Groucho Marx famously said, “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member!” Apparently, I was never that fussy. It was at the tender age of 4 when I joined my first club: Supermen of America! Far from being a Superman (or even a Supertot), I still became a member by clipping out the coupon in Action Comics and mailing it, along with my membership fee, to 575 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York. (How do I remember these things?) Oddly, that club also got me involved with code (a harbinger of things to come). My membership packet included Superman’s Secret Code, and every issue of the comic book contained a cryptic message only members owning that master cipher table could decode. What fun!
Growing up, I shared many adventures with my Cousin Ronnie. As children, we were each given crystal radios in the shape of rocket ships. Best gift ever! We would connect their alligator-clipped wires to a radiator and listen through our ear plugs to local AM radio stations blasting in. We were hooked! A few years after that, we shared a set of CB walkie-talkies, and my love affair with two-way radio began in earnest.
As a teen, I joined my high school’s amateur radio club where I met young hams who would become mentors and lifelong friends. I admired the knowledge and talents of these brilliant but truly modest club members. Bob (now K3PH) and Gary (now AB4LL), who were indeed Superhams, possessed the ability to copy high speed CW without the need of pencil and paper, solely in their heads. How I envied that super power!
I struggled with the code. But, thanks to Skip WA3KKB who shared his (secret!) learning method with me, I was finally able to copy Morse well enough to pass my Novice exam! Skip offered me his starter rig, a crystal-controlled Hallicrafters HT-40 transmitter, and along with a relic Hallicrafters SX-28 receiver I spent blissful evenings in a corner of my darkened bedroom tuning for stations that might be answering my straight-key 5 wpm CQs, my notebook illuminated only by the comforting half-light of glowing meters and dials. Signals from the invisible ether, to me a sign of the divine, have been my siren songs ever since.
Around the same time, Cousin Ronnie also obtained his ham license, and a few years later we both upgraded. When he went to university overseas, we managed to communicate on 20 meters using both CW and SSB. That was incredibly exciting! I also purchased a phone patch which allowed him to communicate with his parents back home.
Profuse thanks to my CW Academy instructor Rob, K6RB and my fellow classmates for providing the encouragement to finally fulfill my high school dream of learning to copy code in my head. I’m still not a Superham, but at least high speed CW is no longer my Kryptonite!
My gratitude to Tripp, N4NTO for kindly nominating me to CWops after our second QSO (in CWT), and to Rob, K6RB; Mike, N8DNA and George, NE5A for sponsoring my membership. Special thanks to John, K3EDS of the ARA (Anthracite Repeater Association) for my submitted photo, which he snapped during a recent ARRL Field Day. (And there we have two more clubs that would allow a person like me to become a member!)This biography is what appeared in Solid Copy when the member joined CWops.