Thanks to my fellow Topband aficionado Brian VE3MGY for nominating me for CWops membership. Also, thanks to those who voted for me in a matter of hours, thanks guys! Glad to be part of a group devoted to my favorite mode!
Everybody has their own story of how they got into Ham Radio, how meeting that special “Elmer” who sparked your interest in this most fascinating of hobbies. What is amazing about our hobby is how it can change the path of your entire life. What you do for a living, your friends, even where you live. Ham Radio led me to working in the Electronics field, including work on defense Electronic systems such as Cryptographic gear, HF/VHF/UHF receiving systems, and Microwave Radar/ ECM systems. So, here is my Elmer story.
My father died when I was 7 years old, as a result my Mom got me involved with the ‘Big Brothers’ organization. Gene Gardner, a Mechanical Engineer at P&Gs Engineering facility become my “Big Brother”, my surrogate Dad for several years. We would go out once a week or so for a movie or something. Often Gene would take me along on a local Engineering Societies monthly trip to local places Engineers would be interested in, factories, power plants, etc.
Then in 1969 a life changing event occurred: Through the Engineering Society I met up with another Gene, Gene Liggett W8ZCT/W8ON(SK). Gene was a Vice President for Taft Broadcasting and did all their Antenna design work for all their stations from Coast to Coast. He was an antenna genius. Gene gave me a personal tour through the WKRC TV and Radio station. Afterwards Gene gave me his phone number and said for me to call him if I ever needed anything.
I few months later on my 12th birthday a got enough birthday cash to buy the rest of the parts for a little one channel RC transmitter and receiver for a RC boat I was working on. I remember riding my bike seven miles one way to buy the receiver kit from World Engines. (Where I would work part time four years later while attending the University of Cincinnati.) The RC transmitter was a “High Power” 100mw unit, with instructions that it must be aligned by a FCC Commercial licensee. Sounded serious.
So, a visit was made to Gene W8ZCT for help, he laughed and said sure he could align the transmitter. Genes shack was full of radio gear, test equipment and a homebrew 4-1000 Amp. Gene was a DXer and was a member of the first DXpedition to San Felix Island as CE0XA in 1964. He loved the low bands, big antennas and CW. I helped him put up a full sized rotatable 80m dipole up 130 feet when I was 14. I remember him saying: “A Big Signal is a LOT of work!” He instilled in me a love for DXing and antenna design and experimentation.
Before I left his house that day he said: “If you ever want to quit messing around with toys and get on the air, let me know.” That was all it took, the hook was set. The next day I started memorizing CW characters.
I would practice sending CW over the phone to Gene using a code practice oscillator. Gene gave me an surplus ARC5 receiver to listen to W1AW code practice. I had to get permission to stay up late for code practice as it started at 9:30 PM, HI!
A couple of months later I received my Novice license in the mail. I already knew my callsign, as the day before I got a QSL sample pack in the mail from the “Little Print Shop” addressed to WN8FOS. It seems like everyone had their cards printed by them back then.
Gene loaned me a Globe Chief transmitter and a Drake 2B receiver and I was on the air. My first QSO was on Jan 5th, 1970 on 40 meters with WN4PET, it was his first QSO also! From my QTH in Cincinnati to WN4PET’s in Florence, KY it must have been all of 25 miles. But a diehard DXer was born.
I got my General a few months later and became WB8FOS. After a mandatory two year waiting period, I got my Extra at age 14. I had the call WB8FOS from 1970 until the FCC opened up the 1×2 callsigns in the late 70’s when I got the call K8RF.
Unfortunately, a couple of years later the FCC managed to bungle my paperwork and I lost the K8RF call. I lost interest in Ham Radio for several years because of losing the call. But while living in Colorado in the 80’s the bug hit again, and I got the call NV0T. Later I moved back to Ohio and became WT8N until the vanity call program started and I got my K8RF call back in 1996 after waiting 15 years.
I spent a lot of time in the 70’s and late 80’s onward chasing DX on 80-10 Meters. I was your typical stateside DXer up until 1994, chasing band countries, obtaining 5BDXCC, 5BWAZ, Honor Roll, etc. doing some contesting, but nothing serious. In 1993 I tried out 160 and got hooked. It has been my favorite band ever since.
But then another life changing event occurred. I was invited by my old friend Jim W9VNE to participate in the 1994 CQ WW VP5VW operation. This was a multi-Multi op organized by Don K8MFO honoring Hal Brooks W9VW(SK). We operated from “The Hamlet” at Jody VP5JM’s QTH. We had a superb group of Ops: K8MFO, W6RGG, W8AV, K4LT, W0CG, WA4DRU, W9VNE and me. I was the 160 Meter Op and managed to work some 78 countries on 160, more than any other previous CQWW entry ever. I would have to say this operation was the most fun I ever had in my life.
After the contest I remember sitting on Jody’s veranda looking out at the turquoise Ocean, with hummingbirds floating around the beautiful bougainvillea. Once again, I was hooked, moving to the Caribbean became an obsession with me.
VP5VW became the catalyst for the formation of the Caribbean Contest Consortium (CCC) and the PJ2T Superstation by W0CG. Several operators of VP5VW and myself went on other Pre-PJ2T CCC operations: VP5FXB honoring G3FXB(SK), VP5CW, CY9RF with Doug K4LT in 1999, KP2F, and PJ2C. Also operated as VK9LX with Nick VK1AA in 1997 and myself as KG4RF in 1999.
Eventually I realized my dream and moved to St. Croix USVI with my lovely wife Becki. I am the trustee and chief op of the NP2J club station. I have been active in all the 160 Contests the last few years and been having a lot of fun!
I am running an Elecraft K3S into an AL-82 amp modified for full QSK. On 160 I have a pair of 70-foot tall phased verticals. Occasionally I use one of the 160 Verticals on 80 Meters. The big verticals usually get taken down before hurricane season starts. I also have a 40m vertical and, in the summer a 5 element Yagi for 6m. Planning on a small tower and other HF antennas next season, I want to be active on all bands.
Two years ago, I became active on 6m, and there was a lot of CW activity. But unfortunately, activity has plummeted on CW due to the surge (scourge) of Digital activity. This is my main reason for my support for CWops, to promote CW activity.
CU in the Pileups!