby was finishing up her last year at Kansas State University. We got married in July of 1972 and moved into a basement apartment. I made a place the HW-100 and started to look at antenna strategies. Meanwhile, I enrolled at KSU in Journalism and Mass Communications looking for a major in Radio and Television.
Let me digress here for a minute. You see, I have this voice that most broadcasters in the 40 and 50s would have killed for. I have a very deep rich bass voice that is mellifluous. When I had returned to Wichita State University in the Spring of 1970, I was going to be a shop teacher and enrolled in Industrial Arts Education. I also took a beginning class in Radio and Television. At the time, WSU had a 250 watt FM monaural station using an old Gates transmitter with a 4CX250R. I had looked inside one day to see what it was. Well, the teacher like my voice from the start and offered me a slot on the radio station. I was hooked. Hooked bad! Ok, back to the story.
My antenna in the basement apartment was a random length long wire. It was made out of 18 gauge bell wire and ran out the basement window, up to the unused TV mast (Manhattan had cable TV very early on) and over the neighbor's unused TV mast. I asked the neighbor if I could do that and since the neighbor was renting too he did not care. So, I figured I had about 100 feet of wire. I used a B&W 2" Coil and a broadcast band air variable for as an L-Tuner. The whole thing was mounted on a 1 X 4 and I used alligator clips to do the tuning and to change from Lo-Z to Hi-Z. Hey, it worked quite well. What was cool was that the cold water inlet to the house (copper too) was 12" away from the tuner. Ground was found! I was on the air and I did do a lot of ham radio from the apartment.
During 1972, I really paid attention to class work and to work too. I had a part time job as a janitor. I worked in Seaton Hall and later on in Willard Hall. I found the radio club in Seaton Hall. The radio club had been around since Marconi, Fesiden, and Doc Brinkley. Soon, I attended the first club meeting of W0QQQ. What a great call. Here are some of the great guys that I got to know during my time at W0QQQ:
Rod Blocksome - K0DAS
I missed some I am sure, but these are some of the guys that put W0QQQ on the air in the early 70s. When I got to W0QQQ there was a 75A4 and a Collins Exciter that ran about 20 watts. Nothing else. Over the next year or so the club started to fund raise from alumni and a lot of us took our equipment to the shack. The antennas were pitiful with a two-element Hygain beam. After a couple of years of fund raising we put together a Heathkit SB301/401 and a Collins S-Line. No amplifiers. One gentleman's widow gave us his whole station which we sold to buy better stuff, but one of the things that he had was a homebrew AM rig that had a pair of 4-400 tubes.
Rod, K0DAS, was a Masters degree candidate in Electrical Engineering and a consummate builder took the rig to his house and converted it to a linear amplifier. Rod had one of the best homebrew amps I've ever seen and he did a great job of converting this old amp. It would "light the fires on all bands."
We received a crank up tower and tri-band beam as well
from another estate. Now, Seaton Hall was the place where they did Electrical
Engineering and we shared the shack with a test rig of a B-47 ranging
radar which I never saw work the whole time I was in school. The room
was done in copper and there was pads designed on the roof for a very
large tower. We mounted the crank up and beam on one of these pads and
roped in down with nylon rope. That winter it fell over in the ice storm
not making the Dean of Engineering very happy. And when the President
of the club came to answer for what had happened a Journalism Major to
boot, well he was not very pleased. Somehow, we fixed the crank up tower
and got some good steel cable and anchors to make the tower secure.
That was 1972, but 1973, 74, 75, 76 and 77 were quite different. W0QQQ was always in the top ten multi-op during those years for both CW and Phone. We learned a lot during that time and learned more later about contesting from a bunch of other guys that crossed my path. One contest we used a new Kenwood TS-520S. I thought I was in heaven. Remember, there were no memory keyers widely available at this time and everything was done with a keyer…an Eico Tube Keyer or a Ten Tec KR5. W0QQQ is not an easy call to send or a very good contest call either.
Let it suffice for now I learned a lot at W0QQQ with the guys. Field Days were outrageous. The after glow of club meeting was always fun at Aggieville, which was nothing more than four-square blocks of bars at the time.
We also had a great run at getting town hams to join in our fun. We held classes for the community and a lot of good ex-Cbers joined our ranks. The classes were fun and more than 30 people got into ham radio.
During the college years, I sold the HW-100 and got a Hallicrafters FPM-300 with filter. The rig was a hybrid with a transistor receiver and a tube transmitter. After about two years, it started getting kind of flaky so I unloaded the rig and got a used SB-102. I then added at SB-200.
The club even help is a natural disaster in 1973 when a tornado ripped through Clay Center and Greenleaf, Kansas. W0QQQ was active in the field for more than 7 days. I almost flunked accounting during that time because I was passing health and welfare messages. Greenleaf was almost wipe off the face of the Earth.
In 1973, I met Rod Blocksome's next-door neighbor, Don Brewer. Rod and I were working on the amp I mentioned previously. He was a ham (I cannot remember his call) and worked at the local NPR affiliate KSAC. KSAC shared time with WIBW in Topeka as was a 5,000 watt AM radio station that was on the air Monday through Friday from 12:30 to 5:30 pm. I met Don in Rod's garage and Don (he was quite a character too) asked me what my major was. I told him Radio and TV. Don said that with a voice like mine I should be an announcer and to come see him on Monday in his office. He offered me a student reporter job. I held that job from 1973 to 1977 when I finished my Masters. I was responsible for 18 minutes of news a day. Over the years, I got to actually produce newscasts and be the studio engineer for a summer. It was a great place to work and I started my career in broadcasting.
In 1975, I had more than enough credits graduate. I found that if I converted some of those credits to Graduate credits, take two classes that summer, I could have a Masters degree the following year. So, I graduated with my BS in Radio and Television and stayed on to finish a Masters Degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. I do not like taking tests (read the story about the General test) so I opted to write a thesis. I was convinced, and I still am, that if a radio station has a good news product that the radio station will be very successful in advertising. Although my major professor, Dr. Virginia Howe, agreed with me she said it would be hard to prove, so do something close but don't make the wild claims. She was one smart cookie who had met and knew Major Edwin Armstrong. Yes, the inventor of the super-heterodyne receiver and FM Radio. In fact, she said she saw the prototype transmitter and receiver in Major Armstrong's lab. Well, with her help and guidance (which was considerable) I published "A Survey of 34 Single Market AM Radio Stations and Their News Operations." Ruby typed the manuscript six times. I finally graduated in December of 1976.
Well, it was time to move on and I entered another era in ham radio and it was a great one. I didn't think it could get any better than what it had been. From December 1976 to the end of January 1977 we move from Manhattan, to McPherson, Kansas for a short time, and then took a job in Salina, Kansas at KSAL/KYEZ.
Salina was a great ham radio town. The Central Kansas Amateur Radio Club had been around for years. There were so many great guys in the club, one of which was Jim McKim, W0CY. When it came to contesting, well Salina was fantastic. Salina has good soil conductivity because of all the salt in the ground. Also, a guy named Dean Lewis lived in Salina. Call, WA0TKJ - Tokyo, Kilowatt, Japan. He is now K9ZV and still lives in Salina but is inactive.
Dean was remarkable. He could copy code, watch TV, pack his pipe, and talk to you at the same time. Dean was the consummate operator. Dean and I did a lot of multi-op contests together. Dean had been off the air for several years until I got to town and got him interested again. I invited him over to my place for a contest. He got hooked again. Dean was also a great Dxer. I think he has 5BWAS, 5BDXX and 5BWAZ. Dean introduced me to several guys that were great contesters as well and great stations builders. One of those guys is Pete Sias, WB0DRL, who HF,VHF,UHF and SHF station is incredible. Dean help me put up my first tower and did a lot of tower work for me.
Tim Kresky, AB0S, became a life-long friend at this time. Tim and I have been contesting since 1974 together and have missed very few Sweepstakes in those years. Tim is a superlative operator just look at the scores he produces. Tim and I talk quite often through the year on the telephone. Tim's wife Kathy and my wife Ruby became good friends as well.
In Salina, I continued to work on SS. On a small city lot, I had two towers and two beams and used a Dow-Key relay to go either east or west. The station consisted of the SB-102A, SB-200, and homebrew tuner built into a SB-200 cabinet, and a homemade VFO to go split with the SB-102A. Actually, I copied the VFO out of the HW-101 and ordered all the parts from Heathkit while bending up my own case. I put a Swan knob on the outboard VFO and hooked it into the SB-102A. Worked very well.
The first beam was the one I had at home that my Dad and I put up on the garage. The traps were falling apart and needed to be replaced. I had toured the Hygain plant in Lincoln, Nebraska several years earlier and wondered if they could help me. I wrote a letter and they sent me the parts I would need. So, I re-trapped my old beam that I had gotten in 1970 that had been up for over 10 years before that. In 1978, the re-worked beam went up on the 50 foot tower in the back yard in Salina.
After a few contests, I realized the SB-102A was not going to make it with the "rice boxes." When the TS820S hit the market at got one. Fantastic rig. I also dumped the SB-200 and got a BTI LK-2000HD. I had to get rid of the BTI for economic reason and scale back to an SB-220.
Then I changed out the TH3 to a TH6DXX. Then I mounted a tower on the side of the garage and put up the TH3. Contesting was "hammer down"
During this time, I took #1 in SS Phone in Multi-op and the next year we did the same thing using Tim's call, AB0S.
After a couple of years, I upgraded to the TS830S which was one of the finest radios I've ever owned.
Meanwhile, I was a news reporter at KSAL work with Bob Davis, K0FPC (sk), another great CW operator. I worked for several years there under several different News Directors until they got wise and promoted me to News Director. That meant I got to get up at 3 am and go to work. That lasted for about 3 years. Meanwhile, Ruby and I decided to get a family going and Sara was born in 1980. Ruby spoke quite lovely to me that I had to curtail Dxing, contesting, and ham radio to help her with the girl. I complied.
I left the radio station and got into public relations because I had to make some more money and radio was not going to cut it. Well, I did not do very well as a PR person and was soon looking for work. I was going to sell radio ads for another station when a former professor at K-State called and asked if I would be interested in teaching for one year. It seemed that one of the professors might be leaving and they needed a warm body. Well, he did leave and they asked me to fill in for a year. I was unemployed at the time and I said yes. Now who wouldn't like to teach that their alma mater?
I took to teaching like a duck to water. I loved it and
after a year of driving between Salina and Manhattan, we moved to Manhattan
and started teaching a possible tenure track. During that year of driving,
Daniel was born.
The reason why I stopped hamming too in Manhattan was that I was almost sued. A neighbor did not like his garage door going up and down when I was on. He refused to let me fix it saying this did not happen when I was not living next door. He actually watched his door go up and down for 40 minutes once without have the brains to walk over the wall plug and disconnect it.
I was sweet as pie to this man but he was just not going to be cooperative. I gave him the FCC's address and said make a complaint knowing full well the FCC would say he would have to cooperate, which they did. He threatened to sue, so I went QRP low power on CW. He blamed me for just about everything that went wrong with his house and tried to make me pay for a garbage disposal. That is when I said I would retain an attorney.
Enter Dr. John Stanesic, W0CEM, of Junction City. John loves to build antennas. John knows everything there is to know about antennas. He was also very interesting in 160 meters and had done some extensive work with antennas on the band in the late 70s and early 80s. There were a troop of people that operated from his station on 160 meters. Contesting became important to John and he opened his station up for multi-ops. Tim and I operated there all through the 80s and well into the 90s many contests. John had two phased verticals on 160 meters. He could also use one of the verticals on 80 meters. John ended up with a station that had TS950S, Alpha 76PA (3 hole), a TH6DXX, a 40CD, and a plethora of wire antennas. John open his home and heart to Tim and Me and we really do appreciated him and his wife Joni.
Teaching at KSU was pretty cool. I loved doing the work and I was working with young people. One of the projects I started in 1985 was to increase the power of KSDB from 125 watts with an antenna of -38 feet below the average terrain (yes, we were broadcasting in a bowl and we did not get very far) to some…well…better. There was no money and really no support for the project. Well, that never stopped me before. I tried many different plans, but there was just no support from the Department. My collegues in the RTV department were for me, but there was not much they could do.
Then, I got a huge break. KAKE-TV out of Wichita had a translator station in Manhattan that had not been on the air for years. It just was not needed with the advent of cable TV. Looking at the FCC maps, the translator was on a very tall hill outside of town to the east and it had a 200 foot tower. So, I jumped on the phone and called KAKE and asked to speak to the general manager. I asked him what he was going to do with the property. He said give it to the University of Kansas for a translator of their big 100,000 NPR station. I asked him if he would reconsider and give it to K-State's student FM station. He said sure. He would have the paper work drawn up. I contacted the KSU Foundation and made arraignments for a donation which was valued at more than $50,000.
The site consisted of a 200 foot Pi-Rod tower, a concrete block shed, two acres of land, and an very poorly maintained two mile access road. You needed a jeep to get up the hill. After getting the paperwork approved, K-State took possession of the land and I went to work. Guess what. Dad came up with his chain saw and we cleared 100 juniper trees that had grown up over the last decade. Dad was still helping my radio causes. I got to look in the building and found it to be in deplorable shape. It had a flat roof that was leaking like the Titanic and wet, moldy, and rusty equipment. All of the equipment went to the dump. I started looking for funding.
Funding came from a plethora of sources. Funding came from the Student Government Association, KSDB Underwriting, and cash donations from Lee and Ruby Buller. For the most part, SGA provided for much of the funds to complete the project. I contacted several equipment manufactures for quotes and Harris Corporation came out and looked it over. The guy put the package together and asked me how much I had to spend. I told him $14,000. He said he would sell me a 1KW FM transmitter, controller, Studio Transmitter Links and 250 foot of 1" hardline for a discounted price of $14,000.
Meanwhile, I had been working with the FCC to get a change for our station pushed through and the governmental wheels turned slow. My consulting engineer seemed to be ineffective. Our application was quite complicated because we were moving the station's location, upping the power, upping the height and changing the frequency from 88.1 to 91.9 Mhz. A religious station in Emporia also had an application in on the same frequency and the wheels of government stopped. I discovered the problem and asked the consulting engineer what to do. He called his contacts at the FCC and all we had to do was to agree not to interfere with each other and the FCC would ignore how close we were to each other. The engineering study proved that we would not interfere because the ground sloped up towards Emporia and we would not have a Grade-A signal more than 15 miles to the south of Manhattan. Letters were written and we received a telegram to proceed with the build.
The next week, the station engineer and three of my RTV colleagues went out to the site and removed the old leaking roof. We replace the roof with a wood pitched roof and asphalt shingles. That took us two days to complete. Luckily, I had a Skill Saw and some knowledge of how to do all this. Gary the engineer was an old farm hand too and was a great help.
Doing this on a shoe string was not easy. Since KSDB already had an antenna, cut for 88.1, that would work, the station engineer, two maintenance men, and me climbed on top of McCain Auditorium and took down the antenna. We made plans to sign off the air for one week to do the work. I loaded the antenna into my Minivan with the long pieces tied to the top rack…loaded Ruby, Sara, Dan and a raft of Pound Puppies…and took off for Evansville, Indiana. In one day the company machined and retuned the antenna for 91.9
Meanwhile, my faculty colleagues help move the transmitter and control equipment out to the transmitter site. When I got back from having the antenna changed, I was to meet up with the tower crew who was going to do all the work on the tower. The tower was set up as a microwave tower with a star mount on the top. There was a 16 foot microwave dish on the top as well. This is a real story I will add later but the crew chief looked like one of the guys from ZZ-Top. Cool dude.
Well, a week later it was done and it was time to turn everything on. It did not work quite right. Not enough drive to the transmitter from the exciter. So, I started turning up the drive and finally got enough to kick the 4CX1000A in the butt. I think the plate voltage was around 3,500 and the plate current was around 560 mills. For an old CW and SSB guy, it was hard to see the rig key down like that for over 30 seconds. I thought it was going to blow up. Never did. We slapped on the STL units and told one of the students at the station to sign on the air and put on a record. Then we started adjusting the Optimod and getting the modulation just right.
Well, it took several months to get things iron out. We had control problems which we solved with a 12 volt switching system instead of 110 volts AC. We also had power issues. The return ground from the building to the pole was not very good and the transformer on the pole was a little undersized. A call the REC got some response until we blew up the power transformer on the pole. Then they buried a ground return from the pole to the transmitter house and put in a 10 KVA transformer. It was quite disheartening that first night when the tower lights came on and the power of the transmitter fluctuated with the top light going on and off.
Here is an interesting tid bit. There were two sidelights of 116 watts each…or 232 watts. The top lights had two 620 watt bulbs at 1240 watts. Combining the lights together that was 1472 watts just in tower lights. The FCC authorized us to transmit at 1400 watts ERP. The light bulbs beat us by 72 watts!
We also had trouble with lighting strikes and there were some doozies. Lighting is a bad thing and you did not want to be on the hill when there was a storm. Eventually, after I left K-State, the station had to hire a backhoe to dig through the rock some 20 feet and place in three inch copper pipe for grounds. That stopped a lot of the lighting strikes.
The project did not stop there either. It took on a life of its own. The next step was to improve the studio equipment and another three years of working on that. But, by the time I left the campus radio station had all new audio gear in the control room and four production rooms.
So, that is what I did instead of getting on the air…and I lost a whole sunspot cycle to boot.
We did operate a FD from up at the KSDB tower site. An 80 meter antenna at 100 feet plays very well. That same weekend, the local Manhattan radio station burnt to the ground. Now, we were all friends and I went out to the local station to offer my help. We ended up setting up STL links from our studios on campus to get them back on the air. The FM station was remote so it was untouched but they needed a control room. The AM station was pretty much toast. Kevin Block was a pretty good engineer too. He helped me out a lot during the FM project. We housed the AM station in one of our studios with a 151 Mhz link to the transmitter. The 151 Mhz link used our Butternut Two-meter antenna retuned to 151 Mhz on top of McCain Auditorium.
Kevin and I hauled out the old transmitter from the rubble and literally hosed it out with a garden hose. The station runs about 500 watts during the day so I ran home and got about 200 feet of RG8U out of the garage. But, we had to hook the transmitter to the ground base around the antenna or it would not work. Then it hit me. Lets get some copper pipe in a role and sweat some couplings together and make the ground connection. That is what we did. The transmitter came up sitting right there in the parking lot under the heat of a June day. Later on that evening they pulled in a mobile home and we put the transmitter in there and made the connections and they were back in business the next day. Insurance paid off and they got a nifty little Nautel solid state transmitter the size of a high school locker.
Well, that is how I remembered it happened.
Well, teaching at KSU came to an end and I did not get tenure. I did not have a Phd nor did I have publishing marks. Time had come to move on from Manhattan. That was tough because we had made a lot of friends in Manhattan. We still have a lot of friends there. We are very well tied to the town…more on that later.
Well, I took a teaching job at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma. We stayed there 10 months and moved to Newton, Kansas. By then, I had sold the TS830S and got a TS440SAT. I hated the 440. I put up a Butternut vertical and an 80 meter dipole. One thing I did there was learn about packet clusters which was neat. Also, I did SS-CW solo with my little station and did quite well in the Oklahoma section. Ten meters was real hot then and made a ton of contacts. Scared the Oklahoma boys with a "zero" call in the listings that year. HHHAARRRR!
Well, we moved to Newton and by then I got a TS850S. Nice radio. The 850S is a very nice radio. The antennas stayed the same until I found a job and started recovering from all the moves. We purchase a new home in 1993 but it took me several years to get things in ham radio order. I built a 13 x 16 extension on the back of the garage. I put up the Butternut vertical and the 80 meter dipole. Around 1998, I put up a 60 foot tower with a TA-33. Yea, I know, but it was all I had at the time.
Now all this time, Tim, AB0S, and I were going over to John's (W0CEM) QTH for contesting. We did at lot of contesting from over there. John retired from his business and took up a lot of other things like golf and fishing. He also decided to be a snow bird and go to Arizona in the Winter and comeback in the Spring. Tim and I had to look for another station. Now, my station is OK, but it is not what we felt we needed to compete. Tim has not had a station for over ten years although he has rigs, amps, towers, and several beam antennas.
So, enter W0NO. Alan was a wannabe ham who finally got to be a ham by going from nothing to Extra is a very short time. Alan is the real deal with it comes to ham radio. Alan even conquered the 20 wpm code as well. Alan is an antenna guru and has read several books on the subject and then went out and proved what the books said. He has a very fine station. Alan was gracious to invite us out to his farm to contest and well…we kind of became leaches. Again, Alan is a great guy and very gracious.
Also, about 1998 or 1999, I started making the annual trip to Dayton. In all my ham radio years, I had never made it. Morgan, NJ8M, invited me along so I drove to Topeka, Ks and then we started out from there to Dayton. What an eye-popping-ding-dang-belly-whomping event that was. I have neve been to something like that ever. I met so many famous people. Well, I've been hooked on the yearly Dayton trip since and have missed just a few due to graduations from High School and such. For the most part, Tim, Alan and I are going along with Bruce, K0BJ, and sometimes we take two cars because Mike, K0FJ, goes too.
Sometime around 1999, I got a old TH6DXX from Dean Lewis, WA0TKJ (Now K9ZV), he had stored in his garage. The beam had belonged to Chuck Hardman of Salina who had passed away. I have forgotten Chuck's call. Dean threw in a bag of stainless steel nuts and bolts. I rebuilt the TH6DXX and it is up today.
Rigs have come and gone since the TS-850S. I got bored with the rig and decided to look at other rigs. I got a IC-746 which was OK, but would not hold up in a contest. The rig had lots of blow-by even with the International Crystal filter in it. Then I got an IC-765 which was a fine rig and I loved it, but I got bored with it. The 765 was the sweetest sound rig I've ever owned except for one. Then came along a TS-140 for fun as a second rig, but sold that quickly. I moved on to a FT-1000MP which is a fine radio. Then I took the plunge and got a K2. Well, the K2 is now a full-blown K2/100. Yes, I did build the rig from a kit and yes it did work just fine. I also sold off the FT-1000MP and got an IC-756PROII. That is also a nice radio.
Tim, AB0S, talked me out of buying the K2 at Dayton in 2001, but I ordered on in 2002. It was just something I wanted to do again…put together a rig…ala Heathkit. I've never had so much fun in my life. I especially like winding toroid coils. Yea, I know, I am kind of goofy there. I put together the basic K2 and added the SSB board, noise blanker, 160 meters and the low power tuner. I then got the KPA100 and the KAT100 tuner. The only thing I do not have is the DSP audio board. I still have quite a few mods to do. But, I got distracted with the K2 , but I still have it and will not sell if for years to come.
The K2 is a very good radio and I think the only way I would sell it is to get another one to put together. The K2 is easier to operate that the 756PROII from one important stand point. The audio does not fatigue me during contests. The 756PROII seems to give me a headache, but the K2 does not. Maybe I am a head case.
Then I got a K3. Wow! Nice radio to say the least. I also took down the TH6DXX and put up a Force-12 C3E/D antenna. I also installed a quarter wave 40 meter verticle with 32 radials under it. Works pretty darn good too. I have changed out the tuner to a Palstar AT2K and replaced the AL-80A with an AL-82. Of course, I have all the computer do-dads, thingamajigs, and gee-gaws too.
My ham radio interest at this state of the game (2009 and 59 years old) is to have fun but not get all stressed out over the hobby. I have spent quite a bit of time fooling with PSK31, but I like RTTY better. I end up most nights on the low end of 40 trolling for DX or high speed CW contacts.
What am I looking forward to in the future? I would like to do the following…two meter tropo work, high speed code on two meters, any new kit Elecraft comes up with, six meters, and get more active.
Over the years I have chased DX and I do have DXCC with 107 mixed QSOs. But, I have more than 290 mixed cards on the wall of my shack. I've never taken the time to send them in for credit. I have not been actively DX since the early 80s when I left Salina. I have worked DX, but it has not been a driving force. I have become interested in working 40 meter DX on CW using a dipole and 100 watts. Surprisingly, it does work.
I am a member of the A1 Operator's Club which I feel is a prestigious group of hams
I have worked WAS numerous times during contest but never gotten the award. I bet I have WAS on all 5 bands, but never took the time to figure it all out. I have boxes and boxes of QSL cards from North American and all over the world. In 2009, I completed LOTW- Triple Play and received TP #181. That was fun getting all 50 states on SSB, CW and RTTY.
My main focus has been on contesting since 1972. I get a real kick out of running rate on CW and SSB. I am not very good and search and pounce, but I am getting better. I have fooled with SO2R, but have not become to serious about that kind of contesting. Running rate on CW has been a real rush for me, and SSB is fun as well, but I do prefer doing rate on CW. It is addicting.
I like the following contests: ARRL RTTY Roundup, All the NAQP contests, Any WPX Contest, I have gotten a lot of fun out of the ARRL DX contests, of course FD, Sweeps (both CW and SSB), and any 160 meter contest.
I worked at the local hospital in Newton for sabout 13 years as the Manager of IT, working Novell, Windows, and various other types of hardware and software. Ever heard of MUMPS? No, not the illness! Installed a lot of new systems and projects when the hospital moved to a new location. I ran out of steam (you know, some jobs do that to you...you just run out of gas) at the hospital and left. I loved to work there. I now am employed in a small school district as the district's Director of Technology. Nice people and a great job.